Tag Archives: washington department of fish and wildlife

Update From Olympia: Elk Hoof, Beaver Bills Signed, Others On Inslee’s Desk

The first of two elk management bills to pass the Washington legislature this session was signed into law Thursday.

With a stroke of Governor Jay Inslee’s pen, Washington State University was given the lead to monitor hoofrot-stricken wapiti in the state’s southwestern corner, as well as look into the causes and possible solutions to the disease that’s leaving the animals limping.

AN ELK’S HOOF AFFECTED BY THE CONDITION. (WDFW)

Second Substitute Senate Bill 5474, which was sponsored by Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe), was unanimously approved by the Senate and House, and also bars moving elk out of areas with hoofrot.

“It is my hope that with the expertise of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, working with agency officials, our Tribal leaders, sportsmen, and landowners that we can begin eradicating this horrible pestilence,” said Pearson, chair of the Natural Resources and Parks Committee, this morning.

WDFW will continue to be heavily involved in the effort the agency began in 2009 with the collection of hooves from diseased animals.

Those were sent to WSU and four other university and federal institutions, and in 2014 preliminary results suggested it was caused by treponeme bacteria, a type of dermatitis found in livestock and unfortunately considered highly infectious among free-roaming elk.

That makes it very difficult to control, though an early version of the bill would have licensed state hunters to shoot limpers on site. That was removed after objections from sportsmen and WDFW.

While the question of funding WSU’s elk work remains unresolved as of this writing, WDFW was happy with the final bill.

“We think more effort on elk hoof disease is needed,” said the agency’s legislative liaison Raquel Crosier.

As for the other elk legislation, SHB 1353 directs WDFW and the Department of Transportation to come up with a project to reduce the number of collisions between the Colockum herd and vehicles on area highways.

It calls for a three-pronged approach: increasing general season hunting ops and depredation permits, barring feeding elk by anyone but WDFW, and using cattle grazing to keep elk away from roads and homes.

The bill was delivered to Inslee’s desk April 21 but has not been signed.

Other fish- and wildlife-related bills that have come through the legislature and have been signed by the governor include:

HB 1257, which allows WDFW to move Western Washington beavers around the Westside, where before the dam builders could only be translocated to the Eastside or had to be put down, and;

SB 5761, which exempts the release of certain information about tribal fishermen and shellfish growers from public records act disclosure requests.

The beaver bill has the potential to really benefit salmon and steelhead habitat, as well as provide other wildlife benefits.

Bills sitting on Inslee’s desk include:

HB 1464, request legislation from WDFW and cosponsored by Rep. Brian Blake and others, it aims to expand recreational access to private lands by modifying immunity laws to protect owners WDFW signs agreements with from liability;

HB 1465, shielding the identities of those involved in nonlethal wolf work or depredation investigations from public disclosure requests, and;

HB 2126, which creates a grant program and account for those grants to help fund nonlethal wolf-livestock management in Northeast Washington.

The regular session of the legislature ended last week without a budget deal, but has since reconvened in a special session.

While WDFW’s fee bills — licenses, aquatic invasive species, Columbia endorsement, hydraulic permit approvals — are still alive, their fate largely may not be known until after legislators agree on an operating budget.

On the license side, Republicans in the Senate favor a General Fund infusion where the House preferred a fee hike because of McCleary funding.

There are two other bills of note out there, though action this session seems unlikely now:

Sen. Maralyn Chase’s Senate Joint Memorial 8009 calls on Congress to fund NOAA’s review of hatchery genetic management plans. While a no-brainer for you and I, some lawmakers may have balked at the downstream cost of those approved HGMPs — increased state monitoring of fisheries, which costs money.

And though it was a bit late for this go-around, Senate Joint Resolution 8206, which would add the right to hunt and fish to Washington’s constitution, is still alive for another push next year.

Hanford Site Shed Antler Hunters Charged

The lure of recently shed big buck and bull racks in off-limits land may have been too much for three Tri-Cities men charged with illegally collecting deer and elk antlers on the federal Hanford Nuclear Reservation this past winter.

A local newspaper reports that Isaac Hampton Case, 38, Daniel B. Charboneau, 32, and Stephen M. Dearinger Jr., 31, told a WDFW game warden at the Ringold boat launch Feb. 12 that they were just heading out to “learn” the Columbia River’s Hanford Reach.

THE HANFORD AREA IS KNOWN FOR ITS LARGE, BUT OFF-LIMITS BULL ELK. (USFWS)

But as tipped-off state as well as federal officers watched from concealed locations, the trio allegedly made four excursions onto the well-marked Department of Energy site, bringing back five pairs of deer antlers and one elk rack, according to the Tri-City Herald.

Case allegedly made four trips ashore, Dearinger three and Charboneau one.

If convicted of the misdemeanor offense, they face maximum penalties of a $1,000 fine and three months in jail, according to the paper.

If Charboneau’s name and Hanford rings a bell, it’s because he’s been in trouble before for being at the site.

In October 2012, he shot and killed a very large elk along the banks of the reservation in a no-hunting area, while a friend, Brock Miller, shot and killed two in an upland area nearby shortly afterwards.

As subcontractors working at Hanford, they would not only have known that monster bulls hang out there but also that nobody is allowed onto the federal property with guns or without permission, and hunting is forbidden.

Charboneau pleaded guilty to hunting big game without the right tag, while Miller pleaded to unlawful hunting while trespassing, hunting without tags, and using someone else’s tag. They were both fined $6,000.

Charboneau kept his job, but according to Herald reporter Annette Cary’s story yesterday, while he was listed as employed at the same company in February, he no longer is.

Case is no stranger to fish and wildlife officers either, having had his hunting license suspended for 10 years after a big game violation in the Blue Mountains, the paper reported.

Under a bill signed into law in 2015, antler collectors convicted of illegally entering private property to retrieve deer and elk racks can no longer keep them. Before then, paying the fine for trespassing was considered the cost of collecting sheds that could still be sold for profit.

25-Clam Limit For Long Beach As Digs OKed There, Elsewhere

THE FOLLOWING ARE A PRESS RELEASE AND AN EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Razor clam diggers can look forward to a six-day opening starting tomorrow (April 26) on various ocean beaches and will have an increased daily limit of 25 clams at Long Beach.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has approved the dig on morning tides at four ocean beaches after toxin test results show the clams on those beaches are safe to eat.

LED BY THEIR “RAZOR CLAM MASTER” GRANDFATHER, WALLY SANDE (LEFT), CORBIN, LEXI AND AUSTIN HAN, THEIR PARENTS JERRY AND BRITT, ALONG WITH WALLY’S WIFE CAROL, ENJOYED A GREAT DIG A COUPLE APRILS AGO NEAR WESTPORT, LIMITING IN JUST HALF AN HOUR OR SO. AFTERWARDS, JERRY ALSO ENJOYED CATCHING REDTAIL SURFPERCH ON CLAM NECKS. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

State shellfish managers agreed to increase the daily limit for this dig at Long Beach, which has been closed much of the razor clam season due to elevated marine toxin levels, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. 

“We wanted to provide diggers with some additional opportunity at Long Beach since we know there are plenty of clams there for harvest,” Ayres said.

The increased limit of 25 clams per day applies only at Long Beach, Ayres said. Diggers at Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Copalis can harvest the typical limit of 15 clams per day. Diggers are required to keep the first 15 clams (or first 25 clams at Long Beach) they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

Ayres noted the opening coincides with the annual Long Beach Razor Clam Festival, which is held April 29 and 30. For more information, visit the festival website at http://longbeachrazorclamfestival.com/.

The upcoming dig is approved on the following beaches, dates and morning low tides:

  • April 26, Wednesday, 7:09 a.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach
  • April 27, Thursday, 7:55 a.m.; -1.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach
  • April 28, Friday, 8:42 a.m.; -1.8 feet, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach
  • April 29, Saturday, 9:32 a.m.; -1.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach
  • April 30, Sunday, 10:24 a.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach
  • May 1, Monday, 11:20 a.m.; -0.8 feet; Long Beach

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2017-18 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

State health officials recently requested additional toxin tests at all four beaches after increased amounts of the algae that can cause domoic acid were observed in ocean waters. A natural toxin, domoic acid can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities.

“The latest round of test results indicate we’re in the clear for digging at all four beaches,” Ayres said.

A decision about possible additional dates in May will be announced following another round of toxin tests next week.

State wildlife managers urge clam diggers to avoid disturbing snowy plovers and streaked horned larks. Both species nest in the soft, dry sand on the southern section of Twin Harbors beach and at Leadbetter Point on the Long Beach Peninsula. The snowy plover is a small bird with gray wings and a white breast. The lark is a small bird with a pale yellow breast and brown back. Male larks have a black mask, breast band and “horns.”

To protect these birds, the department asks that clam diggers avoid the dunes and areas of the beach with soft, dry sand. When driving to a clam-digging area, diggers should enter the beach only at designated access points and stay on the hard-packed sand near or below the high tide line.

More details on how to avoid disturbing nesting birds can be found on the WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

………………………………………………

April 25, 2017

Razor clam digs approved April 26 through May 1

Action: Opens Razor clam season

Effective date: 12:01 a.m. April 26 through 11:59 a.m. May 1, 2017

Digging is only allowed from: 12:01 a.m. through 11:59 a.m. each day.

Species affected: Razor clams

The specific low tides for this opener:

April 26, Wednesday, 7: 09 a.m., -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach

April 27, Thursday, 7: 55 a.m., -1.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach

April 28, Friday, 8: 42 a.m., -1.8 feet, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach

April 29, Saturday, 9: 32 a.m., -1.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach

April 30, Sunday, 10: 24 a.m., -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach

May 1, Monday, 11: 20 a.m., -0.8 feet; Long Beach

Locations:

Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas.

Long Beach, which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.

Mocrocks Beach, which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips.

Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from Cape Shoalwater to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor.

Reason for action: Harvestable numbers of razor clams are available.

Other Information: The daily limit for razor clams has been increased to 25 clams at Long Beach only and from April 26 to May 1, 2017 only.

Information contact: Dan Ayres (360) 249-4628, Region 6 Montesano

More Than A Dozen Invasive Green Crabs Found At Dungeness Spit

As if 2015 didn’t deliver enough devastating consequences for Northwest fish and wildlife, it may also be to blame for more than a dozen invasive crabs discovered in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca this month.

Allen Pleus at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife suspects that the 13 European green crabs found at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge since April 12 were rafted across the straits as larvae during that wretchedly hot, drought-stricken, conflagration of a summer, probably from Sooke Harbor, 25 miles to the west-northwest on the south end of Vancouver Island.

EUROPEAN GREEN CRAB. (WASHINGTON SEA GRANT)

What’s worrisome is that this is the largest group found since the first one was discovered in Washington waters late last summer, at Westcott Bay on San Juan Island, and along with others that turned up in a mainland estuary, it is beginning to suggest a potentially widespread invasion by the unwanted species.

The news couldn’t come at a worse time, either.

According to Pleus, state funding for monitoring could dry up after June 30.

And the agency that’s been getting everybody on the same page about the problem, Washington Sea Grant, could be closed down at the end of this month as federal programs are targeted for elimination in national budget proposals.

THE DISCOVERY of the crabs at Dungeness Bay by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was predicted.

A Sea Grant map shows the waters around the spit are one of dozens upon dozens of nearshore habitats with a “high probability” of hosting the crabs that first arrived on the US East Coast in the 1800s and “dramatically” affected the Maine clam harvest and damaged kelp beds from their digging.

A WASHINGTON SEA GRANT GOOGLE MAP SHOWS LOCATIONS NEARSHORE HABITATS IN PUGET SOUND AND THE STRAITS WITH HIGH (RED STAR) AND MEDIUM (ORANGE TRIANGLE) SUITABILITY FOR EUROPEAN GREEN CRABS TO TAKE HOLD. THE WHITE CIRCLE REPRESENTS THE LOCATION OF THE 13 CRABS FOUND THIS MONTH, AT DUNGENESS SPIT. (WSG)

The worry here is what the crabs could do to eelgrass pastures — so important for our salmonids and other fish — and clam beds, if they establish a sustaining population.

That appears to be what has happened in Sooke Harbor, where one was found in 2012.

Dungeness is the third spot in Washington the crabs have been found in just the last eight months.

Not long after the discovery at Westcott Bay, one was literally turned up “by chance” by beach walkers at Padilla Bay in mid-September. Three more were subsequently trapped there.

“While I am pleased that the crabs are not more abundant, it’s somewhat concerning that they are distributed so broadly,” P. Sean McDonald, a research scientist at the University of Washington and affiliated with Washington Sea Grant, told the Skagit Valley Herald last September, adding, “One crab doesn’t scare me. Two crabs really isn’t that bad. What’s scary is large numbers of crabs coming in and settling broadly throughout Puget Sound.”

Asked yesterday how alarming the latest discovery is, Pleus paused, then said it was hard to say.

It doesn’t mean there’s an established population in Washington waters yet, and none of those from Dungeness had eggs.

However, they were a mix of males and females, and it’s only a matter of time until waters warm enough for the spawn to kick off. Getting rid of as many breeders as possible is the key to keeping the crabs in check.

Growing to only about 3 inches across the back, there’s not much meat on them.

AS IT STANDS, Washington Sea Grant director Penny Dalton says that estimates to continue the monitoring program run around $180,000.

Even as her agency is in serious danger of elimination — and in part the subject of a scathing opinion piece in the New York Times today against cuts to it and NOAA’s budget — Dalton’s hopeful money can be cobbled together to keep the program running.

“We’re going to keep trying. We think it is really important. WDFW is too,” she says.

Dalton says WDFW’s Allen Pleus is working the Washington legislature to secure funding for the coming budget biennium.

With a very serious threat looming to the health of Puget Sound, this is no time for state or federal lawmakers to get crabby about funding this work to head off this invasion.

Countdown To Trout Town: T-3 Days Till Washington Opener

Last night I made a quick pitstop at Fred Meyer to pick up my fishing license.

That’s because, well, I had to renew since it’s a new license year, but I’ve also got plans for Saturday morning and taking one of the Juniors out for trout.

THE 2012 TROUT OPENER WAS QUITE A LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR RIVER WALGAMOTT. HE LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF SHOUTING “FISH ON,” WHICH HE SHOUTED THROUGHOUT THE FIGHT WITH A CLEAR LAKE (PIERCE COUNTY) RAINBOW THAT DAY – “FISH ON FISH ON FISH ON FISH ON!” (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

April 22 is the fishiest day in Washington angling, the general lowland opener at a mess of lakes from the coast to the Cascades to Cheney.

RIVER ALSO LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF BOATS – ADAM BROOKS WONDERS WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THE WALGAMOTT KID. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW has been busy in recent weeks, stocking them plumb full of rainbows, including around 150,000 pound-on-average trout and 2.3 million catchables, along with millions that were stocked as fry last year and now have reached harvestable size.

RIVER LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF TEAMWORK. WHILE ADAM REELS IN ANOTHER, HE AND ADAM’S BROTHER RYAN READY THE NET. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“These are all high-quality fish that are significantly larger than our regular catchable trout, and those 3-pounders are outstanding fish,” says Steve Thiesfeld, who manages the Inland Fish Program, about several thousand triploids in the mix.

RYAN AND RIVER LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF BEING ON THE WATER, STARING INTO ITS MURKY DEPTHS AND WONDERING WHEN THE FISH WERE GONNA BITE – OR MAYBE EVEN COMPLETELY FORGETTING WHY THEY WERE ON THE LAKE THAT DAY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

To find out what’s gone into your lake, check out this year’s stocking plan. Don’t have a lake?!? May we introduce you to WDFW’s handy-dandy LakeFinder website?

ADAM, RIVER AND RYAN LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF A STOUT STRINGER – AND NOT TO TAKE THEMSELVES SO SERIOUSLY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The agency is also putting on its second statewide trout derby, with even more tagged fish and prizes — 1,000 rainbows bearing yellow tags, each with a number corresponding to $25,000 worth of prizes, including gear as well as year-long subscriptions to Northwest Sportsman magazine.

THE JOY OF FISHING ON THE OPENER WILL PUT A LITTLE SPRING IN ANYONE’S STEP. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Whether you’re fishing worms under a bobber from the bank, trolling spinners or small plugs from a boat, flailing a good ol’ Woolly Bugger from a pontoon or helping a youngster to catch their first, good luck, and thanks for taking part in the richest tradition in Washington fishing!

WDFW Scrubs April 24-25 Clam Digs; Decision Next Week On April 26-May 1 Opener

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

State shellfish managers have canceled the first two days (April 24 and 25) of a tentatively planned eight-day razor clam dig due to rising marine toxin levels.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will announce next week whether the rest of the dig, now scheduled to begin April 26, will go forward as planned.

BAD MOJO FOR RAZOR CLAMMERS. (NOAA)

Recent tests have found toxin levels at all ocean beaches meet health standards, but the Washington Department of Health has asked for one more test to be sure, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW.

“In the last few days, we’ve seen increasing levels of the algae that can cause domoic acid in ocean water,” Ayres said. “We just want to make sure razor clams are safe to eat before giving the green light on this dig.”

Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. The toxin has disrupted razor clam digs along Washington’s coast over the past two years.

More information about domoic acid can be found on WDFW’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/domoic_acid.html.

The department will announce the results of the upcoming toxin test early next week on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.

The proposed dig, along with morning low tides and beaches, is listed below:

  • April 26, Wednesday, 7:09 a.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach
  • April 27, Thursday, 7:55 a.m.; -1.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach
  • April 28, Friday, 8:42 a.m.; -1.8 feet, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach
  • April 29, Saturday, 9:32 a.m.; -1.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach
  • April 30, Sunday, 10:24 a.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach
  • May 1, Monday, 11:20 a.m.; -0.8 feet; Long Beach

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2017-18 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

WDFW Sets Snake Spring Chinook Season

THE FOLLOWING IS A WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE

Action/Species affected: Spring chinook salmon fishing to open on the Snake River.

Locations:

A) Below Ice Harbor Dam: Snake River from the South Bound Highway 12 Bridge near Pasco upstream about 7 miles to the fishing restriction boundary below Ice Harbor Dam.

B) Below Little Goose Dam: Snake River from Texas Rapids boat launch (south side of the river upstream of the mouth of Tucannon River) to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam. This zone includes the rock and concrete area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility (includes the walkway area locally known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility).

THE WALL, WHERE JEFF MAIN CAUGHT THIS 25-POUNDER SEVERAL SEASONS BACK, AND OTHER PARTS OF THE SNAKE RIVER WILL OPEN FOR SPRING CHINOOK LATER THIS MONTH. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

C) Clarkston: Snake River from the downstream edge of the large power lines crossing the Snake River (just upstream from West Evans Road on the south shore) upstream about 3.5 miles to the Washington state line (from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the WA/ID boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).

Dates: Each area is open two days per week until further notice.

Area A (Below Ice Harbor Dam) opens Friday, April 28, and will be open only Friday and Saturday each week.

Areas B and C (Below Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston) open Sunday, April 30, and will be open only Sunday and Monday each week.

Daily limits: 6 hatchery chinook (adipose fin clipped), of which no more than one may be an adult chinook salmon. For all areas open to chinook salmon harvest, anglers must cease fishing for salmon when the hatchery adult limit has been retained for the day.

Reason for action: Based on the pre-season prediction for a relatively good return of spring chinook and angler input requesting an emphasis for a longer fishery season, Snake River fisheries in each of these zones are open for only two days per week (with only one weekend day included each week) with a daily bag limit of only one adult hatchery chinook.

The restrictions on the fishery help prolong the duration of the season, ensure sharing of fishing opportunities with upriver fishery zones, and enable managers to ensure that the fisheries comply with Endangered Species Act (ESA) restrictions and harvest allocations available for the Snake River.

Other Information: The minimum size of any retained chinook salmon is 12 inches. Jacks are less than 24 inches long.

The adipose fin-clipped chinook salmon that can be retained must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin. All chinook salmon with the adipose fin intact, and all bull trout and steelhead, must be immediately released unharmed.

In addition, anglers fishing for all species, in the areas open for chinook salmon, during the days of the week the salmon fishery is open in that area, must use barbless hooks.

Only single point barbless hooks are allowed when fishing for sturgeon. A night closure is in effect for salmon and sturgeon. It will be unlawful to use any hook larger than 5/8 inch (point of hook to shank) when fishing for all species except sturgeon.

Anglers cannot remove any chinook salmon or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily limit.

Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2016/2017 Fishing in Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including safety closures, closed waters, etc.

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

Washington Game Commission Sets 2017 Hunts, Reducing Some Elk, Deer Permits

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

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted 2017-18 hunting season rules and approved land transactions during a public meeting today in Spokane.

The commission, a nine member citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), adopted hunting rules that are mostly similar to the past two years.

WASHINGTON ELK HUNTERS WILL SEE FEWER ANTLERLESS PERMITS IN THE SOUTH CASCADES FOLLOWING A TOUGH WINTER. RYAN FORTIER, 15, OF SNOHOMISH COUNTY BAGGED THIS COW IN THE BETHEL UNIT LAST FALL. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Some of the significant rule changes adopted will reduce hunter harvest of deer and elk in several areas of the state – especially in eastern Washington – where harsh winter conditions took a toll on those populations. Those changes include:

  • A reduction in modern firearm special permits for antlerless elk in the Yakima, Colockum, and Mount St. Helens herds.
  • A reduction in white-tailed deer hunts in northeast Washington for senior hunters.
  • Switching some northeast game management units late archery deer hunts from “any white-tailed deer” to “any white-tailed buck.”
  • A reduction in antlerless special permit opportunity for mule deer in Chelan and Okanogan counties.

Other hunting rule changes increase the daily limit for white-fronted geese and white geese in response to the growing abundance of those species, and restore points to hunters who draw permits for damage hunts administered by a hunt coordinator but are not called to participate.

The 2017-18 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet with all the rule details will be available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ and at WDFW offices and hunting license vendors across the state later this month. Special big game hunting permit application deadline is May 24.

The 2017-18 Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet will be available later this spring.

The commission also approved four land transactions, including:

  • The acquisition of 150 acres of wetland habitat adjacent to WDFW’s Reardan Audubon Lake Wildlife Area in Lincoln County for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife.
  • The acquisition of 215 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat along the Teanaway River in Kittitas County, connecting existing conservation lands and the Department of Natural Resources’ Teanaway Community Forest.
  • The acquisition of nearly 1,565 acres in the Central Cascade Range in Kittitas County as part of the Heart of the Cascades project to protect habitat for steelhead, elk and other wildlife.
  • The transfer of a four-acre parcel on the Pend Oreille River to Pend Oreille County for public recreation access.

The commission was also briefed by WDFW staff on operation and maintenance of wildlife areas and water access sites and livestock grazing on WDFW lands.

The commission continues its public meeting tomorrow morning, Saturday, April 15, with staff briefings on WDFW website replacement, outreach and marketing, and the enforcement program. The meeting convenes at 8:30 a.m. at the Red Lion River Inn in Spokane, 700 N. Division Street.

A complete agenda for the meeting is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/.

May 4 Start For Washington’s Halibut Season; Quota Up By 23,652 Pounds

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

Anglers fishing for halibut will notice a change this year with consistent halibut seasons across all Puget Sound and ocean areas, except marine waters near the mouth the Columbia River.

The scheduled season dates are May 4, 6, 11, 21 and 25, and June 1 and 4, provided there is sufficient quota to accommodate all these fishing days. These dates apply to halibut fishing in Puget Sound marine areas 5-10 and in ocean marine areas 2-4.

TERRY WIEST SHOWS OFF A HALIBUT CAUGHT DURING A PAST OPENER WHILE FISHING 600 FEET OF WATER WITH BLACK LABEL HERRING AND A SALMON “STRIP TEASE.” (TERRY WIEST/STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

Halibut fishing in Marine Area 1 also gets under way May 4, but will be open four days per week (Thursday through Sunday) until the quota has been met.

State halibut seasons are established by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), using catch quotas adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission for coastal fisheries from California to Alaska.

Heather Reed, WDFW coastal policy coordinator, noted that this year’s quota for recreational halibut fisheries in Washington state is 243,667 pounds – an increase of about 23,652 pounds from 2016.

“We expect that the effort to align halibut season dates, together with a higher quota for the state’s recreational fisheries, will result in a longer season than what anglers have experienced in past years,” Reed said.

Halibut fishing has become an increasingly popular sport in Washington, making it difficult to predict how quickly anglers will reach the harvest limit for any given area, Reed said. The new season structure will help to ensure the state does not exceed federal quotas, with periodic catch assessments in each fishing area, she said.

Anglers should check the WDFW website for the latest information on openings before heading out, she said.

In all marine areas open to halibut fishing, there is a one-fish daily catch limit and two-fish possession limit in the field, and no minimum size restriction. Anglers must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.

As in past years, Puget Sound marine areas 11, 12 and 13 will remain closed to halibut fishing.

In Marine areas 5 and 6, lingcod and Pacific cod can be retained in waters deeper than 120 feet on days when the recreational halibut fishery is open.

Additional changes in halibut-fishing rules that take effect for specific waters this year include:

  • Marine Area 1: Anglers will be allowed to keep a lingcod when halibut are on board during the all-depth fishery, but only when fishing north of the Washington-Oregon border during the month of May. The nearshore area in Marine Area 1 will open three days per week (Monday through Wednesday) beginning May 8 until the nearshore quota is taken. Bottomfish can be retained when halibut are onboard in the nearshore area.
  • Marine Area 2 (Westport): Beginning the Saturday after the all-depth fishery closes, the nearshore fishery will open seven days per week until the quota is taken.

Marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line: Bottomfish fishing will be restricted to the area shoreward of 20 fathoms (120 feet) beginning May 1 through Labor Day. Lingcod, sablefish, and Pacific cod can be retained seaward of 20 fathoms (120 feet) on days open to recreational halibut fishing.

Anglers should check the WDFW website for complete information on recreational halibut regulations and seasons athttp://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/halibut/.

 

Tribal Fishing Platforms Built At Wind River Mouth

Tribal fishing platforms were recently erected at the mouth of the Wind River, squeezing in at a famed, productive and very small bank fishing spot for spring Chinook.

While this year’s run is running late due to huge flows, and the Wind forecast of 3,600 is on the low side, salmon numbers are building at Bonneville, where more than 250 have been counted so far this year, and it won’t be long before some pull into the drowned mouth of this Washington-side Columbia Gorge tributary.

A NEWLY CONSTRUCTED TRIBAL FISHING PLATFORM AT THE MOUTH OF THE WIND RIVER. STATE AND YAKAMA OFFICIALS SAY IT IS THE FIRST TIME THE WOODEN STRUCTURES HAVE BEEN BUILT HERE, AND THEY ARE ALLOWED UNDER TRIBAL FISHING REGULATIONS. THE RUB WILL COME AS SPRING CHINOOK ARRIVE AND FISHERS OF ALL NATIONS CONGREGATE AT THE PRODUCTIVE BANK SPOT. (BRAD COLLINS)

On good days dozens of anglers will try their luck at The Point, sometimes called Cranky Banky Point, that basalt bone that sticks out into the Wind as it reaches the Columbia.

When the Bonneville Pool is lower, there’s room to accommodate more anglers, but when dam operators are holding back water or dealing with large volumes, there’s less.

The concern is that the two approximately 6-foot-by-6-foot platforms will leave even less place for nontribal fishermen to huck their plugs and other lures for hatchery springers. They set up potential gear conflicts and babysitting hassles for state and tribal game wardens.

BANK ANGLERS CAST PLUGS OFF THE POINT DURING 2011’S SPRING CHINOOK FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

This morning, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates several Chinook hatcheries in the area, was referring calls to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s regional office in Vancouver.

According to WDFW Capt. Jeff Wickersham, the wooden structures were put up by Yakama Nation fishers. He said it was a legal activity in the tribes’ usual and accustomed fishing area.

Through a spokesman, he added he believes it is the first time that they’ve been erected at this particular spot on the Wind (there is a tribal in-lieu fishing site upstream), though in 2011 some were installed upriver inside Drano Lake, causing a stir for awhile.

Wickersham says that tribal members can’t obstruct or displace state anglers to build one, and that the structures are basically treated like a fisherman who got to a spot first.

That means tribal members have de facto claimed at least two locations on the point for the season.

A RECENT IMAGE TAKEN FROM OFF HIGHWAY 14 SHOWS THE TWO NEW SCAFFOLDS PUT UP ON THE POINT. (BRAD COLLINS)

THIS IMAGE FROM 2011’S SPRING CHINOOK FISHERY SHOWS A LONE BANK ANGLER ON THE POINT, WHILE BOATS WORK THE DROWNED MOUTH OF THE WIND RIVER ON A RAINY DAY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The point is private property, owned by Carson Acres LLC, Skamania County tax records show. Anglers access it by walking in on trails from Highway 14.

According to Roger Dick Jr., harvest coordinator for the Yakama Nation, tribal regulations have always allowed for platforms at Wind, and the Yakamas are the only tribe with treaty-reserved fishing rights there.

“The platforms are the property of the YN fishers and the platforms are only to be used by YN members because they are used for treaty fishing. YN rules do not allow non-YN members to exercise YN treaty rights, which includes use of gear/equipment,” he says.

WITH WIND MOUNTAIN AS A BACKDROP, AN IMAGE FROM THE POINT SHOWS TWO NEW TRIBAL FISHING PLATFORMS THERE. (BRAD COLLINS)

He says that in other areas where there are tribal platforms, such as in the John Day Dam tailrace, it’s “commonly understood” they’re only for tribal fishers.

However, as he confirms, it’s a first they’ve been put up here, which may cause confusion, angst and anger.

More platforms are reported to be being built on the Wind above the Highway 14 and Burlington Northern Sante Fe bridges.

According to the Yakamas’ 2017 fishing regulations, members can fish the lower Wind through June 25, from noon on Monday through 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Fishing is not allowed on Sundays there or elsewhere, for “conservation purposes.”

Dick Jr. explains that poles with rope hanging off of them are used to hang hoopnets, or setnets, the primary way Yakama fishers harvest salmon, though they can also use hook-and-line methods.

GEAR FOR SETNETTING STANDS READY UNDERNEATH A NEWLY BUILT TRIBAL FISHING PLATFORM AT WIND RIVER. (BRAD COLLINS)

The Yakamas’ openness to answering questions this go-around contrasts sharply with what occurred during 2011, when similar platforms popped up at Drano Lake, where the tribe also has treaty fishing rights. Reporters were unable to get comment from tribal officials on what was going on.

Then, anglers and WDFW worried the structures reduced the already limited bank fishing area on the lake even more, as not everyone in Northwest anglerdom has a sled, drift boat or other craft to troll for springers from. And just as tribes can claim long histories of fishing, so too do nontribal anglers have lengthy relationships with good spots. One platform sat by a new handicapped fishing access spot.

Since 2011, however, things quieted down at Drano (in spring 2012, Yakama officials issued at least two statements on the platforms there). Dick Jr. says the Yakamas have another fishery there — the Wednesday closure for netting — and that smaller returns limit the opportunities. He says the tribal council considers cultural, social and economic factors in determining whether to allow platforms there.

As it stands, passive integrated transponder, or PIT tag, data shows no Wind springers having arrived at Bonneville yet (1.3 and 2.7 percent of four- and five-year-old Carson National Fish Hatchery juveniles were PIT tagged before they went to sea).

So for the moment, the platforms at the  mouth of the Wind are just being buffeted by the breezes blowing through the Columbia Gorge, though as this year’s run grows, things could get stormier.

Editor’s notes: 1) Hat tip to JH for the story forward. 2) This blog was updated April 14, 2017, to clarify WDFW Capt. Jeff Wickersham’s comments that this is the first time that platforms were built at the point. There is a tribal in-lieu fishing site upstream on the Wind from there. 3) This blog was subsequently updated April 17, 2017 to include links to 2011 and 2012 articles on platforms erected at Drano Lake.