Tag Archives: fishing

NMFS Touts Economic Boost, Expected Catches From Rebuilding West Coast Groundfish Stocks


The successful rebuilding of several West Coast groundfish stocks that declined precipitously nearly three decades ago is now opening the way for increasing recreational and commercial fishing opportunities for many of the West Coast’s most delicious and nutritious fish species.


NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region published a new rule this week that increases catch limits and eases fishing restrictions for many West Coast groundfish, including rockfish, such as Pacific Ocean perch; flatfish, such as petrale sole; and roundfish, such as Pacific cod and sablefish. Groundfish represent one of the West Coast’s most important recreational and commercial fisheries, earning some $140 million annually for commercial fishermen who catch them with a variety of gear, including trawls, longlines, pots (traps), and baited hooks.

West Coast communities will see an increase of about 900 jobs and $60 million in income in 2019, according to an economic analysis of the new harvest rule. Recreational anglers will take about 219,000 more fishing trips, most of them in southern California with some in Oregon and Washington.

The collapse of several West Coast groundfish in the late 1990s led to severe fishing cutbacks so these stocks could rebuild, greatly curtailing a mainstay of the coastal economy. The groundfish fleet had to limit fishing even for the other more abundant groundfish stocks to avoid unintentional catch of the overfished stocks.

Through careful science-based management and collaboration among fishermen, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, tribes, West Coast states, and NOAA Fisheries, many stocks, including canary rockfish, bocaccio, darkblotched rockfish, and Pacific Ocean perch, rebounded faster than expected and are now fully rebuilt. Research and stock assessments by NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers documented the resurgence, opening the way for more harvest opportunities. Others, such as cowcod and yelloweye rockfish, have been found to be rebuilding much faster than anticipated.


Those continued collaborative and scientific efforts made higher annual catch limits possible for many groundfish species for 2019 and 2020. This will increase recreational and commercial fishing for bocaccio, darkblotched rockfish, Pacific Ocean perch, lingcod north of the California/Oregon border, and California scorpionfish. The new rule also reduces depth restrictions for recreational fishing and increases trip limits for fixed-gear fishermen.

The changes are expected to boost commercial and recreational fishing revenues, with sport anglers expected to take thousands more fishing trips off the West Coast as a result. Their spending on motels, meals, charter trips, and more is expected to boost recreational fishing income coast-wide by about $55 million, with the largest increases in California.

The harvest rule changes also promote quota trading among fishermen in the Shore-based Individual Fishing Quota Program, also known as the Groundfish Catch Share Program, which will help them make the most of the new fishing opportunities. The changes will also allow increased catches of underutilized species, such as yellowtail rockfish, lingcod, chilipepper rockfish, and Pacific cod.

Although the bycatch of Chinook salmon in the groundfish fishery is low and is expected to remain low, this new rule adds tools for NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council to respond quickly to address any unexpected changes in the amount of bycatch.

All of this good news for fishermen is also good news for fans of healthy and delicious fish. Groundfish provide lean protein and are a good source of omega-3s. West Coast groundfish, including Dover sole, sablefish, and lingcod are versatile fish available year-round that lend themselves well to a variety of preparations.

SW WA Fishing Report (12-10-18)



Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 3 bank anglers released 1 coho.

Skamokawa Creek – No anglers sampled.

Elochoman River – 35 bank anglers kept 5 steelhead and released 7 coho jacks.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Abernathy Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Mill Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Germany Creek – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 5 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  12 bank rods released 1 coho jack.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 691 coho adults, 273 coho jacks, 26 cutthroat trout, three fall Chinook adults and four summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released 106 coho adults and 45 coho jacks into the Cispus River near Randle and they released 179 coho adults, 61 coho jacks and one cutthroat trout into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

Tacoma Power released 34 coho adults and 44 coho jacks at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood and they released 189 coho adults, 119 coho jacks, one fall Chinook adult and five cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,740 cubic feet per second on Monday, Dec. 3. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 49.8 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

Kalama River – 8 bank anglers had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods released 2 coho.

Lewis River – 12 bank rods had no catch.

East Fork Lewis River – 15 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 31 bank anglers had no catch.

Wind River – No anglers sampled.

Klickitat River –No anglers sampled.

$18 Million Awarded For Washington Salmon Habitat Restoration Projects


The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board today announced the award of nearly $18 million in grants for projects to restore salmon habitat in an effort to bring the iconic fish back from the brink of extinction. An estimated 75 percent of the funded projects will benefit Chinook salmon, which make up a large part of the southern resident orca whale diet.


The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board today announced the award of nearly $18 million in grants for projects to restore salmon habitat in an effort to bring the iconic fish back from the brink of extinction. An estimated 75 percent of the funded projects will benefit Chinook salmon, which make up a large part of the southern resident orca whale diet.


“This funding helps protect one of our most beloved legacies,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Together we’re taking a step forward for salmon, and in turn dwindling southern resident orca whales, while also looking back to ensure we’re preserving historic tribal cultural traditions and upholding promises made more than a century ago.”


Since the creation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in 1999, the board has awarded more than $700 million in state and federal funds to more than 2,650 projects across the state. With matching funds provided by grant recipients, the amount invested in board-funded salmon recovery projects is $987 million.


The Salmon Recovery Funding Board awarded grants to organizations for 95 projects in 30 of the state’s 39 counties. Grant recipients will use this funding to remove barriers that prevent salmon from migrating, increase the types and amount of salmon habitat, conserve pristine areas and replant riverbanks to increase places for salmon to spawn, feed, rest, hide from predators and transition from freshwater to saltwater and back again.

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board funded projects in the counties below. Click below to see details on each project:

Asotin County…………………………. $77,535

Chelan County………………….. $1,006,716

Clallam County…………………….. $762,420

Clark County…………………………. $689,142

Columbia County………………….. $857,484

Cowlitz County……………………… $988,691

Garfield County………………………. $61,450

Grays Harbor County……………. $437,633

Island County……………………….. $217,645

Jefferson County………………….. $475,220

King County………………………….. $645,895

Kitsap County……………………….. $531,047

Kittitas County……………………. $1,172,830

Klickitat County…………………….. $445,035

Lewis County………………………… $964,520
Mason County………………………. $783,956

Okanogan County………………… $849,084

Pacific County………………………. $899,521

Pend Oreille County……………… $342,000

Pierce County……………………. $1,050,095

San Juan County…………………. $277,742

Skagit County…………………….. $1,326,168

Skamania County…………………. $249,916

Snohomish County……………. $1,052,178

Thurston County…………………… $308,390

Wahkiakum County………………. $424,045

Walla Walla County………………. $480,936

Whatcom County………………….. $437,611

Whitman County…………………….. $41,795

Yakima County……………………… $125,715

“We are committed to restoring salmon populations back to levels that support communities and support people,” said David Troutt, chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “This funding enables local communities to restore the places salmon live, while also initiating a cascade of other benefits, from less flooding to better water quality, more water in rivers for salmon and other fish, and a boost to our statewide economy.”

Recent studies show that every $1 million spent on watershed restoration results in between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs and up to $2.5 million in total economic activity. The funds awarded this week are estimated to provide up to 470 jobs during the next 4 years and up to nearly $50 million in economic activity. These new grants will put contractors, consultants and field crews to work designing and building projects and restoring rivers and shorelines. It is estimated that about 80 percent of these funds stay in the county where the project is located.


Some of the projects approved by the board this week include the following:

·         A Tulalip Tribes project to remove the Pilchuck River diversion dam will open up 37 miles of habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead.

·         A Cascadia Conservation District project near Wenatchee that will create nearly 6 acres of wetland, add nearly 1 mile of side channel and create more places for fish to rest, hide from predators and spawn in the middle Entiat River.

·         A Lewis Conservation District project near Chehalis will help keep fish out of agricultural irrigation intakes in the Chehalis River basin, directly improving the survival of young coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead.

·         A Nez Perce Tribe project in southeastern Washington will remove barriers to steelhead in Buford Creek, opening up nearly 5 miles of potential habitat, 2 miles of which are designated critical habitat.

The board also approved ranked lists of Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program projects to submit to the Legislature for funding consideration. The project requests totaled nearly $21 million with another $46 million requested for larger projects.

The Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program is a state capital bond-funded program focused on Puget Sound and Hood Canal, jointly administered by the Recreation and Conservation Office and the Puget Sound Partnership.

“Salmon are the heart of nature’s system in Puget Sound,” said Sheida Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. The Partnership’s Leadership Council is the regional salmon recovery organization for most of Puget Sound’s salmon species. “They feed our orca, and they also nourish people. They provide cultural, economic and physical well-being to the entire system. These projects help fulfill our responsibility to sustain the salmon that sustain us.”

How Projects are Chosen

Projects are selected by lead entities, which are watershed-based groups that include tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations and citizens. Lead entities recruit projects and sponsors, vet projects based on federally approved regional salmon recovery plans and prioritize which projects to submit to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for funding. Regional salmon recovery organizations and the board review each project for cost-effectiveness and to ensure they will benefit salmon.

“With steady checks and balances throughout the process, this bottom-up approach is the backbone of our efforts to ensure a thriving future not only for salmon, but for orcas, other wildlife and ultimately—us,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants. “It consistently produces projects with widespread support that are rooted in our local communities.”

Why Save Salmon?

Washington state salmon populations have been declining for generations. As Washington grew and built its cities and towns, it destroyed many of the places salmon need to live. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon as endangered.

By the end of that decade, salmon populations had dwindled so much that salmon, steelhead and bull trout were listed as threatened or endangered in three-quarters of the state.

Those listings set off the formation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to oversee state and federally funded investments in salmon recovery.

Grant funding comes from the Legislature-authorized sale of state bonds and from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, which National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service administers.

Information about the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Recreation and Conservation Office is available online at www.rco.wa.gov.

Nez Perce Optimistic About Snake Basin Coho Reintroductions

By Rick Itami

With salmon and steelhead runs across the Northwest experiencing low run counts in most river systems, anglers these days glom on to any visage of hope they can find.

For us Inland Empire anglers, the Nez Perce Tribe is providing such hope through their quiet efforts to reintroduce coho salmon to the Clearwater River and Grande Ronde River basins.

The Clearwater River Basin

History tells us that the once plentiful Clearwater River coho started declining in the 1800s because of habitat degradation. In 1927, the Washington Water Power Company (now Avista Corp.) constructed the Lewiston Dam to produce electricity and aid in flood control.

The original Lewiston Dam had a fish ladder, but it accommodated only steelhead resulting in the extirpation of Clearwater Chinook salmon and any remaining vestiges of a coho run. A second fish ladder was installed in the early 1950s that seemed to help the Chinook salmon run somewhat, but it was too late for the coho.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game tried to re-establish coho in the Clearwater River Basin beginning in 1962. But that effort was discontinued after only 31 coho were counted at Lewiston Dam in 1969. The Lewiston Dam was finally taken out in 1973 after the construction of Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River caused a reservoir pool that backed up into the lower Clearwater River, rendering the Lewiston Dam ineffective. By 1985, coho salmon in Idaho were determined to be extinct.

The Nez Perce Tribe began working diligently to reintroduce coho salmon to the Clearwater River in 1995. Becky Johnson, Production Division Director for the Nez Perce Tribe’s Department of Fisheries Resource Management, is a key manager in the effort to reintroduce coho salmon to the Clearwater River Basin. Johnson provided the following information about how the Tribe carried out the project.

NOAA’s Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and the Mitchell Act Program provided the Nez Perce Tribe with more than $5 million since 2000 for the project. The Clearwater River Basin Coho Restoration Project also got a jump-start when the Tribe was allowed to acquire surplus coho eggs from the Lower Columbia River as part of an agreement between Northwest tribes and state and federal agencies resulting from U. S. v. Oregon.

After initial supplementation efforts using Lower Columbia River coho eggs were successful, returning adult coho are now collected at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery, Kooskia National Fish Hatchery and Lapwai Creek. Over the years, the tribal program has grown and now releases 830,000 to 1.1 million smolts annually. Coho smolts are released each spring into Clear Creek and Lapwai Creek, both tributaries of the Clearwater River. In 2014, about 90 percent of the adult coho returning to Lapwai Creek were allowed to spawn naturally.

The final 2014 count of coho salmon over Lower Granite Dam — the last dam the fish have to negotiate before reaching the mouth of the Clearwater River in Lewiston, Idaho — was 18,048 fish. Mike Bisbee, Jr., Tribal Project Manager for the Clearwater Basin Coho Reintroduction Program says the 2014 adult return far-exceeded the project goal of 14,000 returning adults and gave hope for the future of the run.

To the Nez Perce Department of Fisheries Management, the success of the coho reintroduction program helps fulfill its goal of “putting fish in the rivers” to rebuild natural spawning runs and to restore harvest opportunities. This all came to fruition for the Nez Perce Tribe in 2014 and Bisbee says that he and his crew received a lot of pats on the back by Tribal members, both young and old. He and his crew were able to take dozens of excess coho out of the fish trap in Lapwai Creek and give them to Tribal members for the first time last year. In addition, many tribal members were successful harvesting coho individually. The return of the coho salmon has great significance to Tribal members as it helps bring back an important part of their cultural history.

For Clearwater River sports fishermen in Idaho, the reintroduction of coho salmon meant a totally new species to pursue. And some were wise enough to realize that this opened up an opportunity to catch a state record that would permanently put them in the record books.

Ethan Crawford of Moscow, Idaho was the first to set the Idaho record by catching a 9.4 pound, 31-inch female on October 18, 2014 — just a day after the Idaho Department of Fish and Game opened the coho season.

That record didn’t last long, however. On November 9, 2014, Steve Micek from Idaho Falls, Idaho hooked and landed an 11.8 pound coho while fishing with his son Greg. Micek said he hooked the fish on the last cast of the day, using a half-ounce silver KO Wobbler.

He wasn’t impressed with the fight, however, saying the fish “hit like a snag” and was in the net after only a few strong pulls. He attributes the lack of fight to “spawning behavior.”


I accidently hooked and landed a nice bright female coho with firm red meat. I say accidentally because I was trolling lighted lures for steelhead early in the morning before sunrise. When the sun came up, I decided to switch to fishing shrimp under bobbers. So I started reeling up my trolling rod with the lighted lure. As soon as I speeded up the retrieve, the fish struck and I happily landed my first Idaho coho that went into the cooler with some steelhead we had caught earlier.

Since many Idaho anglers have never fished for coho salmon before, they naturally have to learn how it’s done properly. Many successful anglers cruised the Clearwater River in their boats until they observed coho salmon rolling on the surface. Then they would throw spoons or spinners like the Blue Fox, twitched jigs, or trolled plugs for them. Favorite colors were silver, chartreuse, pink, cerise and black or combinations thereof.

Toby Wyatt, owner and operator of Reel Time Fishing (208-790-2128), a successful guide service out of Clarkston, Washington says that his clients did well trolling Mag Lips 3.5 plugs in the Doctor Death colors, drifting beads, and casting spoons like the silver Little Cleo or the pink Vibrax Blue Fox spinner.

He said that the bite was never really hot and five to six coho a day was the norm. He targeted the mouths of creeks and hatcheries where coho were released and said he observed a lot of fish that simply would not bite.

Then in 2015, poor ocean conditions caused near record low runs of coho salmon. The low number of adult returns caused the Tribe to miss its broodstock needs for the year which in turn, caused hatchery releases of smolts in 2017 to be low.

According to Johnson, “Once you get into a ‘hole’ like that it can be hard to climb out unless ocean conditions really turn around and are good again.”

In the fall of 2018, Johnson estimates 1,200 to 1,400 adult coho returned to the Clearwater River basin. While this was too low a number to allow for a sports fishing season, she says Tribal staff should have enough eggs to produce the 500,000 juveniles for the Clearwater program that will be released in the spring of 2020.

The Grande Ronde River Basin

With the initial success of the reintroduction of coho salmon to the Clearwater River basin, the Nez Perce Tribe turned its attention to the Grande Ronde River basin.

On March 9, 2017, the Tribe held a ceremony to release 500,000 coho salmon smolts into the Lostine River on the Woody Wolf Ranch just east of the town of Wallowa, Oregon. According to Johnson, coho once flourished in the Grande Ronde River Basin but the fish pretty much disappeared by around 1986.


This project is co-managed by the Nez Perce Tribe and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The release was made possible by obtaining Lower Columbia River coho smolts from the Cascade Hatchery on Tanner Creek — the same hatchery from which coho smolts came from for the initial releases into the Clearwater River Basin.

According to Bruce Eddy, Manager of the Eastern Region of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the initial goal for the reintroduction is to have broodstock for 500,000 juvenile coho salmon. When asked when the Department might open a coho season for sports anglers, Eddy said that it may be as long as 10 years, depending on all the factors involved.

The Nez Perce Tribe waited expectantly for the first returning adult coho to the Lostine River weir in the fall of 2018. Then on October 26, 2018, a female coho entered the weir — the first coho salmon to return to the Lostine River since 1966.

As Johnson put it, “It goes without saying that we’re super excited to see these coho return home.”

At the time of this writing, Nez Perce staff had trapped 125 coho that were later released to spawn naturally in the Lostine River.


Johnson says they think about 800 coho bound for the Lostine River crossed Lower Granite Dam, based on PIT tag data.

She adds, “Coho that didn’t make it all the way to the Lostine weir likely are spawning in the Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers,” of which the Lostine River is a tributary.

At any rate, it appears that the target return of 500 adults was met in 2018. That’s good news, even though the overall return did not allow a sports fishing season, which wasn’t anticipated anyway.

Johnson sees poor ocean conditions as one of the biggest challenges to the reintroduction of coho salmon. As she puts it, “Warm water, low prey base — not good conditions for salmon and steelhead.”

But looking into the future, Johnson says, “I am optimistic about attaining self-sustaining runs in the Snake Basin. Coho were once abundant here and the habitat in a lot of the tributaries up here is available and vacant. Developing a stock that is able to navigate 500 to 600 miles over eight dams out to the ocean and then have the stamina to migrate home that same distance over those same dams as an adult was the challenge when we started reintroduction in the 1990s. We’ve seen great success with that from our Clearwater program. I believe the greatest challenge now is climate change and tough ocean conditions.”

We sports anglers are cheering the Nez Perce Tribe on in their efforts to restore coho salmon to the Clearwater River and Grande Ronde River basins. Having had a taste of a fishable run of coho in 2014 gives us hope for more of the same in the future for both basins.

In this day and age, when disparate groups are fighting each other over fishing rights and oftentimes driven by selfish motivation, it’s refreshing to see the Nez Perce Tribe forging ahead with substantive actions to bring coho salmon back to the Inland Northwest with little fanfare.

Just as the benevolent Nez Perce Tribe saved Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery from certain starvation in the fall of 1805, we hope they can now bring back sustainable runs of the magnificent coho salmon.

Editor’s note: Rick Itami is an angler and outdoor writer based in the Spokane area. His work has appeared in several Northwest sporting magazines, including ours.

ODFW Commission Sets 2019 Groundfish Regs, Adopts Urban Deer Program


At their meeting in Salem today, the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved rules for a new urban deer control program for cities experiencing problems from high urban deer populations.


The rules are based on SB 373 passed by the 2017 Oregon Legislature, which called for the development of a pilot program to allow cities to reduce deer populations in areas where high densities of deer are causing damage, health and safety concerns. To participate in the program, cities will be required to pass an ordinance or resolution declaring that city deer populations have risen to a level that is a public nuisance as well as an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of deer. Any cities participating will also be required to salvage deer meat and donate it to charity to the extent possible.

The Commission adopted recreational and commercial nearshore groundfish fisheries regulations for 2019 as proposed by staff. Next year’s regulations are very similar to 2018 regulations. The general marine bag limit will again be 5 fish. The lingcod, cabezon, and longleader fishery bag limits will also be the same as 2018, and retention of blue/deacon rockfish will be allowed in the longleader fishery. New for 2019, yelloweye rockfish allowances have increased, so recreational fishing will be allowed out to the 40 fathom line (instead of 30 fathom line) during the seasonal depth restriction, and the restriction is proposed to start one month later, on May 1.


In other business, the Commission voted to:

  • Provide ceremonial hunting tags to the Burns-Paiute Tribe.
  • Fund several Access and Habitat projects and Restoration and Enhancement Projects, plus appoint Richard Heap of Brooking as Sportfishing Representative and Cary Johnson of Astoria as Gillnet Representative to the Restoration and Enhancement Board.
  • Adopt rules as proposed by staff for providing big game hunting tags to nonprofits for use by disabled veterans.
  • Update the Wild Turkey Management Plan, the first update since the Plan was adopted in 2004. The Plan adopted today updates trap and transplant guidelines, expands methods to address nuisance and damage, and outlines ways to improve hunter access to wild turkeys and strategies to create new turkey hunters

The Fish and Wildlife Commission’s next meeting is Jan. 18 in Salem.

Idaho Steelheading Will Remain Open, Outside Of Salmon, SF Clearwater Stretches


The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Friday, Dec. 7 approved an agreement to keep most steelhead seasons open, but steelhead fishing in two areas will close effective 11:59 p.m. Dec. 7, 2018.


Closures include:

  • The Main Salmon River between Warren Creek and the Copper Mine Boat Ramp.
  • South Fork of Clearwater River upstream of the Mount Idaho Grade Bridge. (See maps below)

The commission also acted to continue the one steelhead daily bag limit through the end of 2018 and into the 2019 spring season.

“I’m glad our anglers and outfitters can continue steelhead fishing,” Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said. “It’s unfortunate that a delay in receiving federal authorization for our recreational steelhead fisheries created contention and hardship for river communities and anglers. This resolution achieves the commission’s objective to limit impacts to steelhead fishing as much as possible while we remain focused on finally receiving federal approval of our steelhead fishery plan for the long term.”

The continuance of steelhead fishing results from an agreement between Fish and Game, the Idaho River Community Alliance, Inc. and five groups that threatened to sue Idaho officials over the lack of federal authorization for steelhead fishing in the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater River systems.

Moore said he appreciates various parties working together, and commended Idaho Rivers United for dropping its involvement in a potential lawsuit and helping forge the agreement among the various groups.

The agreement is in effect until the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approves Idaho’s steelhead fisheries plan under the Endangered Species Act, or March 15, 2019, whichever date is earlier.

As part of the agreement, members of the Idaho River Community Alliance, Inc. will voluntarily take a few additional measures when steelhead fishing. These measures are separate from the commission’s decision, and they are not Fish and Game rules.

Idaho sought renewal in 2010 for an expiring NMFS authorization for wild steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act that could potentially be harmed during Idaho fisheries for hatchery steelhead. NMFS’ permitting backlog delayed approval for years, but Idaho steelhead fishing seasons continued with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s (which NMFS is within) knowledge and consistent with Fish and Game’s submitted plan.

Earlier this year, NOAA began reviewing the plan, and an updated plan is available for a  public comment through Dec. 13, 2018. Fish and Game expects NMFS approval of its plan later this winter.

In October, a group of six organizations threatened a lawsuit over Fish and Game’s lack of formal federal authorization from NMFS. To avoid the potential for court-ordered changes and payment of these organizations’ legal costs, Fish and Game commissioners voted on November 14 to suspend the most steelhead fishing effective at the end of Dec. 7. That is the earliest day the organizations could file a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act, but that suspension is now voided except in the new closure areas.

Salmon River closure


Creative Commons Licence

South Fork Clearwater River closure


Creative Commons Licence


DFO Proposes New Orca Critical Habitat Areas

Editor’s note: This blog has been updated from an earlier version that was in places unintentionally overbroad, causing concerns outside of the new proposed southern resident killer whale critical habitat areas, and has been sharpened to reflect that. 

Canadian fishery overseers want to designate large areas around southern Vancouver Island as critical habitat for orcas, and that’s leaving some in salmon ports on the island’s south side worried.

This week’s proposal for SRKWs includes the fishy Swiftsure and La Pérouse Banks off the island’s west side and Washington’s Neah Bay, as well as most of the BC side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands.


Earlier this year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans closed salmon fishing seasonally on the central Strait of Juan de Fuca, Gulf Islands and at the mouth of Fraser, three key SRKW foraging areas, to “help increase the availability of this critical food source,” Chinook.

That hurt the summer fishing season. In Sooke, a famed salmon port on the south side of Vancouver Island, a local lodge owner and president of a tourism bureau said that business was off 80 percent.

Now the worry is that the new critical habitat areas will lead to much larger angling closures.

According to DFO spokesman Dan Bate it is not as cut and dried.

“Under the Species at Risk Act, activities themselves within critical habitat are not prohibited — it is the destruction of critical habitat that is prohibited,” he said via email.

Disturbance from boat traffic, the build up of pollutants and low numbers of Chinook salmon have been identified as major reasons why SRKWs are struggling in recent years.

After the new habitat designations were proposed, a consortium of 17 southern Vancouver Island chambers of commerce issued a statement, cautioning DFO “to carefully weigh potential management measures that could harm their coastal communities, destroy thousands of business and jobs, and impact tourism revenue across Vancouver Island.”

Bate said his agency works with sportfishing and other industries to meet SARA goals while minimizing its impact on stakeholders.

“All efforts will be made to minimize the economic impact of any reductions on coastal communities, and to work with implicated sectors to ensure their activities do not result in critical habitat destruction,” he said.

What it all might mean for next year’s Chinook seasons will be part of upcoming discussions with Indigenous groups and fishermen, Bate said.

Stay tuned.

Idaho Fish Commission To Meet On Steelhead Season This Evening

Idaho steelhead season is on the agenda of an unexpected Fish and Game Commission teleconference set for tonight, just hours before a fishing closure is otherwise set to go into effect.

What does that mean?


“Whatever you want to read into it” is the official word from IDFG spokesman Roger Phillips in Boise.

However, outdoor reporter Eric Barker at the Lewiston Tribune who has been doing an excellent job covering the situation reports that state officials, environmental groups that threatened the state with a federal lawsuit if it didn’t close the season, and the newly formed Idaho River Community Alliance of anglers and others were discussing the situation yesterday “in an effort to reach a settlement.”

The agenda for the 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time, 6:30 p.m. Pacific time meeting is stamped with the words “Action Item” in red which suggests that the seven-member commission will be voting on something.

In mid-November, the commission was forced to suspend the fishery starting Dec. 8 because of the state’s lack of a NMFS permit to hold steelhead season. IDFG long ago applied for a new one, but as the feds worked on other priorities it left Idaho vulnerable to a lawsuit, which Wild Fish Conservancy and five other groups took advantage of.

One, Idaho Rivers United, has subsequently backed out of the group, saying its goal of getting NMFS to start working on the fisheries permit had been accomplished. The comment period on that has now been extended from yesterday to Dec. 13.

Whatever decision the commission makes this evening, Phillips says he plans to send out a press release right after that occurs.

Meanwhile, IRCA this morning reported on its Facebook page that anglers and boats have already begun showing in Riggins for a planned Saturday protest.

SW WA Fishing Report (12-5-18)


December 4, 2018


Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 9 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.

Skamokawa Creek – No anglers sampled.

Elochoman River – 38 bank anglers kept 6 steelhead and released 4 steelhead, 2 coho and 11 coho jacks.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Abernathy Creek – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Mill Creek – No anglers sampled.

Germany Creek – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 14 bank rods kept 1 coho jack and released 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  6 bank rods had no catch.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 691 coho adults, 273 coho jacks, 26 cutthroat trout, three fall Chinook adults and four summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released 106 coho adults and 45 coho jacks into the Cispus River near Randle and they released 179 coho adults, 61 coho jacks and one cutthroat trout into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

Tacoma Power released 34 coho adults and 44 coho jacks at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood and they released 189 coho adults, 119 coho jacks, one fall Chinook adult and five cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,740 cubic feet per second on Monday, Dec. 3. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 49.8 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

Kalama River – No anglers sampled.

Lewis River – 2 bank anglers had no catch. 2 boats/4 rods had no catch.

East Fork Lewis River – 7 bank anglers kept 1 coho.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 41 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Wind River – No anglers sampled.

Klickitat River –No anglers sampled.

The Point? There’s A Lot Of Good Spots For Winter Blackmouth — Yuasa

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

The holidays are a time where one needs to not only enjoy all the food and festivities, but to soak in the fun and enjoyment of what the Pacific Northwest fishing scene has to offer.

Instead of constantly fretting about what goes under the Christmas tree let us have a sneak peek at what you can find swimming around Puget Sound and other waterways in the weeks and months ahead.


Many salmon anglers are waiting to ring in New Year’s Day by hitting the winter chinook opener on Jan. 1 in northern and central Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands (Areas 7, 9 and 10), but you can get a jump start on bringing home a fresh salmon from some other locations.

Hatchery chinook for the holiday dinner table are free game right now in south-central Puget Sound (11); the east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2); Hood Canal (12); and southern Puget Sound (13).

Top choices include the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park in Tacoma; Point Dalco on south side of Vashon Island; Elger Bay; Camano Head; Hat Island; Onamac Point; Fox Point; Point Fosdick; Anderson Island; Lyle Point; and Devil’s Head and Johnson Point.

A good sign is the WDFW fish check from Sunday (Nov. 25) at the Point Defiance Park Boathouse in Tacoma that showed nine boats with 12 anglers taking home five chinook and one chum.

Another great way to gauge how success will be since chinook fishing in Areas 8-1 and 8-2 has been closed for quite a long time – since early spring of 2018 to be precise – is the Everett Salmon & Steelhead Club and Puget Sound Anglers Salmon Derby on Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 1-2). The derby headquarters is Bayside Marine in Everett. Cost for the Everett Steelhead & Salmon Club’s side pot is $10 per angler, and Puget Sound Anglers side pot is $100 per boat. Weigh-in station is the Everett boat launch on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday between 12:30-1 p.m. You must be in line by 1 p.m. There will be a potluck on Sunday. Details: 425-530-0017 or 4salebydavemiller@gmail.com or 425-501-4024 or 206-730-0469 or rgarner@aol.com.

The sleeper spot that doesn’t garner as much attention during the winter is Hood Canal (Area 12). Look for hungry blackmouth around Misery Point, Hazel Point, Pleasant Harbor, Toandos Peninsula, Seabeck Bay and Seal Rock.

Those who hold out for the New Year’s Day festivities should try Possession Bar; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Double Bluff off southwest side of Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Jefferson Head; West Point; Point Monroe; Southworth; and Allen Bank off Blake Island.

In the San Juan Islands put your time in around Waldron Island; Parker Reef; north side Orcas Island; Rosario Pass; Tide Point; Decatur Pass; Obstruction Pass; McArthur Bank; Point Lawrence; and Thatcher Pass.

If you get my “point” there’s a lot of “points” mentioned in the previous three paragraphs to get on the water during the holidays. No “point” pun intended!

Keep in mind that encounter rates and catch guidelines will dictate how long each area stays open so I’d go sooner than later.

In Area 7, WDFW set the bar of not exceeding 3,176 total unmarked chinook encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. In Area 9, the encounter ceiling prediction is 10,004; and in Area 10 it is 3,596. WDFW will provide in-season catch estimates between Jan. 11 and 18.

Those heading out before Dec. 31 should bring along some crab pots to set in some parts of Puget Sound. Marine areas open daily are Strait of Juan de Fuca east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line to Port Angeles; San Juan Islands; east side of Whidbey Island; and a section of northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff.

Word on Tengu Blackmouth Derby

There is a small group of anglers who brave the elements every winter during the Tengu Blackmouth Derby – an event that began shortly after World War II in 1946 – that is held on Elliott Bay.

Normally the derby (the oldest in Puget Sound) starts during October when Area 10 opens for winter hatchery chinook.

However, this year’s non-retention of chinook delayed the event to coincide with the Jan. 1 reopener of Area 10.


The derby has been tentatively set to be held on Sundays from Jan. 6 through Feb. 24 at the Seacrest Boathouse (now known as Marination) in West Seattle.

“We’re trying to figure out specifics related to the derby like costs, logistics and if Outdoor Emporium can sell our derby tickets for us,” Doug Hanada, the Tengu Derby president, said of what will be the 73rd year of the derby.

The derby is named after Tengu, a fabled Japanese character who stretched the truth, and just like Pinocchio, Tengu’s nose grew with every lie.

Last year, a total of 18 blackmouth were caught and the winning fish of 9 pounds-15 ounces went to Guy Mamiya. Justin Wong had the most fish with a total of five and followed by John Mirante with four fish.

To further test your skills, only mooching is allowed in the derby. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted.

In past years, the derby runs from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. every Sunday. Hanada was checking to see if rental boats and motors will be available this season. Last year, the membership fee was $15 and $5 for children age 12-and-under.

Halibut fishery blooming this spring

The Pacific Fishery Management Council wrapped up meetings in San Diego during early November to decide halibut fishing dates that will enable anglers to make preliminary plans although catch quotas won’t be finalized until later next month.

The tentative halibut fishing dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) are May 2, 4, 9, 11, 18, 24 and 26; and June 6, 8, 20 and 22. At Westport (2) the tentative dates are May 2, 5, 9, 12 and 24.

At Ilwaco (1) the opening dates will be decided through consultation with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife although the Washington subarea dates proposed are May 2, 5, 9, 12, 24 and 26.

If quota remains the Ilwaco subarea would reopen two days per week (Thursday and Sunday) after May 26.

Additional fishing dates could be added to an area if their sport catch quotas aren’t achieved.

The IPHC will meet Jan. 28-29 in Victoria, B.C. to set catch quotas from California north to Alaska. The National Marine Fisheries Service will then make its final approval on fishing dates sometime in March or sooner.

Exciting news for 2019 NW Salmon Derby Series

The 2019 NW Salmon Derby Series calendar has been set with 15 events from January through November of 2019.

First up are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 4-6 in Anacortes (http://www.resurrectionderby.com/); Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 17-19 (https://www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby), there is currently a waiting list; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/); and Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/).

I’m really stoked about our new grand prize boat valued at $75,000, which is a Weldcraft Rebel 202 Hardtop Series from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston powered by a Yamaha 200 and 9.9hp motors on an EZ Loader Trailer.

Other sponsors who make the derby series a major success are Raymarine Electronics; Dual Electronics; WhoDat Towers; Scotty Downriggers; Silver Horde Lures; Harbor Marine; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco/Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics. For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

There is a full-blown list of places to go during the holidays so take a break from the frenzied shopping sprees, mall madness and giftwrapping chores to go out and fish.

I’ll see you on the water!