Tag Archives: wdfw

Baker Sockeye On Commission Agenda

The agenda for next week’s Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is a meaty one, and one item that is sure to draw attention is Baker sockeye.

The North Sound salmon fishery has come under scrutiny following large catch disparities in two of the past four years.

WHILE FISHERMEN OF ALL FLEETS HAVE BEEN ENJOYING SURGING BAKER LAKE SOCKEYE RETURNS, SOME ARE ASKING FOR A FAIRER BALANCED HARVEST. (NMFS)

Sport anglers caught half or less than half of what local tribes did during the 2014 and 2017 seasons, and anglers like Frank Urabeck are looking for more of a 50-50 split.

He and three other sportfishing representatives will voice their concerns next Friday afternoon, after WDFW staffers brief the commission on how the Skagit River and Baker Lake fishery is managed and their take on ideas to rebalance the harvest.

A PDF posted ahead of the meeting provides many details about what will be talked about, and it appears to show that the imbalance can be greatest during years in which the run comes in below the preseason forecast. Recreational anglers fish a middle section of the lower Skagit — the tribes above and below there — and Baker Lake.

WDFW says that since 2010, the take has been roughly equal — 98,390 for treaty fishermen, 94,737 for sport anglers — but acknowledges that the harvest can become “highly skewed” in a given year and that there’s a “lack (of) timely data to adjust in-season harvest substantively.”

Agency staffers’ poposed solutions include:

• Technical Improvements
• Buffer Harvest Shares
• Conservative Preseason Planning
• Expanding River Opportunity

Each has pros and cons, with more fishing opportunity and tweaks to the forecasting model standing out, while the others face WDFW and likely tribal concerns.

Other items on the commission’s agenda include briefings on simplifying some of the sportfishing rules — primarily trout, bass, etc — northern pjke suppression efforts on Lake Roosevelt, WDFW’s proposed marketing plan, and more, plus a wolf management update and other news from Director Unsworth.

Smackout Pack Strikes Again, Killing Cow

The Smackout Pack appears to be back within one confirmed livestock attack of serious consequences after killing again in early October.

WDFW reports that one or members of the large Northeast Washington pack took down a cow grazing in the Colville National Forest.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE SMACKOUT PACK IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON AS OF THIS SUMMER. (WDFW)

The depredation in Stevens County was investigated Oct. 9.

Details are scant – just three sentences reported in the agency’s Oct. 13 update, one of which reads:

“This depredation marks the third wolf depredation by the Smackout pack within the last 10 months and the first within the last 30 days.”

Four confirmed attacks in 10 months or two confirmed and one probable in a month are the triggers for consideration of lethal removals, according to state protocols.

The agency promises more information in its Oct. 20 update.

At the start of this year’s grazing season, June 1, it was believed there were 13 to 15 Smackout wolves, three of which had telemetry collars. The grazing season in this area ended Oct. 15.

After years of relatively good behavior but also increasingly strong efforts needed to head off issues with the wolves, the pack struck twice and probably once more in September 2016, then were confirmed to have injured two calves this July.

One wolf was legally shot in June by a ranchhand when it and another were caught in the act of attacking cattle, and after July’s first depredation, WDFW Director Jim Unsworth authorized incremental lethal removals and two wolves were killed July 20 and July 30.

That and nonlethal work seemed to do the trick of heading problems off, and no further confirmed attacks occurred in August and September, leading WDFW to end removal operations.

A 94-page after-action report stated:

“The collaboration between WDFW personnel and the livestock producers, the approach highlighted in the protocol of both proactive and responsive nonlethal deterrents, and the incremental removal, appeared to have the intended effect of changing the Smackout Pack behavior to reduce the probability of reoccurring depredations while continuing to promote recovery.”

The probability of wolf attacks appears to have been reduced for a period of time. Ultimately they struck again.

Tons Of Trout Headed To Washington Lakes For Fall Fishing

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

With thousands of rainbow trout destined for Washington lakes before November, anglers should have plenty of places to enjoy great fishing this fall and through the holiday season.

 

ONE-POUND RAINBOWS WILL BE STOCKED IN NUMEROUS LAKES AROUND WASHINGTON FOR THE FALL FISHING SEASON. (WDFW)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will stock at least 45 Washington lakes with catchable-size trout this fall. Additionally, the department stocks millions of smaller trout each spring, many of which will have grown to catchable size.

“Fall can be one of the best times of the year to reel in a nice-sized trout, and fishing should be terrific over the next few months,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW’s inland fish program manager. “Most of the stocked trout are 13 to 15 inches long, with a few larger ones in the mix.”

Some of the lakes recently stocked include Island Lake in Kitsap County; Isabella, Island, Lost, Nahwatzel, and Spencer lakes in Mason County; Lake Sylvia in Grays Harbor County; and Gibbs, Teal and Leland lakes in Jefferson County.

Dozens of additional lakes will be stocked throughout the state in October and November providing fishing opportunities into the new year.

The complete list of lakes to be stocked, and the department’s recently updated stocking plan, are available for viewing at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/fall-into-fishing/.

The fall fish plants are in response to anglers’ requests to increase fall and winter trout fishing opportunities, said Thiesfeld.

The effort also includes stocking lakes across the state for the Nov. 24 Black Friday opener, which offers anglers the opportunity to skip the shopping malls, get outside and enjoy fishing on the day after Thanksgiving.

For up-to-date stocking information this fall, anglers should follow the department on Twitter or Facebook, accessible from http://wdfw.wa.gov, or see the department’s weekly catchable trout stocking report at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

To participate, anglers must have a current Washington freshwater fishing license valid through March 31, 2018.

Licenses can be purchased by telephone at 1-866-246-9453, at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, or at hundreds of license vendors across the state. For details on license vendor locations, visit the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/.

WDFW Holding Meetings On OlyPen, Klickitat Steelhead, Salmon Guiding

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public input on management of the state’s salmon and steelhead fishing guide industry.

WDFW WILL HOLD A MEETING IN FORKS OCT 25 TO TALK ABOUT THE STEELHEAD AND SALMON GUIDING INDUSTRY ON THE SOL DUC — WHERE THIS WINTER SCENE WAS PHOTOGRAPHED — AND OTHER RIVERS ON THE PENINSULA AND SOUTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON. (BOB TOMAN VIA BUZZ RAMSEY)

In response to legislative direction, WDFW is evaluating whether the current approach to managing the guide industry ensures the conservation of wild steelhead and salmon while providing a high quality angling experience for both guided and non-guided anglers.

The Legislature directed WDFW to hold public meetings on the Olympic Peninsula and in the Klickitat River area. At these meetings, WDFW will discuss current management and take suggestions for potential regulatory changes for the fishing guide industry.

Those meetings are scheduled for:

  • Forks: 6 to 8 p.m., Oct. 25, Rainforest Arts Center, 35 N. Forks Ave., Forks.
  • Lyle: 6 to 8 p.m., Nov. 8, Lyle Activities Center, Hwy. 14 and Third St., Lyle.

WDFW also is working with an outside contractor to develop and conduct a survey to capture feedback from those who cannot attend a meeting in person.

The department will provide a summary of its findings to the Legislature by the end of the year.

 

More Atlantic Salmon On The Way To Washington: 1.8m Eggs From Iceland

Some 1.8 million Atlantic salmon eggs have been cleared to ship to a private Washington fish hatchery later this week.

The move will likely leave the Governor’s Office, DNR, tribes and others on the anti-Atlantic fish-farming bandwagon fuming.

But Cooke Aquaculture received the transfer permit from WDFW late yesterday after the company applied for it in mid-September and the state agency determined Cooke “met all the fish health standards required under state law.”

ATLANTIC SALMON EGGS. (USFWS)

Governor Inslee has ordered no new netpens be authorized before an investigation into the collapse of Cooke’s Cypress Island farm in mid-August is finished, but WDFW says it doesn’t have the authority to block the importation of the “healthy” eggs.

The eggs are coming from Cooke’s hatchery in western Iceland, near Reykjavik, and will be reared at its Rochester facility south of Olympia.

Last week, WDFW approved transporting 1 million 6- to 22-ounce Atlantics from the rearing ponds there to a netpen in Rich Passage in Puget Sound.

That saltwater facility came under scrutiny this week from the Department of Natural Resources after a contractor found above-water corrosion and a hole in a net. Cooke was given 60 days to fix it or lose their state lease.

There’s been much ado about raising Atlantics in Pacific waters in recent months, including before and after around 160,000 of 305,000 escaped from Cypress Island.

However, no known populations of the nonnative salmon have taken hold from spills in Puget Sound in the 1990s, and a recent article in the Vancouver Sun notes that despite British Columbia government making 200 attempts to kickstart runs in 52 different water bodies over a period dating back to 1905 using a total of 13.5 million eggs, young fish and smolts, zero were successful.

The Cypress escapees were 3-year-olds and incapable of breeding until next year, if any even are still alive.

2 October Keeper Sturgeon Days On Part Of Lower Columbia OKed

EDITOR’S NOTE, 2:25 P.M., 10-11-17: Updated to reflect decision on fishery

This afternoon, Columbia sturgeon managers approved opening much of the lower river for two days of keeper fishing later this month.

The Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife will open retention Saturday, Oct. 21, and Thursday, Oct. 26, from Bonneville down to the Wauna powerlines.

STURGEON ANGLERS MAY SEE TWO RETENTION DAYS IN LATE OCTOBER ON THE COLUMBIA BETWEEN BONNEVILLE AND WAUNA IF A PROPOSAL COMES TO PASS. DENNIS JAMES CAUGHT THIS ONE NEAR I-5 SEVERAL SEASONS BACK WHILE FISHING WITH FRIEND RODNEY STALLARD. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Daily limit is one 44- to 50-inch-fork-length white sturgeon.

“Although predicting the results of a sturgeon retention fishery in this area is confounded by multiple issues (lack of recent fishery data, higher abundance of legal-sized fish, a modified size slot, and unknown effort), staff views the … fishery proposal as a reasonable approach for re-opening this fishery,” a joint ODFW-WDFW fact sheet out for today’s decision states.

In a subsequent press release, ODFW noted it’s the first keeper sturgeon fishery in these waters since 2013. The Columbia below the dam was closed for retention from 2014 through 2016 due to a dip in the population.

There’s an estimated “legal abundance” of about 165,000 sturgeon below the dam this year, enough to provide 6,235 for harvest, including 1,245 above Wauna.

As for the other 4,990, 1,245 were reserved for the commercial fleet and 3,235 or 108 percent of the guideline for the area were caught during June’s sport fishery in the estuary below Wauna.

Just under 750 are also available in the lower Willamette, and Oregon managers say they looked at how to hold a retention fishery there.

But keeping it within the quota would “require multiple constraints such as a noon closure,” a restriction on the boat fishing area, opening it when the Columbia was also open and an even skinnier slot limit, they say, so they’re not recommending a fishery.

 

Still Another Study Pokes Holes In WSU Professor’s Wolf-Livestock Attack Findings

Yet another study is casting doubt on a Washington State University professor’s much-lauded 2014 conclusions about cattle depredations and wolves.

A Washington Policy Center brief out yesterday says that Dr. Rob Wielgus’s findings that killing wolves for livestock depredations leads to a higher risk of attacks the following year had “serious methodological flaws and critical omissions in its analytical methods.”

Write authors Todd Myers and Stephen Sharkansky, his “main conclusions are, at best, unsupported by the data, if not refuted outright. His central conclusion that killing wolves increases depredations of cattle and sheep is based on a false statistical argument unsupported by reasoned analysis.”

A GRAPH INCLUDED IN A WASHINGTON POLICY CENTER BRIEF ON RESEARCH INTO WOLF REMOVALS AND LIVESTOCK LOSSES SUGGESTS THAT AS WOLF NUMBERS GREW, ATTACKS ON CATTLE AND SHEEP DID AS WELL, A “COMMON-SENSE CONCLUSION” IN THE WORDS OF THE AUTHORS. (WASHINGTON POLICY CENTER)

They say the reason for increasing losses of sheep and cattle is simply increasing wolf populations. A retired federal wolf manager has stated that 20 percent of packs will depredate.

WPC’s work will be panned by some in the wolf world as that of a conservative, free-market think tank with a pro-ag agenda in part.

But it does follow on similar findings by University of Washington researchers earlier this year.

Using the same open-source data, statisticians there could not replicate Wielgus and coauthor Kaylie Peebles’s results either.

“Rather than more culling of wolves leading to more killings of livestock in the following year, our results indicate that more culling of wolves would lead to fewer killings of livestock in the following year than expected in the absence of culling,” wrote Nabin Baral of the UW’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences in the College of the Environment, et al.

Before that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks researchers found that for wolf recovery over the long term, it may be better to kill an entire livestock-depredating pack now rather than just one or two of the predators at a time in hopes of ending the attacks because in the long run, you have to kill more wolves.

To be clear, that’s not the current tack that Washington wolf managers are taking.

It’s based on plenty of nonlethal work, set numbers of attacks over periods of time and then incremental lethal removals to stop a pack’s bad behavior, followed by a period of observation and continued conflict-avoidance work, and either more removals if attacks resume or an end to lethal operations if they don’t.

With the Smackout Pack of Northeast Washington this summer, taking out two members in July appears to have changed that large group of wolves’ behavior, at least for now.

(Of note, that appears not to have worked in Oregon with the Harl Butte Pack, which is attacking cattle again.)

The goal is ultimately to quickly reduce the number of dead livestock and wolves.

“Data in Wielgus’ study actually support the current Washington state strategy of removing wolves where there is conflict with a rancher, consistent with the common-sense conclusion that removing wolves reduces livestock deaths,” write WPC’s Myers and Stephen Sharkansky.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the wolf management spectrum, Arizona- and Eugene-based pro-wolf groups will now get 48 hours notice of WDFW lethal removal actions after filing a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court, a bid to be able to possibly stop them.

“There hasn’t been any loss of department authority or ability to take action,” state wolf manager Donny Martorello told the Capital Press.

He said that WDFW was “disappointed” in the lawsuit filed by the “out-of-state groups” — Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands — and said the agency is “committed to continue working with our citizens, stakeholders, wolf advocates, hunters and livestock producers as we have in the past. We will deal with the litigation and lawsuit, and keep moving forward.”

Neither CBD or CW are on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group. One organization that is offered a tepid response to their lawsuit.

“Though not based in Washington, these groups have the right to seek to improve our state’s wolf management process using legal means. It will be up to the courts to decide the validity of their claims,” noted Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest. “However, we’re concerned by the way in which these groups dismiss the collaborative process in Washington, a process that’s making significant progress towards coexistence and tolerance for wolves, all while our wolf population continues to grow by more than 25 percent annually. We sincerely hope that this lawsuit doesn’t throw the baby, or in this case the wolf pup, out with the bathwater, so to speak.”

Idaho Mulls Clearwater, Snake Keeper Steelhead Season

Inland Northwest steelheaders may get a keeper season after all.

With enough A-run hatchery fish now expected back to Idaho to meet broodstock goals, managers there are asking for feedback on a proposal to open a season though with a reduced bag limit and maximum size restriction on prime waters.

IDFG says that there will be a surplus of 22,000 of the smaller summer-runs and is taking comment on a plan to open the Clearwater system and lower Snake for the harvest of up to just two a day, neither of which could be longer than 28 inches.

A PROPOSAL FROM IDAHO BIOLOGISTS WOULD OPEN RETENTION ON A-RUN STEELHEAD, BUT REDUCED THE USUAL LIMIT FROM THREE TO TWO. (BRIAN LULL)

That’s an attempt to prevent overharvesting as well as get as many of the bigger B-runs — both hatchery and wild — back as possible.

Idaho’s upper Snake and rivers further up Hells Canyon may be opened too with the same bag, but the size restriction would be shed from the Couse Creek ramp on the Washington side, upstream.

In a normal year, the daily limit is three hatchery steelhead and no size restriction.

Washington steelhead managers are also watching developments.

“We’re waiting to follow Idaho’s lead,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Madonna Luers, who added it may be a couple weeks before a decision is made, per a report by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

This year’s worst-in-40-years Inland Northwest steelhead forecast of 112,000 initially sparked fishery restrictions all the way down to the mouth of the Columbia, inside cool-water refuges in the lower river and gorge, as well as the Snake and its tributaries.

With July dam counts just fractions of average and a dire mid-August inseason update of just roughly 60,000, those looked more than warranted. IDFG closed retention before any fish got anywhere near the Gem State.

State biologists now say that 113,000 steelhead are expected to return past Bonneville Dam this year — still very low, relatively speaking, but they took the fishery proposal to the Fish and Game Commission yesterday.

The panel wanted to consider public comment. To see their pitch, and to comment, go here.

Public input is being taken through Oct. 10.

Meanwhile, the commission went ahead and approved a coho season on the Clearwater and its North and South Forks, daily limit two and a season limit of 10. IDFG says there are enough of the Nez Perce-reintroduced salmon to meet hatchery needs and provide a “modest” fishery.

Crabbing Set To Reopen Saturday, Oct. 7, In Marine Areas 4-9

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

Several marine areas of Puget Sound will reopen for recreational crab fishing on Oct. 7, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

KIRAN AND RIVER WALGAMOTT PREP CRAB POTS IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS LAST MONTH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The openings were approved by fishery managers after summer catch assessments by WDFW indicated additional crab are available for harvest during the late season, said Don Velasquez, shellfish manager for the department.

Waters reopening to sport crabbing Oct. 7 at 8 a.m. include marine areas 4 (Neah Bay, east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardiner), and 9 (Admiralty Inlet), except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff.

In each area, crabbing will be allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31.

Sport crabbing will not reopen in marine areas 10 (Seattle Bremerton), 11 (Vashon Island), 12 (Hood Canal), and 13 (South Puget Sound).

The daily limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6 ¼ inches. Crabbers may also catch six red rock crab of either sex per day with a minimum carapace width of 5 inches. Additional information is available on WDFWs website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

All Dungeness crab caught in the late-season recreational fishery must be recorded immediately on winter catch record cards, which are valid through Dec. 31. Winter catch record cards are free to those with crab endorsements and are available at license vendors across the state.

Winter catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb.1, 2018. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/crc.html.

It’s On! Razor Clamming Kicks Off Oct. 6-7 On Washington’s South Coast

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

The first razor clam dig of the fall season will get underway Oct. 6-7 at four ocean beaches.

(JASON BAUER)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has approved the dig on evening tides at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks after marine toxin tests showed that clams on those beaches are safe to eat. No digging will be allowed on any beach before noon.

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

  • 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

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, recommends that diggers hit the beach about an hour or two before low tide for the best results.

Before receiving the test results, Ayres said he had received a number of calls from diggers about an erroneous newspaper story that suggested that ocean beaches would remain closed to digging.

“A map on the Washington Department of Health’s website indicates that beaches are closed to razor clam digging up until they are cleared to open by the test results,” Ayres said. “We’re pleased that we are able to move ahead with this opening as scheduled.”

A recent statement in a story about Pierce County’s shellfish ban might have caused some confusion among razor clam diggers. While it’s true that the Washington coast has been closed to clam digging, that closure could be superseded by favorable results from a marine toxin test, due as early as Oct. 3. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will post the results of that test at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.

WDFW has tentatively scheduled another dig for Nov. 2-5, pending results of future toxin tests. More information on planned digs can be found on WDFW’s razor clam webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.

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.

Under state law, diggers at open beaches can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

Ayres noted that throughout the 2017-18 razor clam season, a research team from the University of Maryland will be out on the beaches seeking volunteers to participate in a survey about razor clam consumption and harvesting practices. For more information, contact Lynn Grattan at 877-668-4559 or LGrattan@som.umaryland.edu.