Tag Archives: fishing

Oregon Fishing Report Highlights (1-23-20)

THE FOLLOWING IS FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE RECREATION REPORT FOR JAN. 23, 2020

Highlights from this week’s Recreation Report:

Hunters have just one week to report their 2019 hunts

Hunters have until Jan. 31 to report their 2019 hunts. If you purchased a tag, reporting is mandatory even if you didn’t hunt or harvest an animal.

Ways to report your hunt.

BUZZ RAMSEY SHOWS OFF A HATCHERY WINTER STEELHEAD CAUGHT ON ONE OF OREGON’S NORTH COAST RIVERS LAST WEEKEND. HE REPORTED LANDING 16 FISH OVER TWO AND A HALF DAYS OF FISHING, MOSTLY WILD STEELHEAD BUT THREE OTHER FIN-CLIPPED FISH TOO. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Last week for Zone 1 duck hunters

Zone 1 duck season ends on Jan. 26. Waterfowl success has been picking up thanks to recent stormy conditions. Given the current forecast, the last week of the season could be good.

Register your new hunter for a hunter education class/course

Hunters 17 years old and younger need to complete a hunter education course and field day before they hunt this fall. Traditional classes and field days are available now, and online courses can be taken anytime. Taking care of hunter education now will be one less thing to worry about as hunting season approaches.

Best bets for fishing

  • Steelhead fishing has been hot on the Chetco. Current conditions have been favoring anglers plunking from the bank.
  • Anglers have been catching steelhead on the lower Rogue using a variety of techniques, but plunking is the current favorite.
  • Anglers have been landing winter steelhead in the Galice area of the middle Rogue. With rain in the forecast, except steelhead numbers to increase.
  • Trout have been biting in the Holy Water, the stretch of the upper Rogue between the hatchery and the Lost Creek Lake spillway.
  • Bank anglers are catching some nice trout from the bank at Ochoco Reservoir, which also will get 100 brood trout this week.
  • The Crooked River continues to offer good opportunities for trout and whitefish up to 16 inches.
  • It’s getting to be prime time for winter steelhead on the Sandy and Clackamas rivers. Keep an eye on water levels and be ready to hit the waters as they begin to drop.
  • Ice conditions, and fishing, have been good on Chickahominy Reservoir.
  • Steelhead fishing on the Grande Ronde can be quite good in January and February, when flows cooperate. Look for uncrowded conditions and lots of open water.

Disease Kills Large Number Of Ringold Steelhead Smolts

A disease outbreak killed roughly 75 percent of the summer steelhead smolts being reared at a Hanford Reach hatchery, a blow to a fishery and program that have had a tough few years.

THE REYES BROTHERS — ISSAC, LEVI AND IVAN — SHOW OFF A SUMMER-RUN STEELHEAD CAUGHT IN THE HANFORD REACH IN MARCH 2015. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

WDFW reports that it was able to release somewhere around 50,000 of the juvenile fish from Ringold Springs into the cooler waters of the Columbia River to give them “a fighting chance,” but couldn’t find backup stock for the other 150,000 or so that were lost.

“We actively tried to find replacements, but it was too late in the rearing cycle,” said Brian Lyon, the state hatchery complex manager, this morning. “We would’ve replaced them if we could have, believe me.”

The news was first reported on WDFW’s Medium blog Jan. 13.

Crews first detected what is known as “Ich,” or Ichthyophthirius multifilis, in December and treated a 2.5-acre pond used to rear nearly 200,000 steelhead, but were unable to stop the outbreak, so after a week and a half released the survivors.

The disease, which is spread by a parasite and affects the gills and skin of fish, was also found in other ponds at Ringold that hold coho and rainbow trout, but treatments were successful and few of those fish were lost, according to WDFW.

AN IMAGE POSTED BY WDFW SHOWS WHAT THE FISH DISEASE KNOWN AS ICH LOOKS LIKE THROUGH A MICROSCOPE. (WDFW)

It wasn’t clear how the steelhead came to be infected.

Ich exists in the Columbia and could have been carried into hatchery waters by predators — Lyon says that if a bird ate an infected fish then pooped as it flew over the ponds, it could transmit the disease that way.

Otters might have also been to blame. WDFW says there are deterrents at the hatchery but sometimes hungry critters can worm their way in.

The last Ich outbreak at Ringold was 10 years ago, WDFW reported, but the 60-degree spring waters that feed the ponds are ideal growing conditions for the disease, according to Lyon.

Releasing the surviving steelhead into the cooler waters of the Columbia should have given them a “better” chance of survival, his agency reported. In December the big river was running in the upper 40s and it is now in the upper 30s below Priest Rapids Dam, at the head of the Hanford Reach.

Lyon said the smolts were about a year old at the time of the outbreak but unfortunately no surplus fish were available at other hatcheries, including Wells further up the Columbia.

The steelhead were being reared for return in 2021’s lower Hanford Reach fishery. Angling for summer-runs there has been poor in recent seasons, with the waters closed to retention this past fall and shut down early in 2018 to try and ensure that broodstock goals were reached.

Ich was blamed for the loss of about 6,100 wild and hatchery adult Chinook in Willapa Basin streams in 2015, while this past fall another naturally occurring disease, cryptobia, hit fall kings in rivers on Oregon’s North Coast.

WDFW said it is reviewing the Ich outbreak at Ringold “to determine whether measures can be put in place to prevent a re-occurrence.”

SW WA Tribs, Columbia Gorge Pools Fishing Report (1-8-20)

THE FOLLOWING FISHING REPORT WAS FORWARDED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Fishery Reports:

Salmon/Steelhead:

John Day Pool – 15 bank anglers released 15 steelhead.  1 boat/1 rod had no catch.

Sturgeon:

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

The Dalles Pool- 2 boats/3 rods released two walleye.

John Day Pool- 1 bank angler had no catch.  6 boats/12 rods kept 13 walleye.

COLUMBIA WALLEYE ANGLERS LIKE JIM DEATHERAGE ARE BEGINNING TO TARGET TROPHIES AND EATERS IN THE POOLS AND TAILRACES OF THE BIG RIVER. DEATHERAGE CAUGHT THIS ONE LAST JANUARY WHILE FISHING WITH JERRY HAN IN THE TRI-CITIES AREA. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Bass:

John Day Pool- 1 boat/3 rods kept six bass.

 Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 22 bank anglers kept 12 steelhead.  3 boats/4 rods kept one steelhead and released one steelhead and one coho.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 9 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  11 bank rods had no catch.  1 boat/3 rods had no catch.

SW WA Fishing Report (12-31-19)

THE FOLLOWING WAS FORWARDED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Washington Tributary Fishing Report Dec 23-29, 2019

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 3 bank anglers kept one steelhead.

WINTER-RUN STEELHEAD ARE BEGINNING TO SHOW IN SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON WATERS AS 2019 DRAWS TO A CLOSE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Elochoman River – 82 bank anglers kept eleven steelhead and released one coho.  6 boats/14 rods kept three steelhead and released two steelhead.

Klickitat River below Fisher Hill Bridge – 5 bank anglers kept two coho.

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Yuasa’s 2020 Visions: Halibut Highlights, Blackmouth Openers, First Derbies Coming Up

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

This month marks a time when anglers begin gazing into the crystal ball to see what the 2020 fishing season has in store for halibut, salmon and other fish species.

For starters, the good news is halibut chasers can look forward to a more stabilized fishery in marine areas enabling them to make early plans for the upcoming spring season.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“In Area 2A (Washington, Oregon and California) we’ve moved in a new direction that started in 2019 and goes through 2022 where quotas remain status quo barring any unforeseen issues,” said Heather Hall, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish policy coordinator.

“We’ve added a lot more days of fishing up front in 2020 compared to last year,” Hall said. “It helps knowing we have the catch quota available (there was 39,000 pounds leftover in 2019 Puget Sound fisheries) and how our fisheries did last year.”

In past seasons, the sport halibut fishery would open in early May, but in 2020 the proposal is to open the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 6 to 10) on April 16.
In those two areas, fishing is allowed Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from April 16 to May 16 and May 28 to June 27, plus Memorial Day weekend on May 22-24.

The western Strait (Area 5) will be open Thursdays and Saturdays only from April 30 to May 16; and Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from May 16 to June 28. Fishing is open daily from May 22-24 on Memorial Day weekend only.

The northern coast off Neah Bay and La Push (Areas 3 and 4) is open Thursdays and Saturdays from April 30 to May 16 and May 28 to June 27, plus Memorial Day weekend on May 22-24.

Just like last year, the southern ports of Westport and Ilwaco (Areas 1 and 2) are open Thursdays and Sundays from April 30 to May 17 and May 28 to June 28; and May 21 only during Memorial Day weekend.

Fishing areas could close sooner if catch quotas are achieved and/or additional fishing dates might be added if quotas aren’t attained.

“The season(s) will last as long as there is available quota,” Hall said. “We aren’t sure what kind of effort and fishing success there will be in that early April opener. It’s been many years since we opened in April so it will be interesting to see how it goes.”

In general, a shift in how the halibut fisheries are devised annually continues to be well received since it provides no last-minute changes or closures that have frustrated anglers prior to 2017 who have made fishing plans well in advance of the dates set forth.

The Area 2A catch quota (includes Washington, Oregon and California) for sport, treaty tribal and non-treaty commercial is 1.5-million pounds, and 89 percent – 1,329,575 pounds – of the quota was caught in 2019.

The total sport halibut catch quota is 277,100 pounds for Washington, and 97 percent – 270,024 pounds – of the quota was caught in 2019.

A breakdown in the sport allocation in Puget Sound-Strait (Areas 5 to 10) fisheries is 77,550 pounds; Neah Bay/La Push (Areas 3 and 4) is 128,187 pounds; Westport (Area 2) is 62,896 pounds; and Ilwaco (Area 1) is 15,127 pounds.

The average weight of halibut in 2019 was 18.5 pounds in Puget Sound-Strait; 17.6 pounds at Neah Bay/La Push; 18.3 pounds at Westport; and 14.5 pounds at Ilwaco.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission meets Feb. 3-7 in Anchorage, Alaska to determine seasons and catch quotas from California north to Alaska. The National Marine Fisheries Service will then make its final approval on halibut fishing dates sometime in March or sooner.

Facts on winter chinook

The holiday celebrations are in the rearview mirror and it’s time to look at winter chinook fishing options, including a few that began this month.

Central and south-central Puget Sound and Hood Canal (Areas 10, 11 and 12) are now open for winter hatchery blackmouth – a term used for a chinook’s dark gum-line. Area 10 is open through March 31; and Areas 11 and 12 are open through April 30.

“There wasn’t a lot of bait around in Area 10 when it was last open (fishing closed on Nov. 12) although we managed to release some bigger sized blackmouth,” said Justin Wong, owner of Cut Plug Charter in Seattle. “We didn’t catch a lot of shakers (chinook under the 22-inch minimum size limit) so that is a good thing.”

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Lastly, consider getting out sooner than later since early closures hinge on catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (fish over the 22-inch minimum size limit).

In central Puget Sound look for blackmouth at Jefferson Head; West Point south of Shilshole Bay; Point Monroe; Fourmile Rock; Rich Passage; Southworth; Manchester; northwest side of Vashon Island by the channel marker; Yeomalt Point and Skiff Point on the east side of Bainbridge Island; and Allen Bank off Blake Island’s southeastern corner.

In south-central Puget Sound try around the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park in Tacoma; the “Flats” outside of Gig Harbor; Quartermaster Harbor; Point Dalco on south side of Vashon Island; Southworth Ferry Landing; and Colvos Passage off the Girl Scout Camp.

Hood Canal doesn’t garner as much attention in the winter but don’t underestimate what can be a decent fishery off Misery Point, Hazel Point, Pleasant Harbor, Toandos Peninsula, Seabeck Bay and Seal Rock.

Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) open year-round for hatchery chinook is another overlooked fishery. Good places are Fox Point; Gibson Point; Point Fosdick; Hale Passage; Anderson Island; Lyle Point; and Devil’s Head and Johnson Point.

Other choices on the horizon for winter chinook are the San Juan Islands (Area 7) open Feb. 1 through April 15; northern Puget Sound (Area 9) open Feb. 1 through April 15; and the east side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2) open Feb. 1 through April 30.

Salmon season meeting dates set for 2020

It’s never too late to begin making plans to be a part of the sport-salmon fishing season setting process. For the moment the early outlook appears to resemble last year’s fisheries with a few improvements, but more details won’t come to light until later next month.

Tentative meeting dates – Feb. 28, WDFW salmon forecast public meeting at DSHS Office Building 2 Auditorium, 1115 Washington Street S.E. in Olympia; March 16, North of Falcon public meeting at Lacey Community Center; March 19, North of Falcon public meeting in Sequim; March 23, Pacific Fishery Management Council public hearing at Westport; March 25, North of Falcon public meeting at WDFW Mill Creek office; and March 30, North of Falcon public meeting at Lynnwood Embassy Suites, 20610 44th Avenue West in Lynnwood.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council will adopt final salmon seasons on April 5-11 at the Hilton Vancouver, 301 West 6th Street in Vancouver, WA.

Specific meeting agendas and times should be known soon. Details: https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/north-falcon.

Oldest salmon derby gets underway

The Tengu Blackmouth Derby – the oldest salmon derby that began prior to and shortly after World War II in 1946 – is held on Sundays 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. starting Jan. 5 through Feb. 23 on Elliott Bay at the Seacrest Boathouse (now known as Marination Ma Kai) in West Seattle.

In previous years, the derby started in 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 opener. Last year, the derby was cancelled when WDFW decided to shutdown Area 10 just a few weeks after it began.

What makes the derby so challenging is the simple fact blackmouth are scarce around the inner bay during winter months.

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.

In a typical derby season, the catch ranges from 20 to 23 legal-size chinook and has reached as high as 50 to 100 fish although catches have dipped dramatically since 2009. The record-low catch was four fish in 2010, and all-time high was 234 in 1979.

The last full-length season was 2017 when 18 blackmouth were caught and a winning fish of 9 pounds-15 ounces went to Guy Mamiya. Justin Wong had the most fish with a total of five followed by John Mirante with four fish.

It has been a while since a big fish was caught in the derby dating back to 1958 when Tom Osaki landed a 25-3 fish. In the past decade, the largest was 15-5 caught by Marcus Nitta during the 2008 derby.

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. The membership fee is $15 and $5 for children age 12-and-under. Tickets will be available at Outdoor Emporium in Seattle. Rental boats with or without motors are available from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Some Dungeness crab fisheries extended into January

The Dungeness crab season along the east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-2) will remain open daily through Jan. 31 – originally it was scheduled to close after Dec. 31.

WDFW indicates crab abundance can support an additional in-season increase to the harvest shares. Managers made the decision to extend the season to offset a closure that occurred between Oct. 23 through Nov. 28 while crab abundance was assessed.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Elsewhere some sections of northern Puget Sound and Hood Canal are also open daily now through Jan. 31. They are Area 9 between the Hood Canal Bridge and a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point (Port Gamble, Port Ludlow) and the portion of Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) north of a line projected due east from Ayock Point.

Crabbers won’t be required to have a Puget Sound Dungeness crab license endorsement or record Dungeness crab retained on a Catch Record Card when crabbing in January in Areas 8-1 and 8-2 and open sections of Area 9 and 12. However, a valid shellfish or combination license is required. The 2019 winter catch cards must be returned to WDFW by Feb. 4.

Sport crabbers are reminded that setting or pulling traps from a vessel is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset.

NW Fishing Derby Series begins next month in San Juan Islands

The future of the revamped series is just on the horizon with three derbies happening in the San Juan Islands (Area 7), which is a winter chinook fishing hotspot.

They include the Resurrection Salmon Derby in Anacortes on Feb. 1-2 (sold out but has a waiting list); Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. Each has a first-place prize for the largest fish of $12,000 to $20,000.

Other events soon after are Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 13-15 with a $10,000 first place prize; and Everett Blackmouth Derby on March 21-22 with a $3,000 check for the largest fish.

New events are the Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby on May 23; For the Love of Cod Derbies in Coos Bay/Charleston areas and Brookings, Oregon March 21-22 and March 28-29 respectively; Father’s Day Big Bass Classic on Tenmile Lake at Lakeside, Oregon on June 21-22; and the Something Catchy Kokanee Derby at Lake Chelan on April 18-19.

The highlight of the series is a chance to win a $75,000 fully loaded, grand-prize all-white KingFisher 2025 Escape HT boat powered with Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ Loader Trailer. The boat is equipped with Shoxs Seats for maximum comfort in the roughest of seas; a custom engraved WhoDat Tower; Raymarine Electronics; Burnewiin Accessories; Scotty Downriggers; and a Dual Electronics stereo.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Anglers who enter any of the 20 derbies don’t need to catch a fish to win this beautiful boat and motor package.

A huge “thank you” to our other sponsors who make the series a success are Silver Horde and Gold Star Lures; Tom-n-Jerry’s Marine; Master Marine; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Outdoor Emporium and Sportco; Harbor Marine; Prism Graphics; Lamiglas Rods; 710 ESPN The Outdoor Line; Salmon & Steelhead Journal; Outdoor Emporium and Sportco; Bayside Marine; Seattle Boat Company; Ray’s Bait Works; and Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine.

You can get a first glimpse of the new derby boat pulled with a 2019 Chevy Silverado – provided by our sponsor Northwest Chevy Dealers and Burien Chevrolet – during The Seattle Boat Show from Jan. 24 to Feb. 1 at the CenturyLink Field and Event Center in Seattle.

The Northwest Fishing Derby Series is part of the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Grow Boating Program which serves the NMTA’s core purpose—to increase the number of boaters in the Pacific Northwest.

The derby series is the most visible element of the program, which promotes boating and fishing throughout the region by partnering with existing derbies and marketing those events through targeted advertising, public relations and promotional materials. For details, go to www.NorthwestFishingDerbySeries.com.

I’ll see you on the water soon!

Jan. 1 Steelhead, Crabbing Retention Closures On Nooksack, Everett Flats

THE FOLLOWING IS A WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE AND PRESS RELEASE

Nooksack River closing to hatchery steelhead retention

Action: Closes the mainstem Nooksack and all forks to hatchery steelhead retention.

Species affected: Hatchery steelhead.

NORTH FORK NOOKSACK WINTER-RUN. (RORY O’CONNER)

Location:

  • The Nooksack River from the mouth to the confluence of the North and South Forks.
  • The North Fork Nooksack from the Highway 9 Bridge to Nooksack Falls.
  • The Middle Fork Nooksack from the mouth to city of Bellingham diversion dam.
  • The South Fork Nooksack from the mouth to Skookum Creek.

Effective dates:  Jan. 1 through Jan. 31, 2020.

Reasons for action:  Hatchery steelhead returns to the Nooksack River and Kendall Hatchery are not meeting escapement goals. This closure is necessary to ensure hatchery broodstock goals are met.

Additional Information: The fishery may reopen earlier if broodstock needs are met. Other gamefish fisheries will remain open. On Feb. 1, hatchery steelhead retention on the North Fork only will reopen. Please refer to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ for further information on seasons and closures.

Everett Flats portion of Marine Area 8-2 to close during January recreational crab fishery extension

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today that the Everett Flats portion of Marine Area 8-2 will close to recreational crab harvest Jan. 1, 2020, and remain closed through the end of the month.

Historically, a large proportion of the crab inhabiting the Everett Flats portion of Marine Area 8-2 have been softshell after December. Under the current management plan, co-managers agreed to close this shallow region to all crab harvest after Dec. 31 to protect softshell crab during their critical molt period.

Earlier this month, state and tribal co-managers came to an agreement that the crab abundance in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 would support allowing state recreational crabbing to remain open through the end of January. Crabbers will be able to crab in Marine Area 8-2 outside of Everett Flats, including Port Susan, all areas of Marine Area 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), a portion of Marine Area 9 between the Hood Canal Bridge and a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point (Port Gamble, Port Ludlow), and in Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) north of Ayock point seven days a week through Jan. 31.

The Everett Flats closure will include the portion of catch area east of a line from Howarth Park due north to the south end of Gedney Island and the portion east of a line from the north end of Gedney Island to Camano Head, and south of a line drawn from Camano Head to Hermosa Point on the Tulalip reservation.

A valid shellfish or combination license is required to harvest throughout the remainder of the season, and Dungeness crab caught through Dec. 31, 2019 must be recorded on winter catch record cards. However, recreational crabbers participating in January’s extended crab season in Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2 or 12 do not need to record Dungeness crab on a catch record card.

Other reminders for the recreational crabber:

  • Setting or pulling traps from a vessel is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset.
  • The daily limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6 1/4 inches.
  • Crabbers may also catch six red rock crab of either sex per day with a minimum carapace width of 5 inches, and six Tanner crab of either sex with a minimum carapace of 4 1/2 inches.
  • All 2019 winter crab catch record cards are due to WDFW by Feb. 4, 2020.

For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/fishing/catch-record-card/dungeness.

For more information on crabbing regulations, visit WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab.

Inslee Proposes Fish-Hunt Fee Increase, Bringing Columbia Endorsement Back

Governor Inslee is proposing to increase Washington fishing and hunting licenses and bring back the Columbia River endorsement to partially fill gaping holes in WDFW’s budget, surprising agency officials.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE GIVES HIS 2019 STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH EARLIER THIS YEAR. (GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

The supplementary budget from the two-term governor running for reelection also includes $15.6 million from the General Fund to mostly meet WDFW’s big ask of $26 million in tax dollars, a decision fish and wildlife managers made after seeing their two previous fee hikes flame out.

“That was news to us that the Governor’s Office was planning to use a fee bill,” said Nate Pamplin, WDFW Director of Budget and Governmental Affairs, this rainy morning.

Still, he and Director Kelly Susewind were optimistic that Inslee’s proposed overall $23.8 million budget bump would help get them through the current two-year biennium.

“In general, we’re seeing the budget conversation shift from if this work should continue, to how this work should be funded—which is a positive sign,” Susewind wrote in an all-staff email on Thursday.

The release of the governor’s budget ahead of the short, 60-day legislative session beginning in mid-January is said to “set the tone” for counter proposals from the House and Senate, which must approve any license hikes before they go into effect.

It’s now up to the governor’s Office of Financial Management to submit a fee bill, but WDFW brass believes it will be the same or similar to the 15 percent across-the-board package introduced during this year’s long session.

That one had widespread support until a Fish and Wildlife Commission vote in March on Columbia River salmon reforms  backlashed things.

OFM is also expected to reintroduce a bill to reestablish the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement, which was not extended last session by lawmakers. It helps fund fisheries and monitoring, primarily in the upper river, that is required to hold seasons over the numerous Endangered Species Act-listed stocks in the region.

Pamplin called those two pieces “a significant chunk of the budget proposal” from the Democratic governor who now has majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

Before they fell by the wayside last session, it was estimated that a 15 percent fee increase would bring in $14.3 million every two years, the CRSSE $3 million every biennium.

If passed this session, they would pay for “at-risk” hatchery production and fisheries, hunting and wildlife work, customer service, and the aforementioned Columbia seasons, and “emergent” needs such as WDFW’s Fish Washington app. Commercial crabbers would be tapped to pay more as efforts ramp up to prevent offshore whale entanglements.

A mix of fee and General Fund moneys would help cover other  emergent needs such as monitoring Puget Sound and Skagit-Sauk salmon and wild steelhead fisheries, respectively, and a large cost of living increase OKed last session by lawmakers, who didn’t identify where that funding would come from.

There’s also $924,000 from the General Fund for pinniped management on the Columbia, where the state and others have applied to remove hundreds of California and Steller sea lions, and $573,000 to submit a report by next December on how to “develop alternative gear methods for the commercial gill net fishery and a draft a plan to reduce the number of commercial gill net licenses” on the big river.

Interestingly, while Inslee sent WDFW a letter in late September to come up with more ways to nonlethally manage wolves in Northeast Washington’s troubled Kettle Range — the scene of dozens of cattle depredations and the removal of two full packs over the years — and the agency recently sent him a “suite of activities for additional capacity,” the governor’s budget doesn’t fund those options.

It does, however, “preserve current levels of service from law enforcement officers and wildlife conflict specialists,” with dollars coming from the General Fund.

There’s also money for continuing a Lake Washington predator study. Initial results from this spring suggested yellow perch might be having a larger impact on Chinook and other smolt survival, at least at the Gasworks Park chokepoint, than bass, which have been targeted by lawmakers to increase king salmon abundance to benefit orcas.

And Inslee’s Capital Budget proposal includes $2.9 million to continue renovations on Soos Creek Hatchery on the Duwamish-Green River, $1 million for master planning for orca recovery and boosts appropriations for Forks Creek and shifting production at Eells Springs Hatcheries.

WDFW had gone into the 2019 legislative session facing a $31 million shortfall this year and next because license revenues and funding haven’t been able to keep up with growing costs, heaped-on responsibilities from lawmakers or new issues cropping up. The agency’s General Fund contributions were also cut sharply during the Great Recession and have yet to fully return to previous levels — even as the state’s economy booms. Washington state natural resource agencies suck the hindmost tit in this state, given less than 1 percent of General Fund revenues.

With the death of the fee and CRSSE bills earlier this year, lawmakers gave WDFW $24 million in General Fund money instead, leaving a temporary $7 million gap — that then immediately ballooned back out to $20 million due to unfunded mandates such as the COLA for wardens, biologists and others.

Afterwards, with the failure of 2017’s and 2019’s fee bills staring them down, WDFW honchos took the tack that since much of their work also benefits the state as a whole, they wouldn’t take another run at increasing the price of licenses and instead submitted the $26 million General Fund request, a large ask they acknowledged.

The Governor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on why it decided to take another stab at a fee bill. The last one was approved in 2011.

Inslee’s proposal does set up issues for WDFW budgeting down the road.

“The good news is that our work is funded through the balance of the biennium,” Director Susewind told staff. “Our challenge is the Governor’s Budget appropriates more expenditure authority for the State Wildlife Account in out-biennia than the recreational fee bill would generate, leaving us a gap that we would need to resolve in 2021. We’ll work with the Legislature to try to avoid that outcome and see if we can convert the appropriations to be backed by revenue and thus sustain the work into the future.”

Washington’s 2020 legislative session begins on Jan. 13 and is scheduled to adjourn March 12. Any fee and CRSSE bills must be approved by both chambers and be signed by the governor who proposed them.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated how much was proposed in the budget for pinniped management. The correct figure is $924,000, not $924 million.

Steelheading To Reopen Around Lewiston

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Meeting by conference call on Wednesday, Dec. 18, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission reopened steelhead fishing in the Clearwater River and lower Snake River downstream of Couse Creek Boat Ramp, beginning on Jan. 1. Daily bag limit in those sections is limited to one adipose-clipped steelhead per day, none over 28 inches in length.

IDFG WILL REOPEN STEELHEADING ON THE SNAKE BELOW WASHINGTON’S COUSE CREEK BOAT RAMP AND IN PORTIONS OF THE CLEARWATER BASIN. (BRIAN LULL)

Anglers should note that the North Fork Clearwater River will be closed to steelhead fishing during the 2020 spring season. The South Fork of the Clearwater River will also reopen on Jan. 1, and all other season dates remain the same as what is printed 2019-21 Idaho Fishing Seasons and Rules brochure.

To see a summary of modifications that have been made to the 2019-21 printed steelhead seasons and rules, specific to the 2020 spring season, visit Idaho Fish and Game’s Steelhead Seasons and Rules Page. You can see the updated steelhead seasons and rules here.

The commission had previously closed steelhead fishing entirely on the Clearwater River in September, as well as the Snake River below Couse Creek. The closure came amid concerns that returns of hatchery steelhead would not be sufficient to meet broodstock needs for the Clearwater hatcheries.

Fisheries managers were waiting to see if enough steelhead would return to replenish hatcheries before proposing to the commission to resume steelhead fishing for Clearwater and lower Snake rivers.

After an additional month of trapping steelhead for the Clearwater River hatchery programs, fisheries managers were confident there are enough steelhead for hatcheries and to provide steelhead fishing opportunities. Fisheries managers also plan to continue enlisting anglers to help provide steelhead broodstock in the South Fork fo the Clearwater in the spring.

WDFW Commission Liberalizes Bass, Etc., Daily Limits On 77 Lakes

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

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission made decisions on several fishing rule proposals and a land transaction at their Dec. 13-14 meeting in Bellingham. The commission also heard updates on Southern Resident Killer Whales, Baker Lake and Skagit River sockeye fishery management, hatchery reform, non-toxic ammunition, and Columbia River salmon policy.

WASHINGTON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS INCREASED THE BAG LIMIT ON LARGEMOUTH BASS THIS SIZE ON 77 LAKES FROM FIVE TO TEN A DAY IN RESPONSE TO THE STATE LEGISLATURE’S DIRECTIVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT SALMON SMOLT PREDATION AND INCREASING CHINOOK, COHO, STEELHEAD AND OTHER FISH AVAILABILITY FOR ORCAS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

On Friday, the commission approved a 1.8-acre land acquisition for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in Asotin County. The property will be donated by Larry and Marilou Cassidy, as an addition to the Snyder Bar Water Access Area, located in the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area. The new addition will improve public access for fishing and boating.

WDFW fishery managers briefed the commission on the department’s proposals to simplify forage fish, marine fish, and shellfish sport fishing rules. The commission adopted the department’s recommendations to modify rule language to be more concise and consistent with other regulations. More details on these changes are available on WDFW’s fishing rule simplification webpage.

The commission also approved regulation updates to simplify sturgeon fishing rules and improve conservation efforts. Rule changes include expanding spawning sanctuary areas in the Columbia River, shifting retention fisheries upstream of McNary Dam to catch-and-release only, closing night fishing for sturgeon in the Chehalis River, and defining oversize sturgeon as fish larger than 55 inches fork length. More details are available on WDFW’s sturgeon fishing rules webpage.

In addition, WDFW staff provided an update on the Joint State Columbia River Salmon Fishery Policy Review Committee’s work to recommend possible revisions to the Columbia River Salmon Management Policy. The commission asked the director to present information in January 2020 about the delegation of authority and to contact the director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss possible options for fisheries in 2020.

The committee expects to hold additional public meetings in early 2020, with a possible recommendation to both Oregon and Washington commissions in spring 2020. Information and materials from previous meetings are available on the joint policy review committee webpage.

On Saturday, fishery managers briefed the commission on Baker Lake sockeye salmon management following poor returns in the last several years. WDFW staff provided updates on the harvest shares from the 2019 season and reviewed the department’s efforts to address management challenges, which focused on prioritizing Baker Lake sockeye harvest equity in the 2020 North of Falcon salmon season-setting process.

“We couldn’t have had better public testimony to illuminate the different perspectives on the Baker Lake sockeye salmon fishery,” said Ron Warren, fish policy director for WDFW. “Baker Lake is a beautiful and popular fishery that we want Washingtonians to continue to enjoy.”

Finally, fishery managers presented six options to liberalize limits on bass, walleye, and channel catfish in select waters throughout the state, a requirement passed by the state Legislature this spring as part of House Bill 1579. The bill’s intent was to implement task force recommendations to benefit the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population by increasing salmon availability.

WDFW conducted six months of public engagement on the proposal to change rules for bass, walleye, and channel catfish fishing, which included five public meetings around the state. After reviewing public feedback, 72% of comments supported a warmwater species rule change to reduce the risk of predation on salmon smolts.

All six options presented to the commission include removing size and daily limits on rivers. The options varied in the number of affected lakes, size limits, and daily limits. WDFW staff recommended “Option B” which would affect 77 lakes around the state containing bass, walleye, or channel catfish, and have public access.

The commission supported WDFW’s recommendation and adopted “Option B2”, which includes changes to size and daily limits of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and walleye in 77 lakes around the state:

  • Largemouth bass: Change from 5 to a 10-fish daily limit; only one fish may be over 17 inches.
  • Smallmouth bass: Change from 10 to a 15-fish daily limit; only one fish may be over 14 inches.
  • Channel catfish: Change from a 5 to a 10-fish daily limit.
  • Walleye: Change from 8 to a 16-fish daily limit; only one fish may be over 22 inches.

A recording of the Dec. 13 meeting is available at https://player.invintus.com/?clientID=2836755451&eventID=2019121001 and the Dec. 14 meeting is available at https://player.invintus.com/?clientID=2836755451&eventID=2019121002.

18 WDFW Fish, Wildlife, Recreation Acquisition Proposals Out For Comment

Washington land managers have their eyes on nearly 7,000 acres across the state for fish and wildlife habitat, angling, hunting and other recreational uses and are asking for comment on them.

The 18 proposals range from padding wildlife areas and purchasing inholdings in Eastern Washington to conserving and restoring Puget Sound estuaries to strategic partnerships with counties and improved access to salmon streams.

ATTENDEES AT THE DEDICATION OF THE 4-O RANCH UNIT OF THE CHIEF JOSEPH WILDLIFE AREA IN MAY 2017 LOOK TOWARDS A 770-ACRE PARCEL OWNED BY THE 4-0 CATTLE COMPANY THAT WDFW WOULD NOW LIKE TO PURCHASE. OWNERS TYPICALLY APPROACH THE STATE ABOUT BUYING THEIR LAND; WDFW WHICH IS REQUIRED TO ONLY PAY MARKET VALUE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“Our goal is to protect land and water for people and wildlife throughout the state while preserving natural and cultural heritage,” said WDFW lands manager Cynthia Wilkerson in a press release.

They’re all far from done deals. Public input over the next three weeks will help determine which will move forward to be competitively ranked against other agencies’, cities’, counties’ and organizations’ proposals. Funding would be sought through state and federal grants for recreation, habitat and endangered species.

WDFW’s 2020 wish list is more than twice as long as last year’s and it’s notable for several proposals.

A 420-acre property in the lower Methow valley would not only protect “crucial sagebrush steppe habitat” for mule deer and other species, but help “(cultivate) a critical partnership with Okanogan County.”

That county is one of the last best places to do big things in terms of wildlife habitat, but local commissioners and residents have also bristled about state land buys and their impacts to tax rolls.

Buying the ground on top of a bench above the tiny town of Methow would allow WDFW to “partner with the county and facilitate their access to additional rock sources for public works projects.”

The project has the support of Okanogan County, the agency notes.

(WDFW)

Other big acquisitions include a quartet in extreme Southeast Washington.

The largest is 1,650 acres on Harlow Ridge, which includes a series of flats and timbered draws between upper South Fork Asotin and George Creeks west of Anatone.

Adjacent to the Asotin Creek Wildlife Area, it would protect elk winter range and calving areas, as well as “rare and imperiled remnant prairie habitats and endemic plants.”

“Department staff have been responding to elk damage in the Cloverland area and the purchase of this property would help to alleviate damage issues by providing alternate forage,” WDFW adds.

It has support from the Asotin County Sportsmen’s Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The 643-acre Green Gulch buy would link sections of the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area on the west side of the divide between Hells Canyon and Joseph Creek, “providing connectivity for mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk and other species” and “a great deal of recreational opportunity such as, hunting, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and bird watching.”

RMEF, the sportsmen’s association and the Asotin County Lands Committee all support it.

The pro-hunting and -elk organization also gives the thumbs up to adding another 770 acres to the spectacular 4-O Wildlife Area, purchased in chunks earlier this decade from rancher Mike Odom. If approved it would bring the unit along and above the Grande Ronde River to 11,234 acres, or 17.5 square miles.

A bit further west is a 720-acre patch that butts up against the Umatilla National Forest and which WDFW would like to add to the Grouse Flats Wildlife Area.

“The property is heavily used by elk, deer, bears, cougars, and wolves with many non-game species present. Numerous springs, wetlands, and Bear Creek on the property will continue to provide quality riparian habitat that should improve over time in public ownership,” WDFW states.

Recent pics from a site evaluation show it might need some cleaning up. RMEF supports the buy.

(WDFW)

In Yakima County is a 1,105-acre parcel on the west side of Wenas Lake that WDFW is looking at for as a habitat conservation easement and Wenas Wildlife Area headquarters.

It’s supported by birders and a conservancy.

In Grays Harbor, the agency would like to add as much as 416 acres in three parcels to the Davis Creek Wildlife Area, a former dairy farm, along the Chehalis River just downstream of Oakville. It has support from Ducks Unlimited and would protect the floodplain.

WDFW would also like to resecure access to popular Chapman Lake in western Spokane County following the closure of a resort with the only launch in 2011, as well as acqiure surrounding uplands. The lake is noted for kokanee and largemouth fishing, and the parklike lands and ponds above it look gamey.

“The intent is to purchase road access and a small lakefront footprint with exsisting grant funds and pursue funding for a land exchange or purchase of the remaining property in this section,” the agency explains.

Supporters include county commissioners and at least one local fly fishing club.

Another key access proposal is on the lower Samish River, up which plentiful hatchery fall Chinook return but getting to them can be difficult. Last year, anglers built a freelance boardwalk out of pallets to get to good spots — but which were also laid down on private land and had to be removed.

(WDFW)

Buying the 109-acre property “will contribute significantly to improving fishing access that is in high demand,” according to WDFW.

A levee does bisect the land and is marked with signs barring access, so conversations would need to occur with the local diking district, according to Skagit Wildlife Manager Belinda Rotton.

Still, she’s excited about the proposal, as it could help expand waterfowl hunting opportunities and access to harvestable salmon.

“When we heard it was available, ‘Oh my goodness,’ this will be a good property for us,” she said.

Skagit County supports the proposal.

Other proposals target the Union River and Discovery Bay estuaries, land surrounding a holding pool for summer steelhead on the East Fork Lewis River, a Skamania County bat cave, a 50-acre addition to the Ebey Island Wildlife Area, 2.5 acres around the Modrow Bridge launch on the Kalama, an acre at the old Peshastin Mill for a parking lot for a trail, and inholdings or parcels adjacent to the Rendezvous Wildlife Area of the upper Methow Valley and Quincy Lakes Wildlife Area west of Ephrata.

Following public review, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind would sign off on a list of projects for seeking funding. Typical sources include the state Capital Budget disbursed through the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office and from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s various granting mechanisms, including for endangered species.

WDFW owns and/or manages more than a million acres across Washington for fish, wildlife and recreation.

Comments are being taken from today till Jan. 3. Send them via email to lands@dfw.wa.gov or via the Post Office to Real Estate Services, PO Box 43158, Olympia, WA 98504.