Tag Archives: salmon

New Strategy To Boost Crashing Lake Sammamish Kokanee

THE FOLLOWING IS A KING COUNTY PRESS RELEASE

A partnership coordinated by King County released juvenile kokanee into Lake Sammamish after holding the rare native salmon in a controlled hatchery longer than usual to increase their chances for survival. Snoqualmie Tribe representatives released the first few 6-inch-long kokanee from a canoe Wednesday evening after a performing a traditional song.

SIX-INCH-LONG KOKANEE AWAIT RELEASE INTO LAKE SAMMAMISH. (KING COUNTY)

It is one of several emergency actions that partners are taking to ensure the survival of the native salmon after a sudden, alarming decline in the number of spawners returning to Lake Sammamish streams in recent years.

“We are deploying every available resource and trying new techniques in a united effort to save this little native salmon that has plied our lakes and streams since time immemorial,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “It reflects the urgent work we are doing throughout the entire watershed – from the Cascades to Puget Sound – to protect and restore our natural environment.”

The 3,000 fish are the offspring of adult Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon captured during the 2018-19 spawning run, from October through January. Those adult fish were spawned at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, where a portion of the young were raised until their release.

Another portion of the offspring from last season’s spawning run were transferred into a private pond along the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish. Fish in both locations were fed and protected from predators with netting.

The wild-hatched siblings of these fish moved from the small streams where they began life buried in a gravel nest along the stream’s bottom down into Lake Sammamish soon after hatching. Once in the lake, the inch-long kokanee faced becoming a meal to larger fish, including non-native predators that have been introduced to the lake, or birds.

Two more-serious threats that young kokanee have to overcome in Lake Sammamish every summer are warm water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels. These conditions tend to force the fish into narrow bands of cooler, oxygen-rich water, making them more susceptible to the lethal effects of predators and disease.

Scientists believe these inhospitable conditions could be largely responsible for the sharp decline in native Lake Sammamish kokanee – from more than 18,000 adult fish on the spawning grounds in 2017 to just under 120 this past season.

Executive Constantine announced in 2018 that King County would work with partners to implement recommendations by the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group, a broad coalition that includes residents who live in the watershed, the Snoqualmie Tribe, the cities of Bellevue, Issaquah, Sammamish, and Redmond, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks, Trout Unlimited, Mid-Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Save Lake Sammamish, Friends of Pine Lake, Friends of Sammamish State Park, and others.

Partners released kokanee after sunset far from the lakeshore so the juvenile salmon are safer from voracious non-native predator fish, such as yellow perch.

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

The kokanee run that occurs in November and December – known as “the late run” – is the only remaining native run. Biologists believe the other two runs that historically occurred between late August and early November have been extinct since the 2000s.

Northern Pike In Washington Reclassified At Highest Threat Level

Esox lucius is very much piscis non grata in Washington these days.

Northern pike were reclassified as a prohibited level 1 species, the highest designation, by the Fish and Wildlife Commission late last week, a move that will focus more resources on the fight to keep the “highly invasive” species out of the Columbia below Chief Joseph Dam and other state waters.

THE COLVILLE TRIBES CAPTURED THIS 28.2-POUND NORTHERN PIKE IN LAKE ROOSEVELT’S SANPOIL ARM EARLIER THIS YEAR. (COLVILLE TRIBES)

“The gist is that moving from level 3 to level 1 allows for higher level actions to address things, to eradicate them once they get into the anadromous zone,” says WDFW’s Eric Winther.

It means that when pike get into the waters where salmon and steelhead smolts swim downstream of the dam, the governor can declare an environmental emergency, which would trigger a wider mobilization of resources.

It’s another sign of how seriously fishery managers are taking the situation.

Illegally introduced pike have been slowly moving down the Pend Oreille and Upper Columbia over the past 15 years or so and are creeping closer and closer to Grand Coulee Dam.

It’s all but inevitable they will get below Chief Joe, and to that end, Winther has been tasked with coming up with a rapid response plan  and says measures could include gillnetting.

That has already proven to be effective for targeting spawning flats on Lake Roosevelt and Box Canyon Reservoir, where pike gather in spring, he says.

As area tribes, WDFW, public utility districts have teamed up to control pike, knowledge of where northerns go to procreate is increasing.

Winther says other possibilities could include chemical treatments, though he notes rotenoning would be difficult in the Columbia outside of perhaps isolated bays, while long-line fishing is also being considered.

He says that elevating pike to level 1 also means that eDNA tools can be brought into the battle. A newfangled type of early-warning system, essentially the environment — water in this case — can be scanned for traces of pike poo, scales, mucus, etc., etc.

Even as Caspian terns, walleye, harbor seals and other piscovores chomp down heavily on young Chinook, coho, steelhead and other seagoing fish, the relatively early stage of the pike outbreak and their lower numbers mean we’re in a better place than with those other issues.

“Once you’ve got a problem, it costs a lot more to deal with it,” Winther says.

Pike prefer to eat fish with soft rays, like salmonids, which are hugely important to sport and commercial fishermen and tribal fishermen, and more and more emphasis is also being placed on getting more Chinook into the ocean for starving southern resident orcas to eat as returning adults.

Winther says that the state Invasive Species Council will be requesting money for eDNA testing as well.

The change in classification was approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission during its conference call last Friday. It was first reported by the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Winther says that he hopes to have the response plan out for review by the end of the year.

In the meanwhile, efforts will also be made to increase public awareness about the danger of northern pike through brochures, stickers and sportsmen’s shows.

It’s believed that the fish were illegally introduced into the Pend Oreille River from Idaho’s Lake Couer d’Alene system, where they’d been illegally introduced after being illegally introduced in western Montana waters.

“We’re letting people (who catch one) know to kill it and report it. That helps us get a handle on this,” Winther says.

There is no limit on pike in Washington. As I once advised after a bass angler inexplicably released one illegally placed into Lake Washington, if you catch a northern, “Slash its gills, slit its belly, hack it in half, singe the carcass over high heat.”

KNOW YOUR ENEMY! NORTHERN PIKE ARE BROWNISH WITH LIGHTER, OVALISH SPOTS. THEIR DORSAL FIN IS PUSHED BACK TOWARDS THE TAIL. (MUCKLESHOOT TRIBE VIA DFW)

Editor’s note: The initial version of this blog misreported the new classification of pike as level 3. Rather, they were reclassified as a level 1 prohibited species. We regret the error.

Northwest Fishing Derbies Contracting, Expanding With Times

As organizers of a Thanksgiving-week-long steelhead derby are cancelling their event, fishing for different species is being added to a salmon series.

Signs of the times?

“We do think the inconsistency of the fish counts has had an impact on that,” Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Kristin Kemak reportedly said about a recent decision to call off the Snake Clearwater Steelhead Derby, apparently for good.

DURING MUCH BETTER TIMES FOR BIG B-RUN STEELHEAD, INLAND NORTHWEST ANGLERS FLOCKED TO LEWISTON TO FISH IN THE THANKSGIVING-WEEK-LONG DERBY. (BRIAN LULL)

At one time, the event was billed as the “nation’s largest steelhead derby” and it attracted anglers from wide and far to catch B-runs that pushed towards the 20-pound mark.

“It was once a major fundraiser. Now the efforts we put in to host the event outweigh the financial benefit of doing so,” Kemak also said, according to Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune who broke the news.

TABLES AWAIT PARTICIPANTS IN 2013’S SNAKE CLEARWATER STEELHEAD DERBY, WHEN IT WAS SPONSORED BY A LEWISTON CHEVROLET DEALER. (BRIAN LULL)

Recent years have been tough on the event due to poor returns of steelhead up the Snake. That’s led managers to institute bag limit reductions, closures, reopeners, and 28-inch maximums to protect B-runs, typically larger than A-runs, which only spend a year in the salt.

This season there’s a blanket closure on all fishing for steelhead — even catch-and-release — on the Clearwater and Washington and Idaho’s Snake up to the Couse Creek boat launch in Hells Canyon. The B return is forecast to come in at just 4,500, including 1,700 unclipped fish, and is the lowest on record back through at least 1984, with less returning than hatchery broodstock goals and “no surplus to provide a fishery,” per IDFG.

Above Couse Creek the limit is one hatchery fish a day, 28 inches or less, with anglers required to stop after retaining it or a fall Chinook.

BRENDA BONFIELD OF CUSTOMWELD SPEAKS DURING 2013’S DERBY CEREMONIES. A POSTER BEHIND HER DESCRIBES THE DERBY AS THE “NATION’S LARGEST” FOR STEELHEAD. (BRIAN LULL)

The chamber of commerce instead plans to hold an outdoor cookoff on Saturday, Nov. 16, according to Barker.

Meanwhile, the Northwest Salmon Derby Series announced some “big news” yesterday, including a substantial expansion into the Beaver State.

We’re hitting the refresh button on 2020 series and it will be renamed the ‘Northwest Fishing Derby Series’ that will likely include a spring-time lingcod derby in Oregon and a kokanee-trout derby on Lake Chelan, plus a couple more additions,” Mark Yuasa of the Seattle-based Northwest Marine Trade Association wrote in his monthly newsletter.

Next year’s schedule already lists a pair of late March lingcod and rockfish derbies out of Charleston and Brookings, as well as the recently rejuvenated Slam’n Salmon Derby in the latter port.

The dozen and a half or so events in the series are typically run by local clubs, but entry into any one automatically puts your name in the hat for the derby series’ grand prize, a brand-new boat, with Yuasa announcing that 2020’s will be a KingFisher 2025 Hardtop.

The winner is traditionally drawn at the late September Everett Coho Derby and this year’s $75,000 boat-trailer-electronics package was won by Trevor Everitt.

The series, of which Northwest Sportsman is a sponsor, has also been victim to uncertain runs in recent years, with local sponsors having to call off the Edmonds and Everett events due to coho closures, and organizers of the Brewster derby unsure they could hold theirs — until nearly the last minute in the case of this year.

For those local fishing clubs, it hurts to lose key fundraisers.

With low fall Chinook runs expected on the Oregon Coast, the U Da Man Fishing Tournament decided to cancel their October salmon derby on Yaquina Bay back in June instead of pressure the run, even as doing so would “severely” deplete the organization’s funds to do other fish-friendly projects.

UDM still plans to raffle off a drift boat to try and raise money for those.

Undoubtedly as salmon and steelhead runs come out of the current downcycle, derbies will expand and new ones will come online, but for the moment, some are falling by the wayside while others are looking to embrace other species.

Puget Sound Coho Managers Seeing ‘Mixed Signals’ In 2019 Run

Good luck figuring out what’s up with this year’s Puget Sound coho run.

It’s continuing to give off “mixed signals,” but for the moment it appears there won’t be another post-5 p.m.-Friday-afternoon major rule change emailed out, like last week.

CHAD AND LOGAN SMITH SHOW OFF A SILVER THEY CAUGHT DURING LAST WEEKEND’S EVERETT COHO DERBY. WEIGHING IN AT 7.73 POUNDS, IT WAS THE 75TH LARGEST OF THE 930 ENTERED. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

WDFW’s Mark Baltzell apologized to sportfisher advisors for that during a conference call late this morning, saying the decision to drop saltwater limits from two to one had been made “pretty quick.”

He also detailed how the region’s returns are performing so far, and while nowhere can be said to be looking great, only one system appears to be eliciting real concern, the Duwamish-Green.

It’s a bit on the early side to parse much from returns to its Soos Creek Hatchery, but Baltzell said that Muckleshoot catches have been 20 percent or less than what the tribe had expected given the forecast, with half their fishermen apparently not bothering to burn gas to set nets in the lower river or bay, he added.

Some sport anglers are reporting catching silvers in the river, but others are also struggling to get a bite.

Many of the jumpers in the DGR also appear to be on the smaller side, and that’s definitely the case over on the Quilcene, where adult returns to the national fish hatchery are not very far ahead of jacks, 6,413 to 5,984, the highest ratio in recent memory. Whether that’s good news for next year is a good question.

Granted that it was cancelled in 2016 and 2017, but while last weekend’s Everett Coho Derby did see the largest overall catch since 2012, 930, the average size fish weighed in was also the second smallest to 2015’s notoriously little coho, 5.4 pounds to 4.54 pounds.

Smaller, hungry fish can be snappier than larger ones, driving up catch rates, but also have fewer eggs to lay, reducing a run’s overall productivity.

As for other weirdness, Sekiu anglers were having to weed through “20 to 30” wild coho for every clipped one, a sportfishing advisor reported during today’s call. That had the effect of diminishing interest in making the long haul into the western Straits.

If this year’s run is late, like some believe, it would seem to be overwhelmingly wild, which would not be a bad thing either.

During the call Baltzell said that a regression correlation model developed by the late Steve Thiesfeld to gauge Puget Sound returns from Sekiu catches fell apart in 2015, the Blob year, and he’s been “reluctant” to bring it out again.

On Pugetropolis rivers, Baltzell said Nooksack coho “seem to be doing OK” and putting out “decent catches,” though tribal results have been below expectations.

On the Skagit, the hatchery return to Marblemount is “doing OK,” with the Cascade “full of fish,” he reported.

Creel samplers and game wardens working the Stillaguamish are finding “some effort” but “not a lot caught,” he said.

On the Snohomish system, numbers at the Wallace Hatchery are “doing OK,” with 3,000 or 4,000 coho that “had to be chased” out of the holding pens to collect summer kings for spawning, he reported.

Baltzell added that down at the mouth Tulalip fishermen were seeing relatively low catches in their nets. Further up anglers are doing OK with Dick Nites and other lures.

Snohomish coho were federally listed as an overfished stock and state and tribal managers are trying to rebuild the run, setting a higher escapement goal this year. Salmon angling on the system only only runs through Monday, Sept. 30.

Ballard Locks counts for Lake Washington coho haven’t been updated for about a week, but are comparable to the 10-year average.

And the Puyallup appears to have a split personality, with the White River’s return “gangbusters” — Bill Dowell at the Army Corps of Engineers says that through this morning, 10,198 have been passed over Mud Mountain Dam* —  but not so much for the mainstem, Baltzell indicated.

“Puget Sound wide, it looks like we overforecasted, but that is yet to be determined,” he summarized to sportfishing advisors.

One trolled the idea of returning the limit on Puget Sound to two, arguing that if eggtake goals are met at Soos Creek, concerns on the Duwamish would thus be addressed. Baltzell didn’t have an immediate answer, but essentially said it might raise issues with the comanagers.

Besides most of the abovementioned rivers, Marine Areas 8-1, 10, 12 and 13 will remain open for coho retention in October. Some are still being caught in the salt.

*IN OTHER PUGETROPOLIS SALMON NEWS, it appears that at the very minimum, this year’s Puyallup pink run was waaaaaaaay underforecast.

State and tribal managers predicted 47,905 back, but as of this morning, 445,615 had been counted below Mud Mountain Dam on the river’s tributary, the White, with more still arriving every day.

The Corps of Engineers’ Bill Dowell said Aug. 27’s 22,642 was the largest single-day haul of humpies on record.

He also said that this year’s 8,696 Chinook collected there was the third most since 1941, with the past four years all being the best since the flood-control facility came online.

A new $116 million fish passage facility is being built on the river.

SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (9-25-19)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS FORWARDED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Sport Fishing Report Sept. 16-22

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries 

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream – 27 bank rods kept 1 coho and 1 coho jack. 32 boats/72 rods kept 11 coho, 3 coho jacks and released 62 Chinook, 53 Chinook jacks, 15 coho and 8 coho jacks.

Above the I-5 Br – 8 bank rods released 3 Chinook and 2 Chinook jacks.

KERI WILLARD AND BEAU MEUCHEL HOLD UP FALL CHINOOK CAUGHT ON THE LOWER COLUMBIA IN THE ST. HELENS AREA OVER LABOR DAY WEEKEND. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Lewis River – 36 bank anglers kept 7 coho and released 3 Chinook and 2 coho.  6 boats/18 rods released 1 coho jack.

Wind River – 2 boats/6 rods kept 5 Chinook, 1 coho and released 2 Chinook and 3 coho.

Drano Lake – 17 bank anglers kept 1 coho and released 1 coho jack and 1 steelhead.  20 boats/45 rods kept 18 Chinook, 1 Chinook jack and released 1 Chinook.

Klickitat below Fisher Hill Bridge – 32 bank anglers kept 5 Chinook and 2 Chinook jacks.

Klickitat above #5 Fishway – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Sturgeon:

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream – 29 bank rods released 3 sublegal sturgeon.  11 boats/37 rods kept 7 legal sturgeon and released 33 sublegal sturgeon.

Bonneville bank: 97 anglers with 4 sublegals released
Bonneville boat: 52 angles with 12 sublegals released
Camas/Washougal boat: 82 anglers with 9 legals kept and 63 sublegals and 9 legals released
Vancouver bank: 12 anglers with nothing
Vancouver boat: 162 anglers with 22 legals kept and 46 sublegals and 39 oversize released
Woodland bank: 36 anglers with 1 legal kept and 1 sublegal released
Woodland boat: 59 anglers with 4 legals kept and 11 sublegals and 4 oversize released
Kalama bank: 40 anglers with nothing
Kalama boat: 161 anglers with 22 legals kept and 38 sublegals and 7 oversize released
Longview bank: 38 anglers with 1 legal kept
Longview boat: 255 angles with 16 legals kept and 18 sublegals and 4 oversize released

Pikeminnow Sport – Reward Fishery Program:

The program operates from May 1 to September 30 in the lower Columbia River (mouth to Priest Rapids Dam) and the Snake River (mouth to Hells Canyon Dam).  http://www.pikeminnow.org/

Hanford Reach Fishing Report (9-24-19)

THE FOLLOWING FISHING REPORT WAS FORWARDED BY PAUL HOFFARTH, WDFW

Over 1,400 anglers fished for fall chinook in the Hanford Reach this past week. Fishing, both in terms of numbers of anglers and harvest, picked up last week. Boats averaged over a fish per boat, 14 hours per fish. Bank anglers at the Ringold Springs access harvested 22 adult chinook and 17 jacks, 23 hours per chinook.

From September 16 through September 22, WDFW staff interviewed anglers from 494 boats (1,293 anglers) and 108 bank anglers with 563 adult chinook and 41 jacks. An estimated 1,627 adult chinook and 106 chinook jacks were harvested for the week (expanded). For the season there have been 9,790 angler trips with 2,381 adult chinook, 264 chinook jacks, and 8 coho harvested. Harvest is trailing only slightly behind last year at this time. (2018 =2,477 adult chinook).

Adult counts of fall chinook over Bonneville are running 44% above last year’s numbers and McNary counts finally picked up and are running 12% above last year at this time.

BROOKLYN BRODERS HOISTS A GREAT FIRST SALMON, A JACK UPRIVER BRIGHT CAUGHT IN THE 300 AREA OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER’S HANFORD REACH. SHE WAS FISHING WITH HER DAD TROY AND RUNNING BRAD’S CUT PLUG STUFFED WITH TUNA. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

In addition to the US v Oregon Agreement, the Hanford Reach URB population is managed under the Hanford Reach Fall Chinook Fishery Management Plan. The population is managed to meet the Hanford Reach URB escapement goal of 31,100 – 42,000 adults (naturally spawning population). Harvest allocated to the fishery is based on in-season return estimates. An in-season estimate is generated weekly beginning September 15 for the Hanford Reach wild component of the return. The estimate is generated based on current passage through the fish ladders at McNary, Ice Harbor, and Priest Rapids Dams and projected migration timing. Based on numbers through September 23, an estimated 47,062 adult, wild (natural origin) fall chinook are expected to return to the Hanford Reach. At 47,000, 10,900 adult chinook are allocated to the Hanford Reach sport fishery. This allocation plus the current one adult daily limit should be sufficient to continue the fishery for the foreseeable future and potentially through the end of the scheduled season. The next in-season update will be posted October 1.

Puget Sound Coho Limit Dropping To One Monday

Coho anglers from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Deep South Sound will see their daily limits drop to one starting Monday as state managers worry about the size of this year’s run as well as the size of the fish themselves.

THE 2015 SEASON WAS MARKED BY SMALL, VERY HUNGRY COHO LIKE THIS ONE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

A WDFW emergency rule change notice out late this afternoon says that preliminary monitoring by the agency and tribes are finding that this year’s ocean-returning silvers “have a smaller body size and potentially lower-than-expected run sizes to many systems.”

Smaller bodies mean that hens are carrying fewer eggs, whether to the hatchery or gravel.

The news is not unlike at this time in 2015, when coho came in half the size of usual during the height of the Blob, the giant pool of warm water that reduced the amount of forage available for salmon and other species.

“WDFW is implementing this rule as a precaution to ensure escapement and hatchery goals are met,”  the e-reg states.

It affects Marine Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 9, 10, 11 and 13, the central and eastern Straits, the San Juan Islands, and Central and South Puget Sound.

The daily limit is two until then.

Marine Area 8-2 has already closed for coho due to concerns of overfishing of the important Snohomish River stock.

Mark Yuasa of the Northwest Marine Trade Association, who tracks Puget Sound salmon fishing news very closely, considered the news to not be unexpected.

Even though some anglers have struggled to catch coho, others have seen good catches, albeit with a wide variety of sizes turning up on images posted to Facebook.

Indeed the run has been giving off mixed signals, but now WDFW is taking a cautious approach.

The big Everett Coho Derby is this weekend.

The change affects about a week of coho retention in a number of marine areas, but more in others.

 

Mon.-Thurs. Added For Last Week Of Oregon Central Coast Any-Coho Fishery

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

From Friday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 29, anglers can keep any legal sized salmon they catch in the ocean on the central Oregon coast after fishery managers increased the popular non-selective coho fishery to seven days a week for the final week of the fishery.

LORELEI PENNINGTON SHOWS OFF A WILD COHO CAUGHT DURING A PAST SEPTEMBER SEASON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The ocean non mark selective coho fishery between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain opened Aug. 31 on a schedule of each Friday through Sunday and open for all salmon including coho. During the first three open periods of the season, anglers have landed a total of 8,935 coho out of the quota of 15,640, which leaves eaving 6,700 coho remaining to be caught.

“Fishery managers felt they could open seven days a week for this last part of the season and still remain within the coho quota,” said Eric Schindler, ocean salmon supervising biologist for ODFW. “The non-selective coho fishery in September has been very popular with most anglers, and adding a few more days will provide a few more chances for anglers to catch some nice coho.”

The daily bag limit is two legal size salmon (Chinook >24”; coho >16”; steelhead >20”).  Anglers are reminded that single point barbless hooks are required for ocean salmon angling or if a salmon is on board the vessel in the ocean.

The all-salmon-except-coho fishery from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain will remain open through the end of October.

For more information about fishing opportunities including the latest regulations, visit https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/

WDFW Sends $26 Million Request To Gov. For 2020 Legislative Action

Washington fish and wildlife managers submitted a $26 million supplemental budget request to the Governor’s Office yesterday as fee bill and state lawmaker failures have left the agency underfunded in recent years.

One of WDFW’s key piggy banks could dip into the red next March and significantly so the following year because license revenues and funding aren’t keeping up with growing costs, heaped-on responsibilities and dealing with new issues that are cropping up.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT, ALL)

This new money would come out of the General Fund and WDFW hopes it will be ticketed as “ongoing” so it would not have to be reauthorized every year or two.

If approved by next year’s legislature, $6.5 million would go towards maintaining things like production of 4.5 million salmon, steelhead and trout at eight hatcheries, Columbia River fisheries, and Westside pheasant hunting, as well as dealing with problem animals in residents’ backyards and elsewhere;

(Conversely, if they’re not funded, they have been identified as having to be cut to stay in budget.)

$6.8 million would go towards “emerging needs” like monitoring fisheries on Puget Sound and two rivers, including Skagit C&R steelhead, removing more pinnipeds to increase Chinook numbers when a permit is OKed by the feds, and coming up with alternative fishing gear for Columbia netters;

and $12.5 million would go for “unavoidable” items passed on by legislators without funding, including COLAs, and rising costs associated with hatchery operations and attorney fees.

The size of the request is pretty large given the short, 60-day session that will begin in January, and WDFW Director Kelly Susewind acknowledged as much in a press release today.

But he also pointed out the substantial return on investment that state funding of fishing and hunting activities has for the economy, a message to lawmakers as much as ammo for supporters to remind their representatives and senators of.

“We would rather not be in this position of requesting a substantial amount of money to sustain basic, core activities that we know provide such fundamental public value,” he said. “We estimate that for every State General Fund tax dollar invested in WDFW, and leveraged with other fund sources, that fish and wildlife economic activities generate another $3.50 that goes back into the state coffers. We’re seeking adequate, ongoing funding to sustain that kind of return on investment into the future.”

This is all the latest act in a long-running play that began somewhere around the Great Recession when WDFW’s General Fund contributions were cut sharply and which have yet to fully return to previous levels, even as the state’s economy booms.

According to WDFW, less than 1 percent of General Fund revenues go towards itself, DNR, Ecology, State Parks, Puget Sound Partnership and other natural resource agencies, combined.

As for the last license fee increase, it was back in 2011 and bids by the current and former directors to get lawmakers to pass another and help shore up the agency’s finances have not gone over very well.

Some of that is just bad timing — making asks on the downswing of cyclical game and fish populations.

Arguably 2015’s salmon and hunting seasons were among the best of recent decades, but the dropoff since then — when Susewind and Jim Unsworth had their hands out — has been intense and widespread.

Yet even as the Blob and environmental conditions, along with ongoing, multi-decadal habitat destruction, and reduced hatchery production due to operations reforms and budget cuts are largely to blame, many of WDFW’s customers are reluctant these days to pay more for less.

Then there was the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Columbia gillnet vote this past March, as spectacular an own goal as you can kick.

Meanwhile, WDFW’s “structural deficit” grows deeper and deeper. The aforementioned piggy bank, the State Wildlife Account — where every single penny of your fishing and hunting license dollars go, every single one — has gone from a shortfall of $300,000 in the 2011-13 biennium, when the last license fee increase was passed, to $23.2 million in the 2019-21 biennum.

Its cash balance is expected to plunge into negative figures next March and much deeper in spring 2021 if nothing’s done.

A WDFW GRAPH SHOWS PROJECTED REVENUES INTO THE STATE WILDLIFE ACCOUNT, FUNDED BY FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSES. MARCH MARKS THE ANNUAL LOW POINT IN THE LICENSE BUYING YEAR AS NEW ONES ARE REQUIRED STARTING APRIL 1. (WDFW)

It all threatens the fisheries and hunts we still have.

In the end lawmakers have gone with one-time funding patches, but the problem is they’re typically not enough to fill the hole.

For instance, with the agency facing a $31 million shortfall this year and next, Olympia scrapped the fee hike and instead provided $24 million in General Fund money, leaving a temporary $7 million gap — that then immediately ballooned back out to $20 million due to unfunded mandates that were passed on like the cost of living increase for game wardens, biologists, and others.

Still, $24 million is better than nothing and with how it was structured, it “front loaded” WDFW’s budget towards year one of the two-year cycle in anticipation that lawmaker would return and work on it again in 2020.

And that is how we got to today and the supplemental budget request.

Rather than attempt the folly of running another fee bill, the Fish and Wildlife Commission earlier this summer signed off on the proposal.

WDFW is also looking for another $26 million to make capital improvements to its facilities, with about 60 percent of that designated for three hatcheries, and $1 million for a master planning process to boost Chinook production by up to 55 million a year for orcas and which would also likely benefit anglers.

“Our work provides tremendous value to the people in our state,” said Susewind. “The ongoing funds to create a fully healthy agency is critical to our residents’ quality of life, critical to our ability to conserve fish and wildlife, and critical to maintaining sustainable natural resource jobs across Washington.”

A tremendous value at a time of tremendous headwinds and crosswinds and little in the form of helpful tailwinds.

Steelheading To Close On Clearwater, Snake; IDFG: ‘No Surplus’ For Fishery

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

On Friday, Sept. 20, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted to close all steelhead seasons on the Clearwater River because the number of returning adult hatchery fish is less than the number needed for broodstock, and there is no surplus to provide a fishery.

IDAHO’S STEELHEADING CLOSURE MEANS THAT EVEN CATCH-AND-RELEASE FISHING FOR UNCLIPPED A- AND B-RUNS, LIKE THIS ONE LANDED ON THE SOUTH FORK CLEARWATER, WILL NOT BE ALLOWED IN THE CLEARWATER DRAINAGE. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

The closure is effective at midnight on Sept. 29, 2019, and covers the Clearwater River upstream to the confluence of the Middle Fork and South Fork, along with the North Fork, Middle Fork and South Fork tributaries. The section of the Snake River downstream from the Couse Creek boat ramp to the Idaho/Washington state line will also be closed to protect Clearwater-bound steelhead. The closure in the Clearwater River drainage is consistent with harvest restrictions put in place in fisheries on the mainstem Columbia River by the Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife Departments.

Consistent with existing rules that prohibit targeting steelhead or salmon where there is no open season, anglers will not be allowed to fish for steelhead in the Clearwater River drainage after the fishery is closed, even catch-and-release.

The Clearwater River drainage closure is in addition to the already-restricted fishery the commission approved for statewide steelhead fishing during their August meeting. The existing seasons remain in place for steelhead fisheries in the Salmon and Snake river basins.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists have been tracking steelhead returns closely, and the number of Clearwater-bound hatchery steelhead has continued to fall short of projections. According to Lance Hebdon, anadromous fishery manager for Idaho Fish and Game, while the return of wild, Clearwater-bound steelhead is tracking close to the preseason forecast, the return of hatchery-origin steelhead to the Clearwater River is substantially below what was expected.

Through Sept. 18, biologists estimate about 1,158 hatchery steelhead destined for the Clearwater River have passed Bonneville Dam based on PIT tags. The small, electronic tags are embedded in fish and help biologists know which river migrating steelhead are destined for. On average, about 50 percent of the hatchery steelhead returning to the Clearwater River would have passed Bonneville Dam by Sept. 18.

“Based on average run timing, we estimate that this will result in approximately 2,300 fish crossing Bonneville Dam by the end of the season,” Hebdon said. “The result for Idaho anglers is that only 1,700 hatchery steelhead destined for the Clearwater River will make it to Lower Granite Dam by the end of the season.”

In order to meet broodstock needs for Clearwater River hatcheries (a total of 1,352 fish), 100 percent of the steelhead destined for the North Fork Clearwater River, and a high percentage of the fish destined for the South Fork Clearwater River would have to be collected, leaving no surplus fish for harvest.

Although the steelhead fishery will be closed in the Clearwater River basin, there will be no changes to the ongoing fall Chinook season, which is scheduled to close on Oct. 13. In addition, the commission approved a Coho salmon fishery in the Clearwater River basin during their conference call on Sept. 20. This Coho fishery is open effective immediately, and will run concurrent with the fall Chinook fishery.

Because these fisheries will close Oct. 13, or earlier if catch limits are attained, any incidental impact on Clearwater hatchery steelhead is expected to be minimal.

“Early in the fall, many of the steelhead in the Clearwater river basin are actually fish destined for the Salmon and Grande Ronde rivers, which have pulled into the Clearwater until water temperatures in the Snake River start to cool off,” Hebdon said. “The main component of the Clearwater River steelhead run starts arriving in the middle of October.”