Tag Archives: puget sound

Study Shows Importance Of Puget Sound Chinook Production To Starving Orcas

A new analysis is showing the importance of Puget Sound Chinook for the inland sea’s orcas.

Fall kings from the Nooksack to the Deschutes to the Elwha were ranked as the most important current feedstocks for the starving southern residents, followed by Lower Columbia and Strait of Georgia tribs.

A JOINT STATE-FEDERAL ANALYSIS IDENTIFIED THE SNOHOMISH RIVER BASIN AS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PRODUCERS OF CHINOOK FOR LOCAL ORCAS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

For the analysis, NOAA and WDFW sampled orca doots to “assist in prioritizing actions to increase critical prey for the whales.”

Nutritional stress has been identified as among the chief causes of their declining numbers, and the news comes as officials report a newborn calf died off Victoria yesterday. Just half of the 28 reproductive-age “blackfish” have produced calves in the last 10 years, another report said.

“Ramp up the hatchery production. Do it now. It’s the only way,” says Tom Nelson, co-host of Seattle outdoors radio show The Outdoor Line on 710 ESPN.

He was reacting this morning while fishing for coho at Possession Bar to a Seattle Times scoop on the findings.

Reporter Lynda V. Mapes writes that from the standpoint of federal overseers, “In some instances, it might make more sense to focus on habitat restoration rather than increasing hatchery releases, [NOAA’s Lynn] Barre said. “It has to be evaluated on a watershed level … It’s not just ‘let’s make more fish to feed the whales,’ hold on, there are a few things to consider.’”

A MATRIX FROM THE NOAA-WDFW RANKS THE MOST IMPORTANT CHINOOK STOCKS FOR SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES BY BASIN.

Nelson, who has a degree in fisheries biology, acknowledges that the problems salmon and orcas face are highly complex, with few if any single-faceted answers, but with J, K and L pods down to just 75 animals, action is needed right now, and not just restricting already restricted salmon seasons.

“A significant increase in hatchery releases has to happen. Anything else is a long-term fix. The killer whales don’t have time,” Nelson says.

With nine out of every 10 adult Puget Sound Chinook born at, reared in and released from hatcheries, the state is planning on bolstering prroduction, with the Fish and Wildlife Commission making moves towards that, along with adding  protections for orcas from vessels, another key factor in their struggles. Pollutants also play a role.

Both the salmon stock and marine mammals are listed under the Endangered Species Act, which NOAA is charged with enforcing.

But to achieve a meaningful increase in wild Chinook numbers, you have to have better habitat, Nelson says, and that’s unlikely to occur any time soon in our densely populated region.

“If you think you’re going to get everyone to move out of the Central Sound and get it back to presettlement days, you’re dreaming,” Nelson says.

A lot of habitat work is occurring in estuaries, side channels and elsewhere, but results are painfully slow, and that pace could impact the region’s interest in continuing with the much-needed work.

Meanwhile, 89 percent of this year’s forecast of 255,219 fall kings expected to return to Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and Hood Canal rivers are hatchery fish.

KIRAN WALGAMOTT PEERS INTO AN UNUSED RACEWAY AT THE WALLACE SALMON HATCHERY NEAR GOLD BAR. THE FACILITY REARS SUMMER KINGS. CHINOOK PRODUCTION IN WESTERN WASHINGTON IS HALF OF WHAT IT WAS IN 1989 AS HATCHERY PRACTICES HAVE BEEN REFORMED TO HELP WILD STOCKS RECOVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The importance of Puget Sound Chinook — both wild and adipose-fin-clipped hatchery ones — to SRKWs is otherwise obvious because of where they hang out, off the Washington Coast, in the Straits and in the San Juans, where those salmon stocks return through on the way to their home rivers.

Upper and Middle Columbia and Snake upriver brights, and Fraser, Lower Columbia trib and Fraser springers were also highly important stocks, the analysis found.

But they also fed to a degree on Chinook from as far away as the Sacramento and Southeast Alaska.

“We can use this information as a guide, based on the best science, to help inform decisions about how we spend recovery dollars for both salmon and Southern Resident killer whales,” said Chris Yates, Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, in a NOAA news story on the analysis. “We remain committed to recovery of all West Coast salmon stocks, and this helps us understand where we can maximize our resources and partnerships to help killer whales too.”

In the words of one close observer of the salmon world, the whales don’t care if kings have an extra fin or not, yet hatchery production has and probably will face more legal challenges.

With harbor seals and sea lions identified as eating large numbers of Puget Sound Chinook before they can mature into orca fodder, Nelson also called for reducing pinniped numbers, which he says could show results in as few as three years in terms of salmon prey availability for killer whales.

A HARBOR SEAL STEALS A SAN JUANS CHINOOK LITERALLY OFF AN ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

That and hatchery production would also yield more fish for anglers and help WDFW sell more licenses, easing its budget issues.

Plan B At The Bar: Chinook Caught On Central Sound Opener

The plan was to troll the morning high tide on the southwest side of Possession Bar during today’s Central Sound hatchery Chinook opener, and yes, we did that, but while not with the firepower we’d anticipated using, the results were perhaps better.

SCENES FROM TODAY’S MARINE AREAS 9 AND 10 HATCHERY CHINOOK OPENER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Our lone keeper king of the day, a whopping 6-pounder, came on a whole herring behind a diver of all things — plan B — while the spoons and flashers we dragged around off a downrigger at the bar were, shall we say, less successful.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Judging by that and the few we saw caught in our little bubble of operations in PoBar’s salad mixing bowl, we should have just hit Kingston first thing.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

A boat that came in just ahead of us back at Shilshole around noon had five from there, one gent told me, and they had all been caught just north of the ferry lanes on jigs starting around the first drop at 5:45. (It wasn’t clear if they were all kings as I saw the checker only wand one and coho are open and have been biting.)

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Yes, we hit Kingston too after picking up that king, but by then it was feeding time for the dogfish, which ate through our herring supply like wolves on a kill.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

We had given up on trolling and were mooching. It was actually the first time I have ever mooched anything besides beers and probably a few other things, and it was an education.

SOMEBODY NEEDED TO CULL THIS SMALL KING FROM THE GENE POOL. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

I was fishing with Mark Yuasa, a confirmed salmon moocher, and his son Tegan and friend Patrick.

EXTRA HELP WATCHES THE RODS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Mooching is an old Puget Sound Chinook tactic involving a big banana weight and a whole herring on a two-hook rig at the end of a 5- to 6-foot leader.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Yuasa, who is the grow boating rep for the Northwest Marine Trade Association, organizers of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series, and the former Seattle Times fishing reporter, uses a toothpick up the anal vent to help get the spin salmon look for in a wounded bait.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The hooks are pinned through the lower jaw and side.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

His instructions were to let out slowly till you find bottom, crank up eight times and then let the bait sit a bit before another five cranks, maybe a 30-second pause, and repeat.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

If the fishfinder is showing lots of bait, stop halfway up and drop the set-up back in and repeat.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

There was definitely a lot of bait off Kingston but another species was quite eager to get after it, the aforementioned dogs.

But even so, salmon were being caught there. Skippers Justin Wong’s and Keith Robbins’ crews had a few, including a reputedly nice-sized one.

Back at Shilshole, one of the two WDFW checkers had seen 18 fish for 18 boats when I asked for a score update around noon.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I didn’t get the other checker’s tally but hers would have improved considerably with the aforementioned five-fish boat.

Today’s king opener encompassed Marine Areas 9 and 10 outside Elliott Bay.

The Chinook quota for the former (5,663) took a hit from my circle of angling acquaintances, with one report of three from Midchannel by 7 a.m. and another of a trio from the PNP area by noon.

The latter area’s stoppage point, 4,743, well up from last year, will likely hold longer.

Whether you are heading for your local bar, eddy or elsewhere, it can pay to be prepared with a plan B and C. Thanks to Mark’s, we’re eating well tonight.

Yuasa Excited By July’s Westside Chinook, Crabbing Ops

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 salmon anglers, the thrill of a fish peeling line off the reel in July resembles a sugar rush, free-for-all in the candy store.

I’m hooked on that feeling and judging by the early signs we experienced last month in open salmon fishing areas, there’s enthusiasm in the air of what lies ahead from the coast clear into Puget Sound.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

I harken back to my early college days when summer was a three-month, job-free fishing affair with many fond memories created at a nearby lake, river or a marine area from Sekiu to Elliott Bay and many stops in between.

It was a great time when being young and willing to live on two hours of sleep just to be on the water by 4 a.m. and staying out until well after dark was simply a rite of passage. I confess it’s been more than three decades since those hey-days and while I can’t quite kick up the rpm’s like I did in the past, I still live for those glory moments.

A rush of early excitement occurred in June with the spotlight beaming brightly on south-central Puget Sound in the Tacoma area (Marine Catch Area 11), central Puget Sound (10) and the Tulalip Bubble Fishery (8-2) where fishing took off right when it opened.

“This early part of the summer reminds me of what we used to see in the good old days,” said Art Tachell, the manager of the Point Defiance Park Boathouse in Tacoma.

The catch estimates for south central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 11) since it reopened June 1 for salmon fishing are 756 fish retained under a catch quota of 5,344. Fishing action has been slow to fair for a mix of resident chinook, 5 to 8 pounds, and kings, 10 to 18 pounds, since the initial opener and the dogfish were thick off the Clay Banks at Point Defiance.

In Area 11, 448 boats with 718 anglers June 1-3 caught 242 hatchery-marked chinook and released 315 chinook for a total of 557 chinook encounters; and 1,042 boats with 1,520 anglers June 4-10 caught 512 hatchery-marked chinook and two unmarked chinook and released 666 hatchery-marked chinook for a total of 1,180 chinook encounters.

This year’s projection of 227,420 hatchery chinook migrating to Puget Sound is up 21 percent from the 10-year average and a 35 percent boost over last year.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca opened July 1 off Sekiu (5) for salmon, and Port Angeles opens July 3. Sekiu is the main intersection of fish runs heading east into Puget Sound and south to the Columbia River and beyond. In the past few years, Port Angeles has gotten off to a hot start and the hope is for another blissful season.

Many are licking their chops on what should be a “summer to remember” for hatchery kings in northern Puget Sound (9) and central Puget Sound (10).

The Area 9 summer hatchery king fishery has a 5,563 quota – which is a similar figure to the 2017 quota and up from 3,056 in 2016. Modeling by WDFW staff suggested this change would likely result in a shorter 2018 season given the forecast of increased hatchery chinook in the area.

“I’ll be happy if the Area 9 hatchery chinook fishery lasts two weeks,” said Mark Baltzell, a WDFW salmon manager. “It was lights out king fishing at Midchannel Bank (last summer) and that seems the place to be when it opens in July.”

Many will focus their time in late July and August in Area 10 that has a cap of 4,743 hatchery chinook.

Shore-bound anglers can get in on the action with numerous piers scattered across Puget Sound that are open year-round for salmon. The Edmonds Pier has already been producing fish since early-June. The steep drop-offs around the Point No Point Lighthouse offer an easy cast to prime fishing holes.

The San Juan Islands are open until July 31 for hatchery kings, and switches to wild and hatchery kings from Aug. 1 through Sept. 3.

Hood Canal south of Ayock Point is open through Sept. 30 with a liberal four-hatchery chinook daily limit. The forecast is 57,558 up from 48,300 in 2017 with many kings destined for the George Adams and Hoodsport hatcheries.

The coastal chinook and hatchery coho fishery got underway on June 23 at Ilwaco (1), La Push (3), and Neah Bay (4). Westport (2) opened July 1 where salmon fishing is allowed Sundays through Thursdays. All areas close Sept. 3 or when the quota is achieved.

“We’ve had some decent success rates up north for the commercial trollers in Area 4 (Neah Bay and La Push), but pretty scratchy fishing in other areas to the south,” said Wendy Beeghly, the head WDFW coastal salmon manager. “I’m expecting (the sport fishery) will start off a little slow, but we might find some fish up north in Area 4.”

Commercial trollers fishing off the coast since May reported the salmon are there one day and gone the next, according to Beeghly with nothing consistent and no huge schools of fish at this point.

“Based on what we forecasted for chinook returns this year we expect it to be a little slow this summer, but that doesn’t always indicate anything, and we will have to wait and see,” Beeghly said.

A downtrend in Columbia River salmon returns could result in mixed success for coastal anglers although “paper fish” forecasts have been proven wrong in the past, so watch for catch trends each week to see when’s a good time to go.

In between the Puget Sound salmon action, be sure to bring along the crab pots for a chance at some tasty Dungies!

Areas 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 and 12 are open through Sept. 3. Area 4 east of Bonilla-Tatoosh line and 5 are open through Sept. 3. Area 7 South opens July 14 through Sept. 30, and 7 North is open Aug. 16 through Sept. 30. Fishing is allowed Thursdays to Mondays of each week only (closed on July 4). Areas 11 and 13 are closed this summer due to a poor Dungeness crab abundance.

Lastly, some local rivers were bursting at the seams with kings and sockeye; and follow the trout plants in lakes at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Summer Dungeness crabbing underway

The highly popular Dungeness crab season has started in many Puget Sound areas and the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Neah Bay to Sekiu.

Don Velasquez, a WDFW Puget Sound shellfish manager says crabbing should be good this summer in marine waterways north of Seattle.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Fishing in open areas will be allowed Thursdays to Mondays of each week (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays). The crab fishery is closed on July 4. South-central and southern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 11 and 13) are closed this summer due to a poor Dungeness crab abundance.

The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca around Port Angeles (6); Deception Pass (8-1); Port Susan/Everett (8-2); northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (9); central Puget Sound (10); and Hood Canal (12) are open through Sept. 3.

The western Strait of Juan de Fuca from Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh Island boundary to Sekiu (4 and 5) are open through Sept. 3.

The San Juan Islands/Bellingham (7 South) are open July 14 through Sept. 30, and the San Juan Islands “Gulf of Georgia” (7 North) are open Aug. 16 through Sept. 30.

In all inland marine catch areas, the total Dungeness crab harvested in 2017 season was 9,285,912 pounds in all fisheries compared to 10,645,000 in 2016.

This comes on the heel of an all-time record catch in 2015 when state and tribal Puget Sound Dungeness crab fisheries landed 11.8 million pounds, exceeding the previous 2014 record by 1.2 million pounds.

General Puget Sound rules are crab pots may not set or pulled from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.

Crabbers must immediately write down their catch record cards after retaining Dungeness crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.

Catch record cards are not required to fish for Dungeness crab in the Columbia River or on the Washington coast.

The daily limit in Puget Sound is five male Dungeness crab in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches.

Fishermen may also keep six red rock crab of either sex daily, and each must measure at least 5 inches. For more information go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

Anglers start your motors! The PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby is July 13-15 and Big One Salmon Derby is July 25-29 at Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Those will be followed by the Brewster Salmon Derby on Aug. 2-5; South King County PSA Derby on Aug. 4; Gig Harbor PSA Derby on Aug. 11; and the Vancouver, B.C. Canada Chinook Classic on Aug. 18-19.

It’s also not too soon to start getting excited about coho in September. I’ve confirmed the PSA Edmonds Coho Derby is Sept. 8, and the biggest derby on West Coast – the Everett Coho Derby is Sept. 22-23.

That is where we’ll draw the lucky name to win a grand-prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp and 9.9hp motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It is fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, a WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronic Stereo. Details: www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

Now it’s time for me to take that first bite of chewy goodness in a “PayDay” candy bar and bee-line out the door to see if I can score a fish or two. See you on the water!

Crab Pots And Ferry Lanes A Bad Combo

WDFW’s asking crabbers not to set pots in the paths of or around the docks of state ferries and do a better job weighting them, saying that last summer three of the big car and people transporters were disabled due to tangles with crab lines.

The message comes out as the five-day-a-week Dungeness season is set to open June 30 in central and northern Puget Sound waters, and in mid-July and mid-August in portions of the San Juans.

A FERRY LOOMS IN THE FOG IN FRONT OF CRABBERS HEADING INTO THE SAN JUANS FOR THE DAY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It also follows in the wake of a report this spring that a side-scan of the bottom near Anacortes found 614 derelict pots, pointing to the need for shellfishermen to take more care about how and where they deploy the devices.

“We need crabbers to help prevent conflicts with ferries as they hit the water this year,” said Captain Dan Chadwick in a press release.

According to a WSDOT manager quoted by WDFW, last summer the ferry Salish sustained damage to its propulsion system from crab pots that resulted in around 800 canceled sailings as boats on other routes were shifted to make up for the loss of it while repairs were made.

CRABBER RIVER WALGAMOTT WAVES TO A FERRY AS HE HEADS BACK TO ANACORTES AND THE BOAT SERVICES THE ISLANDS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

If I’m starting to sound preachy and like your dad, I apologize, but there are few things more maddening than waiting for a ferry and I’d prefer that we weren’t catching the blame for it.

So here are six tips that Chadwick offered that not only will help ensure the big boats keep running their routes but help cut down on our lost pots:

They are:

Add Weight to Lines – Propellers can sever or wrap up a line floating along the surface. Use sinking lines when possible, and add weight to keep floating lines off the surface.

Know Water Depth – The easiest way to lose a pot is to drop one in water deeper than the length of line attached. Use a line that is one-third longer than the water depth to keep pots from floating away.

Watch Pots – Stay close to dropped crab pots to ensure all are accounted for at the end of the day.

Add Extra Weights to Crab Pots – In many instances, adding just 10 pounds of weight can help recreational crab pots stay put.

Use Escape Cord – Biodegradable cotton cord, which is required on all pots, will degrade and allow crabs to escape if a pot is lost.

Identify Crab Pots – All recreational crab pot buoys must have the crab fisher’s name and address on them, and a phone number is recommended.

By harvest stat, some of the best crabbing occurs in the San Juans, which are only connected to the mainland by the Anacortes ferries, which make stops at Lopez, Orcas, Shaw, Friday Harbor, and Sydney, BC.

But it’s also good in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2, at the south end of which is the Mukilteo-Clinton run.

In Area 9 are the Keystone-Port Townsend and Edmonds-Kingston routes, while in Area 10 there are several between Seattle, Bainbridge and Vashon Islands and the Kitsap Peninsula.

Areas 11 and 13 are closed this year.

Crabbing is open Thurs.-Mon. As July 4 falls on a Wednesday, crabbing won’t be open that day.

To report lost pots without fear of penalty, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/enforcement/lost_gear/ or call (855) 542-3935.

To report poaching, call (877) 933-9847.

Aerial Pics Show Many Anchovy, Baitfish Schools In Parts Of Sound

My first thought was, holy moly, we’ve found the resident coho hot spots!

My second was, what the heck kind of schools of fish are those anyway?

A SCREENSHOT FROM A DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY PDF SHOWS SCHOOLS OF BAITFISH OFF THE PURDY SPIT WEST OF TACOMA. (DOE)

Numerous pods can be seen in aerial images of Puget Sound from last month.

One set of shots was taken in upper Henderson Bay, off Allen Point and the waters just south of the Purdy Spit, the other on either side of Keyport, on the Kitsap Peninsula.

The photos were included in the Department of Ecology’s latest Eyes Over Puget Sound report, a monthly check-in on environmental conditions in the inland sea.

It tracks water quality, freshwater inputs and coastal upwellings, comparing them across the years.

Also monitored are surface conditions, such as those bright-orange “tomato soup” algae blooms that are turning up, as well as marine debris, sediment plumes, jellyfish and the aforementioned schools of fish.

ANOTHER SCREENSHOT FROM EYES OVER PUGET SOUND SHOWS MORE SCHOOLS NEAR KEYPORT. (DOE)

My interest primarily revolved around the old fisherman’s refrain: coho love baitfish, so where you find bait, you find the salmon.

The question was, which prey species would be good to approximate in one’s lure selection?!

Were those herring? I asked James Losee, a WDFW South Sound fisheries biologist. There are several known spawning beaches down his way.

Sandlance? Surf smelt?

I’ve caught Puget Sound coho utterly stuffed with herring; on this year’s June 1 opener I somehow snagged a sandlance with my Buzz Bomb/Yo-Zuri squid set-up; and last year I landed a silver that was digesting a pile perch.

When Losee got back to me, it was with the name of a species I would not have guessed.

“The majority of these groups of fish are anchovies but are also composed of other forage (bait) fish,” he told me via email.

Anchovies? In Puget Sound?

Say what, James?!?

A SCHOOL OF ANCHOVIES. (OAR/NATIONAL UNDERSEA RESEARCH PROGRAM/WIKIMEDIA)

I consider myself a fairly close observer of the Northwest’s natural world and I initially did not recall ever hearing of the thin, filter-feeding plankton eaters in Pugetropolis, except as a pizza topping option when ordering from Pagliacci’s.

I do know that anchovies are an important ocean salmon feedstock up and down the West Coast, moving into the mouth of the Columbia River and other bays to spawn.

It turns out that at one time they were also “a predominant forage species” in what is the Lower 48’s largest estuary by water volume, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

In December 2016, their Western Fisheries Research Center spotlighted the Whulge’s forage fish in a report that includes this 1894 quote from an anonymous observer:

“The anchovy come to Puget Sound in enormous quantities, and … every bay and inlet is crowded with them … I have known them to be in such masses at Port Hadlock that they could be dipped up with a common water bucket.”

As you may have guessed, anchovy abundance is believed to be way down from historic levels, as everything good here is.

But in recent years it’s actually been increasing — “dramatically,” says USGS.

Back in 2009, a longtime flyrodder posted he was noticing more.

In May, the Northwest Treaty Tribes blogged that an anchovy population boom in 2015 might have helped more Nisqually steelhead smolts sneak past all the harbor seals.

And last year, “thousands” turned up dead on a Hood Canal beach after a heat wave.

When I pulled up more Eyes Over Puget Sound monthly reports to see if schools showed up in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 late-spring aerials, the answer was:

Jellyfish, yes — and how;
Fish, not really, till this spring.

There’s a lot of grim news out there about Puget Sound these days — drugged-up mussels and Chinook, starving orcas, too much shoreline armoring, etc., etc.  — but WDFW’s Losee says that “exciting things” are also happening here from “a prey resource point of view.”

“The fluctuating patterns of plankton association with pink salmon abundance and the increasing numbers of forage fish and ‘resident’ life histories like blackmouth and resident coho,” he clarified. “Still a lot to try and understand as patterns are complex but seeing schools of anchovies is a good start.”

I know that seeing them from the air is pretty cool too.

Summer 2018 Puget Sound Crab Seasons Announced; No Crabbing Weds., July 4

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today announced Puget Sound summer crab-fishing seasons, which get underway June 16 with an opening in two marine areas.

MARINE AREA 8-2, WHERE LOGAN, CHAD, KYLE AND PAYSON HAULED THESE DUNGIES LAST YEAR, IS AMONG THE MARINE AREAS WHERE CRABBING SEASON WILL OPEN JUNE 30. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay – East of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line) and 5 (Sekiu) open for sport crabbing Saturday, June 16.  Many other areas of the Sound will open for recreational crab fishing on June 30, although two areas around the San Juan Islands open later in the summer to protect molting crab.

Summer seasons for the upcoming fishery are posted on WDFW’s crab-fishing website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/. The website includes details on fishing regulations, as well as an educational video on crabbing.

WDFW continues to monitor crab abundance throughout Puget Sound and manages crab fisheries to maintain healthy populations, said Bob Sizemore, shellfish policy lead for WDFW.

“Crabbing should be good again this year in several areas of Puget Sound,” he said.

Recreational crabbing will be open Thursdays through Mondays each week. Crabbing is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week, which means crabbers should be aware that no sport crab fisheries will be open Wednesday, July 4. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.

Crab seasons are scheduled as follows:

  • Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), and 5 (Sekiu): Open June 16 through Sept. 3.
  • Marine areas 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), 8-1 (Deception Pass), 8-2 (Port Susan/Everett), 9 (Port Gamble and Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), and 12 (Hood Canal):  Open June 30 through Sept. 3.
  • Marine Area 7 South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham): Open July 14 through Sept. 30.
  • Marine Area 7 North (Gulf of Georgia): Open Aug. 16 through Sept. 30.

The following areas are closed this season:

  • Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (south Puget Sound): These areas are closed to promote recovery of Dungeness crab populations in those areas. WDFW provided more information about the closure in a previous news release available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/may1018a/.

The daily limit throughout Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Crab fishers may not set or pull shellfish gear from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise.

Puget Sound crabbers are required to record their harvest of Dungeness crab on their catch record cards immediately after retaining crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.

Catch record cards are not required to fish for Dungeness crab in the Columbia River or on the Washington coast, where crabbing is open year-round.

High Number Of Lost Crab Pots Off Anacortes Highlights Problem

When the boys and I go up to Anacortes to crab with writer Wayne Heinz and Lucie Fritz, Wayne will tell us that on the mid-July opener it’s as easy as putt-putting a couple hundred yards out of Cap Sante Marina and sending down baited pots.

In late summer, when we go, we have to run further out to find plentiful Dungeness and red rocks, but Wayne’s observation of how popular and productive these close-in waters are was really in evidence a couple weeks ago on Facebook.

(NORTHWEST STRAITS INITIATIVE)

The Northwest Straits Initiative Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Project posted a map that showed the locations of 614 lost crab pots from just outside the marina east into Padilla Bay and north towards the western tip of Samish Island.

Discovered by sidescanning sonar, nearly all of the pots were in depths of less than 60 feet.

Crews have since begun to haul these up — some unfortunately still fishing with dead crabs as bait — and that was the subject of a story last night on KOMO News.

“It’s probably about the highest density we’ve seen. It’s a quite a big number,” Jason Morgan of the Northwest Straits Foundation told reporter Michelle Esteban.

HIGH NUMBERS OF LOST CRAB POTS WERE FOUND IN THE WATERS OUTSIDE CAP SANTE MARINA. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Morgan told her it’s a “perfect storm” of heavily trafficked waters — in addition to the marina, tankers deliver oil to the refinery and this is the northern end of the Swinomish Channel cutoff — strong tide swings through the islands and proximity to deeper waters.

No doubt that some pots are actually pilfered, but Esteban reports that crab cages are lost “mostly due to user-error — namely not weighting the pots, using the wrong line and unfamiliarity with tide and depth.”

When we go, before dropping pots, Wayne and Lucie keep a close eye on their Lowrance to note the depth and choose the right length of rope. They pick one that has plenty of scope to account for tide and current and thus will keep the pot on bottom while floating their oversized buoy. And then they put a waypoint on the map to return to.

WAYNE HEINZ AND RIVER WALGAMOTT SEND A CRAB POT INTO THE DEPTHS IN THE SAN JUANS. EXPERTS ADVISE USING LEADED ROPE, EXTRA LINE TO ACCOUNT FOR TIDES AND CURRENTS AND WEIGHTED POTS SO THAT IT’S LESS LIKELY POTS WILL BE LOST. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Yet as the old saying goes, stuff happens. WDFW reports that every year, crabbers lose 12,000 pots.

This is not to overlook the problem of derelict commercial gillnets. The Northwest Straits Initiative reports that at Point Roberts alone, “abandoned nets were destroying $437,000 worth of crab every season.”

But between all the lost pots just outside Anacortes and this summer’s closure at the other end of Puget Sound due to low numbers of Dungeness, it shows we need to be more careful with managing the fishery and how we’re fishing for them if we want to pass this tradition along to future generations.

A FULL POT IS A HAPPY POT, BUT A LOST POT CAN GO ON KILLING AS DEAD CRABS ATTRACT MORE CRABS THAT DIE AND ATTRACT MORE CRABS THAT … (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

To that end, the lost pot recoverers have kindly posted a series of videos with great tips on how to not only lose less gear but catch more crabs.

And if you do lose gear — again, stuff happens — or come across somebody else’s, there are no-fault reporting hotlines to call or enter locational information to make it easier to haul out of the depths so it doesn’t go on killing endlessly.

KIRAN WALGAMOTT SHOWS OFF A DRAWING OF A RED ROCK CRAB, WHICH HE LOVES TO TRY AND CATCH AS WELL AS EAT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Yuasa Reviews Washington 2018 Salmon Seasons, Looks Ahead To Halibut, Shrimping

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

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

The months are flying by faster than a coho hitting your bait in the prop wash.

It felt like “Yesterday” – an ode to a classic Beatles song – when we gathered in Lacey on Feb. 27 to see what the salmon forecasts had in store for us. Now a season package is “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” – did you say Stevie Wonder? – for anglers to digest and begin making plans on where to wet a line.

The process known as “North of Falcon” (NOF) culminated April 6-11 in Portland, Oregon, and I was on-hand as a sport-fishing observer.

JUSTIN WONG HOLDS UP A NICE KING SALMON HE CAUGHT LAST SUMMER IN THE OCEAN OFF WESTPORT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

When proposed seasons came to light in mid-March it was like a feisty trophy king tugging on end of a line, which after a long battle unhooked itself at the boat causing the lead weight to smack you right in the eye.

While grief and a swollen black eye set in, you might have been down in the dumps. But, my mantra has been to never whine about what you can’t do or lost (the trophy king in paragraph above), and more on making the most of the present moment.

Life throws you lemons so make sweet lemonade because if you don’t your head will go into a swift-moving tidal tail-spin and turn your fishing line into a messy tangled web of hurt.

The initial good news is environmental conditions – El Nino, warm water temperatures, a “Blob” and droughts – that have plagued us with restrictions going back to 2015-16 appear to be in the rear-view mirror.

Secondly, was the warmth (albeit mixed feelings by some NOF attendees) of unity and transparency between user groups despite a usual difference in opinions over how the whole pie of sport, tribal and non-tribal fisheries was divvied up.

These are signals of “baby steps” in a complicated process that long has been filled with arguments, bitterness, cultural indifference, protests and a fight over that “last salmon” dating back to Boldt Decision.

The true litmus test of how long this “hand-holding” philosophy will last between all parties is essential as we move forward to ensure our iconic Pacific Northwest salmon runs will be around for generations to come. Even more so as we carry the torch of a long-term Puget Sound Chinook Management Plan to the federal fishery agency’s table later this year, which will dictate how we fish from 2019 to 2029 and beyond.

“Now that we’ve finished this process we need to work on being responsible with conservation, habitat issues and simply change our philosophy to create a long-term management plan,” Ron Warren, the WDFW salmon policy coordinator said at conclusion of Portland meetings.

While being mindful of that briny future, let’s go over highlights of our fisheries at hand.

A positive are extended seasons – something that hasn’t happened for several years – for hatchery coho in northern Puget Sound (Area 9) from July through September, and non-select coho in central Puget Sound (Area 10) from June through mid-November. The Puget Sound coho forecast is 557,149.

Another shining star is a South Sound hatchery chinook forecast of 227,420 up 21 percent from 10-year average and a 35 percent increase from 2017.

The northern Puget Sound summer hatchery chinook catch quota is 5,563 – a similar figure to 2017 – and is expected to last one-month when it opens in July.

The elevated forecast is a blessing when south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) opens June 1 especially in popular Tacoma-Vashon Island area. A central Puget Sound hatchery chinook fishery starts July 16 with a cap of 4,743. Area 10 has a coho directed fishery in June at popular places such as Jefferson Head-Edmonds area.

A hatchery king season opens at Sekiu on July 1, and Port Angeles on July 3. Both switch to hatchery coho in mid-August through September.

A summer king fishery in San Juan Islands (Area 7) opens July to August, but September is chinook non-retention.

Late-summer and early-fall coho fisheries will occur in Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 11, 12 and 13.

On coast, Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay open daily starting June 23, and Westport opens Sundays to Thursdays beginning July 1. Hatchery coho quotas are same as 2017 although chinook quotas are down a decent amount. The popular Buoy 10 salmon fishery opens Aug. 1.

On freshwater scene, a sockeye forecast of 35,002 to Baker River is strong enough to allow fisheries in Baker Lake from July 7-Sept. 7, and a section of Skagit River from June 16-July 15.

The Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie open Sept. 16 for coho. Sections of Skykomish, Skagit and Cascade open for hatchery chinook beginning June 1. For details on seasons, visit WDFW at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Bounty of May fishing options

There’s nothing more exciting than pulling up a pot loaded with prawn-size spot shrimp during a season that begins May 5.

“I am more positive this year on our spot shrimp projections than the last couple of years,” said Mark O’Toole, a WDFW biologist who is retiring May 18 after an illustrious 36 years with the department, and many thanks for your valued input on shrimp and other fish policies!

BIG PRAWN-SIZE SPOT SHRIMP COME INTO PLAY IN THE MONTHS AHEAD AROUND THE PUGET SOUND REGION. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“In general, last year was another good season with relatively high abundance,” he said. “The catch per boat ended up being higher for all areas.”

Look for good shrimping in Strait; San Juan Islands; east side of Whidbey Island; central, south-central and northern Puget Sound; and Hood Canal. Test fishing conducted this spring showed marginal abundance in southern Puget Sound.

Hit pause button on spring chores since trout fishing in statewide lowland lakes is now underway.

Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist says 460,000 trout went into Puget Sound region lakes on top of 500-plus statewide lakes planted with 16,840,269 trout – 2,171,307 of them are the standardized size averaging about 11 inches compared to 8-inches in past seasons.

If you prefer a large-sized halibut then head out on May 11. The Washington catch quota is 225,366 pounds down from 237,762 in 2017, and a bump up from 214,110 in 2016, 2015 and 2014. Dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Strait/Puget Sound are May 11, 13, 25 and 27. Depending on catches other dates are June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30. Ilwaco opens May 3 with fishing allowed Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Once you get your halibut fix add some black rockfish and lingcod to the cooler. Ilwaco, Westport, Neah Bay and La Push are open for both, and some Puget Sound areas are open for lingcod.

NW Salmon Derby Series hits pause button

While we take a break from a spectacular winter derby series be sure to keep sight of the PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15.

2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES GRAND PRIZE BOAT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

More great news is Edmonds Coho Derby on Sept. 8 and Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 22-23 – the largest derby on West Coast – are likely back on “must do” list. In mean time, check out derby’s grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp motor and 9.9hp trolling motor at Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show on May 17-20 at Cap Sante Marina. The $65,000 boat also comes on an EZ-loader trailer, and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’m sprinting out the door with rod in hand so see you on the water!

Steelhead Smolts (And Their Sponsors) Set To Try And ‘Survive The Sound’ Again

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM LONG LIVE THE KINGS

Local nonprofit Long Live the Kings (LLTK) has launched Survive the Sound, an interactive game that lets local residents “race” steelhead as they make their annual migration through the Puget Sound. All proceeds help fund LLTK research and conservation efforts to rebuild salmon and steelhead populations in areas of critical need.

STEELHEAD SMOLTS WILL ONCE AGAIN TRY TO MAKE IT OUT OF PUGET SOUND, AND FOR THE SECOND YEAR THE PUBLIC CAN FOLLOW THEIR JOURNEY THROUGH FISH THEY CAN SPONSOR. (SURVIVE THE SOUND)

Steelhead are now at 10 percent of their historic abundance, due in part to the many threats they face on their way through the Puget Sound: predators, disease, and habitat destruction. During this spring’s steelhead migration, Puget Sound residents can make a difference by sponsoring a fish (or a whole school of them) through an interactive game, Survive the Sound.

Sponsoring a steelhead allows players to track their progress to the finish line via the Survive the Sound website. Players can compete with friends, family and colleagues to see if their pick survive the migration to the Puget Sound – it’s like fantasy football for fish. And the stakes are high on this dangerous journey. Last year, just six of 48 steelhead survived. People looking to join must lock in their picks by May 6 to play.

LTTK has worked for more than 30 years on research and conservation efforts to rebuild salmon and steelhead populations. Participation in Survive the Sound helps LLTK bring the game to local classrooms for free–engaging students in local conservation efforts. This year the resources will reach more than 30,000 students.

“As the Washington State fish, it is up to all of us to help protect wild steelhead – they need all the help they can get,” said Michael Schmidt, Deputy Director of Long Live the Kings. “By using an interactive gaming platform, Survive the Sound gives local residents and kids the opportunity to learn about the major threats to salmon and steelhead populations, make a difference, and have fun while doing so.”

The Survive the Sound migration runs from May 7-18. Players can also create their own team to raise funds for steelhead recovery efforts or spark friendly competition at work by challenging colleagues. Registration closes May 6.

Support of Survive the Sound helps LLTK continue their work to ensure that wild salmon and steelhead remain a vital part of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem for years to come.

For more information on Survive the Sound, visit www.survivethesound.org.

Puget Sound Shrimp Season Opening May 5

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

Recreational shrimp fishing will open May 5 in Puget Sound under seasons announced today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

PUGET SOUND SHRIMPERS LIKE ROWAN ANDERSON CAN START DROPPING POTS FOR SPOTS STARTING MAY 5. ANDERSON WAS SHRIMPING WITH HER GREAT-GRANDFATHER, GENE BURDYSHAW, A COUPLE SEASONS AGO IN HOOD CANAL. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

This year’s Puget Sound shrimp fishing seasons are generally similar to those in 2017, said Mark O’Toole, a shellfish biologist for WDFW, noting that he expects a strong turnout by shrimp fishers – especially on opening day.

“Because this is such a popular fishery, boat ramps can get pretty crowded on the opener,” he said. “As always, we ask that people be patient at the ramps and wait their turn.”

In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 shrimp a day (if open) during the month of May. A valid 2018-19 combination license, shellfish license, or Fish Washington license is required to participate in the fishery.

More information on sport shrimp seasons, and a description of the marine areas, is available on WDFW’s recreational shrimp fishing website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/shrimp/.

Though the season opens May 5 for all shrimp (spot, pink and coonstripe shrimp), people are mostly fishing for spot shrimp. Also known as prawns, spot shrimp are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound and may grow up to nine inches in length.

O’Toole said shrimpers should be aware that traps can only be set or pulled from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset each day in areas 4, 5, and 6 (except for the Discovery Bay Shrimp District), as well as marine areas 7 East, South and West. On opening day, one hour before sunrise is approximately 4:40 a.m.

Puget Sound recreational shrimp season opening days are:

  • Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (western Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 6 (Port Angeles Harbor, eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, excluding the Discovery Bay Shrimp District): Open daily beginning May 5. The recreational spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.
  • Marine Area 6 (Discovery Bay Shrimp District): Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 5, 9, 12, and 23.
  • Marine areas 7 East (northern Rosario Strait, Bellingham Bay, Sucia and Matia islands, Strait of Georgia) and 7 South (Iceberg Point, Point Colville, Biz Point, Salmon Bank): Open May 5May 9-12, and May 23-26.
  • Marine Area 7 West (San Juan Channel, Spieden Channel, Stuart and Waldron islands): Open daily beginningMay 5. The recreational spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.
  • Marine Areas 8-1 (Saratoga Passage, Deception Pass) and 8-2 (Port Susan, Port Gardner, Everett): Open from7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 5, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 9.
  • Marine Area 9 (Edmonds, Port Townsend Bay, Admiralty Inlet): Open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on May 5, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 9.
  • Marine Area 10 (Elliott Bay): Open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 5 (this is the portion of Marine Area 10 east of a line from West Point to Alki Point).
  • Marine Area 10 (outside Elliott Bay): Open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on May 5 (this is the portion of Marine Area 10 west of a line from West Point to Alki Point, which includes the Bainbridge Island shrimp fishing grounds).
  • Marine Area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island): Open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on May 5.
  • Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal Shrimp District): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 5, 9, 12, and 23.
  • Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound, Carr Inlet): Open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on May 5, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.on May 9.

Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains after the initial fishing days scheduled above.