Tag Archives: steelhead

SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (4-23-19)

THE FOLLOWING REPORTS WERE TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Preliminary Washington lower Columbia River mainstem sport sampling summary

April 20-21, 2019

Bonneville bank anglers: 101; kept adult Chinook: 7
Camas area banks anglers: -; kept adult Chinook: –
I-5 area bank anglers: 1; kept adult Chinook: –
Vancouver area bank anglers: 25; kept adult Chinook: 0

Bonneville boat anglers: 23; kept adult Chinook: 1
Camas area boat anglers: 24; kept adult Chinook: 0
I-5 area boat anglers: 39; kept adult Chinook: 0
Vancouver boat anglers: 171; kept adult Chinook: 2

A SPRING CHINOOK ANGLER IN THE WESTERN COLUMBIA GORGE HOPES FOR A BITE DURING A RAINSTORM. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Fishery Reports:

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 39 bank rods released 3 Chinook and kept 1 steelhead..

Above the I-5 Br:  15 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  25 boats/80 rods released 2 Chinook and kept 8 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 432 winter-run steelhead adults, 13 spring Chinook adults and one cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 27 winter-run steelhead adults and one cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 21 winter-run steelhead adults and two spring Chinook adults into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

Tacoma Power tagged and recycled 114 winter-run steelhead adults to the lower river.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,990 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 22. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 47.8 F.

Kalama River – 27 bank anglers had no catch.  10 boats/18 rods kept 3 Chinook and released 2 steelhead.

Lewis River – 9 bank anglers had no catch. 1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Wind River– 1 bank angler had no catch.  10 boats/15 rods kept 1 Chinook and released 1 Chinook.

Drano Lake – 16 boats/27 rods kept 1 Chinook.

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Catchable Trout Plants:  

Lake/Pond                           Date Species Number    Fish/lb Hatchery

Horseshoe (COWLITZ)            April 17, 2019     Rainbow 3,360           2.80 Mossyrock

Kress Lake (COWLITZ)            April 17, 2019 Rainbow 3,080           2.80 Mossyrock

Battle Ground (CLARK)          April 15, 2019 Rainbow   2,000 1.90 Vancouver

Sacajawea (COWLITZ)            April 15, 2019 Rainbow 3,375           2.51 Goldendale

Lower Columbia, Gorge Pools, SW WA Fishing Report (4-10-19)

THE FOLLOWING REPORTS WERE TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Preliminary Washington lower Columbia River mainstem sport sampling summary

April 1-7, 2019

Bonneville bank anglers: 239; kept adult Chinook: 19
I-5 area bank anglers: 1; kept adult Chinook: 0
Vancouver area bank anglers: 61; kept adult Chinook: 1

Bonneville boat anglers: 13; kept adult Chinook: 2
Camas area boat anglers: 50; kept adult Chinook: 3
I-5 area boat anglers: 141; kept adult Chinook: 17
Vancouver boat anglers: 1138; kept adult Chinook: 123

A COLUMBIA RIVER ANGLER SIZES UP HIS SPRING CHINOOK DURING 2016’S RUN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Columbia River and Tributary Fishery Reports

Salmon/Steelhead:

Lower Columbia mainstem from Warrior Rock line to Bonneville Dam– 516 salmonid boats and 118 Washington bank rods were tallied during last Sundays flight count.

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 14 bank anglers kept 1 legal sturgeon and released 5 sublegal sturgeon. 9 boats/23 rods kept 14 legal sturgeon, released 77 sublegal and 2 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.John Day Pool- 8 bank anglers kept 1 legal sturgeon.  2 boats/4 rods had no catch.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 2 bank anglers had no catch.  2 boats/5 rods kept 5 walleye.

John Day Pool- 2 bank anglers had no catch. 7 boats/13 rods kept 2 and released 10 walleye.

Bass:

Bonneville Pool- 3 boats/6 rods kept 2 bass and released 71 bass.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 37 bank rods kept 2 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  58 bank rods kept 13 steelhead.  38 boats/110 rods kept 42 steelhead and released 4 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 272 winter-run steelhead adults, one winter-run steelhead jack and four cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power employees released 40 winter-run steelhead adults, one winter-run steelhead jack and two cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 17 winter-run steelhead adults and two cutthroat trout adults into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

Tacoma Power also tagged and recycled 109 winter-run steelhead adults to the lower river.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,970 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 8. Water visibility is 9 feet and the water temperature is 45.7 F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

Kalama River – 14 bank anglers had no catch.

Lewis River – 3 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Drano Lake – 3 boats/5 rods had no catch.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Catchable Trout Plants:  No report of angler success.

Lake/Pond                           Date Species Number    Fish/lb Hatchery

Battle Ground (CLARK)           April 1, 2019 Rainbow 2,000           2.53 GOLDENDALE

Elwha Fishing Moratorium To Be Extended Into 2021; Good Chinook Forecast

The Elwha River will remain closed to fishing for another two years, until mid-2021, according to WDFW.

“Monitoring has shown that salmon and steelhead populations are expanding into newly opened habitats, but have not yet achieved recovery goals,” Director Kelly Susewind reported to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission this morning.

A CHINOOK SALMON EXCAVATES A NEST INSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK FOLLOWING COMPLETE REMOVAL OF ELWHA RIVER DAM. (JEFF DUDA, USGS)

The north Olympic Peninsula river was closed to all sport and tribal fishing in 2011 ahead of the removal of the two dams on its lower end, Glines Canyon and Elwha.

Chinook, coho, chum, steelhead and bull trout are taking advantage of the new habitat in the pristine national park watershed, with the seagoing char observed as far as 40 miles upstream, above “five major canyons,” according to a Peninsula Daily News report from last fall.

A NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SNORKELER SURVEYS FOR SALMON ABOVE GLINES CANYON DAM. (NPS)

WDFW district fisheries biologist Mike Gross says there are also encouraging signs with Chinook, including this year’s conservatively estimated forecast of 7,400, which is well above 2018’s prediction of 5,200 and above the actual return of 7,100.

He says that last year’s strong showing of 3-year-olds should translate into a good number of 4-year-olds this fall and 5-year-olds in 2020.

That good three-year push of fish should help propel the Chinook population further and further up the Elwha

“These early re-colonizers play an important role in establishing spawning and juvenile rearing in habitats of the upper watershed,” Susewind’s director’s report states.

A SPAWNING FALL CHINOOK PATROLS SHALLOW WATERS OF THE ELWHA SYSTEM IN 2016. (NPS/USBR/USGS ELWHA RESTORATION PROJECT, FLICKR, CC 2.O)

The Elwha is fabled for once hosting returns of truly massive Chinook before the dams were built in the early 1900s.

“Hopefully the ocean cooperates the next few years,” says Gross.

As for coho, the ocean forecast is 1,679, and he expects between 1,000 and 1,200 to actually return to the river.

The extension of the moratorium, which was agreed to by WDFW, the National Park Service and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, is slated to run from June 1, 2019 through July 1, 2021.

“Recreational, subsistence and commercial fishing will resume when there is broad distribution of spawning adults in newly accessible habitats above the former dam sites, and when spawning occurs at a rate that allows for population growth and diversity, producing adequate escapement and a harvestable surplus,” Susewind’s commission briefing says.

SW WA, Lower Columbia, Gorge Pools Fishing Report (4-3-19)

THE FOLLOWING REPORTS WERE TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN AND PAUL HOFFARTH, WDFW

Preliminary Washington lower Columbia River mainstem sport sampling summary

March 25-31, 2019

Bonneville bank anglers: 146; kept adult Chinook: 7
I-5 area bank anglers: 1; kept adult Chinook: 0
Vancouver area bank anglers: 65; kept adult Chinook: 0

Bonneville boat anglers: 2; kept adult Chinook: 0
Camas area boat anglers: 9; kept adult Chinook: 0
I-5 area boat anglers: 8; kept adult Chinook: 2
Vancouver boat anglers: 375; kept adult Chinook: 55

SPRING CHINOOK CATCHES ARE PICKING UP IN THE INTERSTATE STRETCH OF THE LOWER COLUMBIA. LAST WEEK’S KEPT CATCH OF 55 WAS SIX TIMES LARGER THAN THE PREVIOUS MARCH WEEK’S NINE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Washington Columbia River and Tributary Fishing Report March 25-31, 2019

Lower Columbia mainstem from Warrior Rock line to Bonneville Dam– 434 salmonid boats and 70 Washington bank rods were tallied during last Saturdays flight count.

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 16 bank anglers kept 2 legal sturgeon and released 9 sublegal sturgeon.  10 boats/27 rods kept 7 legal sturgeon, released 86 sublegal and 1 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 62 bank anglers kept 9 legal sturgeon, released 44 sublegal and 15 oversize sturgeon.  11 boats/23 rods kept 8 legal sturgeon, released 1 legal, 40 sublegal and 1 oversize sturgeon.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 3 boats/8 rods released 12 walleye.

John Day Pool- 44 boats/111 rods kept 172 walleye and released 12 walleye.

Bass:

Bonneville Pool- 5 boat/7 rods released 16 bass.

John Day Pool- 4 boats/7 rods kept 13 bass and released 12 bass.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 21 bank rods kept 5 steelhead and released 5 Chinook jacks.

Above the I-5 Br:  8 bank rods kept 9 steelhead.  24 boats/81 rods kept 44 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 196 winter-run steelhead adults and three spring Chinook adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power employees released 36 winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and they released 23 winter-run steelhead adults and one spring Chinook adult into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

The remainder of the fish are being held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,080 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 1. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 45.7 F.

Kalama River – 19 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.  7 boats/16 rods kept 1 steelhead and released 4 steelhead.

Lewis River – 8 bank anglers had no catch.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Catchable Trout Plants:

Lake/Pond                           Date Species Number    Fish/lb Hatchery

Battle Ground (CLARK)          April 1, 2019 Rainbow 2,000            2.5 GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

Lacamas (CLARK)                    April 1, 2019 Rainbow 4,300            1.8 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

Hanford Reach Steelhead Sport Fishery

In March, an estimated 337 angler trips harvested 148 hatchery steelhead and released 3 wild (unclipped) steelhead. Anglers averaged 6.2 hours per steelhead. The fishery will remain open to “bank angling only” at the Ringold Springs Access area through April 15. Daily limit is two steelhead and only Ringold Springs steelhead can be harvested. Steelhead released from Ringold Springs Hatchery are adipose and right ventral fin clipped.

McNary Reservoir Steelhead Sport Fishery Summary

Rain Could Help Sauk, Skagit Steelheading Pick Up

Rain in the forecast could improve steelheading on the Sauk and Skagit Rivers next week and beyond after a slow first two months of catch-and-release fishing.

Low, clear and frigid water for most of the winter-spring season have made for tough fishing, confirmed WDFW district fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull.

DRIFT BOATERS GLIDE DOWN THE SAUK ON APRIL 1. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“When we got some water when the snowmelt happened (in mid-March) it got better, and then it’s dropped off again. We need rain badly — that will help the fishing,” he said.

I spent all day on the Sauk on Monday and all I had to show for it — besides uplifted spirits and a nice sunburn on my arms, though a lighter tackle box than I started out with — was a Zion Williamson-esque wading boot disaster.

It began to blow up a mile down a gravel bar and only got worse from there on the hike out.

THE SAUK NEAR ITS CONFLUENCE WITH THE SKAGIT RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

According to the creel checker who pulled up just as I was calling it a day, just two steelhead were caught yesterday, 6- and 8-pounders caught on plugs by one drift boat.

The sampler said that four had been hooked on Sunday.

DRIFT BOATERS COME THROUGH A RIFFLE ON THE SAUK YESTERDAY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“Guys pulling plugs probably are doing the best overall, but guys are catching fish on other things too,” said Barkdull.

Fishing is open under selective gear rules, and yesterday’s very scattered anglers were using a mix of jigs, beads, spoons, plugs and flies.

This is the second year in a row that late-season steelheading has resumed on the Sauk and Skagit, and it follows on a 12-day opener last April.

THE SAUK AND SKAGIT HAVE BEEN FLOWING PRETTY COLD. DESPITE RECENT WARM, SUNNY SKIES, EVIDENCE OF A FRIGID END TO WINTER COULD STILL BE SEEN IN THE STRAY PILES OF SNOW IN DITCHES AROUND DARRINGTON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Last year’s best day came after a solid rain lifted the river, and the Northwest River Forecast Center is calling for the Sauk to jump to around 9,000 cubic feet per second by next Monday.

Later next week and weekend could be good, but that also depends on more fish moving in or becoming more active as the spawn — the latest in Pugetropolis — nears.

“The Sauk has been a little better than the Skagit. The Skagit below the Baker has been a good spot, though,” Barkdull said.

BUT SPRING IS ARRIVING IN THE MOUNTAINS, IF WILLOW BUDS AND THE DRUMMING OF RUFFED GROUSE IS ANY INDICATION. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The Skagit is open from the Dalles Bridge at Concrete up to the Cascade River Road Bridge in Marblemount. The Sauk is open from the mouth up to the Sauk Prairie Road Bridge at Darrington.

In announcing the season, WDFW warned that it was possible the fishery could close early if anglers encountered a set number of fish in the agreed-to management plan, but Barkdull said that with the low catches so far it’s extremely unlikely the fishery will close before the end of the month.

THE AFOREMENTIONED WADING BOOT DISASTER. THE BLOGGER’S PAIR OF YAKTRAX ALSO BROKE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Biologists forecasted around 6,500 wild winter-runs back this year, not quite as good as returns from 2013-15 but definitely better than the 2,200 or so in 2009, which was the last year until 2018 the rivers were otherwise open this time of year.

As for the rest of this season, Barkdull has some advice for when to hit them again.

“Wait till we get some rain,” he said.

That’ll give me a little time to replace that blown-out wading boot and get back on my favorite spring river.

CLOUDS CAP WHITEHORSE MOUNTAIN OVER SWEDE HEAVEN IN THE LATE AFTERNOON LIGHT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

National Fishing Trade Group Calls On Inslee To Reject Fish Commission’s Columbia Reforms Vote

A major national trade organization is calling Washington’s recent vote to freeze planned Columbia salmon fishery reforms a “significant threat to numerous fish stocks” and is calling on Governor Jay Inslee to reject it.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE GIVES HIS 2019 STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH EARLIER THIS YEAR. (GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

Expressing concern about putting nontribal commercial gillnetters back on the lower river, a letter from the American Sportfishing Association says doing so “is a move against the best available fisheries science and common-sense conservation efforts. Wasteful fishing practices, such as gillnetting, pose a threat to the long-term solvency of both the commercial and recreational fishing industries alike.”

Numerous Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead stocks are listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Snake fall kings, Idaho summer Chinook, upriver springers, and lower river fall tules, plus some summer-runs and coho.

“The gillnetting issue is great opportunity to show your leadership to the angling community by continuing to be a champion for conservation,” states the letter to Inslee, who launched his 2020 presidential candidacy earlier this month.

It’s a response to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission’s 5-1-2 March 2 move that also pushed catch allocations from 80-20 recreational-nontribal commercial, where they were in 2018, down to 70-30, where they were in 2016 before the reforms began to unravel, and roughly where fall Chinook allocations have also been paused at.

And it comes as former Washington commissioners instrumental in instituting the reforms on the north side of the Columbia sent state lawmakers their own letter that said they were perplexed by the current board’s decision.

Noting how important sportfishing is to the state’s economy — the organization intends to hold a conference in Washington later this year — ASA’s letter in part will remind Inslee of his October 2015 correspondence to then Commission Chair Brad Smith.

In it, Inslee asked the commission to “seek ways to expand public access to the recreational fishery, promote selective fisheries, implement scientifically credible hatchery practices that ensure hatchery production and consider economic factors when setting seasons for both the recreational and commercial fish industry.”

ASA’s letter was sent on behalf of the board of directors. Among its 14 signatories are Dan McDonald of Yakima Bait (full disclosure: a major Northwest Sportsman advertiser), David J. Pfeiffer of Shimano, Zack Swanson of Rapala, Jesse Simpkins of St. Croix Rods, and Bruce Akins of Bassmaster.

“We urge you to support ongoing fisheries conservation in the Columbia River, including protections provided under the Endangered Species Act, by rejecting the WDFW decision on gillnetting in the Columbia River,” they ask Inslee.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Columbia, Oregon’s citizen oversight panel will also take the issue up at its June 6-7 meeting. Oregon Governor Kate Brown says she still supports the reforms and that leading legislators are keeping an eye on “whether the legislative intent of the reforms is reflected in the policies adopted by the commission.”

Editor’s note: The full text of the letter is as follows:

March 14, 2019

The Honorable Jay Inslee
Governor
416 14th Ave SW Olympia, WA 98504

Dear Governor Inslee,

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the American Sportfishing Association, we are writing you to express our concern regarding the recent decision by the Washington Department Fish and Wildlife to reinstate nontribal gillnetting in the Columbia River. The Washington Department Fish and Wildlife’s decision is a significant threat to numerous fish stocks in the Columbia River – including 13 endangered fish species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. Furthermore, this move will result in dramatically shortened sportfishing seasons.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the nation’s recreational fishing trade association. ASA provides a platform for the recreational fishing industry to have a united voice when emerging laws and policies could significantly impact sportfishing businesses or sportfishing itself. In the US, over 49 million anglers generate over $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for over 1 million people. The recreational sporting industry is an important component of Washington’s economy and tourist industries. In the state of Washington, 1 million anglers spent $1.5 billion dollars on fishing annually and the recreational industry supported 15,208 jobs with an overall output of $2.4 billion. As a testament of the importance of Washington to the angling community, later this year ASA will be convening a conference of approximately 250 leaders in the industry, representing numerous companies throughout the country, at Skamania Lodge along the banks of the Columbia River in Washington. The gillnetting issue is great opportunity to show your leadership to the angling community by continuing to be a champion for conservation.

Given the importance of the state to businesses across the country, the sportfishing industry is watching closely the recent deliberations about allowing commercial gillnetting in the Columbia River. This highly controversial move would negatively impact fisheries conservation efforts and impact recreational fisheries from the river’s mouth to the upper Columbia in Eastern Washington. Allowing gillnetting on the Columbia River is a move against the best available fisheries science and common-sense conservation efforts. Wasteful fishing practices, such as gillnetting, pose a threat to the long-term solvency of both the commercial and recreational fishing industries alike. We urge you to support ongoing fisheries conservation in the Columbia River, including protections provided under the Endangered Species Act, by rejecting the WDFW decision on gillnetting in the Columbia River.

Sincerely,

Chris Megan
Publisher
On The Water, LLC

Zack Swanson
General Manager, VP of Sales
Rapala USA

Louis Chemi
COO
Freedom Boat Club

Dan McDonald
President
Yakima Bait Company

Jesse Simpkins
Director of Marketing
St. Croix Rods

Kirk Immens
President
Sportco Marketing, Inc.

Bruce Akin
CEO
B.A.S.S., LLC

Dale Barnes
Division Manager, Marketing
Yamaha Marine Group

Dan Ferris
Publisher
Midwest Outdoors

Steve Smits
President
ZEBCO Brands

Peter Foley
President
Boone Bait Company, Inc.

Patrick M. Gill
CEO
TackleDirect

Carl Liederman
President
Capt. Harry’s Fishing Supply Co., Inc.

Dave J. Pfeiffer
President
Shimano North American Fishing, Inc.

 

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.”

WDFW Fish Commission Adopts Columbia Subpanel Reform Recommendation; NSIA: ‘No Words’

Updated 3 p.m. March 4 and 10 a.m. March 5, 2019 at bottom with WDFW press release.
Updated 3:10 p.m. March 2, 2019 with reaction from NSIA

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission late this morning voted in favor of a joint-state subpanel’s recommendation to decrease recreational salmon fishing allocations on the Columbia and keep gillnetters on the big river.

THE ASTORIA-MEGLER BRIDGE ARCS OVER THE WEST MOORING BASIN IN ASTORIA DURING 2014’S BUOY 10 FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

A step backwards in terms of the planned fishery reforms that WDFW and ODFW had agreed to and sport anglers and organizations wanted to continue moving forward, the 5-1-2 vote pushes spring and summer Chinook allocations from 80-20 recreational-nontribal commercial, where they were in 2018, down to 70-30, where they were in 2016 before the process began to unravel, and roughly where fall Chinook allocations have also been paused at.

“There are no words to describe the depths of this betrayal to the license-buying public, and to the industry that sends millions in excise tax to the agency and hundreds of millions in taxes to the State of Washington,” said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “It’s mystifying how this Commission expects the angling public to support any sort of fee increase in the face of this level of utter disregard? I suspect the people who fund this agency will be in revolt until this shameful vote is overturned.”

Thrown into the bargain is a relaxing of the mandatory barbless hook requirement.


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The vote, held in Spokane, followed 30 to 45 minutes of public input from members of both fleets, as well as deep dives into the program by Washington and Oregon agency staffers that led to the six-member subpanel’s 3-2-1 recommendation vote earlier this week on “Option 1.”

As he did on the subpanel, Commissioner Dave Graybill of Leavenworth voted against it as the full commission took the matter up today in a Ramada conference room.

“I’m not going to accept going backwards,” Graybill said during final comments.

Pointing to low forecasted runs of Chinook this year, he said the Columbia was in “serious trouble” and supporting an increase in nontribal commercial impacts wasn’t something “I can do.”

Voting in favor were Commissioners Bob Kehoe of Seattle, Don McIsaac of Hockinson, Barbara Baker of Olympia, Kim Thorburn of Spokane and Jay Holzmiller of Anatone.

McIsaac, who chaired the subpanel, said that sorting out Columbia management issues ahead of March and April’s North of Falcon salmon-season-setting negotiations was very important and that the change would help achieve concurrency with Oregon in terms of fisheries held on the river.

Spring Chinook allocations will stay at 80-20 this year unless an inseason upriver run update increases the forecast from 99,300 to around 128,000.

Thorburn said there is still work to be done on the policy but that the recommendation most closely aligns with one of the commission’s and it provides economic benefits for all fisheries.

Holzmiller contrasted the infighting between the recreational and commercial fleets with the unified voice of Northeast Washington residents who’d shared their concerns about the region’s whitetail deer and high predator populations with the commission on Friday. In “not wanting to sound like a hippie” from the 1960s, he urged all anglers to work together to figure out how to get more fish back.

Abstaining in favor of holding more discussions were Commissioners Larry Carpenter Mount Vernon and Brad Smith of Bellingham, the current chairman and previous one.

PRC Recommendation
* Option 1 – Transition Period with amendment for spring Chinook
* Transition Period refers to all the allocations and gear types allowed in 2016.
                * Last year moving from gillnets to alternative gear.
* Change from mandatory barbless hooks to voluntary barbless hooks effective as soon as practical but by June 1, 2019 at the latest.
* Good faith progress towards recommending a comprehensive Columbia River salmon fishery policy for 2020 and beyond, to be completed as soon as possible. The policies embodied in this motion are intended to be in place until such comprehensive policy is adopted.
* To be used only in 2019, the motion is amended such that the 80%/20% sport/commercial allocation, with no buffer applied to the commercial share and no mainstem commercial fishing, is to be used unless the Upriver run size update is more than 129% of the Upriver spring Chinook pre-season forecast of 99,300.

THE COLUMBIA REFORMS WERE AGREED TO BY Washington and Oregon back in 2012 and began to be implemented in 2013.

They prioritized developing new alternative nontribal commercial gear in the mainstem, moving netting to off-channel areas near the mouth, and increasing allocation for sportfishers.

Allocations are essentially allowable catch impacts on Endangered Species Act-listed salmon.

In part, the move also aimed to help more wild salmon and steelhead get through to upstream spawning grounds.

But certain aspects have proved difficult to achieve, including the search for alternative gear and finding bays on the Washington side for the net fleet, leading to discontent from commercial interests.

That first led to a pause in the transition for fall Chinook and then a large review of how the whole program has worked and review by the subpanel, which brings us to today’s Washington commission vote.

Oregon’s citizen oversight panel is expected to take it up March 15.

In the end, 70-30 is still above where allocations stood in the so-called 2010-12 “base period,” when they were 60-40, 50-50 and 59-41 on spring, summer and fall Chinook, according to WDFW staff.

But still in the wings is a bill in Olympia, SB 5617, that would ban nontribal gillnetting on the Washington side of the Lower Columbia. If passed and signed into law, that would primarily affect a commercial fishery targeting fall brights above Vancouver.

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

Editor’s note: On the morning of March 5, 2019, WDFW issued a clarification on their original March 4 press release, tweaking verbiage in the eighth and ninth paragraphs about fall and spring Chinook allocations. This version includes both the original paras in strikethrough and the new paras.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has agreed to allow the use of gillnets during the fall salmon fishery on the lower Columbia River while state fishery managers work with their Oregon counterparts to develop a joint long-term policy for shared waters.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), took that action and received public comments on proposed hunting seasons for 2019-21 during a public meeting March 1-2 in Spokane.

The commission’s action to extend the use of gillnets was one of a number of recommendations for Columbia River fisheries developed by a joint committee with members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. Oregon’s full commission will also consider the recommendations when it meets later this month.

Commissioners from both states are working on an overhaul of their respective Columbia River salmon management policies, which are designed to achieve conservation goals for salmon and steelhead, promote orderly fisheries in concurrent waters, and maintain and enhance economic stability in sport and commercial fisheries.

The change in policy affects allowable commercial fishing gear and the allocation of catch between sport and commercial fisheries, among other adjustments. Conservation measures remain unchanged, and no additional fishing pressure was approved beyond the annual amount allowed in full compliance with all salmon and steelhead Endangered Species Act requirements and sustainable fishery management practices.

The Washington policy, approved in 2013, intended for the commercial fishery to have completed a transition from gillnets to alternative gear this year and be relocated away from mainstem Columbia River areas. However, the use of alternative gear has not yet been refined and the off-channel areas have been determined to be unsuitable.

The commission modified that policy in response to a comprehensive performance review conducted over the past year. Without that action, fishing rules for Washington and Oregon would have been incompatible, because Oregon plans to allow the use of gillnets during the upcoming fall season.

The recommendation approved by the commission at the meeting in Spokane will allow commercial fisheries to proceed similar to 2018. A maximum of 70 percent of the fall chinook catch will be allocated to the recreational fishery, the same amount allocated under Oregon’s policy.

The recommendation approved by the commission at the meeting in Spokane will allow commercial fisheries to proceed similar to 2018. A maximum of 70 percent of the fall chinook catch will be allocated to the recreational fishery, the same amount allocated in 2018.

Washington commissioners also agreed to retain the recreational fishery’s share of 80 percent during the spring chinook fishery. The allocation for the commercial fishery was set at 20 percent with no commercial fishing in the mainstem Columbia River unless the in-season run-size update for upper river spring chinook is more than 129 percent of the pre-season forecast of 99,300 fish.

Washington commissioners also agreed to retain the recreational fishery’s share of 80 percent during the spring chinook fishery for this year. The allocation for the commercial fishery was set at 20 percent with no commercial fishing in the mainstem Columbia River unless the in-season run-size update for upper river spring chinook is more than 129 percent of the pre-season forecast of 99,300 fish.

Additionally, the commission made the use of barbless hooks voluntary in Columbia River fisheries as soon as possible, but no later than June 1, 2019.

Five Washington commissioners voted to approve the recommendation: commissioners Kim Thorburn, Barbara Baker, Robert Kehoe, Donald McIsaac and Jay Holzmiller. Commissioner David Graybill voted “no,” and commissioners Bradley Smith and Larry Carpenter abstained.

Details of the motion that passed and more information on the Columbia River Policy Review can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/.

Prior to that decision, the commission was briefed by WDFW wildlife managers and accepted public comments on proposed hunting rules for deer, elk, waterfowl, and other game species. The commission is scheduled to take final action on those proposal at a public meeting April 5-6 in Olympia.

For more information on the season-setting process see https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting/

Columbia Above Warrior Rock To Open For Springers; Cowlitz, Lewis Stay Open For Steelies

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

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon today approved a sport fishery for spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River that reflects a significant reduction in the number of fish available for harvest this year.

A SPRING CHINOOK NEARS THE NET FOR ANGLERS FISHING THE WESTERN COLUMBIA GORGE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

According to preseason projections, about 99,300 upriver spring chinook will reach the Columbia this year, down 14 percent from last year and 50 percent below the 10-year average. Those fish return to hatcheries and spawning areas upriver from Bonneville Dam.

In addition, fishery managers are also expecting much lower returns than last year to several major lower Columbia River tributaries, particularly the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers. On the Cowlitz, this year’s spring chinook run is projected to reach just 11 percent of the 10-year average and fall short of meeting hatchery production goals.


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Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said those projections are largely the result of poor ocean conditions, which have complicAted fisheries management in recent years.

“Anglers will still find some good fishing opportunities in the Columbia River Basin this spring, but conservation has to be our first concern,” Lothrop said. “We have a responsibility to protect salmon runs listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and get enough fish back to the spawning grounds and hatcheries to support future runs.”

Although salmon fishing is currently open from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Interstate-5 bridge, spring chinook usually don’t arrive in large numbers until mid-to-late March. The new fishing regulations approved today will take effect in the following areas:

  • Columbia River below Bonneville Dam: Salmon fishing will open March 1 through April 10 on the Columbia River upstream from Warrior Rock boundary line to Bonneville Dam. Anglers may retain two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook. The lower river downstream from Warrior Rock will be closed to fishing from March 1 through April 10 to conserve spring chinook returning to the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers.
  • Tributaries: The Cowlitz and Lewis rivers will also close to salmon fishing March 1 to conserve spring chinook for hatchery escapement needs, but will remain open for hatchery steelhead retention. The Kalama River will remain open to fishing for salmon and steelhead, but the daily limit of adult salmon will be reduced to one fish on March 1.
  • Columbia River above Bonneville Dam: Waters above Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington state line above McNary Dam will open to salmon fishing April 1 through May 5. Anglers may retain two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook.

In all open waters, only hatchery salmon and steelhead identified by a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained.

Along with new area restrictions in the lower Columbia, fishery managers also reduced initial harvest limits for upriver spring chinook returning to the upper Columbia and Snake rivers. If those fish return as projected, anglers in the Columbia and Snake rivers will be limited to a total of 4,548 fish, compared to 9,052 last year, prior to a run size updated in May.

Lothrop noted that this year’s projected return of 99,300 upriver spring chinook is the lowest since 2007, but still well above the record-low return of just 12,800 fish in 1995.

“Experience has shown that warm-water ocean conditions present a challenge to salmon survival,” he said. “As in the 1990s, we have observed that cyclical warming effect during the past few years with similar results. During these times, we have to be especially cautious in how we manage the fishery.”

Anglers are strongly advised to review the rules for the waters they plan to fish, available on the department’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/