Tag Archives: wdfw

Last Hurrah? Pessimistic Angler Wants To Open Lake Washington Sockeye One Final Time

A Washington sockeye angler is calling on WDFW to open Lake Washington this summer for a last-hurrah season if more than 100,000 of the salmon pass through the Ballard Locks.

We’re already nearly one-fifth of the way there, with 19,139 counted as of yesterday and the usual run peaks still ahead of us.

But it would be a sharp change from past fisheries, which haven’t been held until managers were sure 350,000 were entering the system, and would require tribal comanagers to sign off on.

IMAGES FROM THE LAST LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE FISHERY, IN 2006. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Frank Urabeck, a long time fisheries activist, terms it a “token, for old times’ sake” opportunity in an email to WDFW Director Jim Unsworth and a number of agency honchos late this afternoon.

“Looking at the Cedar River wild and hatchery production data I am convinced this is last chance we will have for run to be this good and an opportunity to show what it once was like. Public deserves something given the significant imbalance in cumulative harvest as a result of the tribal C&S fisheries since 2006,” Urabeck writes.

He worries the system’s sockeye population may be past a “tipping point” to ever recover and host an opener at that higher return level.

It certainly feels like this is a fishery from bygone days, or at least the dawn of the Twitter and Facebook age.

While the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Tribes have had limited annual ceremonial and subsistence sockeye fisheries with a total catch Urabeck estimates at 30,000 to 40,000, it hasn’t been since 2006 that salmon mania has descended on the big water just east of Seattle.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Since then Urabeck and the rest of us have been on the sidelines, carefully watching the locks counts in hopes there might be enough, but always turning away disappointed, despite the promise of the new Seattle Public Utilities hatchery on the Cedar River, capable of cranking out 34 million sockeye fry.

Unfortunately, as they rear in the lake for a year, many if not most smolts are being eaten by piscivorous fish and other predators.

And returning adults are increasingly dying from disease after they pass from the locks to the lake through the too-warm, relatively shallow ship canal — 40 percent of Cedar-bound sockeye in both 2014 and 2015, according to the Muckleshoot Tribe.

Despite record hatchery fry production in 2012, which should have yielded as many as 500,000 adults, according to Urabeck, instead we saw one of the most abysmal returns on record, just 12,000 to 15,000 back to the Cedar.

But at the same time, recent years’ returns, including this one, were at sea through The Blob and most likely were affected like 2015’s pinks and coho, so it’s possible runs could bounce back with improving ocean conditions and increased control of freshwater predator species.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Still, hopes for slapping some homegrown sockeye on Seattle barbecues have been fizzling for some time.

So with the future looking grim in his eyes, Urabeck is calling for a couple days of fishing some time in late July or early August, and foresees a harvest of 10,000.

“The proposed special fishery would not have any significant impact on sockeye reaching the Cedar River and the sockeye hatchery operated by the City of Seattle, which has failed to meet expectations. Remember, the Cedar River sockeye were introduced from the Baker River and are under no ESA constraint,” he writes to Unsworth.

If the state and tribes get on board and enough sockeye actually arrive — the official forecast calls for 77,292 back to the locks and it’s hard to say whether 2017’s good start means the run is early or big or both — it could also give local tackle stores a much-needed shot in the arm after two deflating summers.

The 18-day 2006 season produced $8.6 million in economic benefits and a catch of 59,000 sockeye, according to WDFW.

We’ll fold in comment from the agency as it arrives.

Salmon Open Off Most Of WA Coast This Saturday, Westport July 1

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

Sport anglers will have the opportunity to reel in salmon off the Washington coast starting Saturday, June 24.

That’s when marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) open daily for salmon fishing. Marine Area 2 (Westport) will open a week later on July 1.

ILWACO IS AMONG THE WASHINGTON PORTS OPENING FOR SALMON THIS SATURDAY, AND WILL DRAW LOCAL ANGLERS AND PUGETROPOLITES LIKE JOHN KEIZER ALIKE. (SALTPATROL.COM)

Fish managers expect slightly higher numbers of chinook and coho salmon will make their way through the ocean this year as compared to 2016, said Wendy Beeghley, an ocean salmon manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

ADS ON THE SIDES OF SOUND TRANSIT AND METRO BUSES ROLLING THROUGH SEATTLE AND ITS SUBURBS BECKON RESIDENTS TO WESTPORT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Due to the improved forecasts, the recreational chinook catch quota this year is 45,000, up from 35,000 in 2016. This year’s coho quota of 42,000 fish is an increase of 23,100 coho from 2016, when anglers were allowed to keep coho only in Marine Area 1. Coho retention is allowed in all four marine areas this summer.

Anglers fishing in marine areas 1 and 2 will have a daily limit of two salmon, only one of which can be a chinook. In areas 3 and 4, anglers will have a two-salmon daily limit. In all areas, anglers must release wild coho.

STUART ALLEN AND OTHER NEAH BAY ANGLERS WILL BE TARGETING FAT CHINOOK THIS SEASON. THE TRI-CITIES ANGLER CAUGHT THIS ONE SEVERAL SEASONS AGO. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

All four marine areas are scheduled to close to salmon fishing at the end of the day Sept. 4 but could close earlier if the quota is met.

Throughout the summer, anglers can check WDFW’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/ocean/ for updates

More information about the fisheries can be found in the 2017-18 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, available at license vendors and sporting goods stores and online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01914/2017-18_marine.pdf.

Fee Hike Dead, WDFW Hopes For General Fund Infusion Instead

It’s now very unlikely Washington hunters and anglers will have to pay more for their licenses any time soon, as it appears WDFW’s fee increase bill is dead for the year.

That word this morning from the agency’s legislative liaison, Raquel Crosier.

“I think we’ll get between $5 million and $10 million in General Fund to deal with budget shortfalls. It’s not as much as we’d hoped for, but it plugs holes,” she said.

Crosier said that $10 million would still require deep cuts, “but not public-facing” ones, meaning they could be dealt with through efficiencies away from the eye of sportsmen and state residents.

As it stands, lawmakers are wrapping up their second special session today, with the third starting tomorrow. Crosier is optimistic a 2017-19 budget with funding for WDFW will be worked out before the June 30 deadline. Though McCleary may not be resolved, that would at least prevent closing fisheries and shuttering hatcheries till a deal is struck.

WDFW’s fee increase proposal — seen by some sportsmen as a done deal but actually requiring the legislature to approve and governor to sign into law — was the subject of a long campaign stretching all the way back to August 2015, when the agency took its Washington’s Wild Future initiative on the road around the state.

June 2016 saw the revealing of proposals, which would have raised around $26 million to help maintain and increase fishing opportunities and enhance hunting ops.

It included $17 catch cards for salmon, steelhead, halibut and sturgeon, later whittled down to $10 apiece in the face of opposition.

This February, the proposal received a public hearing in front of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, which helped identify stakeholder concerns and that more work was needed outside Olympia with fishing and hunting groups on HB 1647.

Crosier said that as recently as a month ago, recreational organizations were supportive of 20 percent increases on the fishing side and 7 percent on the hunting side.

But while the Democratic-controlled House preferred the fee-based approach, Republicans who control the upper chamber did not, and it really showed in the language and approaches senators took with WDFW throughout this year’s legislative sessions.

When agency honchos talked about support from constituents, senators pointed to stacks of emails and letters expressing opposition.

If it had been approved, it would have been the first major hike since mid-2011, but to a degree, WDFW’s big ask also faced bad timing.

True, it may really need more funding, but on the backside of some stellar years of fishing, these past two have seen generally poor salmon runs and unprecedented fishery restrictions due to The Blob, the loss of access to Skokomish River kings and coho and the subsequent backing away of support for fee increases by three important angling organizations, as well as self-inflicted wounds such as the unexplained loss of a couple hundred thousand steelhead smolts from the state’s last best summer-run river, all of which left sportsmen wondering why they should pay more for less.

Despite the apparent death of license fee hikes this go-around, WDFW is hopeful two other revenue bills will pass.

This morning, the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee gave a do-pass recommendation to extending the Columbia River endorsement another two years, key for holding salmon and steelhead seasons in the basin.

Crosier said it’s likely the legislature will pass Sen. Kirk Pearson’s SB 5947, with fees going towards monitoring fisheries that occur on or amongst ESA-listed stocks.

And she is also hopeful that legislation addressing the rising threat to Washington waters from aquatic invasive species passes. Sen. Jim Honeyford’s bill has twice been approved unanimously by senators, but keeps getting shuttled back to the House as special sessions end and begin again.

Dipping into the General Fund for however much would begin to fill the $40 million cut out of WDFW’s budget from that source in 2009.

Looking further down the road past the hoped-for infusion, Crosier also mentioned creation of a conservation task force to look into how to better fund nongame management.

 

Washington Senate Committee Moves Key Bill Funding Columbia Fisheries Monitoring

It’s been a while since either of the two state legislative committees that oversee WDFW issues in Olympia have met, but this morning, the Senate’s gave a bill extending the Columbia endorsement for two more years a do-pass recommendation.

It otherwise expires at the end of the month, imperiling a number of salmon and steelhead fisheries throughout the watershed of the big river.

BOATS ON THE COLUMBIA RIVER BELOW BONNEVILLE DAM DURING THIS SPRING’S CHINOOK SEASON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The endorsement covers the cost of monitoring catches, required because so many harvestable fish either swim alongside ESA-listed ones or are federally protected themselves.

WDFW’s Kelly Cunningham called the $8.75 fee anglers who fish the Columbia and its numerous tribs for kings, coho, winter- and summer-runs and other stocks have been paying since 2010 “vital” to fisheries, and said none could otherwise occur above McNary Dam without it.

During this morning’s public hearing before the Natural Resources and Parks Committee, Chairman Sen. Kirk Pearson’s SB 5947 received support from Carl Burke of Fish Northwest, who called the endorsement a “win-win piece of legislation” and a model for others in the future.

Scott Sigmon of Coastal Conservation Association of Washington termed it a “successful story that’s benefited anglers up and down the river,” and said that 40 percent of endorsements are sold to Eastside-based anglers.

Cunningham, who is the WDFW Fish Program deputy assistant director, said it’s led to a million angler days a year and $87 million in annual economic activity for local economies.

Bill Clark of Trout Unlimited and Dave Knutzen of Olympia also were in support.

Asked by Sen. Brad Hawkins (R-East Wenatchee) if he foresaw a day where the endorsement would be covered inside WDFW’s regular budget, Cunningham pointed to the “growing financial burden” of ESA listings and two recent examples.

He said that NOAA’s approval to again release early winter-timed steelhead in select Puget Sound rivers and the Mitchell Act biological opinion also included terms and conditions that require new but unfunded monitoring and other work such as a doubling of the number of weirs in Lower Columbia rivers.

Sen. John McCoy (D-Tulalip) stated that the funding was needed for the “conservation of the fishery.”

After a brief discussion, Pearson (R-Monroe) called for a vote and SB 5947 was sent to Senate Ways and Means.

Today’s the last day of the second special session with a third expected to begin tomorrow. There’s optimism a budget will pass before June 30, preventing a shutdown of state fisheries and hatcheries.

WDFW Holding 2 Upcoming ‘Listening Sessions’ On Wenas Wildlife Area Target Shooting

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will hold listening sessions June 27 and 28 for the public to provide input on target shooting at the Wenas Wildlife Area.

Public feedback from the listening sessions will be shared with the Wenas Wildlife Area Target Shooting Advisory Committee to help inform their deliberations and eventual recommendations on how to provide recreational target shooting opportunities at the wildlife area.

Public listening sessions are scheduled for:

Tuesday, June 27, 6 to 9 p.m., in the Manastash Room at the Ellensburg Fairgrounds.
Wednesday, June 28, 6 to 9 p.m., at the Selah Civic Center, 216 S 1st St.

Additional public listening sessions will be scheduled in the fall.

More information about the Wenas Wildlife Area can be found on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/wenas/

For more information on the Wenas Wildlife Area Target Shooting Advisory Committee, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/wtsc/

WDFW, Utilities Holding Meeting June 29 On Baker-Skokomish Sockeye Egg Transfer

State fishery managers and utility officials are holding a special meeting later this month to shed more light on a project using North Sound sockeye to seed a Hood Canal watershed.

It’s being held the evening of June 29 in Sedro-Woolley to address the continued transfer of fertilized eggs from the Baker Lake system to the Skokomish River.

That’s drawing concern from anglers who object to providing the eggs while the Skokomish Tribe uses a federal solicitor’s opinion to block access to a popular salmon fishery fueled by a state Chinook and coho hatchery.

A PLAN TO SEED LAKE CUSHMAN AND THE SKOKOMISH SYSTEM WITH SOCKEYE FROM THE NORTH SOUND IS GETTING A FROSTY RECEPTION FROM SOME ANGLERS. (JOEL NOWACK, USFS)

Fishermen would also like more surety that, if the egg program that’s literally still in its infancy is successful, nontribal fishermen will be able to access returning harvestable salmon in Hood Canal and Lake Cushman.

In late April we wrote about the Steelhead Trout Club’s request for WDFW to hold a public meeting before signing an agreement with the Skokomish Tribe, Tacoma Power and Puget Sound Energy to continue supplying eggs from Baker fish, and this past Saturday morning, it was the subject of a segment on 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line.

“The [Skokomish] should reopen the river to recreational fisheries as a prerequisite for giving them any eggs from the Baker because it will have some impact, it will have some impact on our (Baker Lake) fishery,” maintains Frank Urabeck, a sportfisheries activist.

As part of the federal relicensing of its dams on the North Fork Skokomish River, Tacoma Power is upgrading fish passage around them as well as building a pair of hatcheries to rear as many as 2 million sockeye and 375,000 spring Chinook, plus some steelhead and coho.

The red salmon eggs are coming from 400 adults collected at the Baker River trap and which are supposed to represent an equal split between state and tribal shares. That pencils out to around up to 500,000 eyed eggs annually, though Tacoma Power states it was incubating 250,000 for release into Lake Cushman this year.

Last year was the first year, and Tacoma Power and the Skokomish Tribe are footing the entire bill for the egg transfer, according to WDFW.

The agency’s Edward Eleazer says the program will initially run for five years to see if sockeye actually rear in and return to Cushman before a long-term agreement is implemented.

He says that Tacoma Power is modeling fish passage at Cushman on Puget Sound Energy’s successful juvenile collector at Baker Lake.

With dams on other watersheds around Pugetropolis, the program could also serve as a model for building sockeye runs elsewhere, but the equipment is not inexpensive and could be a tough sell to utility managers and ratepayers unless dam relicensing is at stake.

In comments about the egg-transfer implementation agreement prepared for WDFW several months ago, Urabeck found vague terminology that “… fishery opportunity would likely be provided in Marine Area 12, north of Ayok (sic) Rock and possibly in Cushman Lake” “unacceptable” and said it shouldn’t be signed unless it specifically guaranteed sport access to salmon.

And he said that broodstock collection at the Baker River trap shouldn’t begin until after Aug. 1 to minimize impacts to the Baker Lake fishery, and that if inseason updates peg the run at 30,000 to 40,000 only 100,000 eggs should be provided, nothing if the return is under 30,000.

Puget Sound Anglers president Ron Garner is urging organization members to attend the June 29 meeting, which will be held at Sedro-Woolley High School, 1235 3rd St., starting at 6 p.m.

He and others also want WDFW to move back the Baker Lake sockeye opener from July 8 to July 6, when it opened last year thanks to good early numbers. The lake had otherwise been opening on July 10 in recent years, July 1 in 2012, and varying dates in the two prior Julys based on run timing and strength.

Urabeck says July 6 should be the opener regardless of how many sockeye have been trucked up to the lake, leaving it up to anglers whether or not to participate.

Apparent Wolf Captured, Collared In Eastern Skagit County

What could be the first wolf captured in Western Washington is now being monitored by wildlife managers.

The 100-pound animal was collared Thursday, June 8, in eastern Skagit County near Marblemount and released.

USFWS CONFIRMS A POSSIBLE WOLF WAS CAPTURED AND COLLARED NOT FAR UP THE SKAGIT VALLEY FROM HERE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The news was broken by the Skagit Valley Herald.

“We did capture what appears to be a 2- to 3-year-old male gray wolf,” confirms U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ann Froschauer late this afternoon.

She says blood and saliva were taken from the animal and sent to the agency’s forensic lab for testing, confirmation that it’s a full-blooded wolf and to determine where it might have come from.

WILDLIFE BIOLOGISTS WORK ON THE SEDATED CANID CAPTURED JUNE 8. (USFWS)

While at least four collared wolves have briefly wandered into Western Washington in recent years (one of which didn’t make it back out after being hit on I-90), this would be the first to have been captured, outfitted with telemetry and released west of the Cascades.

Froschauer says its movements are being monitored via GPS collar to “see if it sticks around or wanders off.”

USFWS and WDFW were drawn to the location in mid-May after a resident reported three chickens killed by a wolf and had solid photos to back it up.

Initially there were suggestions that a pack might be in the area, based on howling, but that’s less certain now.

“We did hang some cameras out. We did not see any other animals. As of right now there’s at least one that appears to be a wolf,” Froschauer says.

Grand scheme, a single wolf doesn’t do much for state recovery goals, but it has the potential to bring issues from the 509 much closer to Western Washington.

USFWS has management authority over wolves in the western two-thirds of the state, where the species remains federally listed.

WDFW had no comment.

WDFW also has had no comment about two dead calves found in the Kettle Range two days ago and which were investigated yesterday.

And WDFW probably doesn’t want to comment on the latest from Washington State University, where a professor plans to sue over alleged free speech violations involving wolves.

WDFW Tweaks Salmon Regs Above, Below Tri-Cities For June 16 Opener

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

McNary Dam Pool and Hanford Reach summer salmon fishery changes

Action: Opens McNary Dam Pool and Hanford Reach recreational salmon fisheries.

Effective date:  June 16 through June 30, 2017.

Species affected: Chinook, sockeye and steelhead.

Area 1:  Columbia River from McNary Dam to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco (CRC 533).

Daily Limit: six (6), up to two may be adult salmon or one adult salmon and one hatchery steelhead. Release all salmon other than hatchery chinook and sockeye.

Area 2:  Columbia River from Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco to the Interstate 182 Bridge at Richland near Columbia Point (CRC 534).

Daily Limit: four (4) salmon, of which no more than one (1) may be an adult hatchery chinook and no more than two (2) may be sockeye. Release wild adult chinook.

Area 3:  Columbia River from the Interstate 182 Bridge to Priest Rapids Dam (CRC 535, 536).

Daily Limit: six (6) salmon, of which no more than two (2) may be adult hatchery chinook and no more than three (3) may be sockeye. Release wild adult chinook.

Other information: Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and must have a current Washington fishing license, as well as a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement (CRSSE).

Reason for action: These changes were proposed and discussed during the North of Falcon salmon season rule-setting public process and will be adopted by permanent rule later this summer and be published in the 2017-18 sport fishing rules pamphlet.

Feds Say Sturgeon Too Tough On Roosevelt Fish-cleaning Stations, But In Doing So Offer Bad Advice

Sturgeon have had to be tough critters to stick around for hundreds of millions of years, and the recent opener on Lake Roosevelt is proving once again how durable these ancient fish are.

Well, sort of.

IT WAS AN “AWESOME DAY” FOR JANICE HARVEY, WHO CAUGHT THIS STURGEON ON LAKE ROOSEVELT FOLLOWING THE RECENT OPENER. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Federal managers on the Upper Columbia reservoir say macerators at their seven fish-cleaning stations aren’t quite up to the task of handling anglers’ diamondsides.

“Our fish-cleaning stations, located at Spring Canyon, Keller Ferry, Fort Spokane, Porcupine Bay, Hunters, Gifford Ferry, and Kettle Falls, are better suited for the softer bones of other fish species such as trout, kokanee, bass, and walleye,” says a June 6 press release from the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

They’re asking fishermen to take their catches home and then clean and dispose of the carcasses.

However, their release can also be read that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending anglers fillet their fish on the lake and dump the rest into deep water.

That set off alarm bells at WDFW’s Spokane office, where the reaction this morning ran along the lines of, “Say what?!?!?!?”

It wasn’t immediately clear where Lake Roosevelt NRA got their information from, but because the fishery is governed by a slot limit designed to protect younger and older sturgeon, if catches are cut up on the water, there would be no way for WDFW officers to confirm fish are legal-sized.

“Anglers need to bring them off the lake intact and take them home at which point they can clean them and dispose of the remains,” WDFW spokesman Madonna Luers told Rich Landers at the Spokesman-Review.

The fishery is a unique opportunity with around 10,250 sturgeon available for harvest this year and over the coming nine.

Lake Roosevelt below the China Bend Boat Ramp was opened in late May, the first time in around 30 years.

It’s the result of state and provincial hatchery programs to reverse the decline of the species here. According to WDFW, survival rates have been higher than expected, leading to a surplus of fish.

Daily limit is one, with an annual limit of two.

As with sturgeon fisheries elsewhere, there’s a slot limit: Only fish with a fork length — the measurement from the tip of the snout to the fork in the tail fin — of 38 to 63 inches can be retained.

While the most of the lower reservoir is currently open, the spawning sanctuary from China Bend to the British Columbia border is closed until Aug. 1.

Both sections close after Sept. 17.

WDFW Opening Canal For One More Day Of Shrimping

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

Hood Canal to reopen for one more day of shrimp fishing

Action: Recreational spot shrimp fishing will reopen for one more day in Hood Canal (Marine Area 12).

HOOD CANAL SHRIMPERS LIKE ROWAN ANDERSON WILL HAVE ANOTHER DAY TO SCORE MORE SPOTS. WDFW IS OPENING AREA 12 ON JUNE 14. ANDERSON WAS SHRIMPING WITH HER GREAT-GRANDFATHER, GENE BURDYSHAW, A COUPLE SEASONS AGO. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, June 14, 2017.

Species affected: All shrimp species including spot shrimp.

Location: Hood Canal (Marine Area 12).

Reason for action: Sufficient recreational spot shrimp quota remains for one more day of fishing.

Other information: The daily limit is 80 shrimp in Hood Canal.

Contact: Mark O’Toole, La Conner, (360) 466-4345 ext. 241, or Don Velasquez, Mill Creek, (425) 775-1311, ext. 112.