Tag Archives: walleye

Night On The Columbia Leads To Big Walleye Catch

While you were dreaming of catching fish last night, a crew was pulling some pretty hefty walleye out of the Columbia, including two new boat records for a local guide.

CHAD DAWSON GOT THE TRIP OFF TO A GREAT START WITH A THEN BOAT RECORD 15-PLUS-POUNDER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Four fish with a combined weight of nearly 60 pounds came over the gunnel for Tri-Cities angler Jerry Han, a local dentist, and two friends.

“We were hoping to get a quality fish or two, but never expected what was about to happen!” Han emailed just after 2:00 this morning as he thawed out from his late evening on the water.

JERRY HAN FOLLOWED WITH AN 11-PLUS-POUNDER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

With the moon coming off full, they were out with Isaac Case, who has been posting a string of pics of nice-sized ‘eyes caught in the overnight hours in recent days and weeks.

“We trolled plugs for a little while and had nothing for an hour or so and then my buddy Chad Dawson hooked up and landed a huge walleye that went 15 pounds, 11 ounces,” Han reports.

KEN HOWARD’S FIRST WALLEYE WENT 13 POUNDS, 3 OUNCES. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“We thought that was great and would have been happy, but I got the next one at 11 pounds, 11 ounces. Then my buddy Ken Howard got one at 13 pounds, 3 ounces,” he says.

“The star of show, however, was the next fish that Ken caught that shoved the scale to 18 pounds, 13 ounces! The 15-pounder was the new boat record that lasted four hours until the almost 19-pounder came along,” Han notes.

A DIGITAL SCALE SHOWS KEN HOWARD’S SECOND WALLEYE WEIGHING IN AT 18 POUNDS, 13 OUNCES. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

If this was still the first years of the millennium, it would have been a new Washington record fish too. The current high mark is John Grubenhoff’s 20.32-pound walleye, caught in late February 2014.

WDFW doesn’t do creel checks for the species, but local fisheries biologist Paul Hoffarth tries to keep up on the scene.

“Heard they were doing well this winter. Decent numbers and mostly nice fish, size wise,” Hoffarth notes.

So, uhhh, Jerry, what sort of setup did you say the skipper was running, again?

ISAAC CASE SHOWS OFF THE BIG ONE OF THE NIGHT. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“I can say that color didn’t seem to matter, as all the fish bit a different plug each time,” he cagely reveals.

“I can say for sure that it was pretty rough getting up this morning — thank goodness for coffee!”

You can say that again!

Lower Columbia, SW WA Tribs, Gorge Pools Fishing Report (2-20-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Mainstem Lower Columbia River

Washington only creel checks:

  • Sec 5 (Woodland) bank – 2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
  • Sec 6 (Kalama) bank – 3 salmonid anglers had no catch.
  • Sec 8 (Longview) bank – 4 salmonid anglers had no catch.

PLUNKING RODS SET UP FOR SPRING CHINOOK LINE A LOWER COLUMBIA BEACH EARLY IN A PAST SEASON. (CHRIS SPENCER)

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 4 bank anglers had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods released 1 steelhead.

Elochoman River – 18 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead and released 6 steelhead.  2 boats/6 rods released 5 steelhead.

Abernathy Creek – 7 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 10 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 21 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  13 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  16 boats/45 rods kept 11 steelhead and released 4 steelhead.

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

All of the fish collected last week were held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 9,650 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 41.9 F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility

East Fork Lewis River – 32 bank anglers released 4 steelhead.


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Salmon Creek – 8 bank anglers had no catch.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- No report.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 5 bank anglers had no catch.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- No report.

The Dalles Pool- No report.

John Day Pool- 4 boats/8 rods released 8 walleye.

Catchable Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

Lake/Pond Date Species Number Fish per
Pound
Hatchery Notes
BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Feb 04, 2019 Rainbow 2,500 2.1 VANCOUVER HATCHERY  
 
KLINELINE PD (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Feb 04, 2019 Rainbow 2,500 2.1 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

 

 
LK SACAJAWEA (COWL)
Cowlitz County – Region 5
Feb 05, 2019 Rainbow 4,469 2.9 MOSSYROCK HATCHERY
 
 
 
 

 

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.

Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

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.

SW Washington, Columbia Gorge Fishing Report (2-5-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 13 bank anglers kept 2 legal sturgeon and released 5 sublegal sturgeon.  14 boats/30 rods released 17 sublegal and 1 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool– Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool– 31 bank anglers kept 1 legal sturgeon.  9 boats/18 rods released 2 sublegal sturgeon.

FRANK URABECK AND GRANDSON SPENCER EWING GOT INTO A PRETTY NICE GRADE OF WINTER STEELHEAD DURING A RECENT OUTING ON THE QUINAULT INDIAN RESERVATION. (SPENCER EWING VIA FRANK URABECK)

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 2 boats/4 rods kept 1 walleye.

The Dalles Pool– No report.

John Day Pool– 16 boats/28 rods kept 18 walleye and released 5 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 10 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.  2 boats/4 rods had no catch.

Elochoman River – 17 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.  1 boat/2 rods released 2 steelhead.

Abernathy Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Mill Creek – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 10 bank anglers kept 2 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 26 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  12 bank rods kept 2 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.  3 boats/6 rods kept 6 steelhead.

Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.
Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered four winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

All the fish collected last week were held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,920 cubic feet per second on Monday, Feb. 4. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 43.2 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 18 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 26 bank anglers kept 3 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

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.

SW WA, Lower, Middle Columbia Fishing Report (1-29-19)

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

Washington Columbia River and Tributary Fishing Report Jan 21-27, 2019

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 27 bank anglers released 4 sublegal sturgeon.  31 boats/85 rods kept 14 legal sturgeon and released 8 legal, 236 sublegal and 2 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 34 bank anglers released 2 sublegal sturgeon.  24 boats/59 rods released 1 oversize sturgeon.

WALLEYE ARE STARTING TO BITE IN THE COLUMBIA SYSTEM. GLENN STEFFLER CAUGHT THIS ONE ON THE UPPER RIVER RECENTLY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 5 boats/7 rods kept 2 walleye and released 3 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No report.

John Day Pool- 17 boats/36 rods kept 26 walleye and released 7 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 17 bank anglers kept 4 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.

Abernathy Creek – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 16 bank rods had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  27 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  10 boats/28 rods kept 1 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered one winter-run steelhead adult during four days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released one winter-run steelhead adult into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,370 cubic feet per second on Monday, Jan. 28. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 44.6 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

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

Salmon Creek – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?orderby=StockDate

McNary Steelhead Sport Fishery: January Update

WDFW staff have interviewed 76 boats in January with 13 hatchery steelhead harvested, 1 hatchery released, and 67 wild steelhead caught and released. Anglers averaged just over 1 steelhead per boat, 8.8 hours per fish including wild. The majority of the steelhead caught were A run but 4 B run fish have been harvested and 24 wild “B” run were caught and released. In addition, 79 bank anglers were interviewed with 3 wild caught and released. Fishing has been very slow from the bank (47 hours per steelhead).

SW WA Fishing Report (1-23-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS  TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 18 bank anglers released 4 sublegal sturgeon.  25 boats/79 rods kept 13 legal sturgeon and released 1 legal, 151 sublegal and 1 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 4 bank anglers had no catch.  5 boats/8 rods had no catch.

JIM DEATHERAGE SHOWS OFF A MID-COLUMBIA WALLEYE CAUGHT WHILE FISHING WITH FRIEND JERRY HAN. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- No report.

The Dalles Pool- No report.

John Day Pool- 1 bank angler had no catch.  8 boats/14 rods kept 13 walleye and released 6 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Elochoman River – 30 bank anglers kept 3 steelhead.  3 boats/6 rods had no catch.

Abernathy Creek – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 12 bank anglers kept 3 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 33 bank rods released 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  18 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  8 boats/21 rods released 1 steelhead.

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

During the past week, Tacoma Power released one coho jack into Lake Scanewa in Randle, and one coho jack and three winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 7,720 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 44.6 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 26 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 25 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

SW WA, Columbia Fishing Report (1-16-19)

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

Washington Columbia River and Tributary Fishing Report Jan 16, 2019

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 45 bank anglers released 1 sublegal sturgeon.  36 boats/102 rods kept 8 legal sturgeon and released 1 legal, 151 sublegal and 2 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 17 bank anglers had no catch.  27 boats/56 rods released 5 sublegal sturgeon.

TROY BRODERS PREPARES TO CAST OUT FOR STEELHEAD. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

The Dalles Pool- No report.

John Day Pool- 11 boats/25 rods kept 12 walleye and released 1 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 33 bank anglers kept 6 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.  1 boats/2 rods had no catch.

Abernathy Creek – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 7 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 12 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  3 bank rods had no catch.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered two coho adults, 23 coho jacks and nine winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released five coho jacks into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

Tacoma Power released two coho adults, 22 coho jacks and eight winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton. They also released two coho jacks at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 9,520 cubic feet per second on Monday, Jan. 14. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 44.6 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 34 bank anglers had no catch.  2 boats/4 rods released 1 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 34 bank anglers had no catch.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

McNary Steelhead Sport Fishery

This past week WDFW staff interviewed 16 boats with 5 hatchery steelhead harvested and 12 wild steelhead caught and released. Anglers averaged just over 1 steelhead per boat, 6.5 hours per fish including wild. The majority of the steelhead caught were A run but one B run fish was harvested and 6 wild were caught and released. 21 bank anglers were interviewed but no catch was reported.

Sport Fishing Reaction To Final Orca Recommendations Sent To Gov

Washington’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force has transmitted its recommendations for how to help out the state’s struggling orcas to Governor Inslee, and members of the sportfishing community are reacting to the final package.

WASHINGTON GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE SPEAKS BEFORE SIGNING AN EXECUTIVE ORDER ON ORCAS AND CHINOOK EARLIER THIS YEAR. THE ORDER CREATED THE SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALE TASK FORCE THAT TODAY DELIVERED ITS FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS. (TVW)

An executive summary says the 148-page report provides an outline for meeting four key goals:

  • Increasing the abundance of Chinook, the key forage for the starving whales;
  • Decreasing disturbance from vessels with the affect of boosting their access to salmon;
  • Reducing contaminants in the environment;
  • And measures of accountability.

A PUGET SOUND ADULT CHINOOK SALMON SWIMS THROUGH THE BALLARD LOCKS. (NMFS)

It aims to increase the population of J, K and L Pods by 10 in 10 years, reversing the decrease seen since 1996. There are now only 74 orcas after this year saw the high-profile deaths of a just-born calf and a young animal as well as a third.

“I will review these recommendations over the coming weeks, and my staff and I will assess each one for the most impact in the short and long-term. I will roll out my budget and policy priorities in mid-December for consideration during the 2019 Legislative Session,” Gov. Inslee tweeted.

Ron Garner of Puget Sound Anglers, George Harris of the Northwest Marine Trade Association and Butch Smith of the Ilwaco Charters were among the dozens of task force members who signed on as supporting the entire package, while a whale watching world representative was the only no vote. Six others abstained.

Front and center, Goal 1 is to boost the numbers of Chinook that orcas depend on most.

That would be done through a mix of habitat restoration and acquisition projects, enforcing current laws that protect fish habitat, incentivizing private work that benefits salmon, and “significantly” boosting hatchery production.

With Puget Sound kings listed under the Endangered Species Act, that will have to be done carefully, but already the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is talking about how and where it might be possible to ramp things up for SRKWs.

“We did get the recommendation from the WDFW commission of 50 million Chinook into the recommendation to the Governor,” said PSA’s Garner.

It would take money and time were that to be implemented, but could potentially come online far faster than other parts of the goal.

A story out this week spotlighted the highly important but excruciatingly slow pace of salmon habitat work — 90 years to recover what plans call for for full estuary restoration.

“Production needs to be ramped up immediately, and follow the recovery/ESA sidebars in the recommendations,”
said Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, who is a member of the task force’s Prey Working Group.

However, she expressed concern about “organizations who will file lawsuits to fight increased production no matter how thoughtfully done and no matter how dire the need.”

Admittedly, anglers would also see “shirt tail” benefits of more Chinook, to hazard a guess primarily in South and Deep South Sound and terminal zones, which are well past whale feeding zones.

There had been calls to “completely stop salmon fishing” to make more prey available for orcas, but ultimately that wasn’t the direction of the task force.

“We were successful in getting the target off of our backs blaming fishing,” said Garner. “At one point we brought out the 87-page NOAA study that said if we stopped all fishing on the West Coast — California to Alaska — salmon would not recover.”

A GRAPH FROM THE TASK FORCE’S RECOMMENDATIONS SHOWS THE DECLINE IN CHINOOK AND COHO HARVEST IN WASHINGTON SALT- AND FRESHWATERS BY RECREATIONAL, TRIBAL AND COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN. (SRKWTF)

He said that he and others were able to convince the task force that reductions in salmon production due to ESA listings, Hatchery Scientific Review Group recommendations and the funding cuts that have particularly affected state facilities “put the entire system into shock.”

“The orcas, coastal communities, tribal communities, tackle retailers, fishing shops, boat shops, and everything that relies on salmon crashed. Our habitat is in terrible shape and we’re losing it faster than it’s being rebuilt,” he said.

Even if the larger target is off of the backs of fishermen as a whole, Hamilton remains vigilant about some possible closures she’s heard of that would only apply to sportfishing and wouldn’t help feed orcas.

As for those “cute little water puppies” stealing dinner from SRKWs, the plan includes a recommendation titled “Predation of Chinook: Decrease the number of adult and juvenile Chinook lost to predation by species other than Southern Residents.”

That begins with figuring out the impact of harbor seals and sea lions, which leaves a lot to be desired, but the task force does urge the legislature to fund that work by WDFW and the tribes.

It also requests that state fishery managers drop limits on popular walleye, bass, catfish and other nonnative species that are known to chow on Chinook smolts.

It doesn’t go as far as reader Larry Moller wants — herring hatcheries — but it does call for more work to be done to assess all the forage fish species so important to Chinook.

A PAIR OF SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES SWIM IN INLAND WATERS EARLIER THIS MONTH. (KATY FOSTER/NOAA FISHERIES)

As far as vessel disturbance, instead of no-go zones it calls for lawmakers to create go-slow bubbles around J, K and L Pods.

Garner termed warding off area closures a win, but also acknowledged that others in the boating world will be hurt by another recommendation:

An all-fleet, three- to five-year moratorium on watching the three groups of orcas.

“WDFW said they could have a boat around them to ward off everyone while they are in our waters,” said Garner. “I think this hurt the whale watchers. They said the locals SRKWs are only here 20 percent of the time. There was never any intent to do damage to the whale watching industry.”

It’s important to note that the moratorium would NOT affect watching transient orcas, grays or humpbacks.

The plan’s recommendations also call for creating a new $10 orca endorsement for boaters, but it takes more of a strong nudge approach in terms of asking anglers and others to turn off their fish- and depthfinders when orcas are within about a half-mile’s distance.

And as for one of the most controversial elements, Snake River dams, it recommends a stakeholder process to talk about their removal with help from a third-party neutral.

Speaking of dams, NSIA’s Hamilton continues to call for more spill down the mainstem Columbia, saying that upping it over current levels to help smolts downriver is modeled to yield real results in returning adult spring Chinook.

“Columbia River springers are a critical food source to orcas during winter when there is little else to nourish pregnant and migrating orcas. Tags show they do circles off the mouth of the Columbia River during March,” she says.

A N.M.F.S STORY MAP SHOWS AN ORCA KNOWN AS K25 ALL BUT SWIMMING LAPS AROUND THE C.R. BUOY AS THE 2013 RUN OF SPRING CHINOOK ENTERED THE COLUMBIA RIVER. PRIOR TO THE ARRIVAL OF THE SALMON THAT YEAR, THE WHALE PATROLLED UP AND DOWN THE WEST COAST. (NMFS)

But she worries that the state is moving “too slow” on that key action and might even go “backward” next year.

“The first items were of immediate actions. If we are to have salmon and orca in our future, the long-term actions are critical,” says Hamilton. “We must enforce existing laws, we must protect and restore salmon habitats, and the science also says we should look at the effects of dams, especially the four lower Snake River dams.”

Even as the task force handled that issue with kid gloves, it urged the legislature to fund the dismantling of two other dams, one on the Pilchuck that has been attracting a lot of coverage of late, and another in the Nooksack watershed.

Besides Garner, Harris and Smith, the list of other task force members in the fishing world who consented to the final package include:

Amy Windrope of WDFW; BJ Kiefer of the Spokane Tribe; Brad Smith of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission; commercial fisherman Brendan Flynn; Chad Bowechop of the Makah Tribe; Jacques White of Long Live the Kings; Lynne Barre of the National Marine Fisheries Service; Paul McCollum of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe; Rep. Brian Blake of the state House of Representatives; and Terry Williams of the Tulalip Tribes.

Those who abstained included representatives from the Washington Farm Bureau, Washington Forest Protection Association and Association of Washington Businesses, and the Lummi, Squaxin Island and Skokomish Tribes.

The report also includes next steps, identifies which agency is tasked with dealing with what recommendations, minority reports from task force members about ideas they don’t support, and a rundown on public comments.

Now it is up to the governor and the legislature to put some teeth in the recommendations.

Fight Against Bucket Biologists Going High Tech

Potential good news from the fight against bucket biologists.

Montana fishery biologists using something called “forensic geochemistry” have figured out the source and timeframe that walleye were moved into Swan Lake, in the state’s northwestern corner.

OTOLITHS, A BONE IN THE EAR OF FISH, CONTAINS CHEMICAL SIGNATURES THAT PROVIDES CLUES ABOUT WHERE THE ANIMAL CAME FROM. (OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, FLICKR)

And genetic material from northern pike in Northeast Washington is pointing to a different source than the widely assumed one.

Whether or not the new tools help lead to arrests is a good question, but they will at least serve as a warning shot across the bow of those who would illicitly move fish around.

IN THE CASE OF THE WALLEYE, managers have concluded that at least two fish were driven over the continental divide on a 200-mile journey that occurred in the spring of 2015, according to a report in the Columbia Basin Bulletin last month.

“Our findings now allow investigators to look at fishing license sales, webcams, and boat registrations around the Lake Helena area for the time period when the walleye were illegally introduced,” Samuel Bourett, an FWP researcher, told the emailed newsletter.

The species is native to the Mississippi River and lower Missouri River basins, but as was common earlier last century walleye were moved westward for fishing opportunities.

Nowadays, the tide has turned against moving nonnative fish — or at least nonsterile ones — into new locations, though decades of population growth provide a ready reservoir for those who want to continue the practice.

But fishery officials are fighting back with increasingly sophisticated means.

In early 2016, several months after two walleye were gillnetted at Swan, Bourett’s agency and conservation groups offered a $30,000 reward for information on the illicit stocking of the lake, which provides critical habitat for Endangered Species Act-listed bull and cutthroat trout.

They also began examining the otoliths of the fish, looking for chemical signatures that could pinpoint where they came from.

In 2017 they built a database with fish from 13 popular Montana walleye waters.

Out of that they determined the origin of the Swan Lake release.

“Core to edge geochemical profiles of [two types of strontium] and (strontium/calcium) ratios in the walleye otoliths revealed that these fish had been introduced to Swan Lake within the past growing season, and their geochemical signature matched that of walleye sampled from Lake Helena, Montana, located 309 road kilometres away,” write Bourett and Niall Clancy in a paper recently published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Illegally stocking fish in Montana is punishable with fines running from $2,000 to $10,000, the loss of all license privileges and cleanup costs.

WDFW BIOLOGIST DANNY GARRETT SCOWLS WHILE HOLDING THE 13.5-POUND GRAVID HEN WALLEYE HE NETTED OUT OF LAKE WASHINGTON IN 2015. (DANNY GARRETT, WDFW)

Well to the west, in 2012 the otoliths of walleye from Lakes Roosevelt and Moses and Potholes and Scooteny Reservoirs were compared with those from Lake Washington fish for a common chemical signature but no match was found, according to state fisheries biologist Danny Garrett, who himself netted half a dozen more in 2015.

“I think there is merit in doing more of this work,” he notes.

THEY’RE NOT THE ONLY ONES TRACING where invasive fish are coming from. Dr. Kellie Carim works for the U.S. Forest Service’s National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation out of Missoula, and she’s looking into pike.

Another Upper Midwest transplant, northerns are also popular with fishermen but present a nightmare threat for Northwest salmon and steelhead managers as the species has crept its way down the Pend Oreille River and into Lake Roosevelt and is now at the mouth of the Spokane River, according to a recent story. Anecdotal reports from anglers put them further down, in Lake Rufus Woods.

With funding from a USDA Tribal College Initiative Grant, Carim has come to a rather interesting conclusion about where many of those pike actually originated.

“The history we’ve told ourselves, the simplest explanation, is that the fish are flowing downstream from Western Montana,” she says.

That is, from Noxon Reservoir, down the Clark Fork River into Idaho and through Lake Pend Oreille before arriving in Washington.

“However, what the genetic analysis says is that those in Lake Roosevelt and the Pend Oreille River are closely related to those in the Couer d’Alene drainage,” Carim says.

Rather than taking an aquatic highway, they most likely took a paved one, in a livewell up US 95 to I-90 to either Idaho 41 or US 2 to Washington 20 and the river.

From there, their population built and the theory has been that in high water years they were entrained out of the Pend Oreille into the Columbia River in British Columbia and then Lake Roosevelt.

DAVEY McKERN HOLDS ONE OF THE FIRST NORTHERN PIKE CAUGHT IN LAKE ROOSEVELT. THE SPECIES HAS BEEN LARGELY CONCENTRATED OFF THE MOUTHS OF THE KETTLE AND COLVILLE RIVERS, BUT SOME HAVE BEEN FOUND DOWNSTREAM AT THE MOUTH OF THE SPOKANE RIVER, ACCORDING TO A NORTHWEST POWER AND CONSERVATION COUNCIL REPORT. (DAVEY MCKERN)

Carim, whose work aims to identify where the pike are coming from to stop the flow into Eastern Washington, adds that DNA from other Upper Columbia and Pend Oreille fish aren’t in the database, meaning there are more potential sources out there too.

“We definitely need to collect more samples. Some fish are aren’t ‘assigning’ very well,” she says.

Next week, she will be presenting before the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on pike.

Meanwhile, state and tribal managers have been teaming up to take a hammer to the species.

According to a recent NWPCC article by John Harrison, 18,000 have been scooped out of the Pend Oreille River by the Kalispel Tribe and another 1,800 have been removed from Lake Roosevelt by the Colville and Spokane Tribes and WDFW. Anglers have also turned in more than 1,000 heads for cash through a Colville Tribes program. And hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to protect the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars put into salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin.

While bucket biologists will likely continue their illegal pike and walleye stockings, the odds are now increasing that someone will get caught.