Tag Archives: Washington

Okanogan Highlands Rancher ‘Justified’ In Shooting Wolf Approaching Calves

A northeast Okanogan County rancher has been reported cleared by Washington game wardens after shooting a wolf that approached within roughly half a football field of a fenced calving area with several newborns.

The incident was first reported in WDFW’s monthly wolf report earlier in May and was fleshed out more fully today by the Capital Press after it requested officers’ reports.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE APPROXIMATE LOCATION OF THE BEAVER CREEK PACK. (WDFW)

It occurred the morning of April 29 east of Highway 97 in the Beaver Creek Pack territory, part of the state where wolves have been federally delisted, and involved a young unmarked male.

“The calving area included cow-calf pairs that were enclosed in a fenced pasture within sight of the house of the livestock producer,” WDFW initially reported.

The Press reported that day-old calves were near a fence as the animal approached. Unsure if it was a coyote or wolf, the rancher shouted at it, but it continued to come closer.

He grabbed a rifle and fired one shot at it, killing it at 280 yards and just 56 yards from the fenceline, the Press reported.

Under state caught-in-the-act provisions, ranchers, farmers and others with animals in the delisted eastern third of the state can shoot a single wolf without a state permit “if the wolf is attacking their domestic animals.”

That allowance was also used this past February in Adams County, where a ranchhand shot and killed a wolf in an unnamed pack after it continued to chase a herd of cattle.

It also requires whomever shoots a wolf to contact WDFW within 24 hours and allow wardens onto the property to investigate.

According to the Press, the rancher was “tense” but officers “assured (him) that we were present to document what had occurred, and we were there to advocate for his personal and property rights as much as the rights of wildlife.”

The story says that the family had known that there had been wolves around the ranch since last fall.

“The producer routinely buries all carcasses and removes afterbirth from the area,” WDFW reported.

Had the wolf gone after the calves, it would have been difficult to make a clean shot, an investigator wrote in their report, the Press stated.

“I informed (the rancher and his wife) that it was a justified act and did not want them to stress about a delayed finding or decision,” another wrote, according to the news source.

Elsewhere in WDFW’s monthly report, state managers say a Spokane Tribe hunter took a member of the Stranger Pack in April, but little other wolf activity amongst the 27 known packs.

28.2-pound Pike Caught In Roosevelt’s Sanpoil Arm

The largest pike yet was caught this month on Lake Roosevelt, a 28.2-pound egg-laden female, and it was a lot further down the 150-mile-long reservoir than nearly all other northerns captured so far.

The 43.3-inch nonnative invasive fish was netted in the Sanpoil River arm, the mouth of which is just 17 miles from Grand Coulee Dam.

THE COLVILLE TRIBES CAPTURED THIS 28.2-POUND NORTHERN PIKE IN LAKE ROOSEVELT’S SANPOIL ARM. (COLVILLE TRIBES)

Even as state and tribal fishery managers are working more and more intensively to keep pike from getting below that dam and Chief Joseph into the salmon and steelhead zone, that a huge one turned up in the arm worries the Colville Tribes too.

“The Sanpoil River hosts the largest wild redband trout run in Lake Roosevelt. We are very concerned about northern pike increasing in abundance in the part of the reservoir,” said Holly McClellan, the tribes’ principal fisheries biologist.

Last year a 6.2-pound pike was caught just 10 miles from the dam, but the fish have mostly been found in the impoundment’s upper arm, up around the mouths of the Kettle and Colville Rivers, though they have been moving downlake towards Hunters and beyond.

An intensive joint state-tribal-utility effort to suppress pike numbers ahead of the spring spawn just wrapped up in those waters.

The previous largest northerns were a 27.7-pounder caught at Signers Bay, at Kettle Falls, and a 27.5 in the Spokane Arm.

The implication of a 28.2-pounder showing up so relatively far downlake takes awhile to sink in.

A fish that large will have been capable of breeding for quite some time, and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, which first reported the catch, said the big female had gonads, where the eggs are stored, that weighed 4 pounds.

Various sources suggest that a near-30-pound pike could carry up to 300,000 eggs.

BEFORE BEING CAUGHT IN A NET, THIS 31-INCH-LONG, 10-POUND LAKE ROOSEVELT PIKE SWALLOWED A TROUT HALF ITS BODY LENGTH. THAT’S NOT MUCH BIGGER THAN THE ADULT SOCKEYE RETURNING TO THE BREWSTER POOL. (WDFW)

That the fish was found so relatively close to the dam underlines grim warnings in a recent presentation from a larger report on predator issues in Roosevelt and the Columbia that the council was given. On northerns it stated:

It is likely that pike will eventually invade the anadromous zone — even with the best efforts in public education, early detection, and control or eradication.

Suppression in Lake Roosevelt could reduce risks of downstream establishment by reducing the number and average body size of downstream dispersers.

Even though the invasion is almost assured to occur in time, there is value in delaying it.

It advises managers that early detection and rapid responses are essential for nipping new outbreaks, that they must come up with those plans now before those occur, and they should monitor areas where it’s likely illegal introductions by bucket biologists would occur.

And it suggests it’s likely that young Chinook would be the most vulnerable to pike, followed by chum salmon.

Subsequent to our posting this story, the Colvilles’ McClellan told the Spokesman Review that at the current pace down the upper Columbia, ” … we think they are maybe three years away from being down below Chief Joseph Dam.”

Columbia Springer Run Downgraded To 75,000

File this one under Unsurprising News, but the Columbia upriver spring Chinook forecast has been cut by a quarter as the return begins to flag.

The U.S. vs OR Technical Advisory Committee, also known as TAC, yesterday estimated that only 75,000 adult kings will return to the mouth of the big river this spring, down from the preseason prediction of 99,300.

A FISH PASSAGE CENTER GRAPH SHOWS THE 2019 UPRIVER SPRING CHINOOK RUN AT BONNEVILLE DAM (RED LINE) COMPARED TO 2018 (BLUE LINE) AND THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE (BLACK). (FPC)

If it comes to pass, it would be the fewest springers since 1999’s 43,067.

As it has become apparent this year’s run won’t meet predictions — the count at Bonneville Dam through yesterday is 46,653, more than 80,000 fewer than the 10-year average — managers throughout the watershed tightened the clamps on this year’s fisheries even more, closing waters or announcing they wouldn’t open for angling.

Idaho scrubbed the two-day-a-week Clearwater River fishery because it didn’t look like enough salmon would return to meet broodstock needs and Washington helped out by cancelling the weekends-only opener at Clarkston on the Snake and later today at Little Goose Dam.

Oregon stated that its Snake, as well as the Wallowa and Imnaha Rivers and Lookingglass Creek also would not open, then WDFW put out an e-reg shutting down the popular Wind River and Drano Lake fisheries after this past Sunday to collect broodstock for hatcheries elsewhere, such as Leavenworth, an important facility powering sport and tribal fisheries on Icicle Creek.

While the Lower Columbia fishery saw three weekend-only extensions after its April 10 last scheduled day, the overall 1,471 upriver Chinook kept plus release mortalities accrued through the season between Warrior Rock and Bonneville should be covered by the run.

In a fact sheet out a couple weeks ago when managers mulled an April 27-28 opener said that a runsize of 53,300 would cover up to 1,691 mortalities.

The Columbia below Warrior Rock down to Buoy 10 was kept closed this year to protect weak returns of Cowlitz and Lewis springers. Hatcheries on those two systems need 1,337 and 1,380 fish to meet goals and as of last Tuesday, 416 and 421 had returned.

A total of 4,700 are needed for Idaho’s Clearwater system and analysis of passive integrated transponders placed in a portion of the run show that 3,500 had been counted at Bonneville as of last week.

A SPRING CHINOOK COMES ABOARD A BOAT FISHING AT THE MOUTH OF THE WIND RIVER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The Willamette Falls springer count of 11,922 through May 16 is about 4,500 fish fewer than the 10-year average for the date but still much better than 2017’s 4,156.

As for this year’s new May lower Skagit Chinook sport fishery, only an estimated 22 had been caught through the 12th, though a better gauge of the run might be hatchery return.

If there is any bright spot to this year’s poor Columbia springer run, it might be that if this is the bottom of the salmon stock’s up-and-down cycle, it’s a whole lot better than the last big crash.

Only 24,095 and 12,792 entered the big river in 1994 and 1995, an era when there was no directed fishery on above-Bonneville-bound fish in the lower river.

Since that time, state, tribal and federal dollars have been poured into hatcheries, habitat and passage improvements, notes WDFW’s Ryan Lothrop.

The numbers of jacks — a potential indication for future runs — this year isn’t great, but it’s better than any time during the 1990s and during a downturn in the middle of this millennium’s first decade too.

WDFW Adds Halibut Days For Westport, Straits, Sound

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

Sport halibut season dates added for 2019

Action:  In addition to dates already announced, recreational halibut fishing will be open Thursday, June 6 in Marine Area 2.  Recreational halibut fishing will be allowed on six additional fishing days in Marine Areas 5 through 10, those dates are; Thursday, May 30; Saturday June 1; Thursday, June 13; Saturday, June 15; Thursday, June 27; and, Saturday, June 29.

MOST THOUGH NOT ALL WASHINGTON MARINE AREAS WILL SEE MORE OPEN DAYS AFTER LOW EARLY CATCHES. A TRIP ON THE BRINY BLUE OFF THE EVERGREEN STATE’S COAST YIELDED WHITE-MEATED FILLETS FOR HALIBUT ANGLERS DAVE ANDERSON AND HIS FATHER-IN-LAW MAURY KINCANNON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: Immediately

Species affected:  Pacific halibut

Location:  Marine Area 2 and Marine Areas 5 through 10

Reason for action: The 2019 sport halibut quota approved by the International Pacific Halibut Commission in January 2019 is approximately 25 percent higher than 2018.  The higher quota, combined with lower catch in Marine Areas 5-10 during the early season, allows for more sport halibut fishing days than were anticipated when the season dates were set last fall. To maximize sport fishing opportunity in this area, six additional fishing days will be added following the Thursday, Saturday season structure proposed by stakeholders.

In addition, another fishing day on Thursday, June 6, will be opened for recreational halibut fishing in Marine Area 2.

The all depth recreational halibut fishery in Marine Area 1 will continue on May 24 and 26. The nearshore area will remain open Mondays through Wednesdays until further notice.  No changes are proposed to the recreational season dates in Marine Areas 3 and 4 at this time.

The sport halibut fishery is managed to a federal quota. WDFW will continue to track catch as the season progresses and make adjustments as needed to provide opportunity while keeping catch within the quota.

Additional information: 2019 sport halibut season dates:

Marine Area 1:

All-depth: Open Thursday, May 2; Sunday, May 5; Thursday, May 9; Sunday, May 12; Friday, May 24; Sunday, May 26.

Nearshore: Open Monday’s through Wednesday beginning May 6.

It is permissible to retain lingcod when halibut is on board north of the Washington-Oregon border on days open to the recreational halibut season.

Marine Area 2:  Open Thursday, May 2; Sunday, May 5; Thursday, May 9; Sunday, May 12; Friday, May 24; and Thursday, June 6.

Marine Areas 3 and 4: Open Thursday, May 2; Saturday, May 4; Thursday, May 9; Saturday, May 11; Saturday, May 18; Friday, May 24; Sunday, May 26; Thursday, June 6; Saturday, June 8; Thursday, June 20; Saturday, June 22

Puget Sound (MA 5-10): Open Thursday, May 2; Saturday, May 4; Thursday, May 9; Saturday, May 11; Saturday, May 18; Friday, May 24; Sunday, May 26; Thursday, May 30; Saturday, June 1; Thursday, June 6; Saturday, June 8; Thursday, June 13; Saturday, June 15; Thursday, June 20; Saturday, June 22; Thursday, June 27; and, Saturday, June 29

Marine Area 5: It is permissible for halibut anglers to retain lingcod and Pacific cod caught while fishing for halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet on days that halibut fishing is open and when the lingcod season is open.

It is not lawful to retain lingcod or Pacific cod seaward of 120 feet on halibut days in MA 6-10.

Marine Areas 11-13 are closed

Marine Areas 1-10:  Daily bag limit of 1 halibut per angler, with no minimum size limit.  Annual limit of 4. All catch must be recorded on WDFW catch record card.  Possession limits remain the same.

Information contact: Heather Hall, Coastal Policy Coordinator, 360-902-2487.

Sheep Pneumonia Kills 11 Okanogan Bighorns; Monitoring Continues

A pneumonia outbreak may have run its course in a herd of Okanogan County bighorn sheep after killing nearly a dozen this past winter, but wildlife managers will keep monitoring the animals.

A BIGHORN RAM LOOKS OVER THE LOOMIS AREA OF NORTHCENTRAL OKANOGAN COUNTY. (JUSTIN HAUG, WDFW)

“Today the herd looks healthy, the lambs are healthy and fun to watch,” said WDFW wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen, who was observing the Mt. Hull sheep this morning. “Boy, they’re active, up on the rocks, jumping around.”

It’s been a month and a half since the last new mortality and Heinlen counted 44 sheep, including 10 two-week-old-or-so lambs, along with 15 rams amongst the herd that roams across the mountain just southeast of Oroville.

In mid-March, WDFW reported one ram had been confirmed to have died from Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae — M. ovi for short — and afterwards asked the public to keep an eye out for any others displaying symptoms of the highly contagious bacteria.

Typically it starts with infected animals licking their lips, then coughing before eventually foaming at the mouth right before they die.

The agency’s early April bimonthly Wildlife Program report states that all totaled nine rams, one ewe and one of last year’s lambs are known to have succumbed, but that no new cases have been seen since March 30.

Heinlen says that six carcasses were sent to a Washington State University lab which confirmed they had all died from sheep pneumonia. Typically it is picked up from domestic herds.

It wasn’t clear why mortality was so concentrated among rams,  but possibly because a bachelor group came into contact with someone’s sheep.

Both WDFW and the Colville Tribes, which comanage the herd, withdrew the two ram and four ewe permits that were otherwise going to be available for this fall’s seasons due to the outbreak.

“There are still some pretty nice rams,” noted Heinlen.

While his latest count of 44 sheep is well below the 71 he saw in February and 80 to 82 tallied by the tribes during a January aerial survey, the animals have been using more forested terrain that makes it harder to get a headcount.

Heinlen said it’s easier to spot dead rams on the landscape due to their body size and large horns, but also said he wasn’t seeing eagles or magpies, which would suggest more carcasses on the ground.

This is the first time that M. ovi has been found in the Mt. Hull herd, he reported. It has struck others in Washington, including Yakima River Canyon, Tieton River and Snake-Grande Ronde populations.

“Bottom line, we’re not seeing the catastrophic die-off of other herds. We don’t know if it’s run its course, but we will continue to monitor the herd,” Heinlen said.

They’ll be watching those playful newborn lambs closely in hopes none come down with symptoms.

WDFW Shortfall Grows; Leaders Take Questions During Livestream

Washington fish and wildlife managers are now projecting they will have a $20 million budget shortfall over the coming two years — and it could more than double in the following two.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind broke the news earlier this week during a 2.5-hour-long livestreamed virtual open house.

WDFW HONCHOS LINE A TABLE DURING MONDAY NIGHT’S LIVE-STREAMED DIGITAL OPEN HOUSE. (WDFW)

“We ended up with less than we needed to get through the biennium, which means we’re not going to be able to provide the services we had hoped to,” he said about the recently concluded legislative session.

Lawmakers did give WDFW a one-time $24 million General Fund bump to fill a preexisting $31 million hole instead of raising fishing and hunting license fees and extending the Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement.

But Susewind said that the shortfall also grew from that new initial $7 million difference to $20 million after legislators also “passed a lot of provisions that further increased our costs. Those increased costs came without additional revenue.”

WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND. (WDFW)

This afternoon his budget and policy director Nate Pamplin said the $13 million ballooning was due to increased salaries for staffers and “other central service costs” that weren’t matched with new revenues; lower than expected disbursements from both the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts; and one-time hits from things like the Skagit catch-and-release wild steelhead fishery and Fish Washington app that would have been funded through the fee bill but now must be another way or get cut.

“We’re still reviewing what has been identified as at risk and trying to balance the budget,” Pamplin said.

Back on Monday’s live stream, Susewind acknowledged that legislators had “front loaded” the agency’s General Fund contribution towards the first year of the two-year budget “to come as close as we can to staying whole” in anticipation of working on it again when state senators and representatives return to Olympia next January .

But he also projected that the shortfall could grow to $46 million during the 2021-23 biennium if nothing’s done.

SUSEWIND HAS BEEN MAKING MORE USE of new ways to talk to WDFW’s constituents than past directors, and in this latest virtual town meeting he brought in a bevy of department heads and managers to talk about their programs and expertises.

But it also included about an hour’s worth of questions sent in by the public as they watched, and as you can imagine many inquiries dealt with the hot-button topics of the day — wolves, North of Falcon, Columbia fisheries.

One of the first questions was from a gentleman by the name of Bill who felt that over the past three years there’s been a lot of lost fishing opportunity and he wanted to know how WDFW was supporting sport anglers.

“We’re trying to maximize the opportunities within the constraints we have,” Susewind stated.

Those restrictions include all the Endangered Species Act listings on fish stocks that often swim alongside healthier ones, fisheries that require extensive and not-cheap monitoring for the state to receive federal permits to hold them.

DRIFT BOAT ANGLERS MAKE THEIR WAY DOWN THE SAUK RIVER DURING APRIL 2018’S 12-DAY FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Susewind said the agency was looking at ways to increase hatchery production, and he pointed to spill down the Columbia system to aid outmigrating smolts as well as habitat work to increase wild returns which would mean higher allowable impact rates on listed stocks

“This is an area I want to be direct with folks,” Susewind said. “I know there’s a ton of frustration around lack of opportunity at the same time we asked for an increase. I’d just ask folks to think through the situation. In these times of incredible constraints, declining runs, it costs more to actually provide the opportunity. The declining opportunity, the effort it takes to provide what opportunity is available is more.

“You all can make your own choice whether it’s a good investment if fees are worth it or not, but those fees are what are going to allow us to continue to manage, to allow us to hopefully turn around this run return and allow us to provide more opportunities,” he said, adding, “That’s what we’re trying to do. Time will tell if we’re successful.”

Asked whether WDFW was considering any early retirements to reduce the budget hole, Susewind said he couldn’t do that without a change in state law, but that staff cuts and not filling vacancies were being looked at.

A woman named Carol asked about a “conservation license,” and Susewind expressed some interest in it as a funding source though also for more durable, across the board funding. Pamplin added that the Reclaiming America’s Wildlife Act now in Congress was a “potential game changer … for us to invest in areas that need support.”

WDFW’s twin mandate tears it between providing harvest opportunities which raise money to pour back into providing more while also having to protect imperiled species that suck money the other way.

TWO WOLVES ROAM ACROSS A SNOWY EASTERN WASHINGTON LANDSCAPE. (UW)

THIS AND RECENT YEARS HAVE SEEN A LOT OF ANGER about the results from North of Falcon salmon-season-setting negotiations and the pruning of opportunities in inland saltwaters, and during the livestream, a question from Chad asked why there couldn’t be open meetings between WDFW and all Western Washington tribes.

Susewind, who just emerged from his first iteration of the annual set-to, called the idea unwieldy and said that the agency had a responsibility to represent its stakeholders during the talks but that that didn’t allow for them to behind those closed doors.

Salmon policy lead Kyle Adicks was more blunt.

“The tribes are sovereign governments. They don’t have to meet with us if they don’t want to. They don’t have to meet with members of our public if they don’t want to,” he said. “Ultimately it’s the tribes’ decision: If they want to have a government-to-government meeting, then that’s what we have.”

RON GARNER, PUGET SOUND ANGLERS PRESIDENT, SPEAKS AT AN ANGLERS RALLY IN LACEY, WASH., IN MAY 2016 AS STATE-TRIBAL NORTH OF FALCON NEGOTIATIONS WERE AT AN IMPASSE AFFECTING THE STATE OF THAT YEAR’S SEASONS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW piggybacks on the tribes’ federal nexus to get sport salmon seasons approved faster than they otherwise might be.

While Adicks also pointed back to a January 2017 Fish and Wildlife Commission briefing on the Open Public Meetings and Administrative Procedures Acts, in recent days a long-threatened legal challenge has been filed that contends that how WDFW sets salmon seasons with the tribes violates those two state laws.

Filed by Twin Harbors Fish and Wildlife Advocacy of McCleary, the petition asks a Thurston County Superior Court judge to throw out the state’s adopted 2019-20 salmon seasons.

WDFW had no comment when I asked about the matter earlier this week — “As you probably know, we don’t comment on ongoing litigation” — but did pass along their efforts to increase transparency:

WDFW values and works hard to provide transparency in the development of fishing seasons. The development of fishing seasons also includes work with tribal co-managers, and those meetings involve highly sensitive government-to-government negotiations with 20 individual treaty tribes during the North of Falcon process.

In 2019, the department held more than a dozen public meetings to discuss potential salmon seasons in various locations around the state. Three of the meetings were live-streamed on WDFW’s website and made available for the public to watch later. WDFW also provided the public with the option to submit comments electronically through the department’s website. During the closing portion of North of Falcon negotiations, which took place during the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in California, the department had daily conference calls with advisors and constituents to discuss the latest developments.

ANOTHER QUESTION FOCUSED ON WHY the Fish and Wildlife Commission had allowed gillnets back into the Columbia this year, gear that had been schedule to be phased out by 2017 under fishery reforms.

Susewind called that policy an adaptive one that aimed to keep commercial fisheries viable on the big river too but that replacement gear hasn’t been figured out, so the citizen panel decided to extend gillnetting “while we figure out how to implement the rest of the policy.”

With spring Chinook now coming in far below forecast and summer Chinook not even opening, gillnetting this year will be limited to a handful of days targeting fall Chinook near Vancouver at the end of summer.

A GUIDE BOAT RUNS UP THE LOWER COLUMBIA DURING 2014’S BUOY 10 FALL SALMON FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Dozens more questions were asked and they covered the gamut:

* What WDFW was doing to increase branch-antler bull elk opportunities;

* How much  it costs to investigate wolf depredations;

* Whether WDFW plans to dispute the status of perennially fishery constraining mid-Hood Canal Chinook as a distinct stock (they’re essentially locally adapted Green/Duwamish strays released into the Skokomish);

* Reducing commercial bycatch;

* If WDFW was considering opening a spring bear general season;

  • What the agency was doing to increase access to salmon and steelhead, boosting mule deer and elk populations, and upping steelhead production;

* If WDFW can fine people who create repeat predator issues;

  • If Westside- and Eastside-only deer tags were possible;

* Instead of bag limits, if tags for salmon were possible;

* The latest on Southwest Washington hoof rot.

* And why weren’t WDFW staffers required to be hunters and anglers.

To see WDFW’s responses, skip to about the 1:23:00-mark of the digital open house.

A SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON MULE DEER BUCK PUTS DISTANCE BETWEEN ITSELF AND PHOTOGRAPHER-HUNTER CHAD ZOLLER. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

“I hope we have your continued support as we try to turn this around and provide more opportunity in this state for hunting and fishing,” Susewind said in wrapping it up.

As he stated earlier, time will tell if WDFW is successful.

IDFG Halts Clearwater Springer Fishery; WDFW Closes Clarkston Area Of Snake

Editor’s note: Updated 2:50 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Idaho salmon managers are closing the two-day-a-week spring Chinook fishery on the Clearwater system because not enough fish are returning to cover eggtake needs, and Washington followed suit in the Clarkston area.

A FISH PASSAGE CENTER GRAPH SHOWS THE 2019 SPRING CHINOOK RUN AT BONNEVILLE DAM (RED LINE) SO FAR. BLUE LINE IS 2018 AND BLACK LINE IS THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE. OVER THE PAST DECADE, AN AVERAGE OF 111,686 SPRINGERS HAVE BEEN COUNTED AT THE DAM AS OF MAY 13, BUT THIS YEAR’S TALLY IS JUST 38,415. (FPC)

IDFG says it’s possible that the season could reopen later in May depending on dam counts, but returns at Bonneville took a downturn the past seven days after reaching a high of 4,807 last Tuesday.

So far, only 38,415 springers have been tallied at the first blockage of the Columbia, just 35 percent of the 10-year average.

“Based on the number of PIT tagged fish passing over Bonneville Dam, fisheries managers are projecting that not enough Chinook will return to hatcheries in the Clearwater River basin to meet brood needs. However, dam counts and PIT tag detections have been fluctuating and there’s some uncertainty to the actual size of the run,” IDFG said in a press release out today.

The agency said that typically by May 22 four-fifths of the Clearwater run should have gone over the dam and by then officials should know if enough are returning to reopen the season.

“Currently, the number of fish returning to Rapid River Hatchery is projected to be high enough for the fisheries to remain open in the lower Salmon River and Little Salmon River,” IDFG states.

Eric Barker of the Lewiston Morning Tribune broke the news that WDFW was also considering closing the Clarkston area of Washington’s Snake, and that has come to pass.

“This section of the Snake River is adjacent to the Clearwater River. Spring chinook salmon returns to the Clearwater are lower than preseason estimates, and this closure is necessary to protect hatchery brood stock within the Clearwater,” the agency said in an emergency rule-change notice.

That part of the river has only been open one weekend so far.

The waters near Little Goose Dam remain open, per the e-reg,

Last week, Oregon and Washington salmon managers granted two more days of fishing in Columbia Gorge pools up to the state line, but at the urging of anglers, guides and upstream tribes did not add any more time on the lower river.

They planned to provide an update on the run tomorrow.

Central Washington Pronghorn Management Subject Of 2 Meetings, Survey

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wants to hear from residents on how to manage pronghorns on portions of central Washington. The agency will host two public listening sessions to gather stakeholder feedback on pronghorn antelope management.

PRONGHORN WANDER ACROSS FRIGID DOUGLAS COUNTY FIELDS IN LATE 2016 FOLLOWING COLVILLE TRIBES TRANSLOCATIONS TO THE RESERVATION ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER FROM THERE. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

“Pronghorn are some of the rarest and least-known large mammals in Washington. Historically, they’ve been a natural part of our ecosystems across the flat grassland areas of eastern Washington, though loss of habitat and changes in climate have made it difficult for a sustainable population to survive,” said Rich Harris, game division section manager. “I think they’re great to have on the landscape, and we’re working with local communities to produce an effective plan to manage them.”

The first meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, June 3 at Pioneer Hall in Mansfield. The second meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 at the Benton Rural Electric Association, 402 7th St, Prosser.

WDFW is seeking the public’s feedback to develop a pronghorn antelope management plan. At the meeting, WDFW staff will give a background of pronghorn in Washington, address issues and concerns, and identify opportunities for pronghorn management.

In addition to the two public listening meetings, we invite the public to provide their feedback in our online pronghorn survey (https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/pronghorn-antelope-management). The survey will go live later this week.

Pronghorn antelope are small, between 70 and 150 pounds, and eat small flowering plants. They coexist with livestock, but can cause damage to crops. Unlike mule deer, pronghorns do not jump well, so fencing can cause problems when they try to escape predators.

Pronghorn antelope populations declined significantly in Washington prior to the 19th century, when they were extirpated or locally extinct in Washington.

Washington state officials previously attempted to reintroduce pronghorns on several occasions in the 1900s. In 2011, the Yakama Tribe reintroduced 99 pronghorns onto their reservation. In 2016 and 2017, the Colville Confederation Tribes reintroduced roughly 150 pronghorns onto their reservation.

Since these reintroductions, the pronghorns have migrated from the reservations onto state-managed lands. WDFW is working with local communities to create a pronghorn management plan for Washington.

WDFW Again Signals Support For Federal Wolf Delisting In Western Two-thirds

It’s unsurprising at this stage, but the top Washington wildlife official once again said his agency is ready to take over wolf management statewide.

WDFW’S 2018 WOLF PACK MAP SHOWS WHERE THE 27 GROUPS OF WOLVES OCCUR. (WDFW)

“The Department finds the USFWS proposal to remove gray wolves from the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and return management authority in the western two-thirds of Washington to the Department appropriate and timely,” writes WDFW Director Kelly Susewind, words not unlike his two predecessors and others there.

His April 18 letter of support comes as the public comment period on the federal proposal to delist the species in the western two-thirds of Washington and elsewhere in the Lower 48 draws to a close in mid-May.

Some 56,000-plus other comments have been submitted as well, including in support from members of Hunting-Washington and the Washington Farm Bureau, among others, but also plenty of opposition.

Susewind’s letter follows on:

* Former Director Jim Unsworth’s 2015 request to US Rep. Dan Newhouse to spur USFWS towards completing its wolf delisting proposal;

* Former Director WDFW Phil Anderson’s 2014 letter to USFWS that the state “no longer needs federal oversight to recover and manage wolves“;

* WDFW wolf policy manager Donny Martorello’s 2013 comment that that year’s delisting proposal was “timely” (it was ultimately waylaid in court).

* The agency’s 2012 opposition to the cockamamie idea that wolves in the western two-thirds of the state were a different stock from those in the eastern two-thirds, which were Congressionally delisted in 2011.

* And a Fish and Wildlife Commission position statement on wolves, during the development of which then Chair Miranda Wecker said, “Some wolf enthusiasts want wolves to live out their natural lives. That’s not the position of the department. Let me be crystal clear: Wolves will become a game species. They will be managed, and not for maximum population.”

Federal delisting would allow WDFW to use the same management tools in the Cascades and Western Washington as it does in the state’s eastern third.

“This is the right direction for wolf conservation and management in our state,” Susewind said, pointing to the agency’s recovery plan, legislative funding, stakeholder work and efforts to manage wolves in perpetuity.

WDFW has also begun a status review of the state’s population, which at last minimum count stood at 126 wolves in 27 packs and has surely grown since then as pups hit the ground this spring.

Based on that review, WDFW will make a recommendation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission on whether gray wolves’ continued state ESA listing is warranted or not.

2 Sections Of WA’s Snake Opening On Sat., Sun. Schedule For Springers

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

Snake River spring chinook fishery to open two days per week

Action: Spring chinook salmon fishery opens two days per week (Saturday and Sunday) beginning May 11, 2019 in sections of the Snake River.

WITH LITTLE GOOSE DAM IN THE BACKGROUND, JEFF MAIN OF SPOKANE HOLDS A 25-POUND SPRING CHINOOK CAUGHT OUT OF THE SNAKE RIVER A FEW SEASONS BACK. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date:  May 11, 2019 until further notice.

Species affected: Salmon.          

Locations:

  1. A) Below Little Goose Dam: The 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);
  2. B) Clarkston: The 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 Washington/Idaho boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).

Reason for action:  The 2019 Columbia River forecasted return of upriver spring chinook salmon is sufficiently abundant enough to allow for harvest opportunity on the Snake River based on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission Policy C-3620.

Additional information: 

Salmon: Daily limit 4, of which up to 1 may be an adult; min. size 12 inches. Only hatchery chinook, as evidenced by a clipped adipose fin with a healed scar, may be retained. Release all other salmon. The Snake River opens for steelhead fishing on May 25. Anglers may not continue to fish for salmon or steelhead once the adult salmon daily limit has been retained. Any chinook over 24 inches is considered an adult. Night closure is in effect.

On days and in areas open for salmon, barbless hooks are required for all species.

When open for retention, anglers cannot remove any salmon or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit.

WDFW will monitor this fishery and the returns of spring chinook throughout the season and may close the fishery at any time due to harvest levels, impacts fish listed under the Endangered Species Act, in-season run adjustments, or a combination of these things. Please continue to check emergency rules if you are planning to fish for spring chinook in the Snake River.

Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2018/2019 Fishing in Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including safety closures, closed waters, etc. Through June 30, anglers are required under state law to obtain a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement to fish for salmon or steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries.