Tag Archives: washington department of fish and wildlife

Yuasa Looks Back At 2019 Salmon Seasons, Towards 2020’s

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

The holiday “to do” list has pretty much taken priority over getting out on the water, but if you’re like me that also means it’s time to reassess salmon fisheries in 2019 and start thinking about what lies ahead in 2020.

I had a chance to chat with Mark Baltzell, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Puget Sound salmon manager, and Wendy Beeghly, the head WDFW coastal salmon manager, who provided insight about the future and a somewhat forgetful past.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“I believe the best way to describe Puget Sound salmon fisheries overall in 2019 is a mixed bag,” said Baltzell. “We had some unexpected good salmon fishing and returns while others were as poor as the preseason forecasts had predicted.”

“Summer chinook fisheries were for the most part better than we expected despite the reduced seasons,” Baltzell said. “Early on we saw some really good chinook fishing in May and June in southern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 13 south of the Narrows Bridge).”

It wasn’t uncommon for Area 13 anglers during those months to hook into a limit of early summer hatchery kings, 10 to 18 pounds with a few larger, off Point Fosdick and Fox Island’s east side at Gibson Point, Fox Point in Hale Passage, northwest corner at the Sand Spit, Toy Point and Concrete Dock “Fox Island Fishing Pier.”
In the past few years, central Puget Sound (Area 10) starting in June has become a hot bed for resident coho – 2- to 4-pounds – and this past summer was no exception to the norm. On certain days you’d find hundreds of boats from Jefferson Head to Kingston and in the shipping lane.

“We had a coho fishery in Area 10 from June through August that was really good and has turned into a successful early summer salmon fishery,” Baltzell said.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The Tulalip Bubble Terminal Fishery within Area 8-2 opened in June and was another location that proved to be fairly decent for early summer kings in the 10- to 15-pound range.

When July rolled around the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 and 6) opened for hatchery kings and was off and on for much of the summer.

The San Juan Islands (Area 7) had a brief hatchery king fishery from July 1-31, which saw plenty of fishing pressure and a much higher than expected success rate.

Preliminary WDFW data during the July Area 7 fishery showed 5,310 boats with 11,739 anglers kept 3,019 hatchery kings (10 wild fish were illegally retained) along with 451 hatchery and 982 wild chinook released. The best fishing period occurred from July 1-14. WDFW test fishing showed the Area 7 legal-size chinook mark rate was 84.6 percent and overall mark rate was 78.6.

The summer hatchery king fishery in northern and central Puget Sound (Areas 9 and 10), started off poorly from July 25-28 due to extreme low tides. Once the tidal fluctuation improved as more dates were tacked onto the fishery catch rates picked up rapidly.
During an 11-day fishing period from July 25 to Aug. 4, the success rate in Area 9 was a 0.23 fish per rod average with a total of 7,779 boats with 17,147 anglers keeping 3,446 hatchery chinook (six unmarked were illegally retained) and released 1,124 hatchery and 756 wild chinook plus 697 coho kept and 747 released. WDFW test fishing showed the legal-size chinook mark rate was around 88.0 percent.

The Area 10 hatchery chinook fishery was open daily July 25 through Aug. 16 and a total of 7,606 boats with 15,900 anglers kept 3,200 hatchery chinook (17 wild were illegally retained) and released 994 hatchery and 1,579 wild chinook plus 2,013 coho kept and 463 released. WDFW test fishing showed the legal-size chinook mark rate was around 50.0 percent.

Summer hatchery chinook action in south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) stumbled out of the gates when it opened July 1 and was peppered with a few glory moments until it closed Aug. 25 for chinook retention. In Area 11, an estimated 12,264 boats with 22,818 anglers from July 1-Aug. 25 retained 212 chinook and released 164 hatchery and 465 wild chinook.

“We saw a lot more legal-size chinook in Puget Sound than the FRAM (Fishery Regulation Assessment Model) had predicted and more legal hatchery fish around than we had seen in past years,” Baltzell said.

In general, the wild chinook stock assessment seemed to be somewhat better in some parts of Puget Sound. Places like the Tumwater Falls Hatchery in deep South Sound even had a few nice 20-pound females return.

Heading into late summer, the Puget Sound pink returns were off the charts good here and there while other pink runs were downright dismal. Salmon anglers chasing pinks managed to find some excellent fishing from mid-August through September.

“In some places it seemed like we had twice the abundance of pinks and others didn’t get as many as we had thought,” Baltzell said. “The Puyallup did really good and a decent number of pinks pass(ed) over the Buckley fish trap and was up into the historical day numbers. But, the Skagit and Stillaguamish weren’t so good for pinks and it was the same for coho too.”

“At this point were going to be OK in places like the Snohomish for coho,” Baltzell said. “Both the tribes and state did all the things necessary to help ensure we’d exceed our hatchery coho broodstock (goals), and that did eventually happen.”

Other locations like the Green River met coho broodstock goals although that didn’t occur until late last month. In Hood Canal, the Quilcene early coho return came back less than half the preseason expectation and the size of jack coho was much smaller.”

“There was a size issue throughout the Puget Sound area and the lower returns had us taking a precautionary move to a one coho daily limit,” Baltzell said. “It was the right move in retrospect and helped us move more coho into the rivers.”

The mid- and southern-Puget Sound and Hood Canal chum forecast of 642,740 doesn’t appear to be materializing and at this point WDFW downgraded the run to almost half the preseason expectation.

“It is really hard for us as fishery managers to pinpoint the cause for all of it,” Baltzell said. “We can point the finger to marine survival and conditions in the ocean like the warm blob that sat off the coast up to Alaska for a while. We also know the Canadian sockeye runs tanked this year and saw it in our own like Lake Washington that virtually got nothing back.”

The ocean salmon fisheries from Neah Bay south to Ilwaco between June 22 through Sept. 30 encountered a mixed bag of success.

“Fishing was pretty much what I expected it to be,” Beeghly said. “The chinook fishery was slow except up north off Neah Bay where it was pretty good this past summer. The majority of chinook we see in ocean fisheries are headed for the Columbia River and their forecasts were down so the poor fishing came as no surprise.”
Close to a million coho were forecasted to flood the Columbia River this past summer and that too was a downer.

“The coho fishing wasn’t quite as good as I had expected, but we saw some decent fishing at Ilwaco and Westport,” Beeghly said. “The Columbia coho forecast didn’t come back like we originally thought but better than the past three or so years. The hatchery coho mark rate was lower than anticipated.”

Coast wide only 51.1 percent of the hatchery coho quota of 159,600 was achieved, and 41.4 percent of the chinook quota of 26,250 was caught.

Areas north of Leadbetter Point saw a coho mark rate of somewhere under 50 percent and Ilwaco where data was still being crunched might come out to be a little higher than that.

Once the fish arrived in the Lower Columbia at Buoy 10 it appeared the catch of hatchery coho fell well short of expectations with a lot of wild fish released although some glory moments occurred early on.

Coastal and Columbia River chinook forecasts should come to light around the Christmas holidays. The Pacific Fishery Management Council preseason meeting will occur in mid-February. That is just ahead of when Oregon Production Index coho forecasts will be released.

As Baltzell rubbed the crystal ball looking into 2020 it still remains pretty foggy at this point but general expectations aren’t rosy.

“It would be fair for me to say that I wouldn’t expect anything much better in 2020 than what we saw in 2019,” Baltzell said. “We have no forecast information at this point but I wouldn’t expect a rosier outlook as far as chinook goes for next year.”

State, federal and tribal fishery managers in 2020 will be faced with a lot of same wild chinook stock issues as in recent past years like mid-Hood Canal and Stillaguamish. Add on top of that killer whale orca issues as well as the pending Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan that has been looming a dark cloud for the past three years with no end in sight just yet.

“If I had to gauge things out my gut reaction is we’ll likely have to take a more cautionary approach again next year,” Baltzell said.

The WDFW general salmon forecast public meeting will occur Feb. 28 at the DSHS Office Building 2 Auditorium, 1115 Washington Street S.E. in Olympia. The first North of Falcon meeting is March 16 at the Lacey Community Center and the second meeting is March 30 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites. Final seasons will determined April 5-11 at the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver, WA.

Final summer ocean salmon sport fishing catch data

Ilwaco (including Oregon) – 44,297 anglers from June 22 to September 30 caught 4,018 chinook (56% of the area guideline of 7,150) and 53,377 coho (67% of the area sub-quota of 79,800).

Westport – 23,465 anglers from June 22 to September 30 caught 2,336 chinook (18% of the area guideline of 12,700) and 20,221 coho (34% of the area sub-quota of 59,050), plus 700 pinks.

La Push – 2,076 from June 22 to September 30 caught 449 chinook (41% of the area guideline of 1,100) and 1,752 coho (43% of the area sub-quota of 4,050), plus 206 pinks. Late-season fishery October 1-13 saw 240 anglers with 164 chinook (64% over the fishery guideline) and 16 coho (16% of the fishery quota).

Neah Bay – 10,116 anglers from June 22 to September 30 caught 3,895 chinook (75% of the area guideline of 5,200) and 6,223 coho (37% of the area sub-quota of 16,600), plus 869 pinks. Chinook retention closed July 14.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Dungeness crab fishery reopens in Areas 8-2 and 8-1

The east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-2) has reopened daily for Dungeness crab fishing through Dec. 31. WDFW says crab abundance remains good indicating that the quota could be increased in-season. Crab pots must be set or pulled from a vessel and is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset.

Dungeness crab fishing is also open daily through Dec. 31 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 4B, 5 and 6); San Juan Islands (Area 7); and northern Puget Sound (Area 9 except waters north of the Hood Canal bridge to a line connecting Olele Point and Foulweather Bluff).

NW Fishing Derby Series hits refresh button in 2020

After 17 wonderful years since the derby series began in 2004, we’ve decided it’s time for a change and rebranded it to the “Northwest Fishing Derby Series.”

Our hope is that anglers will like the direction as we diversify the fish species our events target while boosting the number of derbies to 20 in 2020 up from 14 events in 2019.

New events are the Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby on May 23; For the Love of Cod Derbies in Coos Bay/Charleston areas and Brookings, Oregon March 21-22 and March 28-29 respectively; Father’s Day Big Bass Classic on Tenmile Lake at Lakeside, Oregon on June 21-22; and the Something Catchy Kokanee Derby at Lake Chelan on April 18-19.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The highlight is a chance to enter and win a $75,000 fully loaded, grand-prize all-white KingFisher 2025 Escape HT boat powered with Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ Loader Trailer. One of our newest sponsors of the derby – Shoxs Seats (www.shoxs.com) – has provided a pair of top-of-the-line seats that are engineered for maximum comfort in the roughest of seas.

The good news is anglers who enter any of the 20 derbies don’t need to catch a fish to win this beautiful boat and motor package!

A huge “thank you” to our other 2020 sponsors who make this series such a success are Silver Horde and Gold Star Lures; Scotty Downriggers; Burnewiin Accessories; Raymarine Electronics; WhoDat Tower; Dual Electronics; Tom-n-Jerry’s Marine; Master Marine; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Outdoor Emporium and Sportco; Harbor Marine; Prism Graphics; Lamiglas Rods; 710 ESPN The Outdoor Line; Salmon & Steelhead Journal; and Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine.

First up are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Feb. 1-2 (already 50 percent of tickets have been sold as of Nov. 13); Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. A new website is currently being designed and will be launched sometime in mid-December but for now, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

In the meantime, take a break from holiday shopping and hit up a lake or open saltwater areas for a feisty fish tugging on the end of your line.

I’ll see you on the water!

Where Barbed Hooks Are, Aren’t Now Allowed For Salmon, Steelhead On Washington’s Columbia System

Updated 3:10 p.m., May 31, 2019 with ODFW press release announcing Columbia hook rule change at bottom

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

Anglers on a large portion of the Columbia River and many of its tributaries will no longer be required to use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead beginning June 1.

In March, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission directed the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to make the use of barbless hooks voluntary for salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

Due to Endangered Species Act permitting with NOAA, WDFW is unable to fully lift restrictions on barbed hooks in some areas at this time, including tributaries upstream of McNary Dam, including the Snake River.

Still, barbless hook requirements on salmon and steelhead fishing are being lifted across a broad swath of Washington waters, including the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 to Chief Joseph Dam, and Columbia River tributaries from Buoy 10 to McNary Dam. Anglers fishing for sturgeon are still required to use barbless hooks.

The restriction on barbed hooks for salmon and steelhead will lift June 1 on the following waters:

A) Barbed hooks allowed for salmon and steelhead:

  1. Blue Creek (Lewis County), from the mouth to Spencer Road
  2. Cispus River (Lewis County)
  3. Columbia River, from a true north/south line through Buoy 10 to Chief Joseph Dam
  4. Coweeman River and tributaries (Cowlitz County)
  5. Cowlitz Falls Reservoir (Lake Scanewa) (Lewis County)
  6. Cowlitz River (Cowlitz County); Barbed hooks are also allowed for cutthroat trout in the Cowlitz River
  7. Drano Lake (Skamania County)
  8. Elochoman River (Wahkiakum County)
  9. Grays River (Wahkiakum County)
  10. Grays River, West Fork (Wahkiakum County)
  11. Kalama River (Cowlitz County)
  12. Klickitat River (Klickitat County)
  13. Lewis River (Clark County)
  14. Rock Creek (Skamania County)
  15. Tilton River (Lewis County)
  16. Toutle River (Cowlitz County)
  17. Toutle River, North Fork (Cowlitz County)
  18. Washougal River (Clark County)
  19. Washougal River, West (North) Fork (Clark/Skamania counties)
  20. White Salmon River (Klickitat/Skamania counties)

B) Selective gear rules still in effect; barbed hooks now allowed:

  1. Abernathy Creek and tributaries (Cowlitz County)
  2. Cedar Creek and tributaries (tributary of N.F. Lewis) (Clark County)
  3. Coal Creek (Cowlitz County)
  4. Delameter Creek (Cowlitz County)
  5. Germany Creek (Cowlitz County) and all tributaries.
  6. Grays River (Wahkiakum County)
  7. Grays River, East Fork (Wahkiakum County)
  8. Grays River, South Fork (Wahkiakum County)
  9. Grays River, West Fork tributaries (Wahkiakum County)
  10. Green River (Cowlitz County)
  11. Hamilton Creek (Skamania County)
  12. Kalama River (Cowlitz County): From 1,000 feet above fishway at upper salmon hatchery to Summers Creek and from the intersection of 6000 and 6420 roads to 6600 Road bridge immediately downstream of Jacks Creek.
  13. Lacamas Creek (Clark County): From mouth to footbridge at lower falls.
  14. Lacamas Creek, tributary of Cowlitz River (Lewis County)
  15. Lewis River, East Fork (Clark/Skamania counties): From mouth to 400 feet below Horseshoe Falls.
  16. Little Washougal River (Clark County)
  17. Mill Creek (Cowlitz County)
  18. Mill Creek (Lewis County): From the mouth to the hatchery road crossing culvert.
  19. Olequa Creek (Lewis/Cowlitz counties)
  20. Outlet Creek (Silver Lake) (Cowlitz County)
  21. Salmon Creek (Clark County): From the mouth to 182nd Avenue Bridge.
  22. Salmon Creek (Lewis County)
  23. Skamokawa Creek (Wahkiakum County)
  24. Stillwater Creek (Lewis County)
  25. Swift Reservoir (Skamania County): From the posted markers approximately 3/8 mile below Eagle Cliff Bridge to the bridge; from the Saturday before Memorial Day through July 15.
  26. Toutle River, North Fork (Cowlitz County):  From the mouth to the posted deadline below the fish collection facility.
  27. Wind River (Skamania County): from 100 feet above Shipherd Falls to Moore Bridge.
  28. White Salmon River (Klickitat/Skamania counties): From the county road bridge below the former location of the powerhouse upstream to Big Brother Falls (river mile 16).

C) Fly fishing only rules still in effect; barbed hooks now allowed:

  1. Kalama River (Cowlitz County): From Summers Creek to the intersection of 6000 and 6420 roads.

This rule will be reflected in the new Washington Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet on July 1, 2019. Anglers are reminded to check the pamphlet for additional regulations and to learn more about selective gear and fly fishing rules. Anglers can also download the Fish Washington mobile app to see up-to-date regulations around the state. Visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/app to learn more.

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

ODFW today adopted temporary rules to allow anglers to use barbed hooks when fishing for salmon, steelhead and trout in the Columbia River beginning Saturday, June 1.

ODFW adopted the rule so Oregon’s fishing regulations will remain concurrent with Washington in the jointly-managed Columbia River. The temporary rule will remain in effect until further notice or until it expires in late November. For it to become a permanent rule, the Fish and Wildlife Commission will need to approve a rule change, which Commissioners are expected to consider at a future meeting.

Anglers have been required to use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon, steelhead, and trout in the Columbia River since 2013. In March, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a recommendation to make the use of barbless hooks voluntary, and Washington Fish and Wildlife implemented the rule to begin June 1.

Rules requiring the use of single-point barbless hooks when fishing for sturgeon in the Columbia River remain in effect for anglers in both states. 

For the latest on Columbia River fishing regulations visit https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/columbia-zone

Washington Easing Hatchery Steelhead Limit Restrictions On Southeast Waters

Washington fishery managers are partially scaling back steelhead bag limit restrictions on waters in the southeast corner of the state.

As of Sunday, Oct. 15, daily limits will increase from one to two hatchery fish on the Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon and Grande Ronde Rivers.

GRANDE RONDE AND SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON ANGLERS WILL SOON BE ABLE TO RETAIN TWO HATCHERY STEELHEAD A DAY AS DAM COUNTS INDICATE MORE ARE RETURNING THAN FEARED JUST TWO MONTHS AGO. (GREG OLENIK)

However, the Snake will remain catch-and-release only from the mouth up to Clarkston. But between there and the Couse Creek boat ramp, near the mouth of of Hells Canyon, the river will also offer a two-hatchery-steelhead limit, though any longer than 28 inches must be released.

That’s to protect expected low returns of B-runs headed back to Idaho rivers.

Above Couse Creek, any hatchery steelhead can be retained, daily limit two.

Idaho managers are also mulling easing restrictions.

Going into this year’s season, Washignton’s fishing regs pamphlet listed a three-hatchery-steelhead limit on most of the rivers, except the Snake where fall season was yet to be determined.

Though this year’s A-run of steelhead is still well below average, it’s not looking as critically poor as it was in midsummer, when dam counts suggested we might only see 54,000 back.

That led Washington, Oregon and Idaho managers to chop bag limits or switch to catch-and-release-only fishing in the Snake and its tributaries.

But since then more have been counted at Bonneville Dam, and the preseason forecast of 112,100 has just about been met and will probably be exceeded.

“These measures will help ensure that sufficient numbers of wild and hatchery fish return to their natal streams,” said Chris Donley, WDFW regional fisheries manager. “But we’ll continue to monitor the steelhead run over the coming months, and either curtail the harvest of steelhead if needed, or provide more harvest opportunity if possible.”

Along with bag limit tweaks, the mandatory steelhead retention rule will be waived on Washington waters, but anglers will need to quit for the day after keeping two.

Get Out Your Calendars! Tentative WA Coast Razor Clam Season Announced

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has announced a tentative schedule for the fall razor clam season set to begin in early October.

Final approval of all scheduled openings will depend on results of marine toxin tests, which are usually conducted about a week before a dig is scheduled to begin.

RAZOR CLAMMERS WORK THE BEACH DURING AN EARLY 2010 SEASON OPENER. (JASON BAUER)

“We’re releasing a tentative schedule to give people plenty of time to make plans to go digging this fall,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW.

State shellfish managers are also seeking public input on management options, including scheduling for spring digs. Comments on the spring digs can be sent via email to razorclams@dfw.wa.gov.

A summary of last season and an overview of the recently completed razor clam stock assessment are available in WDFW’s 2017-18 Razor Clam Management Plan at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fi…/shellfish/razorclams/seasons_set.html.

Based on beach surveys conducted this summer, WDFW estimates the total razor clam population on Washington’s beaches has decreased significantly from last season, which means fewer days of digging this season.

Ayres said the decline in clam populations was likely caused, at least in part, by an extended period of low salinity in surf zone ocean waters, particularly those near Long Beach and Twin Harbors.

“The total number of clams may be down this year, but we still expect good digging on most beaches,” Ayres said.

Proposed razor clam digs through December are listed below, along with evening low tides and beaches:

· Oct. 6, Friday, 7:49 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks

· Oct. 7, Saturday, 8:33 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks

· Nov. 2, Thursday, 6:03 p.m.; 0.1 feet; Copalis

· Nov. 3, Friday, 6:47 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Nov. 4, Saturday, 7:31 p.m.; -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Nov. 5, Sunday, 7:16 p.m.; -1.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Dec. 1, Friday, 4:42 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Copalis

· Dec. 2, Saturday, 6:49 p.m.; -1.9 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Dec. 3, Sunday, 6:15 p.m.; -1.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Dec. 4, Monday, 7:02 p.m.; -1.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Dec. 31, Sunday, 5:12 p.m.; -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks

Northeast Washington Tribe To Begin Hunting Wolves Off Reservation

The tribes that first began hunting wolves in Washington have expanded seasons to off-reservation areas, a first as well.

The Colville Tribes’ Business Council voted this morning to amend its 2016-19 hunting regs to open the “North Half,” where the Profanity Peak, Sherman, Wedge and Beaver Creek Packs largely run, to tribal hunters.

THE RED LINE REFLECTS THE  FORMER NORTH HALF OF THE COLVILLE RESERVATION, WHERE THE TRIBAL BUSINESS COUNCIL HAS APPROVED WOLF SEASONS. (WDFW)

The hunt will be modeled on those in the South Half, where the quota is around one-fifth to one-quarter of the overall population, according to a Tribal Tribune article out yesterday.

Though it’s highly likely there are more wolves now, the 2016 year-end count reported 16 in the four North Half packs, as well as 12 in two South Half packs that roam into the North Half at times.

But if the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife kills any in the area to head off cattle depredations — the Shermans are sitting on two confirmed calf kills and one confirmed calf injury since June 12, and a fourth attack could lead to removals of one or two members — that could reduce how many are available for tribal hunters to take, according to the paper.

The North Half includes state, federal and private lands in northeast Okanogan County, the northern half of Ferry County and that part of Stevens County north of the Columbia River, where the Colville Tribes maintain hunting and fishing rights and comanages wildlife with WDFW.

“It is entirely consistent with the Tribes’ rights to hunt and fish in that area,” said Steve Pozzanghera, the state agency’s regional manager.

He says that there was “good communication” between tribal wildlife managers and WDFW as the proposal moved towards the business council.

Pozzanghera says that if hunting on the North Half proceeds as it has to the south, the state has no concerns about it impacting the wolf population as a whole.

Wolves in this part of Washington are federally delisted. The Colvilles opened seasons in 2012, though it wasn’t until last fall that one was reported taken. Spokane Tribe of Indians hunters have been more successful.

State hunts are dependent on first, set numbers of successful breeding pairs occurring in the eastern third, North Cascades, and South Cascades and Olympic Peninsula — benchmarks that are nowhere close to being met — and then the Fish and Wildlife Commission changing their status to game animal and approving opening a season.

The Colvilles’ fifth annual wolf hunt in the South Half began Aug. 1 and runs through Feb. 28. Trapping season begins Nov. 1-Feb. 28. The overall limit is three.

Top goals in their wolf management plan, approved earlier this year, are to “1) outline strategies for maintaining viable wolf populations that persist through time, while 2) maintaining healthy ungulate populations capable of meeting the cultural and subsistence needs of Colville Tribal Members and their families.”

The amendment opening the North Half was approved with little discussion except that one member of the council noted that wolves are sacred animals to the Colville Tribes and that elders recalled some taking pups as pets.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:00 p.m., Aug. 3, 2017, with comments from WDFW.

1 Smackout Wolf Lethally Removed In Ops To Halt NE WA Depredations

State wildlife managers have removed one wolf from the Smackout Pack to head off a series of depredations in Northeast Washington.

They say that the lethal removal operation, which began a week ago, will continue for another week, and be followed by an evaluation period.

The goal is to take out one or two members of the calf-killing pack to change its behavior.

A SMACKOUT PASS WOLF CAUGHT ON A TRAIL CAM AT NIGHT. WDFW)

The news came out late this afternoon in a brief update to the public.

Details on the wolf, how it was taken out and other operational details are not being shared at the moment to try and keep the situation as calm as possible for state staffers, producers and others working it.

Full details will be available in a final report, says WDFW wolf manager Donny Martorello.

The Smackouts have been involved in five confirmed depredations since late September 2016, including two in the past month.

As a result of the depredation investigated July 18, the fourth in less than a year, incremental removals were authorized.

One Smackout wolf was also shot in late June by a ranch hand after it was caught attacking cattle in northern Stevens County.

The pack has been the subject of intense efforts to keep the peace between it and grazing cattle.

The depredations have mostly occurred on Colville National Forest lands, with the latest, investigated on July 22nd, happening in a private fenced 40-acre pasture.

Unmarked Kings Opening For Retention On Part Of Brewster Pool

North-central Washington anglers will be able to keep one unmarked summer Chinook as part of their two-adult-king daily limit starting this Thursday, July 27, on part of the Brewster Pool.

With more wild Chinook returning to the Okanogan than are needed for spawning goals, WDFW says 2,000 are available for harvest.

BREWSTER POOL ANGLERS HAVE MORE REASON TO SMILE WITH THE ADDITION OF AN UNMARKED CHINOOK IN THE TWO-KING DAILY LIMIT. JAMIE VALENTA CAUGHT THIS NICE SUMMER SALMON SEVERAL SEASONS BACK. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

They can be kept in the waters from the Highway 173 bridge to the Highway 17 bridge, a roughly 12-mile stretch of the Upper Columbia.

But the fishery will be closely monitored and could close on short notice, WDFW warns. Keep an eye on the agency’s e-reg site for updates.

The 2017 summer king run has slightly exceeded the initial forecast, and is now predicted to come in at 68,700, a bright spot in a year of poor springer, sockeye and steelhead returns to the Columbia.

The stock is not listed under the Endangered Species Act.

WDFW Tweaking North Cascades Elk Management Plan, Looking For Input

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is accepting public comments through Sept. 7 on a draft plan for future management of the North Cascades elk herd, the northernmost herd in Western Washington.

The draft plan for the herd, also known as the Nooksack herd, can be found on WDFW’s website at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01916/

NORTH CASCADES HERD BULL ELK. (WDFW)

In addition to the public comment period, state wildlife managers plan to hold a public meeting on Aug. 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sedro-Woolley Community Center.

Written comments can be submitted online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RDCSVVM or mailed to North Cascades Elk Herd Plan, Wildlife Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504.

The North Cascades elk herd is spread out over a large area of Skagit and Whatcom counties. Since the last herd management plan was adopted in 2002, the population of the herd – the smallest that WDFW manages – has rebounded from just a few hundred animals to more than 1,200 elk within the recent survey area.

But a growing elk population also comes with increased potential for elk/human interactions and conflicts. The new draft plan includes several strategies to address those concerns and other management issues.

Key goals of the proposed plan include:

Reducing elk/human conflicts, including minimizing elk damage on private property and elk-vehicle collisions along a stretch of State Route 20;

Offering sustainable hunting opportunities, including an increase of at least 100 square miles available for hunting on private and public lands;

Coordinating and cooperating with the Point Elliott Treaty Tribes on herd management and setting hunting seasons;

Increasing elk viewing and photography opportunities.

WDFW will consider comments received online, in writing, and during the public meeting in drafting the final version of the plan.

Comment Sought On Olympic Mountain Goat Management Options

Federal and state managers are looking for public comment on what to do with the Olympic Peninsula’s mountain goats.

They’re trotting out four alternatives, one of which would remove 90 percent of the population that hangs out in the heights, mostly in Olympic National Park but also Olympic National Forest.

A TRIO OF MOUNTAIN GOATS CLING TO ROCKS ON THE RIDGE ABOVE THE ROAD TO HURRICANE RIDGE. (OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK)

Another option would move half the herd of roughly 725 animals by 2018 to either side of Washington’s North Cascades, bolstering herds and hunting opportunities in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.

A third — the preferred one at the moment — would combine both alternatives to remove nine out of every ten mountain goats from federal lands on the peninsula, mostly by shooting by the fifth year of the operation.

A fourth leaves management as the status quo.

Olympic National Park, the U.S. Forest Service and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife came up with the draft environmental impact statement on the alternatives.

Goats aren’t native to the Olympics but were brought in somewhere in the early 1900s, before the national park was created in 1938.

They’ve done well, but are rough on soil and native plants, and with apparently no natural salt licks in the mountains, now associate humans with the mineral. An aggressive billy killed a hiker in the park in 2010.

Hunting of course isn’t allowed in the national park, but WDFW makes a handful of permits available to hunt national forest lands above Hood Canal through a conflict reduction permit.

Ten tags are currently offered for areas around Mt. Baker,  Lake Chelan and the Boulder River Wilderness, several more for the Goat Rocks of the South Cascades.

In the plan, the feds and state say that goats also have to be removed from the surrounding national forest because they’re part of the overall population.

Comment is open through Sept. 26.

For more details, go here.

Lake Washington Sockeye Count Tops 110,000, But Declining

The odds of a Lake Washington sockeye fishery this year — long to begin with — seem remoter still with today’s updated count unless somehow hesitant salmon managers acquiesce to a Hail Mary bid.

A total of 111,509 have passed through the Ballard Locks since the tally began June 12, and the year’s best days appear to be behind us.

IT’S BEEN 11 YEARS SINCE THE LAST LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE FISHERY, AND DESPITE CALLS FOR AN “OLD TIMES SAKE” SEASON THIS YEAR, THAT’S INCREASINGLY UNLIKELY WITH THE LATEST BALLARD LOCKS COUNTS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Nearly 7,500 were counted July 4, with 21,740 in the three days before and day afterwards.

But since then daily counts have dipped to 2,772 Wednesday and 2,271 yesterday.

The run has typically peaked by now, though of note 2006 didn’t hit its midmark till mid-July.

If there’s good news, it’s that the forecast of 77,292 was wrong, and there does appear to be some softening on the standing escapement goal of 350,000 sockeye to trigger sport and commercial tribal fisheries.

According to a recent WDFW letter, talks have been ongoing with the comanagers about “a new abundance-based management framework that allows for some directed fisheries at run-sizes of 200,000 or greater.”

Written July 7, the communique from Director Jim Unsworth expresses cautious optimism that that figure might be reached.

But Frank Urabeck, a longtime recreational angling advocate who closely watches the counts, now estimates the run will come in somewhere north of 130,000, which is above the 100,000 that he hoped might trigger a “token, for old times’ sake” fishery on Lake Washington, where we haven’t seen a sockeye season since 2006.

Since then, an average of 78,000 — high: 2013’s 178,422; low: 2009’s 21,718 — have entered the locks with fewer still actually spawning.

By comparison, between 2006 and 1972, only three years saw 78,000 or fewer sockeye enter; even the bad salmon years of the mid-1990s were higher.

It’s believed that despite the new Seattle Public Utilities hatchery on the Cedar River, young sockeye are suffering increasing and strong predation in the lake and as they make their way through the Ship Canal, which also appears to be a thermal block for returning adults, leaving them more prone to disease.

This year’s run would also have been at sea during the fish-run-destroying Blob.

Among Urabeck’s aims is to draw attention to what he considers to be a failing run, and he sees this year’s return as what amounts to a last-gasp opportunity to get anglers on the lake and rally support for what once was a wonderful salmon fishery in the heart of the state’s biggest metropolis.

If you never had a chance to partake in it, it was the absolute best kind of insanity going.

Urabeck wants one last go.

“I encourage sportfishing anglers to contact Director Unsworth and the MIT to encourage them to avoid losing this special opportunity to gain public support for our fisheries programs,” he said this morning.

Unsworth, who wrote that Urabeck’s call for a season if the count hit 100,000 “certainly caught my attention,” agreed that Lake Washington salmon aren’t faring well, but was more optimistic about the future.

“It will be a challenging task, but the restoration of clear, clean, and swimmable water to Lake Washington in the 1960s shows what can be accomplished with our engaged and supportive public,” Unsworth states in the letter to Urabeck.

The director says that his agency as well as the tribes, county and utilities are “now implementing and advocating for the actions necessary to improve salmon survival in the Lake Washington basin.”

“In this urban setting, we will need to think ‘out-of-the-box’ to find solutions that provide for salmon in the future. In part, this will likely require rethinking how we use our hatcheries. As you recall, we joined with you and others in the Year-15 Comprehensive Review of the City of Seattle’s Habitat Conservation Plan in recommending new supplementation techniques that maximize fry-to-adult survival through a combination of extended rearing and delayed release timing,” Unsworth states.

Meanwhile, the Muckleshoot and Suquamish Tribes are holding their annual ceremonial and subsistence fisheries, with goals of 1,000 and 2,500 sockeye each, and yesterday saw dipnetting in the ladder as tribal biologists in conjunction with WDFW collected salmon for a longterm biological sampling program.

What the longterm health of the sportfishery holds is anyone’s guess, but at the moment, it is on life support at best this year.