Tag Archives: puget sound

Yuasa: Late Winter’s Time To Chase Sound, Straits Blackmouth

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

For myself and many others who truly enjoy catching salmon, being on the water is a 24/7 affair.

Hooked you say? Yes, that’s an obvious light bulb popping up above your head moment. In fact, if I’m not actually on the water, it’s a sure bet I’m thinking or daydreaming about hooking a fish. I’ll confess there was a time – pre-kid’s era – when 100-plus days of wetting a line annually was a reality.

During my “Wonder Years” the main mode of transportation to Lake Washington from our Seward Park neighborhood was a bicycle. My buddies and I would backpack our fishing gear, a container of worms dug up the night before and food – usually a generous supply of soda pop and junk food. It was all us fishing junkies would need to spend a day on the dock or shoreline.

MY SON TEGAN YUASA AND I WITH PAIR OF A NICE WINTER CHINOOK WE CAUGHT IN SAN JUAN ISLANDS ON JAN. 5, 2018. FISHING REMAINS DECENT FOR LARGE-SIZED CHINOOK THROUGHOUT THE ISLAND CHAIN. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

As I got older this progressed to catching a bus to Elliott Bay, and stopping at the many downtown Seattle tackle shops. While baiting our hooks we’d peer down into the emerald colored water at huge pile perch lurking below the wooden planks under Piers 54 and 55 adjacent to Ivar’s Acres of Clams and the Fisheries Supply Company. Summer salmon fishing trips with my grandparents out of Ray’s Boathouse or to Sekiu also became more frequent.

Fast forward to my college days when I bought an aluminum boat with a 1950s Evinrude outboard motor. It was our gateway to Puget Sound salmon and local trout lakes.

Today, almost half a century later, I’m just as stoked, still a kid at heart and thoughts of salmon leaping around me swims through my mind constantly! I get out as much as I can although there are times when house chores, traveling, working or shuttling kids to sporting events will take precedence.

Putting the would’ve and could’ve aside, my immediate plans in February and March include making time to pursue winter hatchery blackmouth – immature resident chinook.

From south-central Puget Sound in Tacoma to northern Puget Sound off Whidbey Island, and San Juan Islands to Strait of Juan de Fuca are likely fishing holes for hungry blackmouth chasing baitfish schools. That just gets my heart fluttering faster and me eager to push the throttle down just a tab more on the boat!

This past month the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff and sport-fishing advisory board recommended hitting the pause button on reopening northern Puget Sound and east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Areas 9, 8-1 and 8-2) until Feb. 16 (original opening date was Jan. 16), and this was no doubt a wise decision. If you recall, these closed sooner than expected in November due to lots of sub-legal chinook – fish under the 22-inch minimum size limit – appearing in catches.

Test fishing last month still showed a spike of sub-legals. In Area 9 the average marked fish size was 20.07 inches and maximum size was 24.43; Area 8-1, 14.30 and 25.39; and Area 8-2, 17.04 and 22.13.

Delaying the openers should provide a more quality fishery in late-winter and early-spring when larger fish begin to appear. Unless guidelines are achieved sooner than expected Area 9 will stay open through April 15, and 8-1 and 8-2 will be open through April 30.
Meanwhile there are options to keep the 365-day fishing season mantra alive and well.

Top of list is San Juan Islands (Area 7) where catches of nice-sized fish are standard since it reopened on Jan. 1. Area 7 hatchery chinook were averaging 22.55 inches with a maximum size of 27.56.
Top spots are Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Spring Pass; Clark and Barnes Islands; Parker Reef; Point Thompson; Peavine Pass; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.

Fishing in central Puget Sound (Area 10) was fair from Kingston to Jefferson Head, and south along Bainbridge Island to Southworth. WDFW also raised the daily catch limit for hatchery chinook from one to two until it closes on Feb. 28. Average marked chinook in Area 10 was 18.23 inches with a maximum size of 26.63.

Lastly, don’t overlook south-central (Area 11), Hood Canal (Area 12) and southern Puget Sound (Area 13), which are open until April 30.
Further down the pipeline are two other “must do” chinook fisheries in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca off Sekiu (Area 5) from March 16 to April 30; and eastern Strait off Port Angeles (Area 6) from March 1 to April 15.

Sekiu brings me back to the “good old days” and is doorway to chinook fishing nirvana. Due to its relative remoteness and distance from Seattle plan on spending a few days, and you’ll no doubt be rewarded with nice blackmouth. I’ll have more on Sekiu in my next column!

Hundreds of anglers converged to San Juan Islands for Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 5-7, and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 18-20 – both are part of the NMTA’s NW Salmon Derby Series.

The Resurrection Derby saw 102 boats and 334 anglers reeling-in 50 hatchery chinook. First place was Jason Squibb with an 18.28-pound hatchery chinook using a green hotspot flasher and green needlefish hootchie off Pointer Island.

In Roche Harbor Salmon Classic, 100 boats and 357 anglers caught 179 hatchery chinook. Robert Enselman took first place with a 17 pound-11 ounce fish.

There are 15 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada. Next up is Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 8-10, and Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 9-11.

(NMTA)

Check out the grand prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader trailer. It is fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo. Drawing for the boat will take place at conclusion of derby series. For details, click on this link Northwest Salmon Derby Series.
It was great meeting everyone at the Seattle Boat Show, and I’ll see you on the water very soon!

 

Grant Brings AI Into Search For Why Young Puget Sound Salmon Are Dying

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM LONG LIVE THE KINGS

Long Live the Kings has been awarded a grant from Microsoft as part of its ‘AI for Earth’ program. The grant will be used to power an intensive ecosystem model of Puget Sound.

LONG LIVE THE KINGS HAS RECEIVED ONE OF THE FIRST “ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH” GRANTS FROM MICROSOFT TO STUDY CAUSES OF MORTALITY OF JUVENILE PUGET SOUND STEELHEAD AND COHO AS WELL AS CHINOOK SALMON. (JOHN R. MCMILLAN/NOAA/FLICKR/HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/2.0/)

AI for Earth is a Microsoft program aimed at empowering people and organizations to solve global environmental challenges by increasing access to AI tools and educational opportunities, while accelerating innovation, via the Azure for Research AI for Earth award program, Microsoft provides selected researchers and organizations access to its cloud and AI computing resources to accelerate, improve and expand work on climate change, agriculture, biodiversity and/or water challenges.

Long Live the Kings, a nonprofit with over 30 years of experience recovering wild salmon and steelhead and supporting sustainable fisheries, is among the first grant recipients of AI for Earth, which was first launched in July 2017. The grant process was a competitive and selective process and was awarded in recognition of the potential of the work and power of AI to accelerate progress.

“Microsoft’s Azure platform gives us the capacity, power and speed to rapidly assess impacts to our Puget Sound food web that may ultimately be affecting the salmon we care so much about,” said Long Live the Kings Deputy Director, Michael Schmidt.

The ecological model Azure supports is part of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, a 60 entity, $20 million effort to determine why juvenile salmon are dying in our combine marine waters of Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia. Bolstering marine ecosystem modeling with Azure cloud computing will provide natural resource mangers the opportunity to understand how changes to our ecosystem (pollution, warming waters, etc.) will affect salmon and other key Puget Sound species, such as killer whales and shellfish.

To date, Microsoft has distributed more than 35 grants to qualifying researchers and organizations around the world. Microsoft recently announced their intent to put $50 million over 5 years into the program, enabling grant-making and educational trainings possible at a much larger scale.

More information can be found on these websites:
AI for Earth: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/aiforearth
Long Live the Kings: https://lltk.org/
The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project: https://marinesurvivalproject.com/

Puget Sound Salmon Anglers Called On To Voice Concerns Over Chinook Plan

Alarms are blaring ever louder in the Puget Sound salmon fishing world.

A proposed 10-year Chinook harvest plan revealed less than two weeks ago could be “a lot tighter noose” for sport fisheries, and state and tribal managers may try to implement it as early as this spring.

THE NEW PROPOSED PUGET SOUND CHINOOK HARVEST PLAN COULD BE “A LOT TIGHTER NOOSE” FOR ANGLERS, ACCORDING TO A SPORTFISHING ADVOCATE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“It will very seriously reduce the very limited opportunities we’ve had in the past few years,” warned Pat Patillo in a 17-minute segment on a Seattle-based outdoor radio show last Saturday morning.

WDFW fish bosses, already the subject of displeasure from the Fish and Wildlife Commission about the plan they’ve sent to federal overseers, may publicly talk more next month about it, but Patillo is not shooting from the hip.

He’s a retired salmon policy advisor for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, where he worked for over three decades, and is now a sportfishing advisor to the agency.

After the resource management plan for Puget Sound Chinook emerged from confidential, federal-judge-mediated negotiations between WDFW and area treaty tribes, he ran this year’s run forecasts through it to get a feel for what it might portend in the near term, as expectations aren’t too bright.

Speaking on 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line, Patillo explained that fishing impacts on Stillaguamish wild Chinook in, essentially, Puget Sound would be halved.

But he said that even more constraining might be a new limit on that river’s mass marked fin-clipped hatchery kings.

That’s because with the basin’s Chinook being federally listed, mass-marking has provided an option for anglers to release wild kings so they can continue on the way to the gravel while culling out generally abundant production fish missing their adipose fins.

That approach could face significant challenges under the new plan.

“With that limit on hatchery fish, it effectively eliminates selective fishing as a management tool for providing opportunity to catch all Puget Sound hatchery Chinook,” Patillo told hosts of Tom Nelson and Rob Endsley.

In danger, northern summer king and winter blackmouth fisheries.

“These fish, hatchery fish and wild fish, are mixed with all the others in Puget Sound,” Patillo explained. “So if you’ve got a constraint on your hatchery fish that are mass-marked — you can’t tell a mass-marked Stilly fish from a Green River fish, for example — so you’re, what’s the term? You pick it.”

Washington managers are screwed because many Stillaguamish Chinook get picked off in fisheries to the north, in southeast Alaska and along the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Puget Sound is the only place they have any power to reduce impacts on the stock to try and rebuild it, though there are doubts that that’s possible.

In the meanwhile, anglers face a very bitter pill.

Patillo estimated that even if we’d had a total closure of Puget Sound sportfishing in 2017, it would have yielded all of “10 or 11” more wild Stillaguamish Chinook on the gravel.

Nelson, who labeled the overall approach “a harvest solution to a habitat problem,” urged listeners to contact Director Jim Unsworth and the Fish and Wildlife commission with their concerns.

Patillo echoed that, and pointing to Stilly kings, summarized an argument to make — that the plan’s constraints go “beyond the level necessary to enable rebuilding … and will not provide fishing opportunity for surplus hatchery Chinook salmon throughout Puget Sound or other healthy salmon like pink salmon, coho salmon — you’re not going to have those fisheries.”

As it stands, the plan will be reviewed by the National Marine Fisheries Service for compliance with ESA and it may be approved in early 2019 for 2019-20 to 2028-29 fisheries.

Shopping For Fishing Ideas? Yuasa Shares December Ops, Plus 2018 NW Salmon Derby Sched

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

A close peek at calendar made me wince as the holidays are in full-swing with 24/7 Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel and malls filled to the gills with shoppers.

While that is all near and dear to my heart, I’ve also got this holiday free-time addiction called “salmon fishing.”

GUY MAMIYA WHO CAUGHT A 9 POUND, 15 OUNCE HATCHERY CHINOOK OFF SALTY’S RESTAURANT LEADS THE TENGU BLACKMOUTH DERBY HELD EVERY SUNDAY IN ELLIOTT BAY THROUGH DEC. 31. (COURTESY MARK YUASA, NMTA)

No matter what kind of remedy I seek, it just keeps hooking me into getting on my boat. On some mornings, I’ll even tow the boat to the ramp, sniff the air for wind and then make a game-time decision.

In past seasons, December wasn’t just filled with mistletoe bliss, but earmarked a time to go chinook fishing and bring back a couple nice salmon fillets for the holiday dinner table.

Yet, here we are right in middle of another holiday rush, and the choices to wet a line for salmon are rather slim pickings.

Bummed you ask?

We can gripe why December salmon fishing isn’t up to snuff or look at viable options to keeping a rod-and-reel in hand. I unanimously choose the latter.

A top choice is the Clay Banks off the Point Defiance Park area in Tacoma – part of south-central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 11) open through April 30 – which is often teeming with baitfish, hungry hatchery chinook and protected from prevailing southerly winds.

Tops on my radar screen is central Puget Sound (10), which for the moment is open through Feb. 28, unless an emergency closure shuts it down.

Here one can find plenty of action at places like Allen Bank off the southeast side of Blake Island; west side of Blake Island; Restoration Point; Rich Passage; Yeomalt Point; Southworth; Manchester; and northwestern tip off Vashon Island.

Keep your eyes open at other spots like Hood Canal (12) and southern Puget Sound (13). Further down the pipeline is when the San Juan Islands (7) reopen Jan. 1 just in time to ring in the New Year!

Winter Dungeness crab fishing also remains open daily in some marine areas through Dec. 31, and this can turn you into a “rock star” at the holiday dining table as guests devour a big bowl of fresh cracked crab. It’s time to get on this one!

Look for crab around Whidbey Island; northeast side of Kitsap Peninsula; Camano Island; Mukilteo area; Holmes Harbor; Hat Island; Port Angeles Harbor; Strait of Juan de Fuca; and San Juan Islands. Remember due to a downtrend in crab abundance locations south of Edmonds and Hood Canal – Marine Catch Areas 10, 11, 12 and 13 are closed this winter.

Early salmon fishing closures for Areas 8 and 9

This nice pair of hatchery chinook were caught at Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend in early November before the Area 9 closure on-board the boat of Tom Nelson, host of the Outdoor Line on KIRO 710 AM.

Rewind to Nov. 1 when alarm bells rang left and right, as news came out that encounter rates of sub-legal chinook – those under the 22-inch minimum size limit – were much higher than anticipated.

It was then WDFW fishery managers took a cautious approach to close the seasons on Nov. 13 – two-weeks earlier than planned in northern Puget Sound (9) and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2), which was supposed to stay open through April 30. A decision to close them was inevitable to keep the fishing machine humming again sometime after the New Year.

Ryan Lothrop, the state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound recreational salmon manager said: “In 2015, we had a lot of sub-legals in fisheries, and we don’t want to impact our winter fisheries happening later on. Most agree that we wait until these fish grow larger, and have a more predictable opportunity.”

I’ve been a huge fan of selective salmon fishing for winter blackmouth dating back more than two decades when state fisheries began mass-marking hatchery salmon.

Their objective was to increase opportunities for sport anglers by being able to distinguish the difference between wild unmarked and adipose fin-clipped chinook in fisheries open at certain periods of the year.

While that was all fine and dandy, a decision by state fishery managers a while back to begin assessing ongoing salmon encounters of both sub-legal and legal-size fish, now makes or breaks if anglers can fish for hatchery-produced salmon.

Each marine area has an “encounter ceiling.” As each area nears the ceiling they’re often faced with premature closures especially when the sub-legal catch skyrockets like it did last month.

This has been a hard pill to swallow by anglers especially since millions of dollars are spent by state, tribal and federal agencies to produce and fin-clip hatchery chinook and coho. The lifecycle of these fish is to constantly feed and grow, and eventually get caught. But, since it’s considered a mixed stock of wild and hatchery fish, and with a Puget Sound ESA listing you get the big picture of the situation.

Data taken from Nov. 1-5, showed 495 boats with 889 anglers in Area 9 kept 240 legal-size chinook and released 1,137 sub-legals for a total encounter rate of 1,377 fish. The guideline for encounters is 11,053 fish putting the fishery already at a staggering 88 percent for sub-legals and 12 percent at legal-size fish.

From Nov. 1-5, 98 boats with 172 anglers in Area 8-1 kept 52 legal-size hatchery chinook (plus five unmarked wild fish kept) and released 67 sub-legal size hatchery chinook for a total encounter rate of 124 fish. In Area 8-2, 165 boats with 315 anglers kept 50 legal-size hatchery chinook and released 65 sub-legal size hatchery chinook for 115. The guideline for encounters in both areas is 5,492 fish putting the fishery already at a staggering 88 percent for sub-legals and 12 percent at legal-size fish.

From Nov. 1-5, 73 boats with 162 anglers in Area 10 kept eight legal-size chinook and released 10 sub-legals for a total encounter rate of 18 fish. The guideline for encounters is 5,349 fish putting the fishery at 73 percent for sub-legals and 9 percent at legal-size fish.

NW Salmon Derby Series debuts 2018 boat and schedule

The Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Derby was held Nov. 4-5 that drew 499 anglers who caught 109 chinook averaging 6.22 pounds (146 fish were caught last year averaging 6.55 pounds). About 70 percent of the fish were caught on first day due to the lousy weather conditions by second day. The winner was Adam Burke who caught an 11.89 chinook and took home a check for $4,000.

The winner of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series grand prize $85,000 fully-loaded Hewescraft boat with Honda motors went to Gary March of Worley, Idaho who fished earlier this summer in The Big One Salmon Derby on Lake Coeur d’Alene. In all more than 4,000 anglers were entered in 14 derbies. The story on March is truly a must read, and can be found at http://nmtablog.blogspot.com/2017/11/northwest-salmon-derby-series-grand.html.

Looking toward 2018 we’ve got some exciting news as we introduce a derby to the series, and our new grand prize boat will be a KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on a EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronics Stereo – a $65,000 value.

The 15 derbies in the series starts off with the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 5-7 in Anacortes.

Here is the 2018 Northwest Salmon Derby Series schedule:

•Resurrection Salmon Derby January 5-7
•Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Jan. 18-20
•Friday Harbor Salmon Classic Feb. 8-10
•Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 9-11
•Everett Blackmouth Derby March 17-18
•Bellingham Salmon Derby July 13-15
•The Big One Salmon Derby July 25-29
•Brewster Salmon Derby August 2-5
•South King County PSA Derby August 4
•Gig Harbor PSA Derby August 11
•Vancouver, B.C., Canada Chinook Classic August 18-19
•Edmonds Coho Derby September 8 (Depends on season setting process)
•Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby September 8
•Everett Coho Derby September 22-23 (Depends on season setting process)
•Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby November 3-4

(The 2018 schedule is subject to change)

For additional derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

Dig into more coastal beaches

The next round of coastal razor clam digs have been approved for Friday through Monday (Dec. 1-4) during evening low tides only.

Digging will be open Dec. 1 at Copalis (minus-0.3 feet at 4:42 p.m.); Dec. 2 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.1 at 5:29 p.m.); Dec. 3 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis (-1.6 at 6:15 p.m.); Dec. 4 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.8 at 7:02 p.m.); and Dec. 31 Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks (-1.2 at 5:12 p.m.).

Diggers will find a mixed bag of razor clam sizes – diggers must keep the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition – and the key is if you’re finding small ones in a certain area of the beach don’t be afraid to move to another spot, according to Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.

Despite the a mixed bag it looks like razor clam diggers are finding oodles of clams on coastal beaches.

“The most recent digs (Nov. 2-5) went well, and we had 27,770 digger trips with 366,484 clams dug,” Ayres said. “That comes out to 13.2 clams per person.”

A breakdown by beaches showed Twin Harbors had 5,268 diggers Nov. 3-5 with 73,215 clams for an average of 13.9 clams per person; Copalis had 4,904 with 52,541 Nov. 2 and Nov. 4 for 10.7; Mocrocks had 3m229 with 47,354 Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 for 14.7; and Long Beach had 14,371 with 193,373 Nov. 3-5 for 13.5.

“The crowds were lighter than we had projected and I’m sure the weather forecast scared away some from turning out,” Ayres said. “The exception was Long Beach, which had more than expected, and the folks did quite well. Down the road we might need to back off at Long Beach, but the other beaches were fine.”

After just two series of digs, Long Beach has harvested 36 percent of the total allowable catch for the entire season.

Another dig is planned on Dec. 31, and more digs for January and February will be announced very soon.

Ayres pointed out they’re not seeing any issues with marine toxins like domoic acid, and are likely past the sensitive time of the year.

“We will go ahead with next digs planned in December, and then reassess to make sure we have enough clams for digs after the New Year and in spring,” Ayres said.

Diggers should check for updates on next digs by going to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

Agency OKs Moving Atlantic Salmon Smolts Into Bainbridge Netpen

A month and a half after a commercial netpen failed elsewhere in Puget Sound, state regulators have approved a shipment of 1 million young Atlantic salmon into another floating enclosure here.

WDFW says that Cooke Aquaculture’s facilities in the Bremerton area’s Rich Passage — the site of a protest flotilla in mid-September — were inspected by the Departments of Ecology and Natural Resources and “met structural, water quality, and fish health requirements.”

FARMED ATLANTIC SALMON FROM NORWAY OFFERED FOR SALE AT THE SHORELINE COSTCO RECENTLY; IT WAS PUT BACK IN THE COLD CASE IN HOPES THE EDITOR WOULD CATCH A COHO FOR DINNER INSTEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The agency issued a transportation permit to the company late Monday.

While Governor Jay Inslee has banned permitting new netpens during investigations into why the international conglomerate’s Cypress Island operation broke up in mid-August — there are indications of aging equipment due to be replaced — state laws didn’t preclude moving the “healthy” 12- to 16-month-old fish into another enclosure, according to WDFW.

Cooke had applied in late August to transport the Atlantics from its rearing ponds in Rochester south of Olympia to Clam Bay, even as efforts to capture their 160,000 or so 8- to 10-pound adult escapees were ongoing in the San Juans.

A press release from the Governor’s Office said that Inslee is “very concerned” about the transfer, and called it “disappointing and frustrating” in light of August’s events.

He said his office had asked Cooke to withdraw the permit application “for our tribes, for our citizens, for our environment and for the industry’s long-term prospects.”

Around 305,000 of the market fish were being finished in the Cypress netpens this summer, and 140,000 were recovered inside them after the failure.

Through last week tribal fishermen have netted around 50,000, while hook-and-line anglers reported catching nearly 1,950, with another 3,000 or so caught by nontribal commercial fishermen.

This isn’t to say Atlantics don’t pale in comparison — and in more ways than one — to native Pacific salmon, but the breakout led to numerous wild claims about the fish.

A Sept. 11 initial assessment and Sept. 14 update found Cooke’s fish were “healthy” when the incident occurred, weren’t faring well in Puget Sound based on signs of anorexia, the stomachs of tribally sampled fish were “empty” and no signs of fish pathogens had been found in salmon recovered early on.

There was, however, an interesting note in that report: “Necropsy findings indicate an active inflammatory process of unknown origin originating in the gastrointestinal tract in the later September capture group.”

Neither large escapes from netpens in the 1990s nor directed stocking efforts in the 1980s resulted in breeding populations of the nonnative salmon in Puget Sound rivers.

Cooke will move the young Atlantics from the hatchery to netpen through the fall, according to WDFW, and they will be grown there until mid- to late 2019 before they are harvested.

Editor’s note: An earlier version reported the age of the Atlantics being moved from rearing ponds to Clam Bay as 2 years old, but subsequent information has come in that they will be a year to 16 months old.

 

Areas 9, 10, Ocean, Westport, San Juans Salmon Fishing Report (7-19-17)

Puget Sound salmon anglers did much better on this past Sunday’s Areas 9 and 10 marked Chinook opener, at least in the northern waters and compared to last year’s start of the fishery.

WDFW hasn’t updated its quota stats yet, but according to daily creel sampling tallies, 615 fishermen came into Everett with 202 kings on Sunday, 187 came into Fort Casey with 129 and 234 arrived at Shilshole with 38.

A RUN NORTH FROM LESS PRODUCTIVE CENTRAL SOUND WATERS ON THE JULY 16 OPENER YIELDED THIS NICE HATCHERY KING AT MIDCHANNEL BANK FOR A HAPPY ANGLER. (CHASE GUNNELL)

On the 2016 openers, 96, 36 and 44 Chinook were checked at those same ramps, or .2 kings per angler for the two northern launches and .16 for the southern.

Kingston, which wasn’t monitored on last year’s opener, recorded 26 for 259 anglers.

After poking around in the morning in more southerly waters without success, angler Chase Gunnell and crew ran up to Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend.

“The bite turned on in the latter half of the tide. Kept two nice kings and released a native. Herring Aide Coho Killer behind a moonjelly flasher pulled in two, green, yellow and white Coho Killer behind a red racer got the other one. All fish right off the bottom in 80 to 100 feet. The fish are out there and making their way south!” he said.

Tom Nelson of 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line reported good fishing on the second day too, and was buoyed by reports of Chinook action to the west in the Straits.

As for salmon fishing elsewhere on Washington’s saltwaters, here are this week’s reports from Wendy Beeghley of WDFW (first), John Keizer of Saltpatrol.com (second) and Kevin Klein of Puget Sound Anglers (third):

…………………………………..

Columbia Ocean Area (including Oregon)

A total of 2,006 anglers participated in the all-species salmon fishery July 10-16, landing 307 Chinook and 1,463 coho.  Through July 16, a cumulative total of 2,565 Chinook (19% of the area guideline) and 1,804 coho (9% of the area sub-quota) have been landed.

Westport

A total of 2,239 anglers participated in the all-species salmon fishery July 10-16, landing 284 Chinook and 1,053 coho.  Through July 16, a cumulative total of 1,553 Chinook (7% of the area guideline) and 1,350 coho (9% of the area sub-quota) have been landed.

La Push

A total of 89 anglers participated in the all species salmon fishery July 10-16, landing 67 Chinook and 28 coho.  Through July 16, a cumulative total of 156 Chinook (6% of the area guideline) and 53 coho (5% of the area sub-quota) have been landed.

Neah Bay

A total of 1,999 anglers participated in the all-species salmon fishery July 10-16, landing 2,352 Chinook and 291 coho.  Through July 16, a cumulative total of 4,698 Chinook (60% of the area guideline) and 688 coho (16% of the area sub-quota) have been landed.

……………………………………………………….

Fished Westport Sunday with Jerry Henderson. He caught a nice king and I nailed a decent coho just Northwest of the harbor in 280 feet trolling 100 feet on the downrigger.

(JOHN KEIZER, SALTPATROL.COM)

(JOHN KEIZER, SALTPATROL.COM)

Best action for kings came on a Pro-Troll Flasher with a purple haze squid with 6/0 Mustad hooks tied on 50-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon.

(JOHN KEIZER, SALTPATROL.COM)

We found the coho in the upper 20 to 60 feet of water and we did better pulling a Fish Flash and Herring Aide spoon.

(JOHN KEIZER, SALTPATROL.COM)

Tuna fishing is going full on now with local charters running southwest around 50 miles plugging their boats with albacore tuna.

………………………………………

The Bellingham Puget Sound Angler’s annual salmon derby took place this last weekend. Fishing for hatchery Chinook was anywhere from red hot to ice cold depending on where you were. Kings aren’t all over the Islands right now, but if you land on them, it can be very good fishing. Hoochies, spoons and bait have all been working.

Doug Marr took the $7500 first place prize with a 26.10-pound clipped fish. Alex Davis landed the biggest kid’s division Chinook at 15.42 pounds. The Bellingham Salmon Derby has always been a fun, family friendly event, with proceeds going to a lot of great causes.

Crabbing kicked off on July 15th. It’s been pretty good from most reports. Look for days with soft tides, or drop for a couple hours during a tide change. Dropping pots on a low and letting them soak into the flood can be productive. Our weather has been pretty darn good, and adding some Dungeness into the mix truly makes it feel like summer is here!

Pictures:

(VIA KEVIN KLEIN, PSA)

1. Doug Marr took top prize in the Bellingham Salmon Derby with this 26.10 lb hatchery Chinook. Well done!

(VIA KEVIN KLEIN, PSA)

2. Alex Davis showed up on top of the Kid’s division again with this 15.42 lber. Nice job young man!

(VIA KEVIN KLEIN, PSA)

3. Oliver Marica and family got a crab feed going on the open July 15th. It’s Dungie time!

Large Undocumented Puget Sound Sea Cucumber Harvest Alleged

Jim Unsworth’s monthly update to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission usually provides an interesting glimpse into his agency’s activities around the state, including cases game wardens have been working, and today’s report does not lack in that regard.

Along with highlighting the previously reported investigation of 10 Southwest Washington residents alleged to have poached some 100 deer and bears in Oregon and Washington, it spotlights the alleged undocumented taking of a couple hundred thousand pounds of Puget Sound marine life.

SEA CUCUMBER FROM PUGET SOUND’S SARATOGA PASSAGE. (PFLY, FLICKR, VIA WIKIPEDIA)

Sea cucumber poaching won’t garner the interest that illegal killing of big game or salmon will, but with high consumer demand in overseas markets, there’s a financial incentive to collect and sell more than is otherwise allowed, stressing the resource.

According to WDFW, an investigation that began in late 2015 of a company that buys, packages and sells sea cucumber revealed to agency wildlife detectives “that the amount of cucumbers purchased from commercial fisheries was often as much as 40 percent more than was documented on catch reports (fish receiving tickets).”

The agency says that “months of painstaking analysis” of documents seized under search warrants led detectives to believe that 131,424 pounds of sea cucumbers were harvested but not reported by some tribal fishermen in 2014-15, with 107,537 more pounds went unrecorded during the 2015-16 season.

No locational or tribal information was included in the report.

By comparision, during WDFW’s 2016-17 nontribal commercial fishery, around 350,000 pounds of sea cucumber were harvested in Puget Sound and the Straits — two-thirds or 235,000 pounds of which came from the San Juans district — before quotas were met and seasons were closed.

Additionally, Unsworth’s report alleges that four nontribal fishermen are also suspected of not fully documenting their sea cucumber harvests, selling nearly 15,000 pounds over three seasons, and that a fish buyer “admitted to … collusion” with the quartet.

“The effect these violations had on exceeding the total allowable catch for the fishery is still being determined,” reads the report. “Department biologists have observed classic signs of sea cucumber over-fishing in some areas for quite some time. This includes reduced abundance, reduced catch per unit effort, a diver transition to deeper harvest, and a reduction in the size (weight) of sea cucumbers.”

The report says that felony charges against the four fishermen are being prepared for county prosecutors to review.

WA DNR Chief Raises Concerns Over President’s Proposed Budget

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz sees the potential for serious problems in Washington State if President Trump’s proposed federal budget is adopted.

“This budget undercuts our environment, our economy and our culture. It sabotages decades of Puget Sound restoration, removes protections from our forests and threatens the long-term security of our communities,” the Commissioner said Thursday.

STORM CLOUDS LOOM OVER PUGET SOUND AND A KAYAK ANGLER OFF WHIDBEY ISLAND DURING JULY 2015. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The American people own 12,705,335 acres of Washington State, 28 percent of all the land, 44 percent of forests. Federal investment in those lands helps ensure our environment is safe, our public is protected, and we have rural employment opportunities.

Budget threatens Puget Sound

Among the more startling reductions in the budget are those that would affect Puget Sound, the nation’s largest estuary. President Trump’s budget cuts $28 million dollars of funding dedicated to Puget Sound recovery in the EPA’s Puget Sound Geographic Program, halting efforts to expand wetlands, restore flood plains and remove barriers to fish passage in the 10,000 streams that drain into the Sound.

The Sound is the center of Washington’s $21 billion maritime industry that employs some 69,500 people. More than $80 billion in annual trade flows in and out through its ports, it attracts tourists and trade opportunities from all over the world and sustains a $1 billion fishing and shellfish industry, fueling local economies all along our state’s western coastline. All of those opportunities and industries need healthy water to survive.

Further, this proposed budget zeros out $63 million dollars for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) vital Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund. This cut undoes decades of work to restore wild fish runs, work required by the Endangered Species Act. Since this fund was started in 2000, 2 of the 15 salmon and steelhead populations listed under the Endangered Species Act are almost to their recovery goals. Failure to recover these endangered runs jeopardizes the future of our state’s $1 billion-plus recreational fishing industry, a hit which would be felt all over our state.

The proposed budget also jeopardizes long-standing partnerships. The Puget Sound Partnership matches $9.9 million from the E.P.A.’s National Estuary Program with $7.5 million state dollars to prioritize and achieve projects that make our water, our habitat, and our people healthier. The partnership leverages that money to gather further funding from tribes, local governments and non-government organizations and $1.4 million from NOAA.

Discontinues important research

Through its research, education and technical expertise, the Washington Sea Grant has contributed more than $49 million to Washington’s economy. The proposed budget cuts to NOAA would rob the program of 90 percent of its funding, taking away critical expertise in sustainable fishing and aquaculture from our fishermen and shellfish growers.

Further cuts to NOAA include the National Estuarine Research Reserve system, through which the state has been able to protect the 8,000-acre bed of eelgrass at Padilla Bay, one of the largest in the nation. This is critical habitat that provides the foundation for Puget Sound’s food web, providing habitat for herring and smelt that feed our salmon, shorebirds and iconic orcas. Developing research also shows eelgrass, like that which covers Padilla Bay, can be an important part of adapting to acidifying marine waters, a vital tool in coping with the effects of climate change along our coastline.

Funding vital to shellfish industry

Washington’s shellfish growers export much of the clams, oysters and our famous geoduck – harvested from Washington tidelands – to overseas markets. Our largest geoduck importer, China, sets strict water quality standards in order to accept Washington shellfish. In 2013 China refused to accept Washington geoducks and if that happened again, it could cripple our state’s shellfish industry.

By turning its back on efforts to restore the health of Puget Sound, the Trump administration is putting Washington’s shellfish industry at grave risk. This budget harms local shellfish farmers, the communities in which they live and the ability for the state to generate restoration revenue. This year alone, the Department of Natural Resources generated $25 million dollars in funds used to restore Washington’s waterways from the sale of wild geoduck harvested from state-owned aquatic lands.

Inadequate forest protection

Washington’s oceans, fish and marine trade aren’t the only ones to suffer under this proposed budget. This budget puts our citizens in jeopardy by failing to address the problem of “fire borrowing” in the U.S. Forest Service. In fiscal year 2015, the Forest Service had to use $700 million intended for other programs to pay for wildfire suppression.

By setting the Forest Service’s firefighting budget at the average of the past 10 years, choosing to ignore the reality of the new mega fires we are seeing, especially in Washington State, the administration is basing the protection of our forests on already inadequate spending levels and fails to address the fire borrowing problem.

Washington State and the 100,000 people that work in the forest industry need the Forest Service to have a secure, steady source of funding for forest restoration. Washington has 2.7 million acres of forests that are very vulnerable to fire as disease, drought and insect damage makes them vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires, and half of those at-risk forests are federal forests.

“I urge our congressional delegation to use the spending control the U.S. Constitution provides them to reject the unnecessary and drastic spending cuts put forth by the President’s administration and pass a federal spending plan that honors the promises our federal government has made to the people of our state,” said Commissioner Franz.

WDFW Sets 2017 Puget Sound Spot Shrimp Season

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

Recreational spot shrimp fishing will open May 6 in Puget Sound under seasons announced today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

This year’s Puget Sound shrimp fishing seasons are generally similar to those in 2016 although there will be shorter seasons in some areas of south Puget Sound due to very large catches last season, said Mark O’Toole, a shellfish biologist for WDFW.

(COURTESY KEVIN KLEIN)

Puget Sound recreational shrimp season opening days are:

Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 6, 10, 17 and 20.

Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 6, 10, 17 and 20.

Marine Areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 and 6 (excluding Discovery Bay Shrimp District): Open daily beginning May 6. The recreational spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.

Marine Areas 7 East and 7 South: Open daily May 6-21.

Marine Area 7 West: Open daily beginning May 6. The recreational spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.

Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, and 9: Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 6 and May 17.

Marine Areas 10 and 11: Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 6.

Marine Area 13: Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 6 and 20.

In areas 4, 5, 6, and 7 (East, South and West) start times will be one hour before sunrise.

Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains after the initial fishing days scheduled above. For the latest information on sport shrimp seasons, or for a description of marine areas, visit WDFW’s Recreational Shrimp Fishing website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/shrimp/.

Also known as prawns, spot shrimp are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound and may grow up to nine inches in length. In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day during the month of May. A valid 2017-18 fishing license is required to participate in the fishery.

Latin Lessons, And Other Thoughts On Puget Sound Fishing, Circa 2017

Editor’s note: The following is Tony Floor’s monthly newsletter and is run with permission.

By Tony Floor, Fishing Affairs Director, Northwest Marine Trade Association

I learned a new phrase a few weeks ago which is a Greek saying called “Carpe diem.”

It’s very strange; however, I like the meaning. Carpe diem means to seize the day and put little trust into tomorrow. When I think about the recent outcome a few weeks ago at the annual North of Falcon salmon season setting process, it causes me to want to head to a tattoo shop to have Carpe diem welded on my shoulder!

For those who know me, my attitude towards sport salmon fishing is to focus on what we can do, versus what we can’t do. And, for the second time in as many years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has delivered a semi load of ‘can’t dos’ to the 2017-18 sport salmon fishing season, with emphasis on marine waters from Sekiu to Bellingham.

On the flip side, and to be fair to the North of Falcon outcome, there are a decent amount of ‘Can dos’ which are highlighted by significant improvements in central and northern Puget Sound catch quotas, especially for hatchery-produced Chinook salmon.

So, while you gather information on whether this year’s salmon season package is good or bad, it very much depends on where you like to fish, whether it’s the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, Puget Sound, or all of the above. While you look for a smoking gun, you do not need to look beyond the end of your nose to find good ‘ol Mother Nature holding the gun. The El Niño of 2015-16, with the warm water mass of “The Blob”, caused havoc to salmon survival rates. Last year was the first year anglers were whacked with conservation-based restrictions delivered by Mother Nature. And 2017 will be the second consecutive year of paying the conservation price, which will likely be carried forward through 2018.

May means prawns in most Puget Sound waters as the season opens May 6. Shellfish biologists say this year’s test fisheries showed healthy numbers of spot prawns in most areas. Bob Cannon, Westport, pulled this pot loaded with spot prawns in the San Juan Islands during last year’s opener.

BELLA ANDERSON SHOWS OFF SEVERAL NICE SPOT SHRIMP BROUGHT OUT OF THE DEPTHS OF MARINE AREA 12 ON A PAST OPENER. SHE WAS OUT WITH HER GRANDMA AND GRANDPA, NANCY AND GENE BURDYSHAW. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Back at the turn of the 21st century, many saltwater salmon anglers, including this cat, believed mass marking of Chinook and coho salmon (removal of the adipose fin at salmon hatcheries) would lead anglers to target hatchery-produced fish in expanded seasons while releasing and protecting wild fish. That isn’t necessarily the case today, as expanded closures and sport fishing restrictions have resulted in reducing fishing opportunities in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands for the upcoming seasons despite the evolution of selective fishing for hatchery-produced fish.

Releasing wild Chinook and coho salmon isn’t good enough anymore, especially in the tribes view, which was agreed to by WDFW and witnessed by participants in the discussions between the two parties. Sport salmon fishing closures are becoming the choice of salmon managers in these annual negotiations versus relying on selective fishing. Just ask the sport salmon fishing community in Port Angeles and Sequim as their winter and spring blackmouth fishery for hatchery-produced fin-clipped Chinook salmon went from a five month season to six weeks.

Now that the 2017-2018 salmon season (May 1 through April 30) is set, I recommend careful examination of where you intend to fish for Chinook, coho and pink salmon in the months ahead. Similar to many other years, planning is critically important to opportunity and success.

And by the way, if I’ve left you scratching your head to this writing, HB 1647 is alive in the legislature which proposes to increase your sport salmon fishing license fees beginning April 1, 2018. The Northwest Marine Trade Association and other sport fishing advocacy groups have been working with WDFW, the legislature, and the governor’s office to see if a fee increase is really necessary. If the answer is yes, depending on who you ask, it is our priority to ensure sport fishing priorities and benefits are realized.

Here Comes the Spot Prawn Season

May 6 is just a few days away as serious prawn fishers should be putting the final touches in becoming gear ready for this annual blast. The tides on the opener are unbelievably fantastic as many of us who dig this fishery finalize our prawning plans. The Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, central and northern Puget Sound, along with Hood Canal look good as the result of test fishing by WDFW shellfish biologists. Even south Puget Sound has a robust population, according to the tests, however, there are ongoing challenges by some south Puget Sound tribes who do not support a sport fishery. Get over it.

I warmed up my prawn pots a few weeks ago in Esperanza and Tahsis Inlet on Vancouver Island where the season is open most of the year with a 200 prawns per day limit. Just like home but different.

Trailering a boat to Vancouver Island, or the Gulf Islands from Olympia is not a cake walk in time or expense. However, in my experience, Canada does a great job hosting thousands of Pacific Northwest anglers and the quality of fishing opportunities for salmon, marine fish and shellfish gives anglers an impression that we are welcome in their fisheries.

For several recent decades, Canada has recognized the economic importance of sport fishing which is very refreshing. As a result, they have adjusted their allocations between the troll and the sport fishing fleet increasing opportunity for anglers. And, with the current exchange rate favoring the strength of the U.S. dollar, why not add that card to your hand while developing your fishing strategy in the months ahead.

Sooke, Port Renfrew, Barkley Sound, Tofino, Nootka Sound, and Esperanza Inlet, to name a few. For the last 13 years, I have made the trek to Tahsis in early July to fish coastal waters including the north facing shoreline of Ferrer Island. All day long trolling naked herring off the kelp beds in 50-80 feet of water, down 30 feet on the downrigger, the king salmon go crunchie-munchie. Two kings per angler per day, four in possession. It’s a slam dunk! Sign me up for 2017!

Sort it out, Vernon, the summer salmon fishing season is coming and it’s time to finalize your plans. Carpe diem baby! See you on the water!