Tag Archives: SMALLMOUTH BASS

Strong Salmon Habitat Bill Would Also Declassify Popular Fish Species

Washington fishermen and others spoke yesterday in Olympia in support of an orca bill that primarily would increase salmon habitat protections, but concern was also expressed over one part that targets popular game fish.

Under House Bill 1579 and similar legislation introduced in the Senate, walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass and channel catfish would be removed from the list of regulated species in Evergreen State waters.

A TRI-CITIES ANGLER HAD A T-SHIRT MADE OF COLUMBIA RIVER WALLEYE AND CHINOOK HE’S CAUGHT AND THAT HAVE APPEARED ON THE COVER OF NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN MAGAZINE. (JERRY HAN)

The idea came out of Governor Jay Inslee’s orca task force last year, and citing the plight of southern resident killer whales and the lack of Chinook as one of the limiting factors for the state’s J, K and L pods, prime sponsor Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon called removing limits on the species a “common sense” solution.

I think we should do everything we can to encourage recreational fisheries to catch as many of those fish as possible so that they’re not predating on Chinook salmon,” the Burien Democrat said during a public hearing before Rep. Brian Blake’s Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee.

The four nonnative warmwater species and Chinook primarily overlap in the Columbia below Chief Joseph Dam and in much of the Snake, but also occur in other places such as Lake Washington and portions of warmer rivers such as the lower Yakima and Grande Ronde.

No data was referenced during the hearing, which was televised on TVW, but a 2017 paper by federal researchers found Chinook smolts to be the second largest component of the diets of shoreline-running Snake River smallies between April and September from 2013 to 2015. Idaho kings are among important SRKW feedstocks, according to federal and state biologists.

But the removal of bass, walleye and whiskerfish from game fish status worries some anglers, even as they support the rest of the bill.

Ryley Fee of Puget Sound Anglers said that restoring and protecting habitat is the best long-term hope for recovering salmon and that the bill had “big teeth” in that regard.

We must give the state agencies the effective tools and civil-regulated authority to dissuade anyone from illegally damaging the remaining environment that we have,” he said.

However, Fee asked lawmakers to modify the broad-brush declassification of the four species.

For instance, he suggested only removing the game fish designation in habitats where ocean-going salmon occur and “not in lakes where there are valuable recreational fishing opportunities.”

RYLEY FEE OF PUGET SOUND ANGLERS SPEAKS BEFORE A STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON A BILL THAT WOULD ADD “BIG TEETH” TO SALMON HABITAT PROTECTIONS BUT WOULD ALSO DECLASSIFY FOUR FISH SPECIES POPULAR WITH ANGLERS. (TVW)

He proposed two options, listing them as “exotic species” in select watersheds to make the regs more clear, or retaining the game fish designation but liberalizing the bag limits where need be.

Currently in the Columbia and its tributaries below Chief Joe there are no minimum size or daily limits on walleye, bass or catfish, but elsewhere the species generally fall under statewide rules with certain size and bag restrictions.

The bill comes as walleye are increasingly popular to fish for in the big river, with anglers flocking from as far away as the species’ Upper Midwest home waters to try and land the next world record, while local fishermen hope to best John Grubenhoff’s 20-pounder.

And bugeyes, as they’re also known, were among the hits at last weekend’s Washington Sportsmen’s Show in Puyallup.

After the hearing, WDFW legislative liaison Raquel Crosier said that the agency was working on tweaks to the game fish designations.

“We want to make sure anglers are a part of the solution, so we are working with the sponsor to see if we can amend that section of the bill to liberalize bag limits without removing those species from the game fish list,” Crosier said. “Hearing lots of concerns from bass anglers and want to see those concerns addressed. The sponsor is eager to work on addressing these concerns.”

As for the rest of the bill, agency assistant director Jeff Davis expressed support, calling it “really darn important” for protecting SRKWs, salmon recovery investments and comanaged fisheries.

HB 1579 primarily addresses state hydraulic codes and enforcement and among those also speaking in favor were representatives from two tribal organizations and Jacques White of Long Live The Kings.

A SUMMARY OF HB 1579 BY NONPARTISAN LEGISLATIVE STAFF LAYS OUT THE CURRENT BILL’S IMPACTS ON GAME FISH SPECIES AND HYDRAULIC CODE ENFORCEMENT. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

White spoke to how armoring of Puget Sound’s shorelines has affected forage fish spawning areas and that 50 percent fewer Chinook smolts make it out of the inland sea than they once did.

It turns out that the forage fish are a critical element in the health of those juvenile Chinook,” he told lawmakers. “Juvenile Chinook populations 10 or 15 years ago relied heavily on herring in their diet and now they’re relying on crab larvae. Now, I like crab larvae better than I like herring, but apparently our salmon really want to see herring in the water column and in their diet.”

He said forage fish like herring also represent an alternate food source for harbor seals that are otherwise having to prey on Chinook.

“So this bill, I think, is a critical step in us protecting this important habitat,” he said.

However, a representative from the Association of Washington Businesses expressed concerns about the bill’s Hydraulic Project Approval provisions, while another from the Farm Bureau reminded lawmakers that it would affect operations across the state, not just in Puget Sound, and a third from the building industry association was opposed because it impacts how streamlined the process for putting in bulkheads currently is.

Family Fishing Fun At Lake Billy Chinook

It’s “Bass Week” in Washington, but for the Walgamott clan, that happened last week and a state to the south.

We enjoyed an extended Fourth of July campout at Central Oregon’s Lake Billy Chinook, a trip that included plenty of water fun under the sun and smallies, along with great food, campfires and stargazing.

MY NIECE VIVIAN AND HER SMALLMOUTH BASS, CAUGHT LITERALLY MINUTES AFTER I TAUGHT HER HOW TO CAST A SPINNING ROD. FIGURING OUT THE RETRIEVE THE FISH WANTED WAS ALL HER. (AMY WALGAMOTT)

Yeah, watching my two sons catch their first fish years ago was pretty special, but I was thrilled when my niece Vivian landed hers this past Thursday.

We were at the upper day-use site on the Deschutes Arm and the evening before, my sharp-eared son Kiran had heard another angler mention that a cove there was a good spot for bass.

The next morning I’d purchased four one-day fishing licenses for myself at the Cove Palisades Resort and Marina and met everyone down at the beach there, two rods and a box full of baits in hand.

YOURS TRULY WITH THE FIRST FISH OF THE TRIP TO LAKE BILLY CHINOOK. IT WOULDN’T BE TOO LONG BEFORE VIVI EQUALED THEN BETTERED MY CATCH ON THE DAY. (AMY WALGAMOTT)

I gave bank fishing with crankbaits a go unsuccessfully, then hopped into one of our inner tubes and floated out into the cove.

I’d switched over to a green grub on a 1/4-ounce jighead and was just kind of prospecting and working on my tan when a bass bit.

The kids were all right there and that sparked their interest in trying their own luck, so I went ashore and began everyone’s first lesson on how to catch bass.

First up was my oldest son, River, then the younger boy, Kiran, who wanted to hold the spinning rod upside down, like how he holds the baitcaster he’s shown promise using down on our saltwater beach.

RIVER TRIES HIS LUCK ON THE CROOKED RIVER ARM OF LAKE BILLY CHINOOK. IT WAS HERE THAT HE CAUGHT OUR TRIP’S LARGEST FISH, A FOOTLONG-PLUS NORTHERN PIKEMINNOW. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Unfortunately for the boys, the bass didn’t respond to their casts, so they soon lost interest and left me with the rod.

Damned screens anyway — no patience!

Vivi had been watching and she promptly came up to me and asked if she could give it a go, so I showed her how to pull line from near the reel to the rod and hold it there with two fingers, flip the bail, bring the rod back and snap it forward and let go of the line.

I now realize I was a little vague about what exactly a bail is, but after her first successful cast, she had it, so I wandered back to the shade to watch.

Less than five minutes later the rod was bent and Vivi was battling her first fish, a feisty smallmouth!

We all rushed towards her, her mom Ilene and my wife Amy encouraging her and taking cell phone videos, the boys crowding around to see the fish.

I figured we’d all catch bass, but the speed at which Vivian had caught one was surprising (especially after yours truly, believed by family to be a fishermen, had landed just one in like two hours).

And it only got better from there as five minutes after her first, she had a second!

It’s one thing to be the editor of a fishing magazine and put out all these how-to articles and receive reader success photos in exchange, but it’s quite another to teach someone in person and see that instruction result in a catch.

I tell you, I was positively glowing!

In the days afterward, we fished more, including off of a pontoon boat we rented on Saturday to travel up the Crooked and Deschutes Arms.

RIVER AND KIRAN BACK AT CAMP. WHILE ONE BOY EXPRESSED CONCERN ABOUT GETTING EACH FISH BACK IN THE WATER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, THE OTHER WANTED TO EAT ‘EM ALL. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

In the former, near the head of the arm, River hooked the biggest fish of the trip, a footlong or so northern pikeminnow.

Later in the afternoon and in the lower end of the latter arm, where a chukar family had come down to the water, Vivi showed that it was no fluke she’d caught her first two so fast.

Earlier in the campout I had worn a Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association shirt on which was printed a slogan she’d inquired about.

“You are right,” Vivi said later, “the tug is the drug.”

She just seemed to figure out what the fish wanted better than the boys did, but they all had plenty of fun. Kiran wanted to keep every fish, regardless of their size or whether we had toted our cooler along with us to the water or not.

GRATUITOUS GEOLOGY SHOT — SMITH ROCK STATE PARK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The bass were on the small side and I expected to catch more, but the bright sunlight of midday might have affected the bite. But as I was flapping around the day-use cove in the inner tube I found the fish to actually be closer to shore than out in deeper water by the no-wake buoys.

When I go again, I’ll pack a lot fewer crankbaits and a wider variety of grubs and tubes, including in more pumpkins and chartreuses than just browns.

Drop-shotting with flukes and wacky-rigged worms wasn’t effective, though that might have been due to how I had to fish them — with half a rod after breaking the top end — or the sheer size of the baits versus the size of the fish.

It’s a pretty far pedal from our house in Shoreline to this part of Central Oregon, but besides fishing and water sports there’s plenty to see and do. I’m a geology geek, so it’s all cool country and I’ll gladly return someday.

Besides their jet ski runs around the lower end of the reservoir with the three adults, I think that the fishing will stand out in my sons’ and niece’s memory from our trip.

I know watching Vivi successfully figure out how to catch bass will stay in mine.

VIVI SMILES AS RIVER INSPECTS ONE OF HER BASS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Status Quo Management For Priest Lake Fish, IDFG Decides

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

Fish and Game will continue managing Priest Lake as primarily a lake trout fishery while also protecting native cutthroat trout and bull trout in Upper Priest Lake.

Over the past several years, F&G fisheries managers have done extensive public outreach to see if a management change was warranted at Priest Lake, but found there was not clear public sentiment that favored it.

JAMIE CARR HOISTS A LARGE PRIEST LAKE MACKINAW. MANY LAKE TROUT IN THE NORTH IDAHO SEA ARE MUCH SMALLER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“Simply put, fishing opportunity in the foreseeable future is likely to be about the same as it has been in recent years,” regional fish manager Andy Dux said. “Lake trout will continue to be abundant, kokanee will persist at low densities, but large in size. Cutthroat trout will also be present in moderate densities, and smallmouth bass will remain abundant.”

Fish and Game, with help from the Priest Lake Fishery Advisory Commitee, presented anglers and the public with three management choices: status quo, reducing lake trout populations to boost the kokanee fishery and other game fish species, or slightly reducing the lake trout population in an attempt to get a corresponding increase in other species.

Fish and Game did several surveys and multiple open houses to gauge public interest in changing management for the lake.

  • The random mail survey of anglers showed 52 percent did not want change vs. 48 percent who wanted change.
  • An email survey of anglers showed 45 percent did not want change and 55 percent did want change.

Resident anglers who frequently fish Priest Lake showed the most support for maintaining the existing fishery. Anglers who used to fish Priest Lake, but don’t now, were most likely to support change. In general, resident and nonresident anglers had similar opinions, and so did anglers from all the counties surveyed.

“We were clear from the start that unquestionable support for change was necessary in order for a drastic shift in management to be publicly accepted and successful,” Dux said.

Changing the management of the Priest Lake would require substantial time and resources from the department and patience from the public. Without a clear mandate for change, fisheries managers decided it was best to continue with the current management.

“We had tremendous participation from the public during this process, which gives us confidence that we understand public desires for the Priest Lake fishery,” Dux said. “The Priest Lake fishery is a public resource, so periodically it is important to ask the public how they want to see it managed. We learned there isn’t quite enough support to justify major change, but we didn’t have a good read on that until we asked the question.”

Priest Lake’s fisheries have steadily changed over time. The lake’s native sport fish are cutthroat trout, bull trout and mountain whitefish. Non-native lake trout and kokanee were introduced decades ago, and for many years, kokanee supported the lake’s most popular fishery.

Kokanee were also an important food source for bull trout and lake trout, which attained trophy sizes. That balance between predators and prey fish lasted into the 1970s, then fell apart. Mysis, a small freshwater shrimp, was introduced in the late-1960s to provide more food for kokanee. Unfortunately, young lake trout feed on shrimp until the fish switch their diet to kokanee.

Mysis allowed the lake trout population to grow at the expense of kokanee, which also happened to a lesser extent as lake trout preyed on, or outcompeted, cutthroat and bull trout.

Fish and Game has curbed lake trout population growth in Upper Priest Lake to relieve pressure on those native fish.

Fisheries managers have in the past attempted to boost kokanee numbers by stocking more, but those efforts were thwarted by lake trout predation. Millions of kokanee fry, as well as hundreds of thousands of juvenile cutthroat, were stocked without a noticeable increase in the populations of either species.

While fishing at Priest Lake is different than decades ago, it’s still an attractive place for anglers who enjoy catching lake trout.

“Plenty of fishing opportunities lie ahead for Priest Lake anglers,” Dux said. “Anglers looking for unique fishing opportunities in a scenic location will find them at Priest Lake.”