Tag Archives: smelt

Northwest States, Tribes Apply To Feds For OK To Kill More Columbia Sea Lions

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), along with a consortium of state and tribal partners, today submitted an expanded application to lethally remove California and Steller sea lions preying on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

SEA LIONS GATHER INSIDE THE MOUTH OF THE COWEEMAN RIVER AT KELSO, MOST LIKELY FOLLOWING THE 2016 RUN OF ESA-LISTED EULACHON, OR SMELT, UP THE COLUMBIA RIVER. (SKYLAR MASTERS)

California sea lions — and increasingly, Steller sea lions — have been observed in growing numbers in the Columbia River basin, especially in the last decade. These sea lions prey heavily on salmon and steelhead runs listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including thousands of fish at Bonneville Dam each year.

The impacts come at a time when many Chinook salmon runs are already at historic lows.

The recovery of sea lions since the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 1972 is a success story, said Kessina Lee, Region 5 director with WDFW. But that recovery has also brought challenges.

“The vast majority of these animals remain in coastal and offshore waters, but several hundred have established themselves in upriver locations,” Lee said. “Where salmon and steelhead numbers are low, any unmanaged increase in predation can cause serious problems.”

Predator management is a key part of a multi-faceted effort to restore salmon and steelhead populations in the Pacific Northwest.

“For decades, we’ve made strides in habitat restoration, hydropower policy, hatchery production, and fishery management, and we continue to work with our partners to further those initiatives,” Lee said. “Predator management remains an essential part of the equation.”

The application submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) by WDFW and its partners is the first since Congress passed an amendment to the MMPA in December 2018. That amendment, spearheaded by the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation, passed with strong bipartisan support and offers greater flexibility to wildlife managers when determining if a sea lion should be lethally removed in waters that host ESA-listed runs of salmon or steelhead.

“Based on years of experience working within the bounds of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Columbia River fishing tribes contend that predator management is necessary to restore balance to the Columbia River system,” said Ryan Smith, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “Strong partnerships and collaboration with the states, northwest congressional delegation, federal authorities, and nongovernment organizations resulted in this amendment, which applies robust tools to manage sea lions in the lower Columbia River and recognizes tribal sovereignty in that management.”

WDFW and its partners have taken steps to deter California sea lions in the Columbia River basin for more than a decade, but non-lethal measures have proven largely ineffective, driving animals away for only short periods. These hazing measures appear similarly ineffective against Steller sea lions. Non-lethal measures continue to be used as a short-term deterrent when appropriate.

Wildlife managers have conducted lethal removal operations of California sea lions in the Columbia River basin since 2008, when NMFS first issued a letter of authorization under section 120 of the MMPA. From 2008-2019, wildlife managers removed a total of 219 California sea lions that met the federal criteria for removal below Bonneville Dam.

Steller sea lions have not previously been subject to lethal removal.

“Prior to this legislation, wildlife managers were severely limited in their ability to effectively manage sea lions in these areas,” Lee said. “Additional action is required to protect these troubled fish stocks before they are completely eliminated. This is an unfortunate, but necessary step in the salmon recovery process.”

If approved, WDFW expects to begin humanely removing animals under the terms of the expanded application beginning in 2020. The application is subject to a public comment period and review by NMFS. Members of the public can review the application at https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2019-06/MMPA-120f-application.pdf.

Other entities submitting the application with WDFW include the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon (CTWSR), The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the 3.6.D Committee, which includes ODFW, CTUIR, CTWSR, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community, and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians of Oregon.

Yes, Smelt Are In; No, Not Enough ‘To Justify A Fishery,’ But Still A Good Sign

THE FOLLOWING IS PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF NO FUN

Smelt are running up the Cowlitz River, but not in substantial enough numbers to justify a fishery this year, according to state fish managers.

SMELT DIPPERS AND OBSERVERS GATHER ALONG THE LOWER COWLITZ ON FEBRUARY 25, 2017, DURING A FIVE-HOUR OPENER THAT WAS DESCRIBED AS “PRETTY MUCH A BUST” WHEN FEW CAUGHT ANY. (OLAF LANGNESS, WDFW)

In late January, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) projected a poor 2019 smelt return, which would not likely support a fishery.

“The delayed run, which didn’t begin entering the river until early March, has not changed the assessment,” said Laura Heironimus, a WDFW fish manager. “People get excited when they see fish running up the river, but the monitoring data we have indicates the run is not strong enough to support harvest.”

“Though still a low run, more fish are returning than did last year, which may indicate a positive shift in ocean conditions for smelt” Heironimus said. “This may bode well for future years.”

Smelt along the Pacific Coast were listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2010. Since then, WDFW has opened limited recreational dip-net fishing in the Cowlitz River for smelt – also known as eulachon – four of those years when returns have been strong.

Lower Columbia, Gorge, SW WA Fishing Report (3-6-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Lower Columbia mainstem from Bonneville Dam to Warrior Rock– 47 salmonid boats and 6 Washington bank rods were tallied during last Saturdays flight count.

ANTHONY CLEMENTS SHOWS OFF A NICE BROODSTOCK WINTER-RUN FROM AN OREGON NORTH COAST STREAM. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Washington only creel checks: February 25-28, 2019

? Sec 8 (Longview) bank- 2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 8 boat -2 boats/4 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 9 (Cathlamet) bank- 3 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 10 (Cathlamet) boat – 1 boat/2 salmonid anglers had no catch.

Washington only creel checks: March 1-3, 2019
? Sec 3 (Vancouver) boat – 1 boat/2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 4 (Vancouver) bank – 2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 4 boat – 4 boats/ 6 salmonid angler had no catch.

John Day Pool – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- No anglers sampled.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention. No report.

John Day Pool- 8 bank anglers had no catch. 1 boat/4 rods had no catch.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 1 boat/3 rods kept 3 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No anglers sampled.

John Day Pool- 11 boats/25 rods kept 9 walleye and released 8 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:


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Columbia River Tributaries

Elochoman River – 6 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.  1 boat/2 rods kept 1 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

Germany Creek – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 106 bank rods kept 7 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  25 bank rods released 4 steelhead.  47 boats/137 rods kept 46 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 12 winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released three winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and one winter-run steelhead adult into the Cispus River near Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,060 cubic feet per second on Monday, March 4. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 41 F.

East Fork Lewis River – 16 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.  1 boat/1 rod had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 7 bank anglers had no catch.

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Catchable Trout Plants:  No report on angling success.

Lake/Pond Date Species Number Fish per
Pound
Hatchery Notes
KLINELINE PD (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Feb 25, 2019

Mar 04, 2019

Rainbow

Rainbow

1,500

2,000

1.9

2.3

VANCOUVER HATCHERY

VANCOUVER HATCHERY

LACAMAS LK (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Mar 04, 2019 Rainbow 4,000 1.9 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

 

Smelt

Reports of smelt in showing up in the Lower Columbia and Cowlitz River.

Mainstem Columbia and all other Washington tributaries – Closed to sport fishing for smelt (eulachon).

Dip Not: Smelt Season A No Go Due To Poor Run

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

For the first time in five years, the Cowlitz River will not open to smelt dipping.

SMELT DIPPERS AND OBSERVERS GATHER ALONG THE LOWER COWLITZ ON FEBRUARY 25, 2017, DURING A FIVE-HOUR OPENER THAT WAS DESCRIBED AS “PRETTY MUCH A BUST” WHEN FEW CAUGHT ANY. (OLAF LANGNESS, WDFW)

A commercial test fishery conducted last month in the Columbia River showed that area smelt abundance is too low to warrant a recreational fishery this year, state fishery managers said.

Laura Heironimus, a fish manager at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said gillnet boats participating in the test fishery near the mouth of the Cowlitz River landed less than 130 pounds of smelt after eight days of fishing.

“That’s well below the 250-pound average daily catch benchmark for opening a recreational fishery,” Heironimus said. “We also didn’t see the frenzied activity by birds and sea lions last month that usually occurs during a healthy smelt run.”

Eulachon, more commonly known as smelt, were listed in 2010 as a threatened species from Washington state to the Mexican border under the federal Endangered Species Act. In 2014, after a three-year closure, WDFW opened a two-day sport fishery on the Cowlitz River in conjunction with a commercial test fishery designed to monitor the smelt population.

For the past two years, the recreational dip-net fishery on the Cowlitz River has been limited to a six-hour period on a single day.

“We know people really enjoy this fishery, but we can’t open it in good conscience knowing the abundance is so low,” Heironimus said. “The smelt population appears to be declining again after gaining some ground, so it’s hard to say whether we’ll be able to open a fishery next year.”

Fewer Smelt Than Last Year’s Small Run Expected

Columbia smelt managers are forecasting the fewest of the tasty, oily fish back since at least 2011.

They say the run will be “smaller in magnitude than the 2017 return,” which saw 1.6 million pounds worth of eulachon come into the big river and its lower tributaries to spawn.

SMELT DIPPERS AND OBSERVERS GATHER ALONG THE LOWER COWLITZ ON FEBRUARY 25, 2017, DURING A FIVE-HOUR OPENER THAT WAS DESCRIBED AS “PRETTY MUCH A BUST” WHEN FEW CAUGHT ANY. (OLAF LANGNESS, WDFW)

Following test-boat fisheries, that was enough to open one day’s worth of dipping on the Cowlitz in late February.

But that turned out to be “largely a bust.”

Managers estimate sport dippers harvested all of 540 pounds.

That’s down from 290,000-plus pounds in 2015.

Poor ocean conditions are blamed for recent years’ declining smelt runs, which peaked with 16.6 million pounds in 2014.

A GRAPH AND CHART SHOW COLUMBIA RIVER SMELT ABUNDANCE AND HARVESTS IN RECENT YEARS. (WDFW)

Columbia smelt are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Following longterm declines, seasons were closed for three straight years, but with federal blessing, WDFW was able in 2014 to hold limited “research fisheries” to survey the population.