Tag Archives: snake river

News From Idaho: Most Fawns, Calves Surviving Winter; Springer Season Opens 4-27

THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Most radio-collared fawns and elk calves survived unusually snowy February

78 percent of fawns and 94 percent of calves were still alive through February, but they’re not safe yet

Despite February storms that battered much of Idaho and pushed snowpack and precipitation above average in most areas, radio-collared young fawns and elk calves were faring relatively well across the state through the end of February.

A RADIO-COLLARED MULE DEER RUNS THROUGH SAGEBRUSH IN SOUTHWEST IDAHO. (IDFG)

Idaho Fish and Game biologists have been monitoring 207 mule deer fawns and 201 elk calves captured earlier in the winter and fitted with telemetry collars.

Through the end of February, 78 percent of the collared fawns and 94 percent of the calves were still alive. That compares with 88 percent of the fawns and 97 percent of the calves surviving through February in 2017-18, and 55 and 80 percent in 2016-17.

While snowpacks and precipitation totals are above average for most of the state, the late arrival of winter weather in 2019 has made for an easier winter for big game than in 2016-17, according to Daryl Meints, State Deer and Elk manager for Fish and Game.

In 2016-17, a prolonged, severe winter resulted in some of the lowest survival rates recorded for mule deer fawns and elk calves. Prior to what was a record-setting February for snowfall for many areas in the state, 2018-19 winter had been a mild-to-average snowfall and temperatures for most of Idaho.

While the weather may be trending warmer so far in March this year, the young animals aren’t “out of the woods” yet. In fact, the March and April are often when fawn and calf mortality is the highest because the young animals’ fat reserves are rapidly depleting and their body’s need time to convert digesting fresh forage.

“April is crucial,” Meints said. “That’s the make-or-break month, when their gas tank is hitting empty. What is going to matter now is how soon winter ends, or how soon spring shows up.”

If the warm weather continues through the end of April, Meints expects fawn survival will fall somewhere in the average range, while calf survival will be above average.

“But if for some reason we get a weather system that is cloudy, cold, and wet, and we don’t get that spring green up on south-facing slopes, we could be in for some additional mortality,” Meints said.

People getting outdoors to recreate in the spring also need to be conscious and considerate of wildlife, particularly big game that remains on low-elevation winter ranges. Despite warmer temperatures and spring green up, deer, elk and pronghorn antelope still need to be left undisturbed to give young animals a better chance of surviving their critical first winter.

…………………

F&G Commission sets spring Chinook to open April 27

Limited fishing days on Clearwater, Salmon, and Little Salmon rivers, and the Upper Snake closed

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission approved spring Chinook fishing on the Clearwater, Salmon and Little Salmon rivers during their meeting on Wednesday, March 13 in Boise.

Fishing will open on April 27, with a two-day-a-week season on the Clearwater River and a four-day-a-week season on the Salmon and Little Salmon rivers. The season will run until sport anglers’ shares of the harvest are met (which varies by river) or Aug. 11 — whichever comes sooner.

Due to very low projected returns the Upper Snake River in Hells Canyon, fisheries managers did not propose to open a spring Chinook season for the fishery this year.

Chinook have just started entering the Columbia River and a small portion of them are working their way through Columbia/Snake river systems. Here’s current salmon counts at the dams.

Fisheries managers are forecasting a run of about 32,000 spring Chinook through Lower Granite Dam, which is about 25 miles downstream from Lewiston and the last of the eight dams that returning salmon cross on their way back to Idaho. The forecast is similar to last year’s actual return of 39,000, and below the 10-year average return of 75,000.

Included in the forecast are about 26,000 hatchery Chinook and 6,000 wild Chinook. The 2018 returns were 32,000 and 7,000, respectively, and the 10-year averages are 58,000 and 17,000. Forecasts are a starting point for managing Chinook returns, and they will be adjusted as fish migrate through the river systems.

Because the forecasted Chinook return for the Salmon River basin is about 8,700 fish, and the sport anglers’ share would be 1,430 fish this year. Fishing will be open Thursday through Sunday, with a limit of four total fish, only two of which may be adults.

For the Clearwater River basin, the projected return is about 9,400 adult fish, and the sport anglers’ harvest share would be 470. Fishing will be open on Saturday and Sunday, with a limit of four total fish, only one of which may be an adult.

Just 123 adult fish are projected to return the Upper Snake River in Hells Canyon, where fisheries managers do not expect a sport angler harvest share at all.

“Due to extremely high flows at Hells Canyon in 2017, we had high total dissolved gasses, which are potentially lethal to fish,” aid Jim Fredericks, Fish and Game’s Fisheries Bureau Chief. “In 2017, we chose to release the fish allocated for Hells Canyon at Rapid River instead, to ensure that they survived. For that reason, we have hardly any two-year-old fish coming back to Hells Canyon this year.”

Only hatchery Chinook with a clipped adipose fin may be kept by anglers, and all others must be released unharmed. Chinook anglers are restricted to barbless hooks.

Anglers should refer to the 2019 spring Chinook salmon seasons and rules brochure for other rules and special restrictions, which will be available online in early April, and in paper form prior to the spring Chinook season at Fish and Game offices and license vendors.

The Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to decide on summer Chinook salmon fisheries on the Lochsa River, South Fork Salmon River and upper Salmon River at its May meeting. Fish return to those areas later than to the Clearwater River and Rapid River hatcheries, allowing fishery managers more time to develop season proposals.

Waters open to fishing:

Clearwater River drainage — open Saturday and Sunday

  • Mainstream Clearwater River: Camas Prairie Bridge to Highway 12 Bridge; Pink House Boat Ramp to Greer Bridge
  • North Fork: Open, no boats
  • Middle Fork: Open
  • South Fork: Harpster Grade to Mount Idaho Grade Bridge.

Salmon River drainage — open Thursday through Sunday

  • Rice Creek Bridge to Vinegar Creek Boat Ramp
  • Entirety of Little Salmon River

Snake River — closed

Here’s What NOAA Says About Why It Approved IDFG Steelhead Fishery

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RLEASE FROM THE NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINSTRATION’S FISHERIES SERVICE

NOAA Fisheries has determined that Idaho’s Fishery Management and Evaluation Plan (FMEP) for their recreational steelhead fishery provides necessary protections for salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  NOAA fisheries has approved Idaho’s plan under section 4(d) Rule.

AN ANGLER ADMIRES A WILD STEELHEAD CAUGHT DURING A DERBY HELD OUT OF LEWISTON, IDAHO, SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (BRIAN LULL)

Under section 4(d), NOAA Fisheries can specify how an activity can be exempt from additional ESA regulations. This applies particularly to “take,” which can include any act that kills or injures fish, and may include habitat modification. The ESA prohibits any take of species listed as endangered, but some take of threatened species that does not interfere with survival and recovery may be allowed.

“Idaho has developed a plan that provides continuing recreational fishing opportunities while ensuring that ESA-listed salmon and steelhead have the protection they need to recover,” said Allyson Purcell, Branch Chief in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region.

Idaho’s plan came together through collaboration with fishery managers across the Snake River Basin and includes a new basin-wide framework designed to limit total impacts on steelhead from all fisheries in the Snake River Basin.  Under Idaho’s plan, fishermen will continue to be required to release any wild steelhead they encounter.

The plan will also limit impacts of Idaho’s steelhead fishery on other ESA-listed species, such as Snake River sockeye and Snake River fall Chinook salmon. Furthermore, Idaho will be implementing new low-abundance thresholds that will trigger implementation of additional conservation measures when natural-origin steelhead abundance is projected to fall below threshold levels.

“The framework is responsive to changing conditions, and it will provide additional protections when the abundance of wild steelhead falls below critical abundance levels,” Purcell said. “We received over 1000 letters from fishing groups, environmental groups, government officials, and interested citizens during our public comment period on Idaho’s proposed plan.  This level of involvement demonstrates how important these fish are to the Pacific Northwest communities.”

More information:

Idaho Steelheading To Stay Open As Fish And Game Receives NOAA Permit

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

Idaho Fish and Game on March 15 received federal reauthorization for its steelhead fishing season, so fishing will continue uninterrupted, and the two areas currently closed will reopen immediately.

STEELHEADERS CAN CONTINUE  ANGLING THE NORTH FORK CLEARWATER, WHERE KELLY COLLITON CAUGHT THIS BIG B-RUN, AND OTHER IDAHO RIVERS AS STATE MANAGERS RECEIVED A NEW FEDERAL PERMIT JUST IN TIME TO KEEP FISHERIES OPEN THROUGH THE END OF APRIL. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Steelhead fishing resumes in the following locations:

  • The Main Salmon River between Warren Creek and the Copper Mine Boat Ramp.
  • South Fork of Clearwater River upstream of the Mount Idaho Grade Bridge.

Per Fish and Game director’s order, bag limits for steelhead anglers will remain as follows:

  • One steelhead daily in the Mainstem Clearwater, North Fork Clearwater, Middle Fork Clearwater, Salmon, and Little Salmon rivers, and the Snake River from the Washington state line upstream to the Dug Bar Boat Ramp.
  • Two steelhead daily in the South Fork Clearwater River and Snake River from the Dug Bar Boat Ramp to Hells Canyon Dam.

The federal agency that authorizes Idaho’s steelhead fishing, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had up until the fall of 2018 allowed Fish and Game to hold fishing seasons for nearly a decade while a permit application was pending.

However, several groups threatened to sue NOAA over the lack of a permit, which prompted to the Fish and Game Commission to order a suspension of the season in December. But Fish and Game officials and the groups reached a settlement that allowed most steelhead fishing to continue while NOAA officials processed the permit.

“During this difficult period, we greatly appreciate the patience of anglers, outfitters and guides, and other businesses and communities that rely on steelhead fishing,” said Fish and Game’s Fisheries Bureau Chief Jim Fredericks. “While it was NOAA’s inaction that created this situation, we appreciate NOAA staff working diligently to expedite this permit in a valid and legally defensible way and completing it when promised, despite a federal government shutdown that lasted more than a month.”

Washington Bass, Walleye, Channel Cats Would Remain Game Fish But With Liberalized Regs Under Bill Amendment

Walleye, bass and channel catfish would not be declassified as game species in Washington, but the Fish and Wildlife Commission would need to liberalize limits on them in all waters where sea-going salmonids swim.

STATE LAWMAKERS RECOMMENDED THAT LIMITS ON LARGEMOUTH BASS, LIKE THIS ONE CAUGHT AT A NORTHWEST WASHINGTON LAKE, AS WELL AS SMALLMOUTH BASS, WALLEYE AND CHANNEL CATFISH LIMITS BE LIBERALIZED IN WATERS BEARING SEA-GOING SALMONIDS LIKE CHINOOK. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee this morning voted 8-6 to amend HB 1579 to that effect.

The bill mostly deals with enforcement of hydraulic codes, but targets the nonnative smolt eaters as part of its suite of changes meant to help out struggling orcas and their key feedstock.

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,” prime sponsor Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien) said during a public hearing last week.

There already are no size or catch limit restrictions on smallmouth, largemouth, walleye and channel cats in the Columbia below Chief Joseph Dam and Snake and both of their tribs, a move WDFW implemented in 2016 following ODFW’s lead.

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But as written the change would liberalize regulations for the species on Lakes Washington and Sammamish and a host of other stillwaters connected to streams that serve as spawning and rearing habitat for not only Chinook but also coho, sockeye, steelhead, bull trout and other anadromous species.

For instance, Cottage Lake near Woodinville, Big Lake near Mt. Vernon, and Lake Sawyer east of Auburn.

WDFW’s SalmonScape illustrates the scope of other potentially affected waters.

And it also shows ones that may not, at least under the bill as it’s currently written — important spinyray lakes such as Banks, Billy Clapp, Moses, Potholes, Scooteney and Sprague in Eastern Washington, along with Seattle’s Green, Snohomish County’s Goodwin and Roseiger, and Bellingham’s Whatcom.

The state mapping product shows those have not been documented to have salmon present in or above them.

But eventually Rufus Woods and Lake Roosevelt could, if efforts to reintroduce Chinook to the Canadian Columbia go through.

Walleye and smallmouth are primarily in the Columbia system and largemouth are ubiquitous in lakes across Washington, and all can spawn naturally, but channel cats, which tend to only be able to spawn in the warmest of our relatively cool waters, have been planted in select lakes when funding has been available to buy them from other states.

While the issue of how to classify fish that are from the Midwest and elsewhere east of the Rockies is of concern to WDFW and the state’s warmwater anglers and guides, the bill has primarily elicited pushback for the elements strengthening how the agency permits work around water, including repealing all but automatic approvals for residential bulkheads on the saltwater, which can impact forage fish spawning habitat.

Rep. Bruce Chandler, a Republican from eastern Yakima County, called the bill “an imposition of changes that really apply to Puget Sound.”

Chairman Brian Blake, a Democrat who represents Washington’s South Coast, termed it a “work in progress,” but nonetheless asked fellow lawmakers to move it forward.

All eight Democrats voted for a slate of amendments to the bill, while six of the seven Republicans voted against, with the seventh absent.

The bill also would require anglers who fish for smelt in saltwaters to buy a license, a move that would annually yield an estimated $37,400, according to a legislative analysis.

A version in the Senate, SB 5580, had a public hearing yesterday. It was supported by WDFW and tribal and environmental groups, and opposed by building and business associations, with concerns from the state farm bureau.

To go into law, they would have to pass both chambers and be signed by Governor Inslee, and then, at least as far as bass, walleye, and channel cats go, the Fish and Wildlife Commission would need to make the changes to the regulations, though it could be also be done via an emergency rule.

Editor’s note: An earlier version reported HB 1579 received a do-pass recommendation out of committee. In fact, the vote was whether to amend the bill, which occurred. It remains to be given a recommendation.

WDFW Fish-Hunt Fee Hike, Other Bills Introduced In Olympia

The Olympia Outsider™ almost didn’t file an update this week after — true story — messing up his shoulder really bad while swiping his bus pass on the card reader as he boarded the 41.

The pain!!!!!!!

But duty calls, and so with the muscle relaxants kicking in, here are fish- and wildlife-related bills that Washington lawmakers have introduced this week, as well as a pair three (good grief) that he totally missed from earlier in the session.

Bill: HB 1708 / SB 5692
Title: “Concerning recreational fishing and hunting licenses.”
Sponsors: Reps. Blake, Fitzgibbon, Springer, Irwin, Chandler, Robinson, Riccelli, Lekanoff, Dye, Jinkins, Tarleton / Sens. Rolfes, McCoy, Takko, Wellman
Note: By request of WDFW
Bill digest: Not available, but this is the agency’s fee increase bill and while it would add 15 percent to the base cost for resident fishing and hunting licenses, by request of the Fish and Wildlife Commission it also includes a cap on how much more you’d end up paying overall. “It’s $7 on any combination of fishing licenses,” says Raquel Crosier, WDFW’s legislative liaison. “No fisherman will pay more than $7 more and hunter more than $15 more.” It pushes the age that kids first have to buy a fishing license from 15 to 16 and gives the commission authority to institute small surcharges after two years “to fund inflationary and other increased costs approved by the legislature in the biennial budget.” That could potentially mean “more frequent but smaller adjustments” to the cost of licenses compared to the effect of this bill, which would increase prices for the first time since 2011.

OO analysis: This is the second fee bill WDFW has floated since 2017 and Crosier is optimistic this one will do better than the last one. “It’s getting a lot more positive reach, at least in Olympia,” she notes, adding that some Republicans have even consponsored it this go-around. Overall, the agency is looking for a $67 million budget bump from lawmakers, with about three-quarters of that coming from the General Fund to make up for cuts from it since the Great Recession that haven’t been fully restored. It will be interesting to watch who testifies and what they say when the bills make it to a public hearing.


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Bill: HB 1784
Title: “Concerning wildfire prevention.”
Sponsors: Reps. Kretz, Blake
Bill digest: None available but essentially adds “wildfire fuel breaks” to the tools land managers have for preventing catastrophic blow-ups on public ground.
Olympia Outsider™ analysis: Can’t say the OO is against taking better care of areas that also function as critter habitat. A recent DNR blog highlighted how tree thinning and preventative burning on WDFW’s Sherman Creek Wildlife Area and elsewhere nearby helped keep parts of last summer’s Boyds Fire on the forest floor instead of crowning out as it did elsewhere in burning over 4,000 acres.

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)

Bill: HB 1824
Title: “Addressing the impacts of pinnipeds on populations of threatened southern resident orca prey.”
Sponsors: Reps. Young, Kloba, MacEwen, Vick, Irwin, Chambers, Lovick, Tarleton
Bill digest: None available, but requires WDFW to file a permit with federal overseers “for the maximum lethal take of sea lions in order to enhance the survival or recovery of salmon species protected in Washington,” meaning ESA-listed Chinook which are a key feedstock for starting orcas.
OO analysis: The bill has cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, including the woman who represents the Ballard Locks, where Herschell et al et all of Lake Washington’s steelhead — see what I did there? California sea lions are at their habitat’s capacity, and a recent analysis estimated that the marine mammals as well as harbor seals and northern orcas have increased their consumption of Chinook from 5 million to 31.5 million fish since 1970. Between that and decreased hatchery production, there are fewer salmon available for SRKWs, not to mention fishermen. While thanks to recent Congressional action, WDFW is already applying for authorization to take out sea lions on portions of the Columbia and its tribs, this appears to call for a broader permit and without all the bother of RCW 43.21C.030(2)(c), something something something about big reports on environmental impacts something something. (Sorry, the Methocarbosomething something is kicking in pretty nicely.)

Bill: HB 1662 / SB 5696
Title: “Concerning payments in lieu of real property taxes.”
Sponsors: Reps. Dent, Springer, Kretz, Blake, Dye, Tharinger, Chandler, Fitzgibbon, Peterson, Fey, Corry, Dufault, Young /  Sens.
Bill digest: None available but according to Crosier it essentially would mirror the way DNR pays counties through the state treasurer, allowing WDFW to more fully compensate counties for the million or so acres it has taken off local tax rolls as it has purchased farms, ranches and timberlands for wildlife areas. Crosier says it sets “a more consistent methodology and pay rate.”
OO analysis: If your eyes are as glazed over as the OO’s, we don’t blame you because this PILT bill is boring as hell, but could be helpful in restoring peace in counties where WDFW land ownership has caused friction and more critter habitat is needed.

THE 4-O WILDLIFE AREA IN ASOTIN COUNTY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Bill: HB 1261 / SB 5322
Title: “Ensuring compliance with the federal clean water act by prohibiting certain discharges into waters of the state.”
Sponsors: Reps. Peterson, Fitzgibbon, Stanford, Tarleton, Ortiz-Self, Lekanoff, Doglio, Macri, Pollet /  Sens. Palumbo, Carlyle, Wellman, Hunt, McCoy, Hasegawa, Kuderer, Nguyen, Saldaña
Bill digest: “Specifies that a discharge to waters of the state from a  motorized or gravity siphon aquatic mining operation is subject to the department of ecology’s authority and the federal clean water act.” Per a press release from Trout Unlimited, which is supporting the bills, the bills would “ban suction dredge mining in Endangered Species Act-designated Critical Habitat for listed salmonids.” Those watersheds include most of Puget Sound; the Cowlitz and other Lower Columbia tribs; Middle and Upper Columbia tribs in Eastern Washington; and Snake River tribs, so, much of the state outside the OlyPen and South Coast river systems.
OO analysis: We’d blame the muscle relaxers for overlooking this pair of bills, but they were actually dropped well before the OO suffered his grievous muscle something something. They’ve been routed to House and Senate environmental committees, where they will have public hearings early next week. Even with mining in my family history, the OO tends to side with fish these days — if the stocks need protection from even catch-and-release angling, they should probably have their habitat protected a little more too.

IMAGES FROM AN INTENT TO SUE NOTICE FROM SEVERAL YEARS AGO ILLUSTRATE TWO ORGANIZATIONS’ CLAIMS THAT WASHINGTON’S SUCTION DREDGING REGULATIONS WEREN’T ENOUGH AT THE TIME WHEN IT CAME TO PROTECTING ESA-LISTED FISH SPECIES.

Bill: HB 5597
Title: “Creating a work group on aerial pesticide applications in forestlands.”
Sponsors: Sens. Rolfes, Saldaña, McCoy, Conway, Hasegawa
Bill digest: Unavailable, but per the bill, it would establish a work group comprised of representatives from various state agencies, timber and environmental interests, among others, “to develop recommendations for improving the best management practices for aerial application of pesticides on state and private forestlands.”
OO analysis: Another bill from a couple weeks ago that the OO totally missed (possibly because he was enveloped by a cloud sprayed on the clearcut he reports all this stuff from), but will be an interesting one when it has a public hearing Feb. 7.

AS FOR OTHER BILLS THE OLYMPIA OUTSIDER™ HAS REPORTED ON so far this session, here’s a snapshot of those that have moved one way or another.

HB 1036, South Coast hatchery salmon production — hearing today in House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources.

HB 1061, Designating razors as the state clam — an open-and-quickly-closed public hearing was held by the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations .

HB 1230, Making more disabled sportsmen eligible for discounted licenses — hearing held and executive session scheduled today by House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources.

SB 5100, Restarting a pilot hound hunt for cougars in select counties — public hearing held by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks with varying support, opposition and neutralness.

SB 5320, Nonlethal hound training program — hearing held, received widespread support and now scheduled for executive session by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks today. House version set for public hearing later in February.

SB 5404, Fish habitat enhancement projects definitions — hearing scheduled next week in Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks.

HB 1579 / SB 5580, Chinook habitat protections and declassifying select game fish — public hearing held earlier this week before House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources with strong support from fishermen, tribes, others for major portion of bill addressing hydraulic approvals, but with angler concerns about designation drops for walleye, bass, catfish. Senate version set for hearing next week.

HB 1580 / SB 5577 Vessel disturbance and orcas — public hearing before House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources next week.

SB 5617, banning nontribal gillnets — officially, this bill hasn’t been given a public hearing date since being introduced late last week, but rumor is it will get one before Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks in February.

SSB 5148, OKing hunters to wear pink clothing during certain big, small game seasons — hearing held, received good support and was given a do-pass recommendation by Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks. Now in Senate Rules Committee for a second reading

AND AS FOR THE REST OF THE BILLS WE’RE FOLLOWING but which are awaiting committee assignments before the Feb. 22 deadline, those include:

Writing fishing and hunting rights into the state Constitution by a vote of the people — would be nice to get on the ballot, if only Washingtonians could be trusted to vote the right way

Estimating Northeast Washington whitetails — would be nice to get more refined data on the region’s flagtails

Studying human impacts on streambeds — would be nice to know

Turning Bainbridge Island (The Wolfiest!) into a wolf sanctuary — would be nice to visit, but bill not going anywhere

Barring WDFW from lethally removing livestock-depredating wolves — ironically, bill was shot and it limped off and died somewhere on Bainbridge

Banning hounds from being used to track down timber-depredating bears — unlikely to get a hearing

And asking Congress to open hunting seasons on sea lions — not going to happen, even if CNN seems ready to go.

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.

Steelheaders Now Required To Stop Fishing After First Keeper On SE WA Rivers

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Eastern Washington steelhead fishery change

Action: Change the daily limit on steelhead to one hatchery fish. Anglers must stop fishing for steelhead once they reach the daily limit.

STEELHEADERS ON THE GRANDE RONDE AND OTHER SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON RIVERS WILL HAVE TO QUIT FISHING ONCE THEY RETAIN THEIR FIRST HATCHERY FISH, WDFW HAS ANNOUNCED. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: Immediately through April 15, 2019.

Species affected: Steelhead.

Location:

Grande Ronde River: From mouth to the Washington/Oregon state line.

Touchet River: From the mouth to the confluence of the North and South Forks.

Tucannon River: From the mouth to the Tucannon Hatchery Road Bridge.

Walla Walla River: From the mouth to the Washington/Oregon state line.

Reason for action: The 2018 Columbia River forecasted return for upriver steelhead was 190,350. The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on Aug. 26 to review the A/B-Index steelhead passage at Bonneville Dam. TAC downgraded the total expected A/B-Index steelhead run size at Bonneville to 96,500. The run was adjusted again on Sept. 25 to a total of 92,800 A/B Index steelhead with 69,500 clipped and 28,300 unclipped fish. With continued concerns between co-managers for A run steelhead and impacts to wild fish, the department believes it is important to reduce daily limits to protect steelhead within the river network.

Additional information: All steelhead with unclipped adipose fins must be immediately released unharmed. In addition, anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for steelhead.

Anglers should be sure to identify their catch, as chinook and coho salmon may be present during this fishery and are not open to harvest. Anglers cannot remove any chinook, coho or steelhead from the water if it is not retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2018-19 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits and safety closures. Please continue to check emergency rules if you are planning to fish for steelhead within the affected area.

Information contact: Jeremy Trump, District 3 Fish Biologist (509) 382-1005

Snake River steelhead fishery change

Action: Changes the daily limit on steelhead to one hatchery fish. Anglers must stop fishing for steelhead once they reach the daily limit

Effective date: Immediately through March 31, 2019.

Species affected: Steelhead.

Location:  Snake River from the mouth (Burbank to Pasco railroad bridge at Snake River mile 1.25) to the Oregon State line (approximately seven miles upstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde River)

Reason for action: The 2018 Columbia River forecasted return for upriver steelhead was 190,350. The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on Aug. 26 to review the A/B-Index steelhead passage at Bonneville Dam. TAC downgraded the total expected A/B-Index steelhead run size at Bonneville to 96,500. The run was adjusted again on Sept. 25 to a total of 92,800 A/B Index steelhead with 69,500 clipped and 28,300 unclipped fish. With continued concerns between co-managers for A run steelhead and impacts to wild fish, the Department believes it is important to reduce limits to protect steelhead within the Snake River.

Additional information:  All steelhead with unclipped adipose fins must be immediately released unharmed. In addition, anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for steelhead and. Anglers should be sure to identify their catch, as chinook and coho salmon may be present during this fishery and are not open to harvest. Anglers cannot remove any chinook, coho or steelhead from the water if not retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2018/2019 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits, safety closures, etc.

Please continue to check emergency rules if you are planning to fish for steelhead within the affected area.

Information contact: Jeremy Trump, District 3 Fish Biologist (509) 382-1005

Spill Test Set To Begin On Columbia, Snake; Could Validate Benefits For Outmigrating Smolts

Federal, state and tribal officials have agreed to a three-year trial to see if increasing spill down the Columbia and Snake Rivers can “significantly boost” outmigrating salmon and steelhead smolt numbers.

WATER SURGES THROUGH BONNEVILLE DAM IN THIS JUNE 2014 CORPS OF ENGINEERS PHOTO. (ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS)

It’s already believed to, but the deal will allow for more flexible spring operations at eight dams to test the idea beginning next year through 2021, according to a report in the Lewiston Tribune.

“Collaboration is key to this new approach to Columbia River system management. Working together, the region’s states, tribes, and federal agencies have developed an approach that demonstrates environmental stewardship and affordable sustainable energy are not mutually exclusive,” reads a joint statement from “key supporters” of the agreement.

The parties include the Nez Perce Tribe, Oregon, Washington, BPA, Army Corps and Bureau of Reclamation. The states of Idaho and Montana are also on board with it.

The trial will include the four Lower Snake dams in Washington and the four on the shared Columbia between Washington and Oregon.

Both states will need to “harmonize” how they measure total dissolved gas measured below the spillways, with Washington’s Department of Ecology needing to up its allowance by early April and consider boosting it to 125 percent for tests in 2020.

A 2017 report by the Fish Passage Center says that “increasing spill for fish passage within the safe limits of 125% total dissolved gas has a high probability of improving smolt to adult return rates.”

The more fish, the more for fishermen of all fleets to catch and orcas to eat as well as escaping to spawn in the wild.

“It’s incremental progress at time when Columbia River spring Chinook are projected to return at very low numbers,” said spill advocate Liz Hamilton at the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, who added that it was “hardly the bold action we were seeking in (Governor Jay Inslee’s) Orca task force prey work group.”

She said NSIA will be watching closely, especially as dissolved gas levels are ramped up to the 125 percent benchmark.

“It can’t happen soon enough,” she said.

But concerns have been raised that spilling water will reduce electrical generation capacity in the hydropower system, and according to outdoor reporter Eric Barker’s piece in the Tribune, this week’s agreement was panned by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who also introduced a bill in the House this year against it.

In early 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon, who has been overseeing a long-running case over Columbia salmon and dam management, had ordered spill to occur.

 

Snake On WA-ID Border To Stay Open For Steelhead To WA-Licensed Anglers

With a federal fisheries permit in hand, a WDFW steelhead manager says Washington-licensed anglers will be able to continue to fish the Snake shared with Idaho after IDFG announced their season would shut down in early December due to a lawsuit threat.

WASHINGTON ANGLERS AS WELL AS IDAHO FISHERMEN WITH WDFW FISHING LICENSES AND CATCH CARDS WILL STILL BE ABLE TO FISH THE SHARED SNAKE FOR HATCHERY STEELHEAD LIKE THIS ONE CAUGHT DURING A RECENT DERBY. (BRIAN LULL)

“We’re not going to close because we have ESA coverage and a Fisheries Management and Evaluation Plan,” said Chris Donley, the state regional fisheries manager in Spokane, this morning.

That plan was approved back in 2011 by the National Marine Fisheries Service and WDFW’s had federal coverage since 2007.

Donley said that Idaho anglers who have a Washington-issued fishing license and steelhead catch card can fish the shared Snake under that authorization.

He was quick to add that WDFW did not view this as a chance to make money off of Gem State guides and anglers who won’t be allowed to fish the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake after Dec. 7.

That’s because Idaho’s FMEP for steelhead and Chinook fisheries lapsed in 2010 and NMFS has yet to issue a new one, though a draft is out for comment now and could be in place by early next year.

It’s that lack of coverage — rather than this year’s low return of A- and B-runs — that allowed six organizations, including the Wild Fish Conservancy of Duvall and The Conservation Angler of Portland, to threaten IDFG with a lawsuit last month.

The groups said that if the agency didn’t close steelheading in Gem State waters by Dec. 9 to prevent harm to Endangered Species Act-listed wild steelhead, they would take the state to federal court.

IDFG balked at a proposed settlement because of the conditions it would have imposed — bait and boat bans, barbless hook restrictions, and a Jan. 1 closure — and instead of spending money on court costs and lawyers fees, the Fish and Game Commission voted 6-0 to shut fishing down.

Challenging it in court might have cost $50,000, according to a state attorney general’s estimate included in a Lewiston Tribune article out this morning.

Idaho’s decision still drew scathing comments from guide Kyle Jones, who on Facebook vented his “utter frustration” with the state’s lack of a permit and wondered how he was going to make up $20,000 in lost winter revenue.

This is practically the same play that WFC et al made in 2014 in Puget Sound with the Chambers Creek early winter steelhead program.

In that case it was the other piece of the regulatory puzzle, the lack of a federally approved hatchery genetic management plan covering fisheries over another ESA stock, that was the target of opportunity.

With seemingly ever-increasing listings throughout Western salmon and steelhead country, the paperwork has piled up on NMFS’s collective desk, and between that and other work it’s assigned, progress approving FMEPs and HGMPs has been slow, leaving state fishery agencies vulnerable to lawsuits.

According to Lewiston Tribune outdoor reporter Eric Barker’s article, David Moskowitz of The Conservation Angler said closing the fishery would have benefits, Idaho’s rejection of the deal offered was more social than biological, and the threat of litigation was “meant to send a signal to everyone who is supposed to take care of these fish.”

For WDFW’s Donley, summer steelhead returning to the Inland Northwest have been all but handled with kid gloves from the time the fish entered the Columbia at Buoy 10, with reduced limits, night and thermal refuge closures — even full closures on the mainstem — all the way upstream.

Absent a conservation concern, he’s left wondering what the organizations’ aim is.

“How many more wild fish does this create when we have so many hydropower, habitat and hatchery issues to overcome?” Donley says.

Unexpectedly, Cathlamet The Top Station In 2018 Pikeminnow Reward Fishery

Updated 1:41 p.m., Oct. 3, 2018

Turns out, it was a good year for Cathlamet’s M.D. Johnson and his granddaughter to dabble in pikeminnow fishing.

They tried their hand catching the Columbia River species for cash, making $85 in fairly short order.

THE PIKEMINNOW SPORT REWARD PROGRAM AIMS TO REDUCE PREDATION BY THE NATIVE SPECIES ON SALMON AND STEELHEAD SMOLTS MIGRATING THROUGH THE HYDROPOWER SYSTEM. IT PAYS ANGLERS FROM $5 TO $8 PER QUALIFYING FISH, WITH SPECIAL REWARDS FOR TAGGED ONES. (PIKEMINNOW.ORG)

“A little off pace for the coveted $100 large,” the Northwest Sportsman writer emailed me in July, “but who knows. I might hit a hot streak.”

True, that’s a far cry from how good the top rods did on the Lower Columbia, but as it turns out, the waters down here were 2018’s unexpected hot spot.

“It is the first time in the Pikeminnow Program’s 28-year history that the Cathlamet station has been the number one location,” noted Eric Winther, who heads up the state-federal effort aimed at reducing predation on salmonid smolts. “Just when I thought I had it all figured out.”

The season wrapped up this past Sunday for the year with 25,135 pikeminnow turned in at the Wahkiakum County seat — a whopping 8,000 more than any previous year back through at least 2000, and nearly as many as 2017 and 2016 combined.

The Snake River’s Boyer Park station produced the second most, 22,950, a bit of a dip over the previous season, but notably, catch at the third-place station, The Dalles, was less than half of 2017’s, with just 22,461.

Cathlamet accounted for 14 percent of the overall catch of 180,309 pikeminnow this year, a bit above average over the average since the program began in 1990.

Winther says that pikeminnow anglers do best in low-water years, but this season began with high flows. The Dalles got off to a very slow start after the program opened in May due to spring runoff that tamped down catch rates at traditionally the best station and led to its regulars fishing elsewhere.

“Despite less favorable river conditions, fishing success was slightly better this year — 7.5 catch per unit effort vs. 7.4 in 2017), although overall effort was down about 2,000 angler days,” he says. “Basically, even though there were some challenging river conditions early in the season, there were also some opportunities, especially in the lower river below Ridgefield and near the Cathlamet station.  All in all, a good solid year, slightly above average.”

So what the heck did make the Lower Columbia so good for anglers?

“My theory on the increased Cathlamet pikeminnow catch is this:  We had a long, hot, dry summer, as you know,” Winther says. “Tributaries in the Lower Columbia were lower and warmer than usual and oxygen levels were also likely lower than normal. This made many of the tribs somewhat inhospitable for both northern pikeminnow and for the many critters that they eat (crayfish, etc.).  Since a lot of our catch from that location was smaller northern pikeminnow, I think that maybe there were a bunch of those tributary pikeminnow that dropped down into the mainstem.”

He notes that August and September are usually the best months on the lower river and that top anglers typically target specific hot spots during peak months.

“We also had a lot of effort at Cathlamet in 2018 and many of our regular anglers had their best ever harvest totals this year. In the end, I think that maybe 2018 river conditions just brought a lot of our top 20 anglers to the lower river at the same time of year as when a lot more of these tributary pikeminnow had dropped into the Columbia. Then high catch rates begot more effort which resulted in even higher catch rates and more effort,” Winther theorizes.

Changes at Boyer Park also pushed its regulars to fish elsewhere and that probably helped too, he thinks.

Average daily catch for registered anglers across all stations was 7.5, with Ridgefield leading with 15.9, followed by Lyons Ferry, 10.9, Rainier and Boyer Park tied at 10.1, Beacon Rock, 9.6, and Cathlamet, 9.0.

The Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program pays anglers from $5 to $8 per qualifying fish, with $500 for tagged ones.

The season’s top moneymaker earned $70,949 by turning in 8,686 pikeminnows. The second highest tally was $49,529 for a fisherman who brought in 5,898.

Program managers remind registered anglers that they should turn in their vouchers by Nov. 15 to receive payment for their catches.

Records also show that fishermen incidentally caught 15,094 smallmouth, 10,527 yellow perch, 5,510 catfish and bullheads, and 1,297 walleye. The upper Snake pools were best for bass, the Lower Columbia was tops for yellowbellies, the Richland area was best for whiskerfish and John Day area was best for ‘eyes.