Tag Archives: tom nelson

2020 Seattle Boat Show Fishing, Crabbing Seminar Schedule Set

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SEATTLE BOAT SHOW

The Seattle Boat Show, Indoors + Afloat, is known far and wide for the quantity, quality and variety of its free boating and fishing seminars. For the 2020 show, there will be more than 200 free seminars on everything from diesel engine and electrical troubleshooting to cruising in Croatia, plus  advanced seminars for a fee through Boat Show University.

On the fishing and crabbing stage there will be 77 fishing seminars by the Northwest’s top-notch fishing experts. Whether it’s downrigger trolling techniques, using electronics to target trophy fish or learning about tuna fishing on the Washington Coast, the Seattle Boat Show is the place to be, Friday Jan. 24 through Saturday Feb. 1, 2020.

DEL STEPHENS WILL LEAD TWO SEMINARS ON ALBACORE TUNA FISHING OFF THE NORTHWEST COAST AT THE UPCOMING SEATTLE BOAT SHOW. (JOHN BEATH)

New presenters and topics for 2020 include:

  • Leland Miyawaki, well known for his fly the “Miyawaki Beach Popper, will give an in-depth seminar on saltwater fly-fishing for coastal cutthroat trout and salmon in Puget Sound.
  • Aaron Peterson, owner of Peterson’s  Northwest Guide Service,  will offer his knowledge of mid-Columbia River fisheries.
  • Chris Long, owner of Jolly Mon Charters in Anacortes, will give his perspective on fisheries in the San Juan Islands.
  • Del Stephens, also known as Tuna Dog by many and chairman of  the Oregon Tuna Classic for the past 15 years, will offer his in-depth knowledge of tournament and offshore fishing for albacore tuna.
  • Larry Philips, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Region 6 Director, will  host two seminars on coastal tuna, salmon and bottomfish fisheries. He and staff members will also host a Q&A session on all things fishing/hunting, killer whale issues, salmon season setting issues, licensing, the WDFW budget and more.
  • Highlights of returning presenters with new topics  include Tommy Donlin who will not only cover tuna, but provide insights on king salmon, lingcod and halibut fishing off the coast, and Austin Moser, owner of Austin’s Northwest Adventures, providing tips for successful fishing at Columbia River’s Buoy 10.

All seminars take place at CenturyLink Field Event Center. The complete schedule of seminars can be found at www.SeattleBoatShow.com/seminars. It is searchable by type, topic, date, stage and key word, making it easy for attendees to research and plan their show visits. For those attending seminars on two or more days, a 9-day pass for $30 offers the best ticketing value.

Friday, January 24th
12:00 PM Dungeness Crabbing Curriculum Tom Nelson Stage #3 North Hall
1:00 PM Coastal Tuna, Salmon and Bottomfish Fisheries and More Larry Phillips Stage #3 North Hall
2:00 PM Successful Puget Sound Shrimping Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
2:00 PM Bring Your Boat for Fantastic Fishing in Central Washington Dave Graybill Stage #3 North Hall
3:00 PM Downrigger Trolling Tactics Kent Alger Stage #1 North Hall
3:00 PM Columbia River fall king fishing above Bonneville Dam Aaron Peterson Stage #3 North Hall
4:00 PM Using Electronics to Target Trophy Fish in Pacific Northwest Mike Surdyk Stage #1 North Hall
4:00 PM Learn to Mooch, Puget Sound Salmon Keith Robbins Stage #3 North Hall
5:00 PM Trolling for Salmon Downrigger Techniques Chris Long Stage #1 North Hall
5:00 PM Tuna Fishing off the Washington Coast: Anyone Can Catch a Tuna Tommy Donlin Stage #3 North Hall
Saturday, January 25th
11:00 AM Using Electronics to Target Trophy Fish in Pacific Northwest Mike Surdyk Stage #3 North Hall
12:00 PM Saltwater Structure Strategies Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
12:00 PM Tuna Fishing off the Washington Coast: Live Bait Tuna Success Tommy Donlin Stage #3 North Hall
1:00 PM Downrigger Trolling Tactics Kent Alger Stage #1 North Hall
1:00 PM Bring Your Boat for Fantastic Fishing in Central Washington Dave Graybill Stage #3 North Hall
2:00 PM Dirty Downrigger Tricks Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
2:00 PM Learn to Mooch, Puget Sound Salmon Keith Robbins Stage #3 North Hall
3:00 PM Fly-Fishing Puget Sound with a Dry Fly Leland Miyawaki Stage #1 North Hall
3:00 PM WDFW Q&A Session on Fishing, Hunting, Killer Whales and More Larry Phillips Stage #3 North Hall
4:00 PM Winter Blackmouth Fishing in Puget Sound Nick Kester Stage #1 North Hall
4:00 PM Trolling the Columbia River Gorge for fall kings Aaron Peterson Stage #3 North Hall
5:00 PM Bring Your Boat for Fantastic Fishing in Central Washington Dave Graybill Stage #1 North Hall
Sunday, January 26th
11:00 AM Learn to Mooch, Puget Sound Salmon Part I Keith Robbins Stage #3 North Hall
12:00 PM Learn to Mooch, Puget Sound Salmon Part II Keith Robbins Stage #3 North Hall
1:00 PM Dirty Downrigger Tricks Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
1:00 PM Using Electronics to Target Trophy Fish in Pacific Northwest Mike Surdyk Stage #3 North Hall
2:00 PM Coastal Tuna, Salmon and Bottomfish Fisheries and More Larry Phillips Stage #1 North Hall
2:00 PM Downrigger Trolling Tactics Kent Alger Stage #3 North Hall
3:00 PM Hunting for Halibut and Lingcod Tommy Donlin Stage #1 North Hall
3:00 PM Lingcod Fishing in Puget Sound Nick Kester Stage #3 North Hall
4:00 PM Triple Threat Salmon Angling Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
4:00 PM Trolling for Salmon in San Juan Islands Chris Long Stage #3 North Hall
5:00 PM Bring Your Boat for Fantastic Fishing in Central Washington Dave Graybill Stage #1 North Hall
Monday, January 27th
2:00 PM Successful Puget Sound Shrimping Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
3:00 PM Learn to Mooch, Puget Sound Salmon Keith Robbins Stage #1 North Hall
4:00 PM Saltwater Structure Strategies Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
5:00 PM Columbia River’s Buoy 10 Tactics for Success on Coho, Chinook and More Austin Moser Stage #1 North Hall
6:00 PM Dirty Downrigger Tricks Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
7:00 PM Trolling for Salmon in San Juan Islands Chris Long Stage #1 North Hall
Tuesday, January 28th
2:00 PM Columbia River Springers in Your Boat! Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
3:00 PM Columbia River’s Buoy 10 Tactics for Success on Coho, Chinook and More Austin Moser Stage #1 North Hall
4:00 PM Fishing for San Juan Islands Chinook Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
5:00 PM Chasing Coastal King Salmon Tommy Donlin Stage #1 North Hall
6:00 PM Lingcod Fishing in Puget Sound Chris Long Stage #1 North Hall
7:00 PM Using Electronics to Target Trophy Fish in Pacific Northwest Mike Surdyk Stage #1 North Hall
Wednesday, January 29th
2:00 PM Dungeness Crabbing Curriculum Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
3:00 PM Columbia River’s Buoy 10 Tactics for Success on Coho, Chinook and More Austin Moser Stage #1 North Hall
4:00 PM Successful Puget Sound Shrimping Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
5:00 PM Learn to Mooch, Puget Sound Salmon Keith Robbins Stage #1 North Hall
6:00 PM Kayak Fishing the Pacific Northwest Brad Hole Stage #1 North Hall
Wednesday, January 29th
7:00 PM Trolling for Salmon Downrigger Techniques Chris Long Stage #1 North Hall
Thursday, January 30th
2:00 PM Using New Technology to Find and Catch Tuna Del Stephens Stage #1 North Hall
3:00 PM Triple Threat Salmon Angling Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
4:00 PM Downrigger Trolling Tactics Kent Alger Stage #1 North Hall
5:00 PM Dirty Downrigger Tricks Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
6:00 PM Fly-Fishing Puget Sound with a Dry Fly Leland Miyawaki Stage #1 North Hall
7:00 PM Kayak Fishing the Pacific Northwest Brad Hole Stage #1 North Hall
Friday, January 31st
12:00 PM Dungeness Crabbing Curriculum Tom Nelson Stage #3 North Hall
1:00 PM Columbia River fall king fishing above Bonneville Dam Aaron Peterson Stage #3 North Hall
2:00 PM Fishing for San Juan Islands Chinook Tom Nelson Stage #1 North Hall
2:00 PM Using Electronics to Target Trophy Fish in Pacific Northwest Mike Surdyk Stage #3 North Hall
3:00 PM Downrigger Trolling Tactics Kent Alger Stage #1 North Hall
3:00 PM Fly-Fishing Puget Sound with a Dry Fly Leland Miyawaki Stage #3 North Hall
4:00 PM Hunting for Halibut and Lingcod Tommy Donlin Stage #1 North Hall
4:00 PM Early Season Resident Coho Salmon Fishing in Puget Sound Nick Kester Stage #3 North Hall
5:00 PM Catching Winter Blackmouth, How, When & Where John Keizer Stage #1 North Hall
Saturday, February 1st
11:00 AM Using Electronics to Target Trophy Fish in Pacific Northwest Mike Surdyk Stage #3 North Hall
12:00 PM Catching Winter Blackmouth, How, When & Where John Keizer Stage #1 North Hall
12:00 PM Downrigger Trolling Tactics Kent Alger Stage #3 North Hall
1:00 PM Tuna Fishing off the Washington Coast: Live Bait Tuna Success Tommy Donlin Stage #1 North Hall
1:00 PM Trolling the Columbia River Gorge for fall kings Aaron Peterson Stage #3 North Hall
2:00 PM How to Maximize your Marine Electronics to Locate Fish John Keizer Stage #1 North Hall
2:00 PM Early Season Resident Coho Salmon Fishing in Puget Sound Nick Kester Stage #3 North Hall
3:00 PM Fly-Fishing Puget Sound with a Dry Fly Leland Miyawaki Stage #1 North Hall
3:00 PM Downrigger Salmon Fishing the Ocean and Puget Sound John Keizer Stage #3 North Hall
4:00 PM Albacore Tuna Fishing A to Z Del Stephens Stage #1 North Hall
4:00 PM Kayak Fishing the Pacific Northwest Brad Hole Stage #3 North Hall

 

Northwest Fishing Derby Series

The Northwest Salmon Derby Series has been renamed the Northwest Fishing Derby Series,  diversifying the fish species to include bass and kokanee and increasing the number of derbies to 20, up from 14 in 2019. While at the show, stop by to view the grand prize for the series, a fully-loaded, KingFisher 2025 Escape HT powered with Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ Loader Trailer. The boat is equipped with Shoxs Seats for maximum comfort in the roughest of seas, a custom engraved WhoDat Tower, Raymarine Electronics, Burnewiin Accessories, Scotty Downrigger and a Dual Electronics stereo. It is valued at $75,000. Anglers do not need to fish all the derbies to be eligible for the boat and motor package. When an angler purchases a derby ticket, the angler is automatically entered into the drawing for the grand prize boat

 

Mixed Results For Central Sound Chinook Anglers On Late Opener

Some anglers found Chinook, others mostly dogfish (er, guilty as charged) on today’s delayed Marine Area 9-10 hatchery Chinook opener on Puget Sound.

“Possession was decent,” reported Tom Nelson of The Outdoor Line on Seattle’s 710 ESPN early this afternoon. “Tin Shed, West Bar, East Bar.”

HAPPY CLIENTS OF ALL STAR CHARTERS SHOW OFF A PAIR OF KINGS CAUGHT ON TODAY’S CENTRAL PUGET SOUND HATCHERY OPENER. (ALLSTARFISHING.COM)

“No Point was pretty quiet,” he added.

So too was Midchannel Bank — usually a quota crusher for the Area 9 fishery — when Nelson was there very early in the morning.

SCENES FROM TODAY’S SALMON OPENER ON AREA 9: RIGS BACK DOWN THE RAMP AT EVERETT’S 10TH STREET LAUNCH IN THE DARK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

He ran all the way to the famed Port Townsend salmon hole, despite advising other anglers on his show last Saturday that the tide wasn’t favorable there today.

“I couldn’t stand it,” he admitted. “It sucked, dude. I know of maybe five taken there.”

SNOHOMISH COUNTY’S WHITEHORSE, THREE FINGERS, PILCHUCK AND OTHER MOUNTAINS STAND OUT ON THE EASTERN HORIZON AS DAWN NEARS OVER EVERETT AND PORT GARDINER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Ryley Fee reported going two for four on MCB fish to 10 pounds by 9 a.m.

Was definitely slower, and no bait around,” he said.

MOOCHERS WORK OFF POINT NO POINT AS MT. RAINIER BEGINS TO PINK UP IN THE DAWN LIGHT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

That “no bait around” extended to Point No Point and Possession Bar, and that must’ve had the doggies starving for just about anything that jiggled past.

I was out on Area 9 with Mark Yuasa and Karsten McIntosh of the Northwest Marine Trade Association in the Northwest Salmon Derby Series grand raffle prize Weldcraft Rebel 202 Hardtop and we caught dogfish on cutplug herring, dogfish on whole herring, dogfish on fat spoons and dogfish on skinny spoons; found dogfish on bottom and caught suspended dogfish; and we brought ’em in straight and we reeled ’em in sideways.

CHINOOK ANGLERS HOPE FOR A BIT AT NO POINT AS THE SUN JUST BEGINS TO EDGE OVER WHITEHORSE’S NORTHERN SHOULDER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“There was a lot of dogfish on Possession,” confirmed Nelson. “Run anything that smelled of bait, you caught one …”

For skipper Gary Krein of All Star Charters, the lack of bait all came down to the tidal movement, or relative lack of it, to help keep herring, etc., pinned against ledges or in eddies, which in turn draw Chinook, which draw anglers.

BANK ANGLERS HUCK BUZZ BOMBS AND OTHER FLUTTERING JIGS OFF POINT NO POINT IN HOPES A CHINOOK OR RESIDENT COHO BITES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“You need at least a foot an hour” of movement, he says.

Today’s tides at Edmonds were a 2.61 low at 6:02 a.m. rising to a 7.31 high at 12:33 p.m. dropping barely to 5.36 at 5:20 p.m. — “My most displeasant tide there is to fish, just not enough movement,” said Krein.

THE EXPERT HANDS OF MARK YUASA PREPARES HERRING FOR MOOCHING, ONE OF HIS FAVORITE TACTICS FOR SALMON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Tomorrow’s tides don’t do much for him, but Saturday’s look “quite a bit better.”

Krein did note there was bait at Jeff Head, but where all the schools that were hanging out in the Tin Shed yesterday that Nelson screenshot is anybody’s guess.

We tried mooching at Point No Point and then trolling spoons and other gear on the edges of the bar, while others found Chinook success on plugs.

AN ANGLER REACHES THE NET FOR A FISHING PARTNER’S CHINOOK OFF POINT NO POINT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

We heard of 10- and 20-pounders caught on Tomics, and John Martinis of John’s Sporting Goods in Everett posted that after starting the morning running flashers and spoons, he and his buddies switched out to 5-inchers in mother of pearl color combos (602 and 603) and nailed their limits.

Krein reported his operation’s four charter boats ran “mostly plugs and flashers and spoons to” put 21 kings in the box in both Area 9 and 10 this morning.

NELLY TINKERS WITH GEAR ON HIS BIG DUCKWORTH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“Nice fish, nice fish,” he said, with the six caught aboard the boat he was on all running 13 to 17 pounds.

After the NMTAs boys kicked me out of the boat around 11:30 back at 10th Street, I headed over to the WDFW fish checker for an update.

IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO CATCH ANY FISH, YOU MIGHT AS WELL TRY AND TAKE SOME DECENT PHOTOS, I GUESS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“Pretty much everyone’s gotten their fish so far,” she told me and pointed to an eraser board with a score of 66 Chinook and eight coho to that point.

Maybe so, but the feeling is a bit different with others.

“We didn’t catch as many Chinook on this July 25 opener as (past years’) July 16 openers,” The Outdoor Line‘s Nelson noted.

KARSTEN MCINTOSH HOLDS UP A SPOON-SMACKING SMOLT THAT APPEARS TO HAVE HAD A BITE TAKEN OUT OF IT ON THE WAY UP. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

So the questions become, how much damage did we actually do to the relatively low 3,500-fish Area 9 quota that led to the delayed start, and are we gonna get more time on the water after the four-day opener wraps up on SUNday?

Even with his boats’ success, Krein says “There are lots of people who didn’t get any,” and he expects there to be room after the numbers are crunched.

THE 67 BILLIONTH DOGFISH OF THE DAY STRUGGLES BESIDE THE BOAT. NEXT TIME, NO BAIT, NO MOJO, NO NOTHING THAT SMELLS LIKE FISH ON THE LURES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“My read is we’re going to get additional days,” Nelson also forecast.

Meanwhile, Area 10 is scheduled to stay open until its 3,057-king quota is caught, or Aug. 31. Anglers there may benefit from salmon that moved through Area 9 unmolested where in past years under the July 16 opener those fish might have been caught beforehand.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this said that the Area 9 fishery wrapped up on Monday but in fact it ends after Sunday. Somebody can’t do math after being awake for so long.

Seattle Outdoor Radio Host Faces $2,500 Fine For Feeding Seal A Fish Fin

A Puget Sound pier angler who involuntary fed a harbor seal his Chinook this morning won’t face a fine.

But a local radio show host who flicked a dorsal fin to another lurking like “dogs at the dinner table” to illustrate the marine mammal’s overabundance and impact on ESA-listed salmon stocks in the inland sea faces a bill that’s grown to $2,500 for doing so.

TOM NELSON WITH A BRITISH COLUMBIA CHINOOK. (TOM NELSON)

Official advice to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration law enforcement: Don’t hold your breath that a check from Tom Nelson will be in the mail anytime soon.

“I. Ain’t. Payin’.” is the text the host of The Outdoor Line on Seattle’s 710 ESPN sent out last night to a fellow broadcaster.

Instead, Nelson says he’s “going to war” with the federal fishery overseers over the issue.

“NOAA has to become part of the solution to our problems and right now they are a big part of the problem!” he emailed Northwest Sportsman magazine this morning.

The same day last summer that KING 5 taped him throwing the inedible fin of a Chinook he caught to the seal at an Everett marina he got a voice mail from a federal game warden that he was on the hook for $500.

Nelson didn’t pay the fine and he recently received a registered letter from the feds upping the amount and stating that he was guilty of a “take,” according to an article on MyNorthwest.com that’s based on a 12-minute interview late this week on the Dori Monson Show.

He continues to contend that the plight of our southern resident killer whales is directly linked to too many harbor seals and sea lions eating too much of their key feedstock — Chinook.

A HARBOR SEAL STEALS A CHINOOK IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS OFF AN ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

Recent papers say that in the 45 years that led up to 2015, Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands and Hood Canal harbor seals and sea lions “consumed double that of resident killer whales and six times greater than the combined commercial and recreational catches,” and that harbor seals “accounted for 86.4% of the total coast wide (Chinook) smolt consumption in 2015” as their numbers mushroomed from more than 8,500 to nearly 78,000 over a 40-year period.

On Monson’s show, Nelson contrasted the speedy notice that he was initially facing a $500 fine with NOAA’s perceived foot-dragging in approving hatchery genetic management plans that lead to lawsuits by NGOs which lead to closed operations, as well as the delay of a fishery in California this year.

“NOAA can’t get their homework done for us to do fisheries, in time for the state to be insulated from litigation, and yet they can find the time to hook me for throwing a dorsal fin to a harbor seal,” Nelson said.

The two facets do represent different elements of NOAA’s large workload, one of which is enforcing the Congressionally approved Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

Under it a “take” not only includes killing or trying to kill a seal or sea lion, but feeding or attempting to.

But here’s where it might get interesting: The full text on feeding states “in the wild.”

Nelson contends the harbor seal he flicked the fishy bit to was inside a manmade harbor, an “artificial” structure and “not a natural body of water.”

Furthermore, the seals there are “completely habituated to human presence,” he also told Monson.

A HARBOR SEAL LURKS OFF AN ANGLER’S LINE OFF KINGSTON LAST JULY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

NOAA spokesman Michael Milstein said agency policy is “to not comment on law enforcement cases” and emailed me links to an FAQ on why not to feed marine mammals and a link to what take means.

Neither publication define the word “wild,” nor does the MMPA specifically — at least in a layman’s quick reading — though it could also be construed as not in captivity.

NOAA’s FAQs do state that feeding seals “can cause them to lose their natural wariness of humans or boats and condition them to beg for handouts instead of foraging for their normal prey.”

That’s what appears to have happened with one of the “water puppies” hanging out at Nelson’s marina begging for scraps and got him in hot water with the government.

But instead of being scared, he plans to use the issue to highlight the problem of too many pinnipeds eating too many Chinook, which along with reduced hatchery and wild salmon production, vessel disturbance and pollution are decreasing orcas’ ability to thrive.

“Before they get a nickel out of me, they can go and lock me up,” Nelson told Monson.

Get a Free NewsLetter Here

Orca Task Force Proposed Mission Statement Blasted For Overlooking Seal Predation

“This is going to be the Kill Sport Fishing Task Force.”

That’s Tom Nelson’s no-holds-barred assessment of an initial work product out of Governor Jay Inslee’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force.

TOM NELSON SAYS THAT THE GOVERNOR’S ORCA TASK FORCE IS OVERLOOKING A HUGE PROBLEM, SEAL AND SEA LIONS THAT ARE CONSUMING SIX TIMES AS MANY PUGET SOUND CHINOOK AS RECREATIONAL, COMMERCIAL AND TRIBAL FISHING FLEETS ARE. (THEOUTDOORLINE.COM)

Rather than address the fact harbor seals and other marine mammals are eating up starving local orcas’ breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snacks, a proposed mission statement from the group says it will instead seek to enact “temporary emergency measures to offset any shortfall in prey availability.”

Nelson, co-host of the Saturday morning fishing and hunting radio show The Outdoor Line on Seattle’s 710 ESPN, interprets that to mean cutting salmon angling seasons, plain and simple.

“We’ve suffered cut after cut after cut after cut,” he bristles.

The statement also calls for reducing vessel traffic in whale feeding areas by 50 percent by the year 2022.

That probably doesn’t mean ferries, tankers and other shipping traffic, at least in Nelson’s eyes.

“It’s all going to be fishing and whale watching and recreational boats,” he says.

It all boggles Nelson, and this afternoon he ripped the apparent low-hanging-fruit approach on KIRO Radio 97.3’s Dori Monson Show.

He told his fellow radio host that officials were “ducking, dodging and diving from doing the right thing.”

A HARBOR SEAL SWIMS BESIDE A BOAT OFF KINGSTON IN MID-JULY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The task force’s “full draft” report for how to recover orcas isn’t due till Oct. 1, but that the mission statement doesn’t mention pinnipeds is highly perplexing.

Nelson points to a 2017 paper that looked at king salmon consumption in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands and Hood Canal over the previous 45 years.

“Converting juvenile Chinook salmon into adult equivalents, we found that by 2015, pinnipeds consumed double that of resident killer whales and six times greater than the combined commercial and recreational catches,” the authors’ abstract reads.

Another paper from last year with a wider lens says, “Harbor seals in the Salish Sea (i.e. Puget Sound, Strait of Georgia, and Strait of San Juan de Fuca) accounted for 86.4% of the total coast wide (Chinook) smolt consumption in 2015, due to large increases in the harbor seal abundance in this region between 1975 and 2015 (8,600 to 77,800), as well as a large diet fraction of Chinook salmon smolts relative to other regions.”

FIGURES IN “COMPETING TRADEOFFS BETWEEN INCREASING MARINE MAMMAL PREDATION AND FISHERIES HARVEST OF CHINOOK SALMON,” PUBLISHED IN SCIENTIFIC REPORTS LAST FALL, ILLUSTRATES THE INCREASING CONSUMPTION OF INDIVIDUAL CHINOOK AND CHINOOK BIOMASS BY HARBOR SEALS (BLUE) AND OTHER MARINE MAMMALS. (CHASCO ET AL)

Coastwide, the all-fleet king catch has decreased from 3.6 million to 2.1 million.

As for the paper that the governor’s group appears to be leaning on, it doesn’t mention harbor seals or sea lions once.

It does say that “a 50% noise reduction plus a 15% increase in Chinook would allow the (SRKW) population to reach the 2.3% growth target.”

That 15 percent figure can also be found in the task force’s proposed mission statement: “By 2028: In the near term, our goal is to maintain reductions in vessel disturbance and underwater noise and increase Chinook prey abundance by 15% by 2028.”

Hatchery production increases are being considered and recently state and federal biologists identified the most important Chinook rivers for SRKWs.

Noise, pollutants and prey availability are believed to be the three key factors in why J, K and L pods are struggling, but the task force paper also states, “The whales’ depleted status is due in large part to the legacy of an unsustainable live-capture fishery for display in aquariums.”

It was popular to go to SeaWorld and see orcas eat fish out of trainers’ hands.

Ironically, Nelson was threatened with a $500 fine this week for flipping a finger-sized chunk of a salmon carcass to a harbor seal hanging out in the Everett marina, where he moors his boat.

He was on camera with KING 5 for a story illustrating the abundance of harbor seals in Puget Sound.

As soon as he tossed out that piece of fish to one of the “water puppies” that more and more appear to beg for scraps from fishermen and others, he and the camera crew’s phones started ringing and he eventually found himself on the line with a federal enforcement officer.

It all may go down as a warning, but it’s illegal to feed the Marine Mammal Protection Act species.

The day before a harbor seal ate a wild Chinook right off the end of Nelson’s line as he tried to release it.

HUGH ALLEN SNAPPED THIS HARBOR SEAL STEALING A SAN JUANS SALMON LITERALLY OFF AN ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

So how would Nelson deal with the overpopulation of harbor seals that are eating Puget Sound Chinook, many of which would otherwise grow into adults and upon their return to the Salish Sea provide nourishment for the orcas?

“If we could cut their numbers in half, it could do something. We could stop this by trapping and releasing them in the ocean,” he proposes.

There, they’d be subject to being preyed on transient killer whales, the pinniped-eating kind.

“We’re going to have to act,” he says. “It ain’t gonna be nice, it ain’t gonna be pretty.”

This week, lawmakers in Washington DC voted to expand state and tribal managers’ authority to remove sea lions from more of the Lower Columbia and its tribs to reduce their predation on ESA-listed salmon and steelhead stocks.

Hold that thought, Senators.

Study Shows Importance Of Puget Sound Chinook Production To Starving Orcas

A new analysis is showing the importance of Puget Sound Chinook for the inland sea’s orcas.

Fall kings from the Nooksack to the Deschutes to the Elwha were ranked as the most important current feedstocks for the starving southern residents, followed by Lower Columbia and Strait of Georgia tribs.

A JOINT STATE-FEDERAL ANALYSIS IDENTIFIED THE SNOHOMISH RIVER BASIN AS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PRODUCERS OF CHINOOK FOR LOCAL ORCAS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

For the analysis, NOAA and WDFW sampled orca doots to “assist in prioritizing actions to increase critical prey for the whales.”

Nutritional stress has been identified as among the chief causes of their declining numbers, and the news comes as officials report a newborn calf died off Victoria yesterday. Just half of the 28 reproductive-age “blackfish” have produced calves in the last 10 years, another report said.

“Ramp up the hatchery production. Do it now. It’s the only way,” says Tom Nelson, co-host of Seattle outdoors radio show The Outdoor Line on 710 ESPN.

He was reacting this morning while fishing for coho at Possession Bar to a Seattle Times scoop on the findings.

Reporter Lynda V. Mapes writes that from the standpoint of federal overseers, “In some instances, it might make more sense to focus on habitat restoration rather than increasing hatchery releases, [NOAA’s Lynn] Barre said. “It has to be evaluated on a watershed level … It’s not just ‘let’s make more fish to feed the whales,’ hold on, there are a few things to consider.’”

A MATRIX FROM THE NOAA-WDFW RANKS THE MOST IMPORTANT CHINOOK STOCKS FOR SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES BY BASIN.

Nelson, who has a degree in fisheries biology, acknowledges that the problems salmon and orcas face are highly complex, with few if any single-faceted answers, but with J, K and L pods down to just 75 animals, action is needed right now, and not just restricting already restricted salmon seasons.

“A significant increase in hatchery releases has to happen. Anything else is a long-term fix. The killer whales don’t have time,” Nelson says.

With nine out of every 10 adult Puget Sound Chinook born at, reared in and released from hatcheries, the state is planning on bolstering prroduction, with the Fish and Wildlife Commission making moves towards that, along with adding  protections for orcas from vessels, another key factor in their struggles. Pollutants also play a role.

Both the salmon stock and marine mammals are listed under the Endangered Species Act, which NOAA is charged with enforcing.

But to achieve a meaningful increase in wild Chinook numbers, you have to have better habitat, Nelson says, and that’s unlikely to occur any time soon in our densely populated region.

“If you think you’re going to get everyone to move out of the Central Sound and get it back to presettlement days, you’re dreaming,” Nelson says.

A lot of habitat work is occurring in estuaries, side channels and elsewhere, but results are painfully slow, and that pace could impact the region’s interest in continuing with the much-needed work.

Meanwhile, 89 percent of this year’s forecast of 255,219 fall kings expected to return to Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and Hood Canal rivers are hatchery fish.

KIRAN WALGAMOTT PEERS INTO AN UNUSED RACEWAY AT THE WALLACE SALMON HATCHERY NEAR GOLD BAR. THE FACILITY REARS SUMMER KINGS. CHINOOK PRODUCTION IN WESTERN WASHINGTON IS HALF OF WHAT IT WAS IN 1989 AS HATCHERY PRACTICES HAVE BEEN REFORMED TO HELP WILD STOCKS RECOVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The importance of Puget Sound Chinook — both wild and adipose-fin-clipped hatchery ones — to SRKWs is otherwise obvious because of where they hang out, off the Washington Coast, in the Straits and in the San Juans, where those salmon stocks return through on the way to their home rivers.

Upper and Middle Columbia and Snake upriver brights, and Fraser, Lower Columbia trib and Fraser springers were also highly important stocks, the analysis found.

But they also fed to a degree on Chinook from as far away as the Sacramento and Southeast Alaska.

“We can use this information as a guide, based on the best science, to help inform decisions about how we spend recovery dollars for both salmon and Southern Resident killer whales,” said Chris Yates, Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, in a NOAA news story on the analysis. “We remain committed to recovery of all West Coast salmon stocks, and this helps us understand where we can maximize our resources and partnerships to help killer whales too.”

In the words of one close observer of the salmon world, the whales don’t care if kings have an extra fin or not, yet hatchery production has and probably will face more legal challenges.

With harbor seals and sea lions identified as eating large numbers of Puget Sound Chinook before they can mature into orca fodder, Nelson also called for reducing pinniped numbers, which he says could show results in as few as three years in terms of salmon prey availability for killer whales.

A HARBOR SEAL STEALS A SAN JUANS CHINOOK LITERALLY OFF AN ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

That and hatchery production would also yield more fish for anglers and help WDFW sell more licenses, easing its budget issues.

Fishing Show Host Blasts WDFW Over Proposed Puget Sound Chinook Plan

WDFW’s proposed 10-year Puget Sound Chinook plan drew more strong negative reaction over the weekend, and a “possible decision” on it by the Fish and Wildlife Commission looms later this month.

First, the latest loathing for the plan.

After a 13-minute interview with an author of a Tidal Exchange article out last week looking at Stillaguamish River fall kings and the basin’s deep-seated habitat problems, local radio show host Tom Nelson went off.

RADIO SHOW HOST TOM NELSON, THE YOUNGER OF THE TWO TOM NELSONS INVOLVED FOR DECADES IN PUGET SOUND FISHING ISSUES. (TVW)

“I’ve never been so disappointed in WDFW that they would come out with this tremendously misguided and useless piece of public policy,” said the cohost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line on Saturday morning. “It’s the worst plan that I could have possibly envisioned with regard to actually addressing the situation and helping the industry.”

(Full disclosure: Northwest Sportsman and our many advertisers are part of said industry.)

The Stilly portion of the proposal, which the state agency as well as 17 Puget Sound tribes sent to the National Marine Fisheries Service for review last month, could sharply reduce salmon fishing opportunities across the North Sound and Straits because on its own, it does not seem likely the river will suddenly start producing enough Endangered Species Act-listed Stilly Chinook in the future, despite new, lower impacts.

Indeed, 30 years of restricted state and tribal fisheries on that system haven’t had much if any affect on rebuilding the stock so far.

“Just go to WDFW and run down to page 167 of the plan with regard to the Stilly, where it says, ‘Due to habitat constraints, this plan won’t work,’ essentially. I mean, it says so in the plan — in the plan!” Nelson said.

The portion of the 388-page document he’s referring to reads: “Due to the limited productivity of existing habitat, it is unlikely that fishery actions alone can rebuild abundance of Stillaguamish Chinook to higher levels.”

This new harvest management plan arose out of the highly contentious North of Falcon 2016, which took WDFW and treaty tribes two months longer to resolve than usual.

Afterwards, the state received a request from the U.S. Department of Justice and tribal officials to “meet and confer,” which resulted in confidential discussions mediated by a U.S. District Court judge, according to a Attorney General’s Office deputy.

The top priority was an updated 10-year resource management plan for Puget Sound Chinook, one that would also provide more surety of seasons.

But word of the yearlong closed-door talks and their final product took not only anglers but the Fish and Wildlife Commission by surprise.

Anglers are hoping the commission can do something.

Nelson and cohost Rob Endsley urged them to contact the citizen oversight panel — along with state legislators — to ask that the plan be altered as it applies to the Stilly, one of 15 management units it addresses.

Besides sending emails to the commission, fishermen can also speak to the members during open public comment at next week’s meeting.

The Puget Sound Chinook Management Plan is the subject of an hour-and-a-half briefing by Kyle Adicks, intergovernmental salmon policy advisor, on the afternoon of Friday, January 19.

Interestingly, the words “possible decision” accompany that agenda item.

It’s a relatively rare placeholder that’s mainly been used with legislative proposals in recent years. It’s meant as a heads up “that the commission preserves the option to provide further guidance,” according to the office of the commission.

Yet as much heat as WDFW is taking over the plan, on the flip side, it appears to be utterly screwed by three little letters:

E, S and A.

With Puget Sound Chinook federally listed since March 1999 and declines continuing, WDFW is more and more straitjacketed to protect the salmon so it can get federal permits/ESA coverage to hold seasons on and/or around the fish.

It can’t very well go ahead and ignore that requirement either, as without the permit, it faces lawsuits, like with the basin’s steelhead a few years ago now, or it would leave us all on the beaches and boat ramps for who knows how long, like it looked might happen for awhile in 2016 as the agency considered a go-it-alone NOF permit.

Without casting aspersions on the scientific- and conservation-oriented nature of WDFW and its dedicated staffers, I suspect they probably would not have come up with let alone agreed to this new Chinook plan if they had the choice.

To be blunt, Unsworth et al don’t make money to run their programs off of closed fisheries whatsoever.

And they’re not really in the business of deviously figuring out ways to piss off some of the most fervent of Washington’s anglers.

(OK, so it kinda looks like that more and more every day.)

What they are is stuck trying to provide opportunities in the ever-tightening vice of ESA and with critically damaged habitat that in some places is, frankly, unrepairable.

Part of me wonders if that line that Nelson referred to is being slightly misinterpreted, that it was actually written into the plan by WDFW and its tribal coauthors to catch our eyes to raise hell about its futility, or as a plea for help.