Tag Archives: king county

Perch Derby Highlights Plight Of Seattle-area Kokanee Stock

Another yellow perch derby will be held on Lake Sammamish, this one on Saturday, May 18, part of a larger effort to recover the lake’s kokanee population.

THE 2ND ANNUAL LAKE SAMMAMISH PERCH DERBY WILL BE HELD SATURDAY, MAY 18, WITH CASH AND PRIZES TO BE AWARDED FOR ANGLERS WHO BRING IN YELLOWBELLIES LIKE THIS ONE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It follows on an initial derby put on last September by Trout Unlimited, who say that catching yellowbellies will help the metro water’s landlocked sockeye. Juvenile perch compete with kokanee for zooplankton, key forage for the native fish.

Headquartered at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, the derby begins at 8 a.m. and runs till 1 p.m. 

“There will be adult and kid divisions with prizes awarded to the person catching the longest perch, the heaviest perch, and the heaviest 25 perch, and also a bonus prize for the largest pikeminnow caught by registered anglers,” reads a TU event announcement.

Tickets are $30 for adults, $15 for kids, and all proceeds go towards recovering Sammamish kokanee.

Those in the King County lake have been struggling for decades as the surrounding area has urbanized and water quality has declined. Despite efforts to prop up the population in recent years, there has been an alarming decline in spawning numbers. Less than 20 were counted in tributaries in fall 2017, prompting an emergency response from county officials.

TU was among the groups that in 2007 petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the stock under the Endangered Species Act, but in 2011 the feds declined to do so, saying it wasn’t an independent population.

According to state biologist Aaron Bosworth, yellow perch were introduced into Sammamish in 1915, and though it’s unclear who put them there, it came near the end of the era when the U.S. Fish Commission was moving Eastern gamefish into Western waters.

These days, efforts are being made to get them out of the lakes, or limit their impacts to young salmonids.

During last fall’s derby, 636 perch weighing 146 pounds were weighed in, with Jeff Stuart accounting for nearly 19 pounds alone, most of anyone.

He also had the longest in the adult division, a near 11½-incher, while in the kids division, Wesley Mehta weighed 7¾ pounds of perch overall and Carson Moore brought in both the longest and heaviest perch.

Sponsors include Washington State Parks, King County, Bass Pro Shops, the Snoqualmie Tribe. For more info, see lakesammamishkokanee.com/perch-derby.

Deer ‘Poaching’ Call In Central Cascades Turns Up Felon, Firearms

Washington game wardens are investigating a bizarre incident involving a dead blacktail deer literally pumped full of lead, five people found a few miles away, and the recovery of numerous firearms with missing serial numbers or without any at all.

A SCREENSHOT FROM A USGS MAP SHOWS THE GENERAL LOCATION OF WHERE THE DEER WAS KILLED AND THE FIVE INDIVIDUALS ENCOUNTERED NORTH OF NORTH BEND AND SNOQUALMIE. (USGS)

“We still don’t know for sure what happened,” said WDFW Sgt. Kim Chandler this afternoon. “They either flat-out poached a deer or, according to them, hit it with their car and shot it 100 times.”

“I don’t know if it was 100 times, but there were shell casings from three different weapons,” he said.

What is known is that last Friday four men and a woman whose ages and hometowns weren’t immediately available apparently drove up the North Fork Road outside North Bend east of Seattle for whatever reason and at some point 3 to 4 miles from the end of the gravel they encountered the deer.

Chandler said that there was a small crack and some deer hair on the bumper of their car, and that the deer had a broken leg, which might suggest it was run into.

But he also said the leg could have been broken due to the “dozens of dozens of rounds” of .223 and 9mm ammo shot at the animal.

The carcass was butchered — “They obviously didn’t know what they were doing,” the officer said — and put in a cooler, and the quintet apparently continued to the end of the road in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for the night.

On Saturday, a hiker came upon the remains of the deer “in the middle of the road” and called it in as a poaching, according to Chandler.

A WDFW officer dispatched to the scene found it and in trying to figure out what had happened, called in another warden to help.

As they searched the area past the carcass and shells in the road they came across two men and a woman asleep in a car, with one of the men “on top of all kinds of AR-15s,” said Chandler.

After the trio were woken up, one of the firearms — a 9mm AR-15 pistol — came back as stolen, while others — which Chandler described as “AR-15 build-it-yourself weapons” — didn’t have serial numbers whatsoever.

When they were asked who the vehicle belonged to, they gave a name of a man who was not present and who they said had gone hiking.

As the officers were talking with the three, that man apparently came down the trail while carrying a .380-caliber handgun, along with a fifth person carrying an “assault rifle,” Chandler said.

“They did a double take, saw all the police, and headed into the brush,” he said.

That precipitated a call for backup to the King County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol and a canine unit, which caught the attention Living Snoqualmie, which first reported the incident.

Once the officers were all assembled, a public address system was used to call in the two individuals who’d run off.

The man who allegedly owned the car came out, though not with the handgun he’d been carrying, nor with the fifth person, who never came out, Chandler said.

The end of the North Fork Road is about 24 miles from North Bend.

As things began to get sorted out, it was discovered that one of the men who’d been asleep in the car with all the ARs was a convicted felon who wasn’t supposed to be around guns at all.

He was subsequently booked into King County Jail, Chandler said.

Chandler said he’s seen a lot of cases in his years with WDFW but this turned out to be among the more unusual ones.

“At the very least, it’s a violation of the (roadkill) salvage law. You have to wait for an officer to dispatch” struck and injured animals, he said.

“These guys didn’t have a clue about the salvage law, but now they do.”

While happy that the situation wasn’t anything like it seemed like — the parade of police vehicles heading up the North Fork Road sparked a rumor that a WDFW warden had been shot, Chandler said — and that nobody got hurt, it’s still an active investigation.

“It turned into a whole lot more than a poached deer,” he said. “Some serious stuff there. The ATF is very interested in all the guns without serial numbers.”

He said the state crime lab might also be able to raise those that had been filed off one weapon.

Yuasa: Salmon Fishing, Season Negotiations, Rainbow Releases Highlight April

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

April 2019

Spring breathes new life into the world around us and is nature’s way of saying it is time to dust off the fishing gear for plenty of options happening right now and in the not so distant future.
First off there’s still time to hook into a winter chinook from the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Catch Areas 5 and 6) clear into Puget Sound and Hood Canal (7, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 11, 12 and 13) and prospects on some fishing grounds have taken a turn for the better with some bigger-sized springers up to 20 pounds.

THERE ARE BLACKMOUTH TO BE CAUGHT IN PUGET SOUND WATERS THIS MONTH. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

In eastern Strait (6) the catch limit was increased from one to two hatchery chinook daily and in the western Strait (5) it remains two hatchery chinook daily. In San Juan Islands (7) it will stay at one hatchery chinook daily. WDFW plans to look at possibly increasing the limit in northern Puget Sound and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1, 8-2 and 9) from one to two sometime in April so be sure to check to emergency regulations posted on their website.

In northern Puget Sound catches have been good one day and lousy the next. Target Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Point Wilson; Double Bluff off Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Possession Bar; Mats Mats Bay; Marrowstone Island; and Foulweather Bluff.

Other marine areas worth a look are south-central Puget Sound in the Tacoma-Gig Harbor area; Hood Canal; and southern Puget Sound.

The western Strait, east side of Whidbey Island and southcentral Puget Sound and Hood Canal are open daily for winter chinook through April 30; eastern Strait, San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound are open daily through April 15. Southern Puget Sound is open year-round.

The length of seasons in some marine areas are dictated by catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (minimum size limit is 22 inches).

In eastern Strait the winter fishery can’t exceed 5,473 total chinook encounters, and through March 29 they were at 48 percent or 2,632 encounters. In San Juan Islands it is 10,735, and they were at 75 percent or 8,022 encounters.

Off the east side of Whidbey Island it is 5,474 encounters, and they were at 73 percent of 3,977 encounters. In northern Puget Sound it is 8,336 encounters, and they were at 60 percent of 4,970 encounters. WDFW provides catch updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

If bottom-fishing gets you excited then head to Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay where catches have been excellent. The halibut fisheries in some marine areas begins on May 2.

Salmon season setting meetings ongoing

Carving out salmon fishing seasons is the hot topic of conversation and a final decision will come to light at the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif., on April 11-16.

THE 2019 SUMMER SALMON SETTING FESTIVAL KNOWN AS NORTH OF FALCON WRAPS UP IN APRIL. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The North of Falcon meetings will wrap up Tuesday (April 2) and it appears there will be more coho to catch and chinook fisheries should resemble 2018 although constraints of certain wild chinook stocks like Stillaguamish and mid-Hood Canal will play a factor in what goes down for 2019-2020 season.

Fishery managers indicate chinook stocks are still recovering from several years of drought and dire ocean conditions so don’t expect an uptick until 2020 or later.

In Puget Sound, 670,159 coho are forecasted to return compared to 557,149 in 2018. The chinook forecast is 246,837 (217,042 are of hatchery origin and 29,796 are wild) compared to 255,219 (227,815 and 27,404) in 2018. However, the expected marginal coho run to Snohomish river system will likely mean very minimal if any fishing in the river itself.

The Puget Sound pink forecast of 608,388 won’t generate any bonus catch limits as they’re still in recovery mode. The Puget Sound fall chum return is 1,035,835 and should provide some decent late-season action.

The Lake Washington sockeye continue to struggle and the forecast in 2019 is 15,153 but Baker Lake is pegged at 33,737. Brett Barkdull, a WDFW northern Puget Sound biologist indicated Baker will have a season that mirror’s last summer.

WDFW created a potential “wish list” of several added sport fisheries in the 2019-2020 season.

Mark Baltzell, a WDFW lead salmon policy manager, says there could be a couple weekends in August for a summer fishery – one targeting chinook – in inner-Elliott Bay. This is due to a good return of 25,794 chinook to the Green/Duwamish and this has been a rarity for the past several seasons with a brief fishery in 2017.

On the table is a “bubble salmon fishery” in lower section of Area 11 in May from Point Defiance down to the Narrows Bridge and up into Gig Harbor area or open all of Area 11 in May.

Central Puget Sound (10) could be open in June for a resident coho fishery, which produced good catches of 2- to 3-pound fish in 2018 and a later start (it opened on July 16 in 2018) for the hatchery-mark chinook fishery in Area 10 to push the quota-directed season closer to the Aug. 16 closure date.

Others include an expanded fishing opportunity around Minter Creek in southern Puget Sound. A non-select coho opportunity in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 and 6) and northern Puget Sound (9), which seems unlikely given the fact that some Puget Sound and Thompson River, British Columbia, coho stocks are still stuck in a rut.

Ron Warren, the WDFW head salmon policy manager, said his department has a proposal for a summer Skokomish River chinook fishery on the table to be reviewed by tribal co-managers. This fishery has been closed for three years over a dispute about land ownership on the river’s shoreline bordering the reservation.

There are three alternative ocean sport fishing season options that reflect good hatchery coho fishing and a somewhat mediocre chinook fishery similar to 2018.

The high-end option is 32,000 chinook and 172,200 hatchery coho with opening dates either June 15 or 22; middle is 27,500 and 159,600 on either June 22 or 29; and low is 22,500 and 94,400 on either June 16 or 29.

The coho return for Columbia River is a robust 1,009,600 compared to a 2018 forecast of 349,000 and an actual return of 230,700. Along the Washington coast the coho return forecast is 401,538 up dramatically from 270,756. The Columbia River 2019 fall chinook forecast of 340,400 is better than the 2018 actual return of 290,900 but down from the preseason forecast of 365,600. For details, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Look for trout to generate prime spring options

The warm weather mid-way through last month is a sure sign that spring is in full bloom and that means thousands of anglers will be soaking their favorite colored Power Bait for the statewide lowland lakes’ trout opener on April 27-28 or even sooner for that matter.

TROUT ARE STOCKED IN A WESTERN WASHINGTON LAKE. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

WDFW hatchery crews are working overtime right now planting millions of trout and kokanee into 553 lakes and ponds across the state. The standardized catchable-sized trout is now 11 inches compared to 8-inches in previous seasons and anglers should find about 2.17-million of these trout lurking in lowland lakes, plus another 126,200 “jumbo” trout measuring 14 or more inches long.

If you’re itching to go fishing right now, then take advantage of hundreds of year-round lakes that have or will be planted this spring.
“The early plants in year-round lakes is all about timing as the cormorants – a large diving bird with a voracious appetite for planted trout – are known to get a lot of the fish,” said Justin Spinelli, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Puget Sound regional biologist. “In our world it is something we deal with, and we’ll do our best to ensure they don’t get eaten up too badly. We’ll start ramping up our plants in lakes.”

Just to get an idea of where the WDFW hatchery trucks under Spinelli’s watchful eyes have been spinning their wheels one needs to look no further than Ballinger Lake on the Snohomish-King County line west of I-5 where on March 26-27 they planted a whopping 9,002; Kapowsin, 26,684; Spanaway, 18,012; Meridian, 16,815; and Lawrence, 20,102.

Other recent eye-popping trout plants include Battle Ground Lake, 4,600; American, 2,522; Black (Thurston County), 12,095; Blue (Columbia County), 4,025; Bonney, 1,050; Cassidy, 3,534; Duck, 850; Fiorito, 4,004; Gibbs, 741; Gissburg, 2,002; Green, 10,010; Horseshoe, 2,900; Island, 2,038; Kitsap, 4,830; Klineline, 5,515; Alice, 1,531; Bradley, 1,000; Ketchum, 2,000; Kokanee, 3,016; Louise, 1,000; Sawyer 1,500; Lost (Mason County), 4,912; Offutt, 5,000; Rattlesnake, 3,504; St. Clair, 6,000; Steilacoom, 5,000; and Swofford, 9,050.

Here are the total estimated plants that will occur in year-round lakes:

In King County try Alice (3,600 trout planted in March-April), Beaver (7,000 in April), Desire (8,000 in April), Green (13,500 in March-May), Meridian (16,700 in March), Morton (5,500 in April), North (9,500 in April) and Rattlesnake (3,500 in March).

In Snohomish County try Ballinger (9,000 in April), Tye (3,500 in April-May), Blackmans (1,500 in April), Flowing (6,800 in April-May), Gissburg Ponds (4,000 in March-April), Ketchum (2,000 in March), Lost (1,500 in March), Panther (1,500 in March), Roesiger (3,000 in April), Shoecraft (6,500 in March) and Silver (8,000 in April).

In Mason County try Spencer (12,644 in April-May) and Island (4,400 in April). In Thurston County try St. Clair (24,000 in April-May) and Black (39,350 in March-April). In Pierce County try Tanwax (5,500 in April-May), Spanaway (18,000 in March) and Bonney (1,020 in March). For weekly stocking updates, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

The first five derbies in the series are in the books and each saw a very good turnout of anglers with plenty of winter chinook around to catch.

THE 2019 GRAND RAFFLE PRIZE BOAT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The Everett Blackmouth Derby on March 16-17 had 125 boats with 402 anglers catching 109 hatchery chinook. Winner was Ben Rosenbach with a 13.63-pound fish worth $3,000 that he caught off Hat Island. Next up: Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 12-14; and Lake Coeur d’ Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28.

Be sure to check out the grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics stereo. Other sponsors include Silver Horde Lures; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Harbor Marine; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco and Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics.

The boat will be pulled to each event by a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of our sponsor Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.

There are 15 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’ll see you on the water!

Biop Says Corps Must Provide Downstream Salmon Passage At Upper Green River Dam

What goes up must come down, and in the case of King County’s Green River, that requires building downstream fish passage infrastructure at Howard Hanson Dam.

AN ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS AERIAL IMAGE SHOWS HOWARD HANSON DAM ON THE UPPER GREEN RIVER. A BIOP REQUIRES THAT DOWNSTREAM FISH PASSAGE BE BUILT AT THE FACILITY TO AID ESA-LISTED CHINOOK, STEELHEAD AND ORCAS. (COE)

Earlier this month, federal fishery overseers issued a new biological opinion that found the Corps of Engineers had to help ESA-listed juvenile Chinook and steelhead get from the 100 miles of spawning and rearing habitat above the project to the waters below there.

That “Reasonable and Prudent Alternative” to collect the young fish would not only improve the viability of both populations but also help out the region’s starving orcas.


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“Because (Puget Sound) Chinook salmon are an essential prey base for Southern Residents … the higher (Puget Sound) Chinook salmon abundance provided by access to the upper watershed would also contribute to the survival and recovery of killer whales,” NOAA’s biop states.

Downstream passage would also build upon Tacoma Water’s existing facilities that can provide a lift for returning adult salmon and steelhead arriving at the utility’s diversion dam 3 miles below the reservoir, as well as link in with fish habitat work being done in the lower, middle and upper reaches of the Central Cascades river that drains into Seattle’s Elliott Bay as the Duwamish.

“Assuming 75% of the annual production upstream from (Howard A. Hanson Dam) would survive passage and be recruited into the adult population were safe and effective downstream passage provided, we estimate that an additional 644 natural origin spawners would return to the Green River from production areas upstream of HAHD. Adding the potential production from the upper Green River to the 1,288 spawners returning from production downstream from HAHD gives a total Green River escapement of 1,932 natural origin spawners returning to the Green River. About 36% of the Chinook salmon returning to the Green River are harvested,” the biop states.

In a press release, the Engineers’ Seattle District Commander Col. Mark Geraldi said that improving fish passage at its project is “a priority” for the federal agency.

“This is a project we’ve been working on. NOAA Fisheries’ BiOp provides us crucial guidance and design criteria to follow as we forge ahead,” Geraldi said.

WITH THE GREEN-DUWAMISH IDENTIFIED AS A KEY SOURCE OF CHINOOK FOR PUGET SOUND ORCAS, PLANS ARE IN THE WORKS TO NOT ONLY INCREASE HATCHERY PRODUCTION BUT PROVIDE ACCESS AROUND A PAIR OF DAMS FOR RETURNING ADULTS TO GET TO THE UPPER WATERSHED AND SPAWN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Essentially, the biop tells the Corps to get back to work on a project they began in the early 2000s after consulting with NOAA, spent tens of millions of dollars drawing up, but then “abandoned its commitment to construct them” as Congressional funding ran out in 2011 and wasn’t reauthorized.

That led to a reopening of consultations and downstream fish passage being left out of the Corps’ 2014 biological assessment for operating the project.

NOAA found that that was likely to harm kings, steelhead and orcas and instead came up with the biop’s RPA and a target of February 2031 for the Corps to have the new facility’s bugs worked out and be operating for that spring’s smolt outmigration.

“We’re optimistic that new fish passage at Howard Hanson Dam, with continued habitat restoration in the more developed lower and middle Green River, will boost fish populations toward recovery,” said Kim Kratz, a NOAA Assistant Regional Administrator, in a press release.

Congress will need to provide the funds for the Corps, which is also spending $112 million trap-and-haul facility at Mud Mountain Dam, in the next major watershed to the south of the upper Green.

Biologists ‘Extremely Excited … Dumbfounded’ By Wolverine Sighting Near Snoqualmie

As I’ve written before about wolves, dispersal’s a dangerous game for critters seeking out new habitat and mates.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it often reveals surprises and insights into the natural world.

In the latest example from Washington, a wolverine visited a very, very non-wolverinelike part of King County late last month.

A WDFW REPORT INCLUDES A SCREENSHOT (LEFT) FROM A VIDEO OF A WOLVERINE MOVING THROUGH LOW-ELEVATION TIMBERLANDS NOT FAR NORTH OF THE CITY OF SNOQUALMIE LAST MONTH. (VIA WDFW)

The huge mustelid was captured on video by a trail cam May 28 several miles north of the city of Snoqualmie, somewhere along the fringe of Campbell Global’s Snoqualmie Forest, heavily logged lowland timberlands.

The camera belongs to a local resident, one of several neighbors who like to see what roams the nearby woods, and who forwarded the video to WDFW wildlife research scientist Brian Kertson who’d studied cougars in the area for several years earlier this decade.

“Everyone that has seen the video has been extremely excited — and extremely dumbfounded,” said Kertson.

That’s because wolverines are best known for haunting the rugged, snowy heights of Washington’s North and Central Cascades, but for some reason — perhaps on a clear day it saw the Olympics and thought there might be some of its species over there? — this particular one decided to head downhill.

“This wolverine was likely a dispersing individual because it was detected in a low-elevation forested habitat near developed areas, which is not considered highly suitable wolverine habitat,” WDFW noted in its latest weekly Wildlife Program report.

Who knows exactly how far west it went, but at some point it must have turned around and headed east, back to the mountains.

Unfortunately, it was probably the same wolverine that was found dead a week and a half later along I-90 more than 20 road miles to the southeast of Snoqualmie.

The carcass of the 37-pound male spotted by a trucker near Bandera on June 7 had distinctive chest blazes that suggest it was one and the same, according to WDFW.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATIONS OF WHERE THE WOLVERINE TURNED UP ON A TRAIL CAM AND WHERE THE SAME ONE IS BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN STRUCK ON I-90. (WDFW)

Though a sad ending for the editor’s mascot species and, more seriously, a reminder of the need for wildlife passage across the busy east-west interstate, it still was a remarkable journey for several more reasons.

It’s only the second wolverine known to have been roadkilled in Washington in the past 20 years.

The other, a juvenile female, was discovered along Highway 20 near Concrete in 1997.

That one’s now a specimen at the Burke Museum, on the University of Washington campus.

Biologists hope to preserve the recently roadkilled male for outreach and education.

And it’s also a sign of a growing population.

Wolverines are turning up more and more in Washington’s Cascades, mostly to the north of I-90 but earlier this year a mating pair and two kits were photographed in the William O. Douglas Wilderness east of Mt. Rainier, the first evidence of reproduction in those parts in half a century.

The dispersing male was found dead 10 road miles and 7 air miles from I-90’s Gold Creek wildlife underpass at the head of Lake Keechlus, and another 8 miles from the wildlife overpass being built near its lower end.

Unusually, its path also echoes that of a wolf that was caught on a backyard-mounted trail cam near Snoqualmie in late April 2015 and was struck on I-90 between mileposts 41 and 42, about 10 miles west of Bandera, later that same month.

While an unfortunate ending for the wolverine, the video of it in the lowland woods of eastern King County is “another great example of how the proliferation of trail cams among the interested public is providing valuable information to wildlife professionals,” says WDFW’s Kertson.

Dramatic Dropoff In Lake Sammamish Kokanee Population Spurs Action

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM KING COUNTY

A work group created by King County is taking emergency and long-term action to counter an alarming downward trend of Lake Sammamish kokanee, a native salmon population that appears closer than ever to extinction.

Adult kokanee Lake Sammamish’s Ebright Creek. King County officials say less than 20 were counted in tributaries last year. (ROGER TABOR, USFWS)

County and state biologists counted fewer than 20 kokanee in the most recent return, five years after more than 18,000 spawners returned from Lake Sammamish.

“The native kokanee salmon – important to our history, our culture, our environment – are facing new challenges that potentially threaten their very existence,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Together with our partners, we will take new, immediate actions to protect the iconic species and continue our long-term work to create healthier salmon habitats throughout our region.”

(KING COUNTY)

Biologists are investigating a number of possible factors that led to the most recent dramatic decline, including the increasing frequency and magnitude of harmful high temperatures and low-dissolved oxygen conditions during summers in Lake Sammamish. They are also beginning to study the compounding effects of parasites, bacteria, and related diseases during these events.

The Lake Sammamish Kokanee Salmon Work Group – which King County created in 2007 to help guide strategies to protect the unique species – recommended a series of immediate and long-term actions:

  • Use specially designed traps to capture returning spawners for the hatchery program
  • Use the latest technology to protect the unique genetic stock of Lake Sammamish kokanee
  • Release young salmon into Lake Sammamish in the fall of 2019, after the lake’s temperature cools and oxygen levels rise
  • Reintroduce kokanee salmon to additional creeks in the watershed, reducing the risk that a flood or drought in a single creek will wipe out the entire run
  • Lead technical work to understand and guide strategic actions to address the underlying factors that are threatening the kokanee population

For the past decade, the Kokanee Work Group – an alliance of tribal and local governments, state and federal agencies, landowners, and residents of the watershed – has worked together with the shared goal of a healthy, stable kokanee population.

The Work Group continues to make progress, with more than 18,000 spawners returning to Lake Sammamish during the 2012-13 run. But scientists are concerned that the new challenges have the potential to wipe out the remaining kokanee population unless immediate action is taken.

Working together to restore healthy salmon habitats throughout King County

King County and other land managers are continuing their habitat-restoration work that will improve the health of the kokanee salmon population. The ongoing work includes:

  • Removing barriers to healthy habitats, such as replacing fish-blocking culverts along the East Sammamish Trail and Parkway so salmon can move up and down streams
  • Planting thousands of trees and shrubs that provide shade and cover for salmon
  • Increasing public awareness and education to reduce stormwater pollution
  • Partnering with the Issaquah Hatchery to help secure remaining kokanee population

In addition to being culturally significant, the native kokanee are important to the bio-diversity of our region. They have a unique genetic signature, having adapted to the unique Lake Sammamish ecosystem, making them impossible to replace. Genetic diversity makes the natural environment healthier and more resilient, which is particularly important in the face of climate change.

(KING COUNTY)

The kokanee run that occurs in November and December – known as “the late run” – is the only remaining native run. The two other native runs that historically occurred between late August and early November no longer occur because those kokanee have been extinct since the 2000s.

The Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group active membership includes the Snoqualmie Tribe, each of the five local jurisdictions in the Lake Sammamish watershed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks, Trout Unlimited, Mid-Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Save Lake Sammamish, Friends of Pine Lake, Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park, and residents who live in the watershed.

Elk, Habitat, Hunters In 16 Washington Counties Benefit From $233K In RMEF Grants

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded $233,373 in grant funding for nearly two dozen conservation projects in Washington that enhance wildlife habitat, assist research and promote hunting heritage.

FUNDS FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION WILL HELP TREAT 300 ACRES OF THE OAK CREEK WILDLIFE AREA WITH FIRE. (RMEF)

The grants benefit 4,966 acres across Asotin, Clallam, Chelan, Columbia, Cowlitz, Douglas, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, King, Pierce, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Snohomish and Yakima Counties. There are also two projects of statewide benefit.

“Forest management techniques like thinning, prescribed burning and noxious weed treatments improve habitat in Washington for elk and many other species,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “This grant funding will help with those efforts and supply research dollars to benefit elk management.”

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 621 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Washington with a combined value of more than $121.5 million. These projects conserved and enhanced 471,547 acres of habitat and opened or secured public access to 125,245 acres.

Here is a sampling of the 2017 projects, listed by county:

Asotin County—Apply noxious weed treatment across 700 acres on the W. T. Wooten and Chief Joseph Wildlife Areas within the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex to keep weeds in check on year-long elk range (also benefits Garfield and Columbia Counties).

Clallam County—Thin 203 acres of elk summer range in the Upper Sitkum Watershed on the Olympic National Forest where overly dense forests led to documented low body condition scores for elk as well as downward trends in pregnancy rates.

King County—Provide funding to acquire one new GPS collar and refurbish four others for a study to determine if elk are using new habitat areas created by the Snoqualmie Valley Elk Management Group as well as determine a better herd population estimate and seed 50 acres of a newly cleared area in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

Yakima County—Apply prescribed fire to 300 acres on the Oak Creek Wildlife Area as part of a larger, wide-scale effort to benefit wildlife by rejuvenating native grasses, forbs and shrubs as well as mitigating wildfire hazards.

Go here for a complete project listing.

Washington project partners include the Colville, Gifford Pinchot and Olympic National Forests, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and private landowners as well as sportsmen, government, civic and other organizations.