Tag Archives: fishing

Westport, La Push, Neah Bay Halibut Season Extended

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Recreational halibut fishing to open for additional day in Marine Area 2

Action: Opens recreational halibut fishing on Saturday, June 29 in Marine Area 2 (Westport).

WITH ENOUGH ROOM STILL IN THE QUOTA, WDFW HAS ADDED MORE HALIBUT FISHING DAYS TO WASHINGTON’S MIDDLE AND NORTH COAST. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: Immediately.

Species affected: Pacific halibut.

Location: Marine Area 2 (Westport).

Reason for action: There is sufficient quota to open recreational halibut fishing for an additional all depth fishing day in Marine Area 2. Poor weather continues to contribute to low catch in Marine Area 2 and opening another day will provide anglers additional time to catch the remaining sport quota.

Additional information: The following is a summary of open sport halibut days for all marine areas.

Marine Area 1: Nearshore: Open seven days per week.

Marine Area 2: Open Saturday, June 29.

Marine Areas 3 and 4: Open Saturday, June 22; Thursday, June 27; and Saturday, June 29.

Puget Sound (Marine Areas 5-10): Open Saturday, June 22; Thursday, June 27; and Saturday, June 29.

Marine Area 5: It is permissible for halibut anglers to retain Pacific cod caught while fishing for halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet on days that halibut fishing is open.

Retention of lingcod and Pacific cod seaward of 120 feet is not permitted on halibut days in Marine Areas 6-10.

Marine Areas 1-10: Daily limit of 1 halibut per angler, with no minimum size limit. Annual limit of 4. All catch must be recorded on WDFW catch record card. Possession limits remain the same.

Marine Areas 11-13 are closed.

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More sport halibut days to open in Marine Areas 3 and 4

Action: Open recreational halibut fishing on Thursday, June 27 and Saturday, June 29 in Marine Areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay).

Effective date: Immediately

Species affected: Pacific halibut

Location: Marine Areas 3 and 4.

Reason for action: There is sufficient quota to open additional days for the sport halibut fishery in Marine Areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay). Adding these days will provide Washington sport halibut anglers with more fishing days and maximize the opportunity to catch the remaining sport quota.

Plan Would Stave Off Closing Skagit-Sauk Steelheading Next Spring

Don’t hang up your Skagit-Sauk spoons, pink worms, plugs, jigs and flies again quite yet.

State fishery managers appear to have a gameplan for how to keep the rivers’ wild steelhead catch-and-release fishery open next spring, a U-turn from just a few weeks ago when it was set to be eliminated after the license fee bill that would have funded it wasn’t passed.

KEVIN RAINES AND ANDY MOSER DRIFT FISH THE MIDDLE SAUK ON A FINE SPRING DAY WITH WHITEHORSE IN THE BACKGROUND. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

With initial support from the Fish and Wildlife Commission earlier this month, WDFW would ask state lawmakers for the money to monitor the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

They’re looking to include $547,000 in a supplemental budget request for next January’s short legislative session. A final go-no go decision will come in August.

But it’s not a slam dunk either.

If the money isn’t appropriated by the legislature, WDFW would have to scavenge from other programs to cover the federally required monitoring next year, and 2021’s season would either be reduced or eliminated.

Still, the turn-around will buoy fans of the iconic North Cascades fishery that had been closed for nine years starting in 2009 due to low runs and as they picked back up, was the subject of much work and lobbying by the Occupy Skagit movement and other anglers to get a management plan written to reopen the waters.

After an initial 12-day season in 2018, this spring saw a full three-month fishery, and while the catches weren’t great, it was still wonderful to be on the rivers again during prime time.

“Almost universally people were excited to be there, happy to be there, and extremely thankful for the opportunity to be there,” angler advocate and retired North Sound state fisheries biologist Curt Kraemer reported to the commission last weekend. “(Among the) probably 100 people I talked to, that was the commonality, and I don’t hear that a lot about outdoor recreation in this state, whether it be hunting or fishing, and I do a lot of both.”

But even as the sun shone brightly over us gear and fly, and boat and bank anglers working the glacial, mountain waters this spring, storm clouds were brewing in Olympia.

GLACIAL FLOUR FROM THE SUIATTLE RIVER CLOUDS THE SAUK BELOW GOVERNMENT BRIDGE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Funding for two years’ worth of creel sampling, enforcement and a biologist to oversee the fishery over the strong but still Endangered Species Act-listed winter-run stock was part of WDFW’s 15 percent license fee increase proposal.

But it was also on the “enhance fishing” side of the ledger, which essentially made it optional compared to things on the “maintain” side.

When the fee bill failed, tangled in issues 200 road miles to the south of the Skagit-Sauk confluence — Columbia River gillnetting policies — WDFW had to figure out how to rebalance its budget.

Even though lawmakers gave the agency $24 million in General Fund dollars to make up for not passing the license increase or Columbia salmon-steelhead endorsement, what initially was just a $7 million shortfall grew to $20 million as they heaped on new unfunded costs.

On May 30, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind sent out an email that “the current Skagit catch and release fishery will not receive funding and thus that opportunity will be eliminated.

The next morning during a Fish and Wildlife Commission conference call alarms were raised.

“It’s about as clean a fishery as you can imagine. I would really, really object to that being eliminated,” said Chairman Larry Carpenter of nearby Mount Vernon.

That got the wheels turning again.

This is about the time of year that state agencies begin to prepare their supplemental budget requests for the upcoming legislative session, and at last week’s regular meeting of the citizen oversight panel, WDFW staffers presented proposals for discussion.

It included $271,000 to monitor the 2020 Skagit-Sauk fishery, $276,000 for 2021.

“There was Commission support for that approach,” Nate Pamplin, WDFW policy director, told Northwest Sportsman this morning.

The proposal also includes $833,000 in 2020 and $854,000 in 2021 to patch up what he’s termed a “significant shortfall” in funding to monitor Puget Sound and coastal salmon fisheries — another victim of the fee bill failure.

“This request will fund staff to provide the greatest fishing opportunities possible while satisfying ESA and conservation needs,” commission documents state.

BOBBER AND SPOON RODS AWAIT EMPLOYMENT ALONG THE SAUK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Money for both Skagit-Sauk steelhead and salmon monitoring is listed as coming from the state General Fund, under the proposals.

If it doesn’t pan out, though, WDFW would be left lifting couch cushions to figure out how to pay for the former fishery.

“If we don’t secure the supplemental in the first fiscal year, it’s a bit more challenging,” says Pamplin. “We’ll have already spent some money on the fishery since it opens in February and we’ll not receive final word on the supplemental budget from the legislature until mid-March. Thus, we’d need to find reductions elsewhere in the fourth-quarter of the first fiscal year to cover the expenses already incurred for opening the fishery.”

The fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

“For the second fiscal year, it’s fairly straight-forward.  If we don’t secure the supplemental, the fishery would be proposed to be reduced/eliminated,” Pamplin adds.

Meanwhile online, Wayne Kline of Occupy Skagit issued a “Three Minute Steelhead Challenge” to fellow fans of the fishery to contact their legislators to build support for funding it.

From this page on the Legislature’s site you can find your district and then your state representatives’ and senator’s email addresses.

SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (6-19-19)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS FORWARDED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Lower Columbia Mainstem Sport June 10-16

Salmon and steelhead:

Bonneville bank: 5 anglers with 1 released adult Chinook and nothing else
Camas/Washougal bank: No report
I-5 area bank: 1 angler with nothing
Vancouver bank:  17 anglers with nothing
Woodland bank:  36 anglers with nothing
Kalama bank: 17 anglers with 1 jack Chinook and nothing else
Longview bank: 171 anglers with 1 adult Chinook released, 14 steelhead kept and 3 steelhead released
Cathlamet bank: 11 anglers with 2 steelhead kept and nothing else
Private boats/bank: 15 anglers with 2 steelhead kept and 1 steelhead released

Bonneville boat: 4 anglers with nothing
Camas/Washougal boat: No report
I-5 area boat:  No report
Vancouver boat:  10 anglers with 7 adult Chinook released and 2 steelhead released
Woodland boat: No report
Kalama boat:  3 anglers with nothing
Cowlitz boat: No report
Longview boat:  72 anglers with 3 adult Chinook released, 19 steelhead kept and 6 steelhead released
Cathlamet boat:  4 anglers with 8 steelhead kept
Private boats/bank:  5 anglers with 2 steelhead kept

THE BIG RUN OF SHAD CONTINUES, WITH NEARLY 5.7 MILLION OVER BONNEVILLE AS OF JUNE 18, AND 1.23 MILLION AT MCNARY DAM SO FAR. THE LATTER AREA IS WHERE RENEE MORTIMER AND HER DAD PAUL CAUGHT THIS TRIO, PLUS A WALLEYE EARLIER THIS MONTH. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Shad:

Bonneville bank: 272 anglers with 1,758 kept and 151 released
Bonneville boat: 9 anglers with 97 kept and 15 released
Camas/Washougal bank: No report
Camas/Washougal boat: 5 anglers with 3 kept
I-5 area bank: No report
I-5 area boat: No report
Vancouver bank: No report
Vancouver boat:  1 angler with nothing
Woodland bank: 1 angler with nothing
Woodland boat: 4 anglers with 5 kept
Kalama bank:  No report
Kalama boat:  No report
Cowlitz bank: No report
Cowlitz boat: No report
Longview bank: 1 angler with nothing
Longview boat: 6 anglers with 14 kept

Sturgeon:

Bonneville bank: No report
Bonneville boat: 4 anglers with 2 sublegals released
Camas/Washougal bank: No report
Camas/Washougal boat: No report
I-5 area bank: No report
I-5 area boat: No report
Vancouver bank: No report
Vancouver boat: 5 anglers with 20 sublegals released and 1 legal released
Woodland bank: No report
Woodland boat; No report
Kalama bank: No report
Kalama boat: No report
Cowlitz bank: No report
Cowlitz boat: No report
Longview bank: No report
Longview boat: 7 anglers with 2 sublegals released, 2 legals released and 1 oversize released
Cathalmet bank: No report
Cathlamet boat: No report
Chinook/Elochoman bank: No report
Chinook/Elochoman boat: No report
Ilwaco bank: No report
Ilwaco boat: No report
Ilwaco charter: No report

almon/Steelhead:

Columbia River mainstem

During Saturday’s flight 58 salmonid boats and 122 Washington bank anglers were counted from Skamokawa upstream to the I-5 Bridge.

Shad:

Effort is holding steady with nearly 400 shad anglers counted on the Washington shore just below Bonneville Dam during Saturday’s flight (6/15).  Yesterday’s dam count (June 17) was just over 200,000 fish, which pushes the season total over 5.4 million to date.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 4 bank rods had no catch.  2 boats/4 rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  7 bank rods had no catch.  19 boats/65 rods kept 15 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Tacoma Power employees recovered 51 spring Chinook adults, 10 spring Chinook jacks, 15 mini jacks, and 36 summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released six spring Chinook adults and five spring Chinook jacks into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

To date, Tacoma Power employees have recycled 130 summer-run steelhead to the lower Cowlitz River.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,940 cubic feet per second on Monday, June 17. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 50 F.

Kalama River – 15 bank anglers had no catch.

Lewis River – 1 bank angler had no catch.  2 boats/3 rods had no catch.

Klickitat below Fisher Hill Bridge – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Klickitat above #5 Fishway – 1 bank angler had no catch.

 

  •      Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Pikeminnow Sport – Reward Fishery Program:

The program operates from May 1 to September 30 in the lower Columbia River (mouth to Priest Rapids Dam) and the Snake River (mouth to Hells Canyon Dam).  http://www.pikeminnow.org/

Sea Lions, Other Marine Mammals Discovering South Sound Anchovy Boom

A large suite of marine mammals has discovered Deep South Sound’s new bounty of anchovies, schools of which are now so numerous they’re routinely observed during regular aerial surveys.

For three months this past winter, WDFW biologist Steve Jeffries observed hundreds of California sea lions, as well as harbor seals, harbor porpoises and long-beaked common dolphins feeding on a massive pod of the skinny, silvery baitfish in Case Inlet north of Olympia.

IN THIS SCREEN SHOT OF AN IMAGE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY’S JUNE EYES OVER PUGET SOUND REPORT, MARINE MAMMALS INCLUDE CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS SWIM IN A SOUTH PUGET SOUND INLET WHERE THEY FEED ON HUGE SCHOOLS OF ANCHOVIES. (COURTESY D.O.E.)

Anchovy populations have boomed in these waters since 2015 and the Blob’s warm waters.

What’s more, the pinnipeds and cetaceans appeared to be teaming up on them.

Jeffries says he would watch them forage in a 3/4-mile-wide by 3-mile-long oval from Herron Island up to Hartstine Point south to McMicken Island.

From his boat he could only guess at what was going on under the glass-calm surface, but it’s possible that as the sea lions and dolphins slashed through the anchovies, the other marine mammals waited close by to pick off stunned fish, he says.

“You wouldn’t even know they were there for four to six minutes. Everybody would be down,” Jeffries recalls.

As the sea lions swim along on top, the surface boils with them, a video taken by a Department of Ecology aerial photographer shows.

To double check what they were feeding on, Jeffries says biologists “scooped poop” and jigged the depths, reconfirming anchovies were on the menu.

Sea lions have another tactic as well.

“It looked to us like they pushed the bait into the cove; basically, they cornered them,” he said of another instance in Carr Inlet.

That can also lead to die-offs as the sheer volume of fish can “create a localized, low-oxygen event,” which may have been to blame when a bunch turned up dead in May 2018 in Liberty Bay near Poulsbo.

In one South Sound beach seine net set, scientists caught a staggering 250,000 anchovies in 2017.

ANCHOVIES CAUGHT IN A BEACH SEINE IN OCTOBER 2017. (PHILLIP DIONNE, WDFW)

High tidal fluctuations can also strand the fish as the water recedes.

The feast on the salty fish ended in March when another marine mammal discovered the sated sea lions — 25 transient orcas that sailed through the Tacoma Narrows to Case Inlet.

Transients are the ones that nosh on sea lions and seals; weaker-jawed southern resident killer whales only eat softer salmon and steelhead primarily.

SO WHAT DOES THIS EXPLOSION of anchovies mean?

“I think it bodes well for salmon in the future,” says Jeffries. “Marine mammals are not the only ones that eat anchovies.”

He suggests that anglers also might switch to lures that look like the skinny, 3-inch-long baitfish.

“Put an anchovy-mimic fly on,” Jeffries says.

ANCHOVY HAVE OCCURRED INTERMITTENTLY IN PUGET SOUND OVER THE DECADES AND ARE NOW IN THE BOOM PART OF THEIR POPULATION CYCLE. (PHILLIP DIONNE, WDFW)

Pinnipeds are drawing the ire of fishermen as studies show that they’re intercepting outmigrating smolts, which has been highlighted in part by spring’s Survive the Sound online challenge, not to mention returning adult salmon and steelhead.

As WDFW’s point man on sea lions Jeffries finds himself in the thick of that debate, so I asked him if this all might lead to “prey switching.”

“If you were a sea lion, would you chase one (salmon or steelhead) smolt or a school?” he asked me in return.

Based on Jeffries’ counts of 150 to 250 sea lions in Case Inlet over a three-month period and the needs of the 350- to 700-pound animals to eat 5 to 7 percent of their body weight each day to sustain themselves, WDFW forage fish researcher Phillip Dionne came up with a back-of-the-envelope estimate that they consumed between 118 tons to 551 tons, with a midpoint of 283 tons, more than half a million pounds.

“… Assuming they were only eating anchovy, the sea lions may have eaten more biomass of anchovy in three months than our estimate of spawning biomass of herring (south of the Tacoma Narrows bridge) was for 2018 spawning season,” says Dionne.

Jeffries says anchovies represent “an alternate prey source” that’s in high abundance.

A paper published in the journal Deep Sea Research Part II in January notes that survival rates on acoustically tagged winter steelhead smolts leaving the nearby Nisqually River jumped from 6 to 38 percent between 2014 and 2016.

“Predation buffering by abundant anchovy is one hypothesis to explain this change,” it states.

THE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY’S LATEST EYES OVER PUGET SOUND REPORT SHOWS NUMEROUS SCHOOLS OF FISH IN MARINE AREA 13, LIKELY ANCHOVIES. (COURTESY D.O.E.)

ANCHOVIES HAVE BEEN INTERMITTENTLY ABUNDANT over the past century and a half, according to the paper, which looked at their historical fluctuations.

They apparently appeared in big numbers in the late 1890s — “they could be dipped up with a common water bucket” in a Port Townsend bay and were recorded as such in the late 1920s, late 1960s, mid-1980s, 2005, and again since 2015.

In the deeper past, “anchovy were the third most abundant fish in First Nations archaeological sites up to 3000 years old” in Burrard Inlet, on which Vancouver, B.C., sits.

It’s hard to say how long this latest anchovy boom will continue or how fast it may fade away and bust like in the past.

Though salmon and steelhead prefer cooler water, WDFW’s Dionne says that if warmer water sticks around, it could last longer than past ones.

While we yearn for clear-cut answers, that’s not the nature of Mother Nature.

“It’s difficult to say if this is going to be a good thing or a bad thing,” Dionne says. “California sea lions certainly love it.”

Washington’s Ocean Salmon Season Opens June 22; ‘Great Ops’ For Coho

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Sport anglers will have the opportunity to reel in salmon off the Washington coast starting Saturday, June 22.

That’s when all four marine areas open daily to fishing for Chinook and coho salmon, said Wendy Beeghley, a fishery manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

GARY LUNDQUIST AND GRANDDAUGHTER MARIAH SHOW OFF A PAIR OF HATCHERY COHO CAUGHT OFF WESTPORT LAST SUMMER ABOARD LUNDQUIST’S BOAT, THE “SKYHOOK.” (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“Anglers can expect some great opportunities to fish for coho this summer,” Beeghley said. “With increased numbers of coho projected to return, we have a much higher catch quota for coho this year in comparison with the last few years.”

The coho quota for 2019 is 159,600 fish, up 117,600 over last year. Meanwhile, the Chinook catch quota is 26,250 fish, which is 1,250 fewer fish than 2018’s quota.

In marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport), anglers can retain two salmon, only one of which can be a chinook. Anglers fishing in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) will have a two-salmon daily limit. In all marine areas, anglers must release wild coho.

Anglers should be aware the daily limit for the section of Marine Area 4 east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line is listed incorrectly for June 22-July 31 in 2019-2020 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. The daily limit for the area during that timeframe is two salmon.

Although all four marine areas are scheduled to close Sept. 30, Beeghley reminds anglers that areas could close earlier if the quota is met. A section of Marine Area 3 also will re-open Oct. 1 through Oct. 13, or until a quota of 100 Chinook or 100 coho is met.

Throughout the summer, anglers can check WDFW’s webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports/creel/ocean for updates.

More information about the fisheries can be found in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, available at license vendors and sporting goods stores and online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

Not So Fast That Fishing’s The Reason For Sultan Wild Steelhead Woes

The head of a longtime fishing organization is expressing disappointment with his local utility after it claimed summer angling is the reason wild winter-run steelhead aren’t recovering in part of a popular Western Washington watershed.

Mark Spada says that his Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club has “always had a good working relationship” with the county public utility district and has tried to work to improve fishing opportunities with them, but “(P)lacing blame on the recreational steelhead fisherman for a poor return is short sighted and unjustified.”

THE SKYKOMISH RIVER BETWEEN THE MOUTH OF THE SULTAN AND MONROE PRODUCES HATCHERY SUMMER STEELHEAD AND CHINOOK LIKE THESE CAUGHT ABOARD GUIDE SHEA FISHER’S BOAT DURING 2017’S OPENER, BUT A LOCAL UTILITY SAYS THE ANGLING RULES ARE ALSO IMPACTING NATIVE WINTER-RUNS. (THEFISHERE.COM)

Spada, who recently helped put on a kids fishing day a bit higher up in the Skykomish River, was reacting to stories in The Herald of Everett and on Q13.

Both pieces mostly shared the viewpoint of the utility, which operates a dam on a tributary of the Sky, the Sultan River.

While one reporter talked to a random angler on the water and the other to a regional fisheries manager, Spada felt PUD could have done a better job beforehand.

“I hope in the future you’ll look to work with the recreational community to find answers to difficult fish management questions, and not take the low road to incite public perception,” he wrote to Larry Lowe, a Snohomish County PUD fisheries biologist, yesterday morning.

A WDFW SALMONSCAPE MAP SHOWS THE COURSE OF THE SULTAN RIVER, WHICH DRAINS OUT OF SPADA LAKE AT THE SNOHOMISH COUNTY PUBLIC UTILITY DISTRICT’S CULMBACK DAM, POUNDS THROUGH A 13-MILE-LONG GORGE BEFORE HITTING FLATTER TERRAIN AND ENTERING THE SKYKOMISH RIVER AT THE TOWN OF SULTAN. (WDFW)

SPARKING THE SITUATION ARE DECLINING STEELHEAD RUNS and a recent statewide rule change that moved the opening day of fishing on the Skykomish from June 1 to the Saturday of the long Memorial Day Weekend as part of a WDFW regulations simplification drive.

In an email to Northwest Sportsman, Spada says he has fought for an earlier opener for years.

“The recreational fishing industry is in dire straits right now, and we need every single day of angling opportunity we can get,” he said. “(It) just makes good business sense to be open on a holiday weekend.”

With the scenic Skykomish the only summer salmon and steelhead bank and boat fishery of consequence in all of Western Washington this season, hundreds of anglers took advantage of the long weekend to get afield too, packing into the river’s accesses.

WDFW catch stats show that 338 were interviewed by creel samplers on May 25 and 26, including 259 at the Sultan River, Ben Howard and Lewis Street put-ins and take-outs, and another 79 up at Reiter Ponds.

Overall they kept 16 hatchery kings and 28 hatchery steelhead, releasing one wild king and 18 wild steelhead.

Not the world’s best fishing by any stretch, but those few wild steelhead are at the crux of PUD’s beef.

“We believe (angling rules) are impeding the recovery of these fish and they’re controllable, and we have to do all we can do,” utility natural resources manager Keith Binkley told The Herald‘s Julia-Grace Sanders.

PUD says it has spent $21 million of its ratepayers’ money to promote fish recovery in the Sultan River and that their monitoring shows 11 percent of the trib’s wild winter-runs are “still en route up the Skykomish” as of the old June 1 opener, and 26 percent as of this year’s late May opener, per the paper.

(The 2020 start of season would fall on May 30 because of how the calendar changes from year to year.)

THOSE SPAWNER FIGURES WILL RAISE EYEBROWS.

According to WDFW, greater than 95 percent of all wild winter steelhead in the Skykomish-Snoqualmie-Snohomish have already finished spawning by June 1.

Now, the Sultan is not the Sauk-Suiattle, home to large ice fields in the Glacier Peak Wilderness that keep those rivers colder longer and have led their steelhead to spawn later than any other stock in the state, but WDFW does allow that its fish do make redds later than others in the Snohomish watershed.

However, it’s unclear whether that timing has also been unnaturally skewed by cold water coming out of PUD’s Culmback Dam, which has been on the upper Sultan since 1965 and was raised 60-plus feet in 1984.

Up until recently, water was released “from the base of the reservoir, which is naturally colder than water near the top,” per the utility, but a modification now draws off and mixes in warmer surface water, making the river below the impassable dam more fish friendly.

COLD AND WARM WATER MIXES BELOW CULMBACK DAM ON THE SULTAN RIVER. (IMCO/SNOHOMISH COUNTY P.U.D.)

It follows on 2016’s removal of a PUD diversion dam that had blocked salmon and steelhead passage at river mile 9.7 since 1929.

Good on them for checking off federal dam-relicensing requirements and doing more for fish, but if WDFW stats are any indication, fisheries are likely coming in well below allowable impact rates.

NMFS allows the agency and the Tulalip Tribes to kill up to 4.2 percent of returning Endangered Species Act-listed wild steelhead during their hatchery-directed winter and summer seasons through this October.

This year’s native winter steelhead run came in well below forecast and it won’t be known for some time how many were impacted during the December-January-February season, but all of 1.9 adults died during the first two weekends of the summer fishery.

That’s based on the 19 caught and released, as required, and a standard 10 percent mortality rate on steelhead put back in the water.

According to WDFW, those nates were also mostly kelts — winter fish that had already spawned and were returning to saltwater.

(Scott Weedman of Three Rivers Marine in nearby Woodinville fished the opener and believes those wild fish were actually mostly summer-runs, probably headed to the forks of the Skykomish.)

With an estimated 1,000 back this year, the loss of those 1.9 fish amounts to a 00.19 percent impact rate out of the maximum of 4.2 percent.

A U.S.G.S. SATELLITE TOPO MAP SHOWS LOGGING INCHING TOWARDS THE STEEP CANYON OF THE SULTAN RIVER BELOW CULMBACK DAM. THE AREA WAS LAST CUT NEARLY 50 YEARS AGO, WITH DEBRIS FLOWS SEVERAL YEARS LATER DURING A LARGE STORM. (USGS)

NOW, I’M NOT SAYING THE SULTAN FISH AREN’T IMPORTANT, not for one second.

Having put in some pretty good growing-up years along its banks and in the hills above the paved end of Trout Farm Road, I’m more than a little partial to the system and I want to see its steelhead and coho returns blow up like the river’s pink runs did.

I’m also realistic.

Fishing seasons that have been going on for decades are not the reason wild steelhead are suddenly struggling in the watershed, nor keeping them depressed.

That’s primarily due to massive, long-term habitat alterations — logging, diking, developing — that have reduced spawning and rearing water for fish.

I know it’s not PUD’s land, but I sure hope they’re paying close attention to any proposed clearcutting above either side of the rain-prone gorge of the Sultan below their dam.

But then again, maybe it’s easier to take on minnows like fishermen and miners than the state’s massive 2×4 industry.

Then there’s increasing pinniped predation on outmigrating smolts and returning adults.

And let’s not forget 2015, The Blob year, which shriveled streams in the Skykomish system and probably is playing no small part in recent years’ low steelhead returns.

THE SULTAN FLOWS INTO THE SKYKOMISH. THE TRIB MAY PROVIDE A THERMAL REFUGE FOR FISH IN THE MAINSTEM LATER IN SUMMER DURING LOW-WATER YEARS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

EVEN SO, P.U.D. IS MAKING A BID TO TWEAK the fishing regs, asking WDFW to push its summer opener back to June 15, restrict the use of bait and limit angling at the mouth of the Sultan, per The Herald.

“We need to now, more than ever, be protecting these fish,” another PUD staffer told the paper.

WDFW’s ear is bent and they are mulling options.

Who knows what might come out of this, perhaps keeping the early opener above the Sultan or Mann Road Bridge, where hatchery steelhead predominate, and later below the mouth of the Sultan?

But that would also impact the summer king fishery, which is almost entirely between there and Monroe’s Lewis Street Bridge.

“That’s going to be the part that’s the biggest struggle — to protect steelhead and provide Chinook opportunity,” acknowledges Edward Eleazer, WDFW’s regional fisheries manager.

I don’t know how this one is going to end, but with how hugely important of a fishery the Skykomish has become in this day and age of shrinking opportunities, stay tuned.

Geezers (And Others) Will Now Have To Walk Down To Grand Coulee Fishing Beach

Despite a reported 33 of 34 commenters being opposed to banning parking at Geezer Beach, parking will no longer be allowed at the popular lower Lake Roosevelt bank fishery.

A FISHERMAN TENDS THEIR LINE AT GEEZER BEACH ON JAN. 8, 2019. (HANK WIEBE)

Local anglers and the town of Coulee Dam had fought the Bureau of Reclamation’s proposal this past winter, but citing “safety concerns” the federal agency will now block off vehicle entry to the fishy spot on the reservoir’s north bank just above Grand Coulee Dam.

Trouters and others will still be able to fish there, but will now have to walk in from a parking area at roughly the 1,300-foot-elevation mark down to the water, the level of which can fluctuate as low as the 1,220-foot mark over the course of a year. This year it went as low as 1,258 feet.

“It’s just bullsh*t,” reacted Northwest Sportsman reader Hank Weibe, who earlier this year said that due to his disabilities, the beach was “one of the few places I can access.”

For fellow angler Bob Minato, who reported that he suffers from heart disease, diabetes and poor circulation, Geezer is perfect for fishing out of his vehicle.

“Before I became disabled, I used to spend all six weeks of my vacation in Grand Coulee. Now I spend even more time in Grand Coulee and Eastern Washington,” he wrote to BOR.

With the lake near full pool now, the change won’t realistically go into effect until some time in early 2020 when water levels will drop to make room for spring runoff, per BOR spokeswoman Lynne Brougher.

REMINGTON WIEBE SHOWS OFF A NICE RAINBOW CAUGHT OFF GEEZER BEACH WHILE FISHING WITH HER GRANDPA, HANK, WHO HOPED TO KEEP THE ACCESS SITE OPEN TO DRIVE-DOWN ANGLING. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The feds essentially went along with a request from the Colville Tribes.

“We support the use of suitable areas for fishing or other appropriate recreational activities. However, driving on the drawdown is not an acceptable practice,” stated Chairman Rodney Cawston in comments citing public safety, protecting archeological resources and a ban on driving on the lakebed everywhere else on the reservoir.

However, in comments to BOR, Coulee Dam officials said that over the past four decades they’d never heard of any vehicle ever going into the water at Geezer Beach.

A former worker at the dam told The Star of Grand Coulee, which followed the story closely since last December, that the area had been “reworked and completely modified through the construction of the Dam’s history” while being used for staging, though a BOR assessment says that three places at or near there do have tribal names.

Banning parking on the beach but continuing to allow fishing was one of three alternatives federal managers evaluated.

Another was completely barring access, while the third was no change.

“… Cars, trucks, all-terrain vehicles and recreational vehicles will be required to park in designated parking areas and will not be allowed to drive or park on the shoreline or drawdown,” BOR said in a press release announcing the change.

The new rules for what’s known as BOR’s Reclamation Zone will be enforced by the Colville Tribes, the feds say.

Columbia, SW WA Fishing Report (6-12-19)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS FORWARDED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Lower Columbia Mainstem Sport June 3-9

Salmon and steelhead:

Vancouver bank: 38 anglers with 1 adult Chinook released and 1 steelhead released
Woodland bank:  72 anglers with 1 adult Chinook released
Kalama bank:  33 anglers with zilch
Longview bank:  173 anglers with 1 adult Chinook released, 15 steelhead kept and 2 steelhead released
Cathlamet bank:  39 anglers with 1 Chinook jack kept and 3 steelhead kept
private boats/bank: 5 anglers with 1 steelhead kept

SHAD ARE NOW BEING CAUGHT WELL ABOVE BONNEVILLE DAM AND THE LOWER COLUMBIA. RENEE MORTIMER CAUGHT THIS ONE YESTERDAY ON THE MIDDLE RIVER WHILE FISHING WITH HER DAD AND TRI-CITIES ANGLER JERRY HAN. “WE FOUND THEM IN 14 TO 20 FEET OF WATER,” REPORTS HAN. “RUNNING SIZE 30 JET DIVERS 70 FEET BACK WITH 5 FEET OF 10-POUND LEADER TO A SILVER DICK NITE SPOON” WORKED WELL BEFORE DAM OPERATORS STOPPED SPILLING WATER OUT OF MCNARY AND THE BITE TURNED OFF. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

I-5 area boat: 1 angler with nothing
Vancouver boat:  5 anglers with nothing
Kalama boat:  4 anglers with nothing
Cowlitz boat:  No report
Longview boat:  19 anglers with 10 steelhead kept and 1 released
Cathlamet boat: 13 anglers with 11 steelhead kept and 2 released
private boats/bank:  2 anglers with 1 steelhead kept

Shad:

Bonneville bank: 215 anglers with 1,520 kept and 12 released
Bonneville boat:  15 anglers with 276 kept and 0 released
Camas/Washougal bank:  No report
Camas/Washougal boat: 4 anglers with 20 kept and 31 released
I-5 area bank: No report
I-5 area boat:  1 angler with 0 kept and 15 released
Vancouver bank:  3 anglers with a big zero
Vancouver boat:  9 anglers with 0 kept and 1 released
Woodland bank:  No report
Woodland boat:  No report
Kalama bank:  No report
Kalama boat:  21 anglers with 57 kept and 11 released
Cowlitz bank: No report
Cowlitz boat:  No report
Longview bank:  No report
Longview boat: 9 anglers with 57 kept and 0 released

Sturgeon:

Chinook/Elochoman bank: 69 anglers with 2 sublegals and 2 oversize released
Kalama boat: 5 anglers with 2 legals, 1 sublegal and 2 oversize released
Cathlamet boat:  35 anglers with 19 sublegals and 6 oversize released
Chinook/Elochoman boat:  458 anglers with 105 legals kept, and 135 sublegals and 238 oversize released
Ilwaco boat:  132 anglers with 20 legals kept and 13 sublegals and 41 oversize released
Charter boats: 118 anglers with 54 legals kept and 42 sublegals and 280 oversize released

Columbia River Tributaries

Salmon/Steelhead:

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River mainstem

Bank and boat anglers are catching steelhead from Longview downstream to Cathlamet.

Shad:

On the Washington shore over 850 bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam were counted on last Saturday’s flight.  Yesterday’s (June 10) dam count was close to 355,000 which brings the season total up to nearly 3.9 million to date.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Elochoman River– 6 bank anglers kept 3 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 15 bank rods kept 2 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  8 bank rods released 1 steelhead.  18 boats/46 rods kept 17 steelhead.

Tacoma Power employees recovered 49 spring Chinook adults, 10 spring Chinook jacks, 22 summer-run steelhead adults, two winter-run steelhead adults, and one cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released eight spring Chinook adults and five spring Chinook jacks into Lake Scanewa located in Randle and they released one cutthroat trout into the Tilton River in Morton.

To date, Tacoma Power employees have recycled 96 summer-run steelhead to the lower river.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,960 cubic feet per second on Monday, June 10. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 50 F.

Kalama River 44 bank anglers kept 2 Chinook, 2 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Lewis River – 2 bank anglers had no catch.  3 boats/4 rods kept 1 steelhead.

Klickitat below Fisher Hill Bridge – 3 bank anglers kept 1 Chinook jack.

Klickitat above #5 Fishway – 8 bank anglers had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods released 2 steelhead.

 

  •      Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Pikeminnow Sport – Reward Fishery Program:

The program operates from May 1 to September 30 in the lower Columbia River (mouth to Priest Rapids Dam) and the Snake River (mouth to Hells Canyon Dam).  http://www.pikeminnow.org/

Volunteers Needed To Help Raise Winter Steelhead At South Umpqua Facility

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Volunteers are needed to help the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife raise hatchery winter steelhead at Barrett Creek near Winston. This project is an opportunity to work directly with fish and help produce hatchery winter steelhead for anglers.

VOLUNTEERS CARE FOR HATCHERY WINTER STEELHEAD AT A REARING FACILITY ON BARRETT CREEK, NEAR WINSTON, OREGON, IN THE SOUTH UMPQUA RIVER DRAINAGE. (ODFW)

Responsibilities include fish feeding, recording data, cleaning fish holding troughs and inspecting the site. Some volunteers are also asked to respond to on-site alarm systems at any hour. All volunteers must follow protocols to ensure good fish health. Volunteers must provide their own transportation and a high clearance vehicle is necessary as the site is on a steep hill.

“We’ve had some issues in the past meeting our production goals of hatchery winter steelhead for the South Umpqua River,” said Evan Leonetti, ODFW Salmon Trout Enhancement Program biologist. “We designed this rearing project to hold the fish in a cold water area that will help increase their survival and directly benefit anglers.”

Those interested are asked to volunteer for at least three consecutive days. In the past, volunteers have contributed up to two weeks. The project began in late May and runs through September.

Anyone over 18 interested should contact Evan Leonetti at 541-464-2175 or evan.leonetti@state.or.us.

Bonneville Shad Count Skyrocketing; Will It Top 2018’s Record 6.1 Million?

Updated: 8:45 a.m., June 7, 2019 with more comments from the Army Corps of Engineers

A record set just last year at Bonneville could soon be broken as the Columbia River’s shad count has surged to highs never seen so early.

Through Thursday, June 5, a whopping 2,875,519 have been tallied at the dam, with 86 percent of those fish — 2.5 million — coming in just the past seven days, a meteoric rise captured by a Fish Passage Center graph.

A FISH PASSAGE GRAPH SHOWS HOW QUICKLY THE 2019 SHAD RUN AT BONNEVILLE DAM RAMPED UP (RED LINE) VERSUS LAST YEAR’S RECORD RUN (BLUE LINE) AND THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE. (FPC)

The run so far has already topped the 10-year average overall return, hit 2.5 million fish four days faster than the next closest run, and set a new best seven-day count ever.

One observer thinks that 2018’s high mark of 6.1 million could be exceeded by 5 million, give or take, at this pace.

However, it’s also early and unclear if the 2019 return will exhibit the multiple peaks across much of June that other years’ returns have. If it doesn’t, this rocket could fall short.

This morning Jeffrey Henon, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District, says the contractor that performs the fish counts for federal dam operators was asked to double check the numbers.

He said that 250,000 shad is the daily capacity of a “crowder” device at the fish-counting station, and counts above that can diminish the accuracy.

In June 2017, what at first appeared to be a 497,000-fish day was revised to 247,366 after a “a technical glitch in (the Corps’) count recording system” was corrected for.

But a short while later Henon called back to say the review had been finished.

“Bottom line, the numbers are accurate,” Henon said.

A CHART SHOWS ALL THE YEARS SINCE 1938 THAT THE SHAD COUNT AT BONNEVILLE HAS EXCEEDED 2.5 MILLION, THE DATE THAT MARK WAS FIRST HIT, EACH RUN’S TOP SEVEN-DAY STRETCH AND THE FINAL RUN SIZE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It also represents good news for the fishermen who gather on the bank below Bonneville to drift shad darts along bottom, or anchor on seams below there and well downriver to run Dick Nites and other small spoons behind lead droppers.

The bony fish are played for sport and quite a few are taken home to be canned or used for sturgeon or crab bait.

In his outdoor report yesterday, Terry Otto at The Columbian in Vancouver noted that 1,730 were kept last weekend by 212 anglers on the Washington bank in the gorge, with fish also being caught in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day Pools.

Nearly 180,000 are already above McNary Dam, over 5,000 are above Ice Harbor on the Snake.

According to the 2019 WDFW and ODFW joint staff report for Columbia spring and summer fisheries, last year’s sport kept catch of 250,000 shad below Bonneville was the highest on record. With low market demand, commercial fisheries are minimal.

Washington anglers won’t need a license to fish for them this Saturday and Sunday as it’s Free Fishing Weekend. There is no size, daily or possession limit on shad.

SHAD SWIM PAST A WINDOW AT BONNEVILLE DAM. (ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS)

Not much is known about the Columbia’s shad or where they go in the Pacific, much less why their returns are surging.

“I don’t have a great answer for that, and I’m not sure anyone does,” says ODFW’s Tucker Jones, who manages the big river for Oregon.

While he and much of the rest of Northwest anglerdom would probably prefer to see daily Chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead counts as astronomical as those we’re seeing with shad, the nonnative species that feeds on plankton throughout its anadromous lifecycle may be benefiting in part from warmer waters and ocean conditions that negatively impacted salmonids.

While 2004’s and 2005’s big shad runs occurred in years that also saw high overall Chinook returns, that coincidence didn’t repeat last year nor is it expected to this year.

Jones says there’s no research backing this up, but it’s possible that young shad and young salmon could be competing for the same forage in the Columbia and ocean before Chinook and coho switch to a different diet as they grow larger.

LOWER COLUMBIA SHAD COLLECT IN A COOLER DURING A PAST RUN. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Per a species profile put together by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, from 10 million to 20 million shad may annually actually enter the Columbia, with most spawning below Bonneville, meaning the dam count reflects a fraction of the overall run.

Shad can also bypass the counting windows by going through the locks.

Even if no other shad crossed the dam this year, 2019 would still go down as 10th best since shad began to be tallied in 1946, primarily on the strength of the last seven days, which includes the third best one-day count.

While Wednesday’s 412,448 shad was nothing to shake a stick at, the largest daily passages on record occurred on June 5 and 6, 2003, when 504,724 and then 520,664 were tallied.

How high will this year’s run go? Stay tuned.

ELLIE, BOO BOO AND McKENNA SHOW OFF A PAIR OF COLUMBIA RIVER SHAD CAUGHT SEVERAL SEASONS AGO NEAR KALAMA. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)