Tag Archives: puget sound

Study Finds Side Channel Restoration One Key For Puget Sound Chinook Recovery

THE FOLLOWING IS A NEWS STORY FROM THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE

Teasing apart the elements of Puget Sound rivers that matter most to fish, researchers have found that one of the best ways to recover threatened Chinook salmon may be to restore the winding side channels that once gave young fish essential rearing habitat and refuge from high winter flows.

Models were based on fine-scale river mapping and tracking salmon populations across Puget Sound. They showed that habitat restoration projects in the Cedar River southeast of Seattle could boost the number of young Chinook salmon produced by each spawning adult by adding side channel habitat.

BRAIDS OF THE SAUK RIVER BETWEEN DARRINGTON AND ROCKPORT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Additional side channels and other habitat improvements also appear to help stabilize salmon numbers, making them less vulnerable to flooding or other extreme conditions that may come more often with climate change.

“The risk of those extreme catastrophes is lessened because the water can spread out and slow down, with less impact to the fish,” said Correigh Greene, a research biologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and coauthor of the The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site new research published last week in PLOS ONE. The team of scientists from NOAA Fisheries, Cramer Fish Sciences, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife used aerial photographs to chart and measure each twist and turn of 10 of Puget Sound’s largest rivers, from the Skagit to the Dungeness, and relate them to Chinook salmon populations.

Restoring Habitat Key To Salmon Recovery

The findings also provide important confirmation that restoring Chinook salmon habitat, a key recovery strategy for Puget Sound populations, can deliver real improvements in their survival and productivity.

“We now know that there is a detectable response to habitat restoration that can inform our decisions about how to pursue recovery and dedicate funding where it will do the most good for fish,” said Elizabeth Babcock, Northern Puget Sound Branch Chief in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, who helps carry out recovery plans for threatened Puget Sound Chinook salmon.

River Complexity Leads to Better Salmon Habitat

Biologists view the braided networks of side channels that are common in natural rivers in the Northwest as evidence of a river’s “complexity,” which also includes deep pools, outcrops, and log jams, all of which provide important habitat for juvenile and adult fish. Generally, the more complexity a river displays, the better habitat it will provide for fish, because they can more easily find refuge and rearing habitat when they need it.

Many Puget Sound rivers have suffered reduced complexity through years of development as dikes, roads, and riprap have hemmed them into straight, narrow channels with far less room. That leaves less refuge for juvenile fish to grow before migrating into the Salish Sea.

A SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS SHOWS A STRAIGHT, DREDGED STRETCH OF THE SAMMAMISH RIVER BETWEEN WOODINVILLE AND REDMOND. (GOOGLE MAPS)

Of all the factors that contribute to a river’s complexity, the researchers found that side channels and the number of junctions among them, and to a lesser extent woody material such as log jams, are most important to Chinook salmon. More complex rivers are generally slower than narrow rivers with impervious banks, so the juvenile salmon aren’t swept downstream faster than they’re ready to go. The more habitat complexity, the researchers found, the higher the productivity of Chinook salmon populations.

Models Can Help Plan and Track Habitat Restoration

“Once we link habitat metrics to meaningful productivity metrics, we can start to answer some of the big questions, such as, “How much restoration achieves recovery, and what qualities do you most want to focus on,” said Jason Hall, a senior scientist at Cramer Fish Sciences and lead author of the new study. He noted that the answers may differ from species to species and river to river. Habitat complexity also appeared to reduce fluctuations in salmon numbers from year to year, “supporting the idea that habitat complexity buffers populations from annual variation in environmental conditions,” the scientists wrote.

Habitat protection and restoration along the Cedar River, which provides much of Seattle’s municipal water, is an example of the kind of restoration that can help recover Puget Sound Chinook salmon in the long run, Greene said. Understanding the habitat qualities most important to fish helps estimate “how much we have to do to move the needle over the whole life cycle.” The same mapping and modeling approach that was demonstrated by the research can help plan and track the benefits of other restoration occurring in estuaries and along Puget Sound’s shorelines, the authors said.

IN A RELATED STORY OUT TODAY, SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES SAYS THAT A  PAIR OF CHINOOK WERE SPOTTED IN A SECTION OF THORNTON CREEK THAT WAS RESTORED IN 2014 TO BE BETTER SPAWNING HABITAT AND THAT THE TWO WERE THE FIRST OF THEIR SPECIES SEEN IN THE URBAN STREAM IN EIGHT YEARS. (SPU)

“If you have funding for restoration, where can you spend it to deliver the best benefit for fish?” Babcock asked. “We’re finally starting to have better answers to that question.”

NWIFC Rolls Out New ‘Tribal Habitat Strategy’ For Westside

Western Washington tribes are launching an ambitious, coordinated, long-term effort to identify and restore key salmon habitats as well as gauge land-use decisions in the region.

THE COVER OF THE NORTHWEST INDIAN FISHERIES COMMISSION’S NEW “TRIBAL HABITAT STRATEGY” REPORT SHOWS A KITSAP COUNTY CULVERT ON CARPENTER CREEK THAT HAS SINCE BEEN REMOVED, IMPROVING FISH PASSAGE AND ESTUARY FUNCTION. (NWIFC)

Called “gw?dzadad” (gwa-za-did) or “teachings of our ancestors” in Lushootseed, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission rolled out its Tribal Habitat Strategy today.

“The effort is based on what we know is actually needed to achieve ecosystem health, not what we think is possible to achieve given current habitat conditions. It is not a retreat to the past, but a long-term vision for a future with healthy resources for everyone,” writes Lorraine Loomis, NWIFC chair, in her monthly Being Frank column.

A 12-page PDF outlines the plan’s overall tasks and key goals, and makes recommendations for the Pacific, Puget Sound and other inland waters, floodplains and riparian areas, and water quality.

It builds on two previous projects, 2011’s Treaty Rights at Risk Initiative that took to task the federal government, and the State of our Watersheds reports, which found salmon habitat is being lost faster than it’s being replaced.

Calling for a “change in the way we do business,” an NWIFC story map says that the ultimate goal is to reverse the loss of that habitat.

The strategy aims to “(use) data to hold landowners, developers and regulators responsible for the habitat needed to recover salmon and meet tribal treaty obligations.”

Loomis says that recovering Chinook, coho, steelhead and other stocks will take all of the region’s residents.

“That is why we are also building a coalition of sport and commercial fishermen, conservation groups and others to collaborate on solving our shared concerns about the future of salmon,” she writes.

Strait, San Juans, North Sound To Reopen For Dungeness

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

Some areas of Puget Sound will reopen for recreational crab fishing on Oct. 6, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

A POT FULL OF SAN JUANS CRABS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The late-season crab openings were approved by fishery managers after summer catch assessments by WDFW indicated additional crab are available for harvest, said Don Velasquez, shellfish manager for the department.

Areas opening to sport crabbing on Oct. 6 include marine areas 4 (Neah Bay, east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardiner), and 9 (Admiralty Inlet), except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff.

In each of these areas, crabbing will be allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31.

Sport crabbing will be closed in marine areas 10 (Seattle Bremerton), 11 (Vashon Island), 12 (Hood Canal), 13 (South Puget Sound), and in the remainder of Marine Area 9.

Maps and descriptions of the two sections of Marine Area 9 are on the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/area.php?id=16.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

All Dungeness crab caught in the late-season fishery must be recorded immediately on winter catch cards, which are valid through Dec. 31. Winter cards are free to those with crab endorsements and are available at license vendors across the state.

Winter crab catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2019. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/crc.html.

October’s Not Just For Hunting: Lots Of Salmon Fishing, Clamming Ops — Yuasa

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

Anglers who live in the Pacific Northwest have plenty of year-round fishing opportunities to rave about.

As an outdoor journalist this means my word count on stories never dwindles month-to-month and I’m constantly heading to the pencil sharpener to make sure the end of the No. 2 has enough lead to jot down my “slimy” scribbles on a notepad.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Now let’s keep this writing streak going as there’s still a “boatload” of time to hit your favorite fishing holes before the winter holidays roll around.

Fundamentally it’s all about decisions, decisions on where to go and what you want to catch!

On top of the autumn decision list is salmon in local marine waterways like central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 10) open through Nov. 15 for coho or chum or south-central Puget Sound (11) open through April 30 for a salmon trio of coho, chum and hatchery-marked chinook.

Last month an unexpected nice coho return streamed into Puget Sound creating a fishing frenzy and keep in mind the caboose on this “silver streak” is still sitting somewhere out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This past winter, WDFW biologists predicted a coho return of 557,149 (249,174 wild and 307,975 hatchery), and the actual run size could be larger than what appeared in the crystal ball.
Add to the fishing equation in the coming weeks a hard-fighting fall chum – better known as dog salmon for their gnarly, toothy jaw line at spawning time – with an expected Puget Sound return of 1,216,031.

We rolled out the red carpet for the Puget Sound hatchery kings this past summer, and there’s no doubt the good times will keep on rolling for our next salmon royalty well into next month and beyond.

Look for coho and chum in Area 10 at Jefferson Head, West Point south of Shilshole Bay, Point Monroe, Allen Bank off Blake Island and Southworth.

Further south in Area 11 anglers can score a hat trick (a coho, chum and hatchery chinook) by hitting Colvos Passage, Point Dalco, the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park, Redondo Beach and Three Tree Point.

As the days get shorter heading into winter be sure to watch the chum catch rates soar at estuaries off Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet, Johns Creek in Oakland Bay, Hoodsport Hatchery in Hood Canal, Chico Creek in Dyes Inlet and Curly Creek near Southworth.

Other chum fishing holes are North Bay near Allyn, Perry Creek in Eld Inlet, Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park, and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.

Your other marine salmon options are Hood Canal (13) open now through April 30 and southern Puget Sound (13) open year-round.

Anglers will also begin targeting migrating salmon in local rivers like the Skagit and Snohomish river systems – closed in 2016 and 2017 for coho – as well as the Chehalis, Clearwater, Bogachiel, Calawah, Green, Humptulips, Hoh, Queets, Quinault, Sol Duc and Wynoochee. Anglers should consult the WDFW regulation pamphlet or app for what is open and what types of salmon species you can target in each river.

Winter Dungeness crab outlook

If you like to fish for winter Dungeness crab as much as I do, then pay close attention to a forthcoming announcement from WDFW in the weeks ahead about a possible winter crab fishing season.

“Hopefully we’ll have a preliminary estimate soon so we can make decisions on a winter crab season,” said Don Velasquez, a WDFW Puget Sound shellfish manager.

Fishing areas with crab remaining on their annual allocation, will re-open, seven days a week through the end of this year. However, if the entire annual sport catch quota was taken or if it was closed this past summer, then it’s game over this winter.

“Some said crabbing was fine and others were asking what’s wrong,” Velasquez said. “We had a mixed bag of reports from Area 7 (San Juan Islands) and 8-1 and 8-2 (east side of Whidbey Island) had an average year.”

Velasquez said sport anglers who got out during the July opener in Area 9 (northern Puget Sound) benefitted with good catches as the tribal fisheries didn’t get out until a couple weeks later. Preseason test fisheries conducted by WDFW in Area 10 (central Puget Sound) showed a low abundance of crab thus leading to poor success this past summer.

For more information, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/.

Tentative dates set for first-half of coastal razor clam season

The tentative coastal razor clam digging dates have been set and Long Beach will see a very brief 2018-19 season although WDFW shellfish managers are hopeful it is just be a gap year.
WDFW attribute this decline of razor clams to low salinity levels from Columbia River freshwater run-off along the southern-most beaches.

There is no shortage of razor clams at Long Beach with about 330,000 clams available for harvest in 2018-19, but 80 percent of them are less than 2-inches long.

On the other-hand coastal beaches to the north look robust for the upcoming fall and winter digs.

Twin Harbors is in good shape, and Copalis and Mocrocks beaches razor clam populations are up over last year.

WDFW is working with Olympic National Park staff to assess possible digging dates on Kalaloch Beach.

Upcoming digs are reliant on testing for marine toxins known as domoic acid — a natural marine toxin produced by certain types of marine algae that can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities.

Domoic acid levels remained well under the 20 parts-per-million cutoff ranging from 0.0 to 2.0.

Here are the proposed evening low tide digging dates, and final approval will be announced about one or two weeks before each series of digs:

Oct. 11, 13, 26 and 28 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Oct. 12, 25 and 27 at Twin Harbors and Copalis.

Nov. 8, 10, 23 and 25 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Nov. 9, 11 and 22 at Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Nov. 24 at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks.

Dec. 6, 8, 21 and 23 at Twin Harbors and Copalis; Dec. 7, 9 and 20 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Dec. 22 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.

For details, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclam.

NW Salmon Derby Series ends on high note and a look ahead to 2019

It has been an extremely busy 2018 season with the NW Chevy Dealer Silverado truck and fully-loaded KingFisher boat traveling across the Pacific Northwest!

In all we had 14 derbies including our newest – the Brewster Salmon Derby Aug. 2-5 on the Columbia River – and returnees after a two-year hiatus were the Edmonds PSA Coho Derby and the Everett Coho Derby with each drawing thousands of anglers.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

We had a total of 6,585 anglers entered into the derby series, and the winner of the fully-loaded, grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Series boat powered with Honda motor on an EZ Loader Trailer.

Winner of the Everett Coho Derby – which lured 1,694 adult and 201 youth participants with 548 coho averaging 7.04 pounds on Oct. 22-23. Winner was Michael Rien with a 13.27-pound coho worth $10,000! Also congratulations to the youth winner Baron Kuehlwein with a 10.79-pound coho worth $300!

For the second year in a row the winner of the grand prize derby boat hails from the Big One Salmon Derby in Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho! Joshua Stokes who is an avid angler from Post Falls, Idaho, has fished the Big One Salmon Derby for as long as he can remember.

A huge “thank you” goes out to all our sponsors that also include Scotty Downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; WhoDat Tower; Dual Electronic Stereo; Tom-n-Jerry’s Marine; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News PSA; Outdoor Emporium/Sportco; Harbor Marine; Silver Horde; Prism Graphics; and Salmon, Steelhead Journal.
We’ve got a lot of exciting news on the plate for the 2019 derby series and we’ll be making announcements very soon so stay tuned!

For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.
In the meantime, the days may be getting shorter as we head into fall and winter, but there’s nothing like a feisty coho or chum salmon tugging on the end of the fishing line.

I’ll see you on the water!

Tacoma-area Seafood Buyer Sentenced To Jail, Must Pay $1.5m For Illegal Sea Cucumber Buys

It’s not your typical poaching case, but the owner of a Tacoma-area seafood processing business was sentenced today to two years in prison for buying and selling 250,000 pounds of sea cucumbers illegally harvested in Puget Sound in recent years.

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

Hoon Namkoong of Orient Seafood Production of Fife, “one of the leading wholesale buyers of sea cucumbers” in Washington, must also pay the state and tribes $1.5 million in restitution.

That figure is equal to how much the 62-year-old’s company profited from selling the echinoderms to other businesses in the U.S. and Asia between August 2014 and November 2016.

“This defendant lined his pockets by purchasing and selling illegally harvested sea cucumbers equal to as much as 20 percent of the total allowed statewide harvest,” said U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes in a press release. “This illegal activity damages the health of the Puget Sound ecosystem by endangering the sustainability of the sea cucumber population. Illegal harvesting undermines quotas designed to protect the resource and keep the Sound healthy for our children and generations to come.”

We first reported on the case in June 2017 when the joint state-federal investigation came to light through a WDFW Director’s report.

State fish police had begun investigating Namkoong’s company in late 2015 and found that the poundage of sea cucumbers being purchased from tribal and nontribal divers was “often as much as 40 percent more than was documented on catch reports (fish receiving tickets).”

Falsifying fish tickets and illegally selling natural resources is a violation of the Lacey Act.

A federal sentencing memorandum terms Namkoong “the hub and common player among at least four non-tribal fishers and more than thirty Lummi tribal fishers who conspired to cheat the system,” and says he “profited far more richly from the scheme than any of his co-conspirators.”

According to court documents, the value of the sea cucumbers has risen from $2 a pound 25 years ago to $5 a pound today with the rise of demand. Namkoong was buying product for $4.50 a pound with cash or checks.

The activities came at a time that concerned fishery managers were lowering quotas for legal harvesters due to sea cucumber declines, but the illegal picking was actually increasing.

“It is no wonder, then, that we have failed to see signs of recovery as a result of the work of sea cucumber managers and the sacrifices of the lawfully compliant harvesters. Because we do not see recovery signs, we are forced to continue to reduce harvest. Therefore, the illegal activity continues to threaten the sustainability of the fishery and results in direct economic damage to lawful harvesters and seafood buyers,” wrote WDFW’s Henry Carson, who was the state manager when the poaching was taking place, in sentencing documents.

The case has led to friction between fishery overseers.

“The illegal harvest scheme has damaged the complex relationship between state and tribal managers, policy makers, and enforcement,” Carson wrote. “The disagreements have not only been between tribes and the State, but also among tribes.”

According to a federal sentencing document, nontribal divers involved in the scheme “received suspended or converted prison sentences for felony convictions (or in one case a gross misdemeanor),” while tribal divers “were charged with civil infractions.”

“Despite not regularly fishing for sea cucumbers … the alleged illegal harvest has caused harm to our tribes and may continue to do so for years to come,” wrote Randy Harder of the Point No Point Treaty Council in sentencing documents, adding, “Damage done to the resource could stretch out for years.”

 

With 4 Orcas In Sensitive Condition, NOAA Asking Boaters To Give ‘Extra’ Space

With another killer whale losing weight but at least three others recently discovered to be pregnant, federal officials are asking boaters to give the pods an even wider berth.

NOAA reports that a late-20s male appears thinner since losing its mother last year, which could be making foraging more difficult.

IMAGES FROM NOAA SHOW A “NOTICEABLY THINNER” ORCA KNOWN AS J25. (NOAA)

“While the decline in K25’s body condition is not as severe as we saw with J50 this summer, it is a warning signal,” said Lynn Barre, the recovery coordinator for resident orcas.

J50 was a three-year-old southern resident that is now believed to have died.

The agency says it will track the animal’s condition, collect poop samples if it can and otherwise try to minimize disturbing it.

The average life span of a bull orca is 30 years.

Meanwhile, NOAA says that at least one female in J, K and L Pods is pregnant, “vital news.”

(NOAA)

“We ask that vessels minimize disturbance of these pregnant whales, in addition to K25, to maximize the chances of successful pregnancies,” said Scott Rumsey, the deputy West Coast region administrator.

The news comes as salmon fishing is just about wrapped up in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juans, where this coming Sunday, Sept. 30, is the final day of coho season.  That’s also when crabbing closes in the islands.

And it follows yesterday’s release for public comment of potential recommendations on what to do to increase prey availability, operate vessels and clean up contaminants that could be affecting killer whale survival in Puget Sound.

Federal regs require boaters to stay 200 yards from whales, and earlier this year WDFW created a voluntary no-go zone on the west side of San Juan Island, and

2019 Washington Halibut Seasons Subject Of Upcoming Public Meeting

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will host a public meeting in Montesano in early October to discuss management options and select proposed dates for the 2019 statewide halibut season.

LA PUSH HALIBUT ANGLERS SHOW OFF A GOOD GRADE OF FISH CAUGHT ON A SPRING 2018 OUTING. (DAVE ANDERSON)

The meeting will be held Oct. 9 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Montesano City Hall, 112 N. Main St.

State halibut managers will provide an overview of specific options under consideration by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) for recreational fisheries in Marine Areas 1 (Columbia River) and 2 (Westport) for 2019. WDFW will consider public comments received on those options in developing recommendations to the PFMC before the federally established council meets in November.

“The options reflect suggestions made by anglers to improve the state’s halibut fishery,” said Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for WDFW. “The halibut fishery is very popular and this meeting is a good opportunity to provide input.”

In addition to status quo, options under consideration include:

Revising the season opening date in Marine Area 1 (Columbia River) so that it aligns more closely with the openings in other marine areas.

Changing the number of days of the week the Marine Area 1 (Columbia River) all-depth fishery is open from three days per week to two.

Clarifying that the nearshore fishery in Marine Area 2 (Westport) will open if sufficient quota remains after the all-depth fishery closes.

At the Oct. 9 meeting, WDFW will also solicit input from the public and facilitate a discussion on the proposed season dates for the statewide season in Marine Areas 2-10. As part of those discussions, WDFW staff will review the tide calendars for next May and June and work to balance the needs across various fishing communities and charter and private fishing interests.

During the discussion, factors considered will include maximizing opportunity, extending the season length, and accommodating traditions relative to opening dates and planned fishing derbies.

More information about the specific options described above can be found online at https://www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/J1b_Supp_WDFW_Rpt1_SEPTBB2018.pdf

For more information on the season-setting process visit PFMC’s website at http://www.pcouncil.org/pacific-halibut/background-information/.

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!