Tag Archives: muckleshoot tribe

OlyPen Mountain Goat Move Ends For Year With 101 Shipped To Cascades

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM WDFW ET AL

Capture and translocation operations are now complete for 2019 with 101 mountain goats moved from Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to the northern Cascade Mountains. Since September 2018, a total of 275 mountain goats have been translocated.  An additional two-week capture and translocation period is planned for summer 2020.

WDFW REPORTS THAT 16 MOUNTAIN GOATS WERE REMOVED FROM MT. ELLINOR, ABOVE LAKE CUSHMAN, DURING THIS SUMMER’S TRANSLOCATION OF THE ALPINE DENIZENS FROM THE OLYMPICS OVER TO THE CASCADES. (JOEL NOWACK, USFS, FLICKR)

This effort is a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS) to re-establish and assist in connecting depleted populations of mountain goats in the Washington Cascades while also removing non-native goats from the Olympic Mountains.  Though some mountain goat populations in the North Cascades have recovered since the 1990s, the species is still absent or rare in many areas of its historic range. Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s.

In addition to the 101 mountain goats released in the North Cascades, there were seven adult mortalities related to capture, plus four animals that could not be captured safely were lethally removed.

Ten mountain goat kids that were not able to be kept with their families were transferred to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in 2019. One will remain at Northwest Trek and live in the park’s 435-acre free-roaming area. The other nine kids will have new homes at other zoos. A total of 16 mountain goat kids have been given permanent homes in zoos: six in 2018 and ten in 2019.

August 2019 Results
Translocated Zoo Capture Mortalities Transport Mortalities Euthanized Lethally Removed
101 10 7 0 0 4

 

Leading Edge Aviation, a private company which specializes in the capture of wild animals, conducted aerial capture operations through a contract. The helicopter crew used immobilizing darts and net guns to capture mountain goats and transported them in specially-made slings to the staging areas located at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and the Hamma Hamma area in Olympic National Forest. The animals were examined and treated by veterinarians before volunteers working with WDFW transported them to pre-selected staging areas in the North Cascades. The mountain goats were transported in refrigerated trucks to keep them cool.

Once at the staging areas, WDFW and participating Tribal biologists worked with HiLine Aviation to airlift the crated goats to release areas where volunteers and Forest Service wildlife biologists assisted with the release. Release areas were chosen based on their high quality mountain goat habitat, proximity to the staging areas, and limited disturbance to recreationists. Weather did complicate airlifting goats to preferred locations on 6 days, but crews were able to airlift goats to alternative locations on these days.

“We were very fortunate to have a long stretch of good weather in August which enabled us to safely catch mountain goats throughout the Olympics and make good progress towards reaching our translocation goals,” said Dr. Patti Happe, Wildlife Branch Chief at Olympic National Park “Many thanks to all the volunteers and cooperators, including several biologists and former National Park Service staff who came out of retirement to assist with the project.”

During this round, release sites in the Cascades included Cadet Ridge and Cadet Creek, Milk Lakes on Lime Ridge, Pear Lake, and between Prairie and Whitechuck Mountains on the Darrington Ranger District of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; between Vesper and Big Four Mountains on Washington Department of Natural Resource Lands; on Hardscrabble Ridge and privately-held land; and near Tower Mountain on the Methow Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

“An operation such as this is impossible without the support and participation of a large team,” said Dr. Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife manager who specializes in mountain goats. “All have worked tirelessly to give every goat the best possible chance at a new beginning in native habitat. In future years, we hope to be able to look back with the satisfaction of knowing we helped restore this wonderful species where there are currently so few.”

Area tribes lending support to the translocation plan in the Cascades include the Lummi, Muckleshoot, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tulalip, and Upper Skagit tribes. Volunteers from the Point No Point Treaty Council, Quileute Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, Makah Tribe, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Skokomish Indian Tribe, and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe also assisted at the staging areas in the Olympics

A total of 22 mountain goats were removed from Olympic National Forest in August. Sixteen mountain goats were removed from the Mount Ellinor and Mount Washington area and six from The Brothers Wilderness.

“This operation would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance of volunteers, including the Olympia Mountaineers,” said Susan Piper, Forest Wildlife Biologist with Olympic National Forest.  “We also want to acknowledge that having popular destinations such as Mount Ellinor and Lake of the Angels closed may have been inconvenient to visitors, but it was important to have a safe and successful capture operation in those areas.”

In May 2018, the NPS released the final Mountain Goat Management Plan which outlines the effort to remove the estimated 725 mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula. Both the plan and the associated environmental impact statement were finalized after an extensive public review process which began in 2014.

For more information about mountain goats in Washington State, see WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/oreamnos-americanus.

For more information and updates on the project, visit nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/mountain-goat-capture-and-translocation.htm.

Unexpected Culprits May Be To Blame For Most Chinook Smolt Losses In Lake WA Ship Canal

Quick, name the nonnative fish species you think is most responsible for chowing down on Chinook smolts trying to make it through a bottleneck near the Ballard Locks?

You’re wrong.

Well, you are if you said either smallmouth or largemouth bass, and if some preliminary work by WDFW’s lead Lake Washington fisheries biologist holds water.

ONE YELLOW PERCH CAPTURED IN THE LAKE WASHINGTON SHIP CANAL BY STATE FISHERY BIOLOGISTS HAD THREE CHINOOK SMOLTS IN ITS STOMACH. (WDFW)

“We are finding that large perch are responsible for most of the predation on juvenile Chinook smolts, at least across the few sites we are monitoring,” said the agency’s Aaron Bosworth this week.

He says that yellow perch and burgeoning populations of recently illegally introduced rock bass are “doing way more damage” than bass are in the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

That’s based on netting Bosworth and his crews have been doing this and the past two years.

They’ve been setting and tending nets in the Montlake Cut, Portage Bay, Fremont Cut and Salmon Bay to figure out roughly how many piscivorous fish are in that stretch, and how much of their diet is comprised of young salmon trying to get to Puget Sound in spring.

A WDFW BUOY SITS OFF GASWORKS PARK ON JUNE 4. (BRAD HOLE)

One perch they recently caught was digesting three Chinook smolts.

That fish might have been an outlier, and there’s clear evidence that smallmouth also prey on salmon.

But between those stomach contents and the fact yellowbellies and rock bass make up a surprising 50-plus percent of the net catch, it’s pointing towards unexpected culprits that may be strong and increasing factors depressing salmon survival and thus state and tribal fisheries.

“This is an important — and preliminary — finding, and is slightly different from many existing ideas about which nonnative species are responsible for most of the smolt predation in the Lake Washington system,” Bosworth says.

Where yellow perch were introduced into the Lake Washington watershed a century ago, rock bass are a recent entrant and are originally from the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds.

Bosworth says they were “virtually nonexistent” in the ship canal 10 years ago, but are now “very common” at sampling sites.

CATCH DATA FROM SPRING 2018 BREAKS DOWN SPECIES CAUGHT IN NETS IN THE SHIP CANAL. (WDFW)

This isn’t the only effort trying to gauge predator populations in the basin. Earlier this year we reported on the Muckleshoot Tribe’s warmwater test fisheries in Lake Sammamish, also meant to figure out if directed gillnetting on spinyrays could be a “commercially viable” enterprise there.

It was scheduled to wrap up June 15. Initial data from March and April showed that just over 53.5 percent of the overall catch of 2,849 fish was comprised of native largescale suckers, followed by introduced smallmouth bass (20 percent) and fellow transplant black crappie (9 percent).

But that was also largely before the release of Chinook and coho from the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. The percentages and diet may have changed in May and the first half of this month.

(It’s circumstantial, but the mid-May Lake Sammamish Perch Derby catch of just 94 compared to 686 last September may have been related to the flood of young salmon available for the species to eat instead of anglers’ baits.)

AARON BOSWORTH (LEFT) AND OTHER WDFW STAFFERS LIFT A NET FULL OF YELLOW PERCH CAUGHT OFF GASWORKS PARK. (WDFW)

The state’s study in the ship canal and the Muckleshoots’ in Sammamish are both included in what’s known as the LOAF, the 2019-20 List of Agreed Fisheries signed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission coming out of the annual North of Falcon salmon-season-setting process.

“The comanagers believe that many of the salmon smolts produced at our hatcheries and in natural spawning grounds around the basin are eaten by piscivores as they migrate through the Lake Washington system to marine waters,” states Bosworth.

According to Larry Franks of the Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, or FISH, just 8 to 10 percent of Chinook make it from the facility’s outlet to Shilshole Bay.

WDFW BIOLOGIST DANNY GARRETT DISPLAYS A ROCK BASS, CAUGHT IN 2017. WHERE THERE WERE FEW IF ANY IN THE SHIP CANAL 10 YEARS AGO, THEY’RE NOW FREQUENTLY CAUGHT, AND THE BIGGER ONES LIKE TO EAT SALMON SMOLTS. (WDFW)

To a degree that’s natural as the young of any species are the most vulnerable to getting eaten, but low numbers of returning finclipped adult Chinook are also increasingly constraining the fishing seasons we can have in Puget Sound and the lakes.

That’s leading to fewer days on the water and growing discontent among anglers.

Bosworth calls the ship canal a “predation gauntlet” filled with “lots of over-water structures that attract a number of piscivorous fish species.”

He says its warm waters could also boost the metabolic rates of the predators, meaning they eat more young Chinook, coho and sockeye as the little fish head for the salt.

THE SHIP CANAL CONNECTS LAKE WASHINGTON WITH PUGET SOUND. (WDFW)

Bosworth does allow that not all known salmon snarfers are showing up in the nets. Set for an overnight soak near the bottom, with all the traffic in the ship canal, they are limited to shoreline areas, not the offshore waters where cutthroat trout may lurk.

Cutts are a strong predator of salmon smolts, as are northern pikeminnow. They’re the primary bane of Lake Washington sockeye.

Again, these are initial results but it builds on a City of Seattle paper citing a 2000 USGS study that listed pikeminnow, smallmouth and largemouth as the primary predators in that order in the ship canal back then.

HUNGRY PREDATORS INCLUDING TROUT GATHER AT THE SOUTH END OF LAKE SAMMAMISH IN MIDSPRING TO SNARF DOWN JUST-RELEASED SALMON SMOLTS LIKE THESE COHO THAT SPILLED OUT OF THE BELLY OF A TROUT CAUGHT BY FAUSTINO RINCON THIS YEAR. (FAUSTINO RINCON)

Bosworth says he views this new effort as “an important monitoring program that may help us get a better understanding of why we are seeing such low return rates for salmon in the Lake Washington watershed.”

“I’d really like to expand this type of work in the future to see if this is happening in other areas of the lake as well,” says Bosworth.

The only problem? You guessed it.

Money — it’s tight and getting tighter these days around the biologist’s office.

WDFW had hoped that state lawmakers would approve both its license fee increase and General Fund request this past session for a big $60 million infusion, but in the end there was no hike, it received less than it needed to even maintain fishing and hunting opportunities — and was saddled with added costs without matching funding to boot.

It also must honor commitments it has made with the tribes through past North of Falcons, like continuing the ship canal predator study this year, and hiring more staff “to produce more timely catch estimates from catch record cards,” according to Nate Pamplin, the agency’s policy director.

It has all led to a budget shortfall for monitoring Puget Sound’s hugely important salmon fisheries in the coming two years, but WDFW hopes legislators will fix that with a $1.7 million request they want to include in a supplemental budget request for 2020’s session in Olympia.

So that leaves Bosworth and his project gauging abundance of Lake Washington piscivores and what they’re eating in a bit of limbo.

“I need to figure out how to get other people to help me with the money part.  We’ll see how far I get with that idea,” Bosworth says.

Ideally in his mind, it involves a “regional partnership” with other governmental entities and groups with a stake in improving salmon survival.

YELLOW PERCH AND CHINOOK SMOLTS. (WDFW)

Hell, it could also include anglers.

While there is a consumption advisory out, it sounds to me like Gasworks Park is a pretty damned good place to fish for fat and sassy yellow perch.

With smolts clearing the area soon if not already, I’ll bet they’re getting hungry too.

Lake Sammamish ‘Warm Water Test Fishery’ Netting Raises Questions

Lee Getzewich had heard that there was some gillnetting going on on Lake Sammamish, a water he’s fished for more than 25 years, and it gave him some pause.

But believing it to be just a “study,” the Issaquah resident decided to hit it earlier this month anyway.

A MUCKLESHOOT NET BOAT SITS MOORED TO A DOCK AT THE LAKE SAMMAMISH STATE PARK BOAT RAMP. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“What we love about it is that it is such a diverse and quality fishery,” Getzewich says of the 4,900-acre King County lake. “We regularly target warmwater species such as bass, crappie, and perch, but we also enjoy the great cutthroat trout fishing, particularly during colder weather.”

When fresh fish is on their menu, yellowbellies and sometimes specks are the target, but that midspring weekday morning, he and his neighbor planned to catch and release cutts and smallies.

“This time of year, when the trout are keying in on the smolts, we regularly catch 20 to 30 cutts in a day, some going over 25 inches,” Getzewich states. “Twenty-seven inches is the biggest I can recall.”

The plan was to cast into the pods of coho just released from the state salmon hatchery in hopes of catching cutthroat preying on the young fish, but after launching at Lake Sammamish State Park’s southeast corner boat ramp they saw nets being deployed off the mouth of Issaquah Creek.

AN ANGLER FISHES OFF THE MOUTH OF ISSAQUAH CREEK, PROBABLY FOR CUTTHROAT TROUT OR SMALLMOUTH BASS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Motoring over to learn more they began talking to the two-person crew. Getzewich says they were shown totes with the previous night’s catch.

“He held up and showed us a sucker fish about 1 pound, but I could see several smallmouth bass and what looked like small crappie in the bin,” Getzewich recalls.

The crew told them that the fish were all being kept so their stomach contents could be studied, and that they were just doing what they’d been told to by biologists.

Getzewich and his neighbor left and fished elsewhere on Sammamish. The day was slow, and they only caught a few small perch and saw some small bass in the shallows at the lake’s north end, where the slough forms.

Afterwards, though, he talked to a buddy with a fisheries degree about what he’d seen and now he isn’t so sure it can be considered a study.

“What I really want to know is, Why is this permitted? Who said this was OK? Why aren’t the people being kept in the loop about this? Where is our DFW?” asks Getzewich. “There is going to be a serious revolution amongst sportsmen if it keeps going.”

A FISHERMAN WATCHES HIS LINE FOR BITES AT LAKE SAMMAMISH STATE PARIK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

ON A MISTY MAY FRIDAY MORNING I decided to go check out things on Sammamish for myself.

With my luck I figured that if any nets were in the water, they would be halfway down the lake, well out of my smartphone camera’s range, so I grabbed my big Nikon and a telephoto lens and headed for the state park.

I parked at Sunset Beach, near a long row of upturned picnic tables, then wandered out on the trail to the mouth of Issaquah Creek, where a wading angler stood in water midthigh high about 30 yards offshore, casting and retrieving a lure.

With his tackle box back on dry land, he kept a wary eye on what I was up to as I peered into the murk for buoys marking strings of nets, but the only ones to be seen were the floats delineating the swimming area. Over on the other end of the string, an angler sat fishing the edge of the lily pads.

Turning around I went back and struck up a conversation with a plunker set up next to a long since fallen cottonwood. He said he was fishing for cutthroat and as we talked some salmon smolts began breaking the surface of the little bay he was on.

He told me that earlier in the day he’d seen a couple larger fish swim by together, but wasn’t quite sure whether they were trout, bass or something else. More and more of the young fish started jumping and as I zoomed in, there were a couple big swirls among the pod.

The angler didn’t really have anything to say about the netting and seemed more focused on trying to catch the fish making those swirls, so as the mist turned to a light sprinkle I left him to it and drove over to the boat ramp.

BUOYS MARK THE EDGE OF THE SWIMMING AREA AT LAKE SAMMAMISH STATE PARK’S SUNSET BEACH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

IT’S BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME SINCE I’VE USED this launch, though back when my dad lived in North Bend we’d put in his aluminum boat and fish it somewhat often.

I remember catching a really, really nice trout one time while we were anchored up just to the right of all the ramps. We ate that one as well as some bass we caught another time.

The last time I was on Sammamish was maybe 15 years or so ago with fellow F&H News staffer Jamie Parks. We hit the other southern corner that early spring day to fish for largemouth then zipped north to smallie waters, and on this morning three bassers were launching two boats.

Moored at the end of the leftmost dock was a net boat.

As he readied his craft, I asked the lone angler if he’d heard about the netting and after initially drawing a blank, he recalled fellow anglers mentioning some being dragged through the water.

The other two gents putting in were far more in tune with what’s been going on and they were not exactly happy about it.

As he swiped through pics on his phone of beautiful — and big — bronzebacks, Chris Senyohl, who operates a fly fishing guide service called Intrepid Anglers, told me that the nets had wiped out one of his best smallmouth spots.

His buddy said I’d just missed the net crew and that he’d seen them lift two largemouth out of their boat.

He said they’d been on the water every day during the work week, which is when he said he prefers to fish Sammamish.

HUNGRY PREDATORS GATHER AT THE SOUTH END OF LAKE SAMMAMISH IN SPRING TO SNARF DOWN JUST-RELEASED SALMON SMOLTS LIKE THESE COHO THAT SPILLED OUT OF THE BELLY OF A TROUT CAUGHT BY FAUSTINO RINCON. (FAUSTINO RINCON)

SLIGHTLY DAMP I CALLED IT A MORNING, drove past BMC West, where I worked for awhile after college loading lumber, fighting with customers over bent boards and drawing cartoons at the back gate, and headed in to my office.

I started working on this story on May 9, the day that the Muckleshoot Tribe sent out a notice showing they were intensifying their test fishery for warmwater species on Lake Sammamish and, coincidentally, the day that Lee Getzewich and his neighbor had fished there.

The notice showed that the effort could be expanded from two boats to three, with the maximum number of 3.75- to 6-inch-mesh gillnets tripling, from eight to up to 24.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that happened, but the regulation restated that the nets could be fished from 6 a.m. Monday until 6 p.m. Friday, by which time they’re to be removed for the weekend.

I left a voice mail on the Muckleshoot Fisheries department’s phone not long afterwards, but it hadn’t been returned as of Tuesday morning, May 28, so to figure out what’s going on, you have to zoom in on a couple different documents.

Probably the most important source of information is inside the LOAF — the 2019-20 List of Agreed Fisheries that was concurred to and signed on April 22 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission coming out of the annual North of Falcon season-setting process.

The LOAF essentially lays out all of Western Washington’s salmon fisheries in salt- and freshwaters negotiated between the state and 20-plus tribes, and in the back are a number of appendixes.

Pages 83 to 85 detail what is termed the “2019-2020 Warm Water Test Fishery” to collect data whether a directed fishery on spinyrays in the Lake Washington watershed could be “commercially viable” while also avoiding impacts on Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and steelhead.

“Using large mesh gillnets will eliminate impacts on age-0 Chinook and any potential steelhead smolts migrating out to sea,” the project description states.

The Muckleshoots also state they want to “instrument” walleye they catch with acoustic receivers to see how much their range overlaps with outmigrating coho smolts to target those areas in the future.

Another document, the tribe’s 2016 watersheds report, adds context: “A recent tribal study found that fewer than 10% of coho smolts released from the Issaquah Hatchery survived their freshwater migration to Puget Sound. The Lake Washington basin’s miles of docks, bulkheads, rip-rap, warm water, and the many native and exotic fish predators favored by those degraded conditions are likely at fault.”

Their announcement that they were increasing netting efforts roughly coincided with this month’s release of millions of coho as well as Chinook smolts — the fish I saw jumping in the mist.

SALMON SMOLTS LEAP OUT OF THE LAKE, PERHAPS JUST HAPPY TO HAVE BEEN RELEASED FROM THE NEARBY ISSAQUAH HATCHERY OR MAYBE ATTEMPTING TO FLEE PREDATORY FISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

THIS IS THE THIRD YEAR THE MUCKLESHOOT test fishery has been going on — it initially included Lake Washington — and it follows 2015’s unexpected discovery of more than a dozen walleye, including an egg-dripping 13-pound hen and six males close by her.

To paraphrase a retired state fisheries manager, whomever recently put walleye (and then northern pike) in the system was no friend of fellow anglers who’ve chased warmwater species for decades, but the Muckleshoots are more blunt; they use the word “criminal” to describe the act.

Besides its many native stocks, crappie have been in the watershed the longest, in Lake Washington since at least 1890, followed by largemouth in 1918, and smallmouth there and in Sammamish since sometime in the 1960s, perhaps earlier.

Lake Washington is ranked as one of the top 100 bass lakes in the entire country by Bassmaster magazine, and is 16th best in the Western U.S.

Local clubs regularly hit it and according to WDFW tournament fishing records, the average bass landed there during the last 10 years weighed 2.22 pounds; the average on Sammamish was 2.31 pounds.

As popular as they’ve become, the times they are a’changing. The plight of the orcas and their primary food has put a target on the fins of spinyrays.

Earlier this month Gov. Jay Inslee signed Second Substitute House Bill 1579 which primarily — and finally — gives WDFW some actual teeth to protect shoreline habitat for Chinook and their forage fish.

It also contains a clause that the Fish and Wildlife Commission must now “liberalize bag limits for bass, walleye, and channel catfish in all anadromous waters of the state in order to reduce the predation risk to salmon smolts.”

The latter idea came out of the governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force’s recommendations last year and it echoes current regulations on the Columbia.

Limits were dropped on the three species in the big river system several years ago following pushing from federal fishery overseers.

How WDFW and the commission interpret “liberalize” and “anadromous” has yet to be determined (no limits? using SalmonScape?), but the bill goes into effect July 1 and will surely include Lakes Sammamish and Washington.

I’m no biologist, but my bet is that bass really don’t have much to fear from sport pursuit because of current support, Northwest anglers’ general preference for other fish on the table and conservation practices, and health advisories.

In other words, it’s a feel-good measure, though with more and more efforts throughout our region to supress or kill off nonnatives like lake trout, northern pike — even rainbow trout — this also feels like it could be a potential inflection point.

LAKE SAMMAMISH STRETCHES FOR 7 MILES FROM ITS NORTH END AT REDMOND TO ITS SOUTH AT ISSAQUAH, WHERE A SALMON HATCHERY RAISES AND RELEASES COHO AND CHINOOK FOR STATE AND TRIBAL FISHERIES. BUT THE SMOLTS MUST FIRST TRANSIT A LAKE FULL OF HUNGRY FISH. (JELSON25, WIKIMEDIA, CC 3.0)

ONE GROUP THAT ESSENTIALLY SUPPORTS the netting on Lake Sammamish is FISH, the Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, a nonprofit that leads tours at WDFW’s most-visited production facility and does a lot of youth education with third- and fourth-grade students.

But the organization has also been moving into the realm of advocacy lately, said Larry Franks, its vice president and longtime salmon and steelhead angler.

“We’ve tried to identify things that benefit fish,” he said.

Franks, who retired from Boeing and also has a fisheries degree from the University of Washington, said that despite 2.5 million Chinook being released from the hatchery, last year saw a return of just 1,800 adults, or .07 percent survival.

Part of that is the productivity, or lack thereof, of the North Pacific, as well as harvest by all fleets, but primarily low smolt survival, just 8 to 10 percent from Issaquah to Shilshole Bay, outside the Lake Washington Ship Canal, he said.

“The deck is stacked against them. Our goal is to have better returns,” Franks said.

One problem, he said, is the increasingly narrow band of Lake Sammamish that salmon must swim through between too-warm surface waters and its anoxic depths.

The other is the predators that sit and wait in the zone for the smolts to swim through, then chow down.

Franks believes that the number of warmwater species in the lake and their populations have grown, and that that is impacting salmon outmigration and thus returns that are “dropping precipitously.”

“We’re of the position these are cause and effect, not correlation,” he said.

He acknowledges the growth of the state bass fishery and that smallmouth and largemouth anglers are every bit as dedicated as he is to chasing salmon. He believes that WDFW doesn’t want to piss off spinyray anglers either and is afraid to act — at least without more hard scientific data.

“It comes down to a choice: If you want to retain bass fishing, it’s going to be hopeless, in Larry’s opinion, to save Chinook,” Franks said.

A state staffer close to the situation didn’t want to be quoted for this story, but if official WDFW comments during its recently held Walleye Week on Facebook are any indication, they will be managing salmon and steelhead waters for salmon and steelhead first, and spinyrays where it makes the most sense.

(WDFW is also in the third year of a Lake Washington Ship Canal study to determine abundance and diets of smolt-eating fish there.)

Another option might be trucking Issaquah Hatchery’s smolts and Franks said experiments are ongoing. But anecdotally, it didn’t produce bigger returns last year, though more results are expected this year and next.

That leaves removing the predators, like the Muckleshoots are doing.

“We’re supportive of efforts that would increase the Chinook return,” said Franks.

ISSAQUAH CREEK ENTERS LAKE SAMMAMISH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

AS FOR HOW MANY FISH ARE BEING GILLNETTED in Sammamish, the LOAF — that marine area by river by lake rundown of agreed-to fishing state and tribal seasons and constraints — contains a short statement that caught my eye.

It says that with “the potential for interaction with the public,” the Muckleshoots propose providing monthly reports on their test fishery, including gear used, where it was fished and for how long, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

So I asked NOAA for that information, and a week and a half later a federal spokesperson provided me with summaries of catches in March and April for what are known as Zones 7 and 8, the northern and southern halves of the lake.

According to the figures, nearly 2,850 fish were caught and removed from the system during those two months, roughly 60 percent of which were native species, 40 percent nonnatives.

Just over 53.5 percent of the overall catch (1,525) was comprised of largescale suckers, a native fish, followed by introduced smallmouth bass (577) at 20 percent and fellow transplant black crappie (258) at 9 percent.

Other species caught include:

Northern pikeminnow (146), 5 percent, native
Brown bullhead (126), 4 percent, nonnative
Cutthroat trout (85), 3 percent, native
Largemouth bass (78), 3 percent, nonnative
Peamouth chub (24), 1 percent, native
Common carp (11), .4 percent, nonnative
Yellow perch (10), .3 percent, nonnative
Hatchery-origin Chinook (3), .1 percent, native
Mountain whitefish (3), .1 percent, native
Hatchery-origin coho (1), .03 percent, native
Rock bass (1), .03 percent, nonnative
Walleye (1), .03 percent, nonnative

No rainbow trout or natural-origin Chinook were caught, NOAA’s catch breakout shows.

Kokanee, which are at low levels in the lake but also a pelagic, or open-water, fish were not listed in the catch tally.

Under the terms of the test fishery, if three wild steelhead are netted, the effort will be shut down immediately. In the LOAF, the Muckleshoots state that there is a “very low to zero” chance of any turning up, and if one did, they suggest it would probably be a Green River stray.

Gillnetting is set to run through June 15, and I am interested to see what turns up in the catch during the final seven weeks of the program, what with the release of all those coho and Chinook smolts into the system — will the catch percentages change?

The test fishery is also scheduled to resume next January through April.

FEDERAL FISHERY OVERSEERS PROVIDED THIS TABLE SHOWING HOW MANY NATIVE AND NONNATIVE FISH WERE CAUGHT DURING WEEKLY GILLNETTING ON THE NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN HALVES OF LAKE SAMMAMISH. LARGESCALE SUCKERS DOMINATE THE CATCH, BUT SMALLMOUTH BASS COMPRISE A QUARTER TOO. (NOAA)

SOMETHING LARRY FRANKS SAID STUCK WITH me after our talk:

“It’s a thorny problem.”

Understatement of the century.

As a salmon angler, like many other Northwest sportsmen these days I’m howling that something, anything needs to be done about predators — be they sea lions, harbor seals, Caspian terns, cormorants or piscivorous fish — to get more smolts out and more adult fish back.

That means there’s no way I can support killing pikeminnows in the Columbia, northern pike everywhere in our region, birds at the mouth of the river, and pinnipeds at Bonneville and Willamette Falls without also giving the thumbs up to removing smolt-eating fish in Lake Sammamish.

At the same time, my inner spinyray angler is revolted by what feels like a targeted attack on a fish I like — I literally nearly went bankrupt trying to write a story inspired by catching a huge smallmouth on the Grande Ronde — one that’s widespread across the Northwest and is a great entry-level fish that’s easy to catch.

I’m all for hatcheries, but, holy sh*t, here’s a species that doesn’t require the world’s largest fish production infrastructure to perpetuate in perpetuity, plus they’re ready-made for climate change.

Yet as a Washington native, tell me why our fisheries have to be exactly like what you can already find in Michigan, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Quebec, Tennessee, Iowa, New Jersey, Minnesota, New York, Ontario, Missouri, the Dakotas, New England, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana? We’re not the Old Northwest, this is the Pacific Northwest, home of silver fish, not green ones, and proud of it.

Then again, I’ve also read my King of Fish: The Thousand Year Run of Salmon — with all the problems that our kings, silvers and steelies face, you tell me that smallies and their Midwestern and Southern cousins aren’t what’s going to come out of the other end of things here as the sole survivors.

The utter mess we have made of this region obliges us to do our best to fix it.

At what cost, pray tell?

So as you can tell, I’ve got mostly mixed feelings here.

I do, however, have a problem with the illegal release of walleye in Lakes Sammamish and Washington, and northern pike in the latter. Doing so was among the most asinine, destructive and disrespectful things perpetrated on the watershed since the Great Glacier smothered it. I’ll tar and feather the a@$hole bucket biologist(s) myself.

The comanagers aren’t talking, but I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t doubt for a second that those crimes were among the tipping points that set their test fisheries in motion. And now everybody but the guilty are paying.

A BLUE HERON WAITS FOR PREY TO SWIM BY. MANY THINGS PREY ON LAKE SAMMAMISH’S SALMON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I’M DOUBTFUL THERE WILL BE A “COMMERCIALLY VIABLE” fishery for bass in Lake Sammamish or elsewhere in the system some day, but I could be wrong.

I just hope that the netting shows whether targeted removals of smolt predators at select times and places is worthwhile for increasing salmon survival and expanding harvest seasons — while also preserving native and nonnative fish and fisheries that aren’t going away any time soon.

I’m willing to put a nickel down that while introduced exotics like the bass do have an impact, it’s mostly limited to the two months or so that the young coho and Chinook are transiting the system, and that like over on Lake Washington with sockeye smolts, cutthroat and northern pikeminnow are the actual primary predators.

Again, I could be wrong, but I’d love to learn what is in the stomachs of the thousands of fish the Muckleshoots pull out of the lake this spring. I’d hate to see this all go to waste.

THE SOUTH END OF LAKE SAMMAMISH FROM POO POO POINT, THE TAKE-OFF SPOT FOR HANG GLIDERS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Fall King Production In Green-Duwamish Could Be Increased By 2 Million

With the plight of starving orcas front and center in the region, federal fishery overseers will consider a proposal to raise an additional 2 million fall Chinook smolts in the Green-Duwamish.

FEDERAL OVERSEERS WILL CONSIDER A PLAN TO BOOST PRODUCTION OF DUWAMISH-GREEN FALL CHINOOK BY 2 MILLION. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The National Marine Fisheries Service put out a notice late last week that it will prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement for whether to boost releases in the King County river system above the level originally proposed by state and tribal managers.

“The alternative to be analyzed in the DSEIS is informed by the applicant’s interest in increasing hatchery production of juvenile Chinook salmon, and NMFS’ analysis of the status of endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales and the importance of Chinook salmon prey to their food base,” a notice published in the Federal Register reads.

Green-Duwamish Chinook were identified as among the most important current feedstocks for orcas, and they also provide sport and tribal fisheries.

The original EIS for the system called for release of as many as 5.1 million fall kings, mostly by WDFW and with 600,000 of those part of a new Muckleshoot “Fish Restoration Facility ” to be built below Howard Hansen Dam on the upper Green.

The supplementary Chinook would be reared at WDFW’s Soos Creek Hatchery for release at Palmer Ponds.

NMFS Puts Joint WDFW-Tribal Green-Duwamish Hatchery Production Plan Out For Review

State and tribal fishery managers are proposing to increase hatchery salmon and steelhead production by 14 percent in the Green-Duwamish under a federal draft EIS now out for public comment.

The bump is related to three new programs that have a goal of eventually putting young Chinook, coho and winter steelhead above a dam in the headwaters of the King County river.

DUWAMISH RIVER HATCHERY COHO.

As it stands, the plan calls for raising as many as 5.1 million fall Chinook, 5 million chum, 3.41 million coho, 383,000 late-winter steelhead and 100,000 summer steelhead, up from a maximum of 12.44 million currently.

More than 1.5 million of those — 600,000 kings, 600,000 coho and 350,000 late-winter steelhead — would be reared for release as fry, subyearlings or yearlings above or below Howard Hanson by the Muckleshoot Tribe once a “Fish Restoration Facility” is completed below Tacoma Public Utilities’ structure at river mile 64, where downstream passage facilities don’t currently exist but are “tentatively scheduled” to begin construction on next year.

Outside of winter-runs, WDFW, Muckleshoot and other hatcheries on the system rear fish to fuel sport and tribal fisheries on Puget Sound, Elliott Bay and in the river.

Where at one time the Green was one of Puget Sound’s top streams for steelheading in December, January and February, these days managers are trying to conserve and recover the river’s low natural stocks.

The 10 hatchery programs covered by the plan “would be adaptively managed over time to incorporate best management practices as new information is available,” according to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Duwamish-Green Hatcheries Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Other options call for a continuation of the status quo, which is to say without ESA coverage, and terminating or cutting production in half.

NMFS is taking comment through Dec. 20.

Lake Washington Sockeye Count Tops 110,000, But Declining

The odds of a Lake Washington sockeye fishery this year — long to begin with — seem remoter still with today’s updated count unless somehow hesitant salmon managers acquiesce to a Hail Mary bid.

A total of 111,509 have passed through the Ballard Locks since the tally began June 12, and the year’s best days appear to be behind us.

IT’S BEEN 11 YEARS SINCE THE LAST LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE FISHERY, AND DESPITE CALLS FOR AN “OLD TIMES SAKE” SEASON THIS YEAR, THAT’S INCREASINGLY UNLIKELY WITH THE LATEST BALLARD LOCKS COUNTS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Nearly 7,500 were counted July 4, with 21,740 in the three days before and day afterwards.

But since then daily counts have dipped to 2,772 Wednesday and 2,271 yesterday.

The run has typically peaked by now, though of note 2006 didn’t hit its midmark till mid-July.

If there’s good news, it’s that the forecast of 77,292 was wrong, and there does appear to be some softening on the standing escapement goal of 350,000 sockeye to trigger sport and commercial tribal fisheries.

According to a recent WDFW letter, talks have been ongoing with the comanagers about “a new abundance-based management framework that allows for some directed fisheries at run-sizes of 200,000 or greater.”

Written July 7, the communique from Director Jim Unsworth expresses cautious optimism that that figure might be reached.

But Frank Urabeck, a longtime recreational angling advocate who closely watches the counts, now estimates the run will come in somewhere north of 130,000, which is above the 100,000 that he hoped might trigger a “token, for old times’ sake” fishery on Lake Washington, where we haven’t seen a sockeye season since 2006.

Since then, an average of 78,000 — high: 2013’s 178,422; low: 2009’s 21,718 — have entered the locks with fewer still actually spawning.

By comparison, between 2006 and 1972, only three years saw 78,000 or fewer sockeye enter; even the bad salmon years of the mid-1990s were higher.

It’s believed that despite the new Seattle Public Utilities hatchery on the Cedar River, young sockeye are suffering increasing and strong predation in the lake and as they make their way through the Ship Canal, which also appears to be a thermal block for returning adults, leaving them more prone to disease.

This year’s run would also have been at sea during the fish-run-destroying Blob.

Among Urabeck’s aims is to draw attention to what he considers to be a failing run, and he sees this year’s return as what amounts to a last-gasp opportunity to get anglers on the lake and rally support for what once was a wonderful salmon fishery in the heart of the state’s biggest metropolis.

If you never had a chance to partake in it, it was the absolute best kind of insanity going.

Urabeck wants one last go.

“I encourage sportfishing anglers to contact Director Unsworth and the MIT to encourage them to avoid losing this special opportunity to gain public support for our fisheries programs,” he said this morning.

Unsworth, who wrote that Urabeck’s call for a season if the count hit 100,000 “certainly caught my attention,” agreed that Lake Washington salmon aren’t faring well, but was more optimistic about the future.

“It will be a challenging task, but the restoration of clear, clean, and swimmable water to Lake Washington in the 1960s shows what can be accomplished with our engaged and supportive public,” Unsworth states in the letter to Urabeck.

The director says that his agency as well as the tribes, county and utilities are “now implementing and advocating for the actions necessary to improve salmon survival in the Lake Washington basin.”

“In this urban setting, we will need to think ‘out-of-the-box’ to find solutions that provide for salmon in the future. In part, this will likely require rethinking how we use our hatcheries. As you recall, we joined with you and others in the Year-15 Comprehensive Review of the City of Seattle’s Habitat Conservation Plan in recommending new supplementation techniques that maximize fry-to-adult survival through a combination of extended rearing and delayed release timing,” Unsworth states.

Meanwhile, the Muckleshoot and Suquamish Tribes are holding their annual ceremonial and subsistence fisheries, with goals of 1,000 and 2,500 sockeye each, and yesterday saw dipnetting in the ladder as tribal biologists in conjunction with WDFW collected salmon for a longterm biological sampling program.

What the longterm health of the sportfishery holds is anyone’s guess, but at the moment, it is on life support at best this year.

Lake Washington Walleye Outfitted With Acoustic Tags For Study

Fishery biologists with a Seattle-area tribe are capturing a new predator species in Lakes Washington and Sammamish to monitor their movements and whether they cross paths with salmon.

It’s unclear how many of the illegally introduced fish are actually in the system, but concern is building and the Muckleshoot Tribe reports they have “successfully tagged and released multiple walleye” already this year.

STATE FISHERIES BIOLOGIST DANNY GARRETT DISPLAYS A 13-PLUS-POUND WALLEYE HE UNEXPECTEDLY CAUGHT IN 2015 NEAR MERCER ISLAND ON LAKE WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

A request for comment from the tribe had not yet been returned as of this writing, but details of the operation come from the LOAF, or list of agreed-to fisheries that was signed by WDFW and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission earlier this month as the parties reached an agreement at North of Falcon, and which was posted last week by the state agency.

Besides outlining all the treaty, commercial and recreational salmon fisheries over the coming 12 months, the 105-page document includes the Muckleshoot’s aims and methods for their two-year warmwater species study in the Lake Washington basin.

It builds on the scant information we were able to report earlier this year, when it began.

The tribe says it wants to catch up to 15 walleye to “assess their overlap with migrating juvenile salmonids in addition to locating areas these invasive predators may be targeted in subsequent fisheries.”

Tribal fishers are targeting one of seven zones in Washington and Sammamish at a time, using up to eight 300-foot-long gillnets with 31/2- to 6-inch mesh. The nets fish during the work week and are closely monitored to reduce the possibility of snagging the few if any ESA-listed steelhead in the basin.

Walleye are being implanted with acoustic devices that can be read by receivers stationed around the lakes that are otherwise used to track tagged returning adult Chinook and sockeye and young outmigrating coho.

Overlapping walleye movements with the coho will help model their potential to cross paths with Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook smolts.

The Muckleshoots say their effort “will benefit salmonid management in the Lake Washington basin,” as well as inform researchers on walleye diets and distribution.

Of note, a “second consideration” is to figure out if catch rates on walleye and bass are “high enough to result in an economically viable fishery … Data collected will inform managers of areas and times that a tribal net fishery could be economically viable as well as areas to avoid/target minimizing bycatch and optimizing harvest.”

According to plans, gear, locations and effort may be shared with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with details on any steelhead or Chinook caught, with the test fishery being shut down after a third and fifth of each species is encountered.

The data will add to a 2004-05 Army Corps of Engineers study that looked at movements of acoustically tagged Chinook smolts, smallmouth bass and prickly sculpins.

Walleye first turned up in Lake Washington in 2005, a small male, caught by University of Washington researchers, with anglers catching one or two in following years.

But in 2015, state and tribal biologists caught a dozen, mostly in Lake Washington between Mercer Island and Bellevue, including a 13.5-pound hen that was dripping eggs.

As the species is native to waters east of the Rockies, the only way they could have arrived in the urban lakes is in livewells. The nearest source populations are about 120 miles east on I-90 in the Columbia Basin.

The Lake Washington system supports important tribal and recreational salmon fisheries, though sockeye, which reside in the lake a year before going to sea, have not produced directed seasons for over 10 years, despite a new hatchery. WDFW’s Issaquah Salmon Hatchery produces Chinook and coho.

So far, the Muckleshoots have caught at least one northern pike in Lake Washington, as well as a handful of walleye in Lake Sammamish.

The LOAF also describes a plan to electrofish in spring and fall and gillnet in spring in select areas of Lake Washington and the Ship Canal, the idea being to figure out if removing bass, walleye, perch and other salmon predators can be effective.

One thing’s for sure, if you’re a bass tournament angler fishing nationally ranked Lake Washington, you’d want a map of where those efforts are planned.