Tag Archives: wdfw

Anglers Turn In Nearly 1,100 Pike Heads From Roosevelt In 2017

Anglers turned in the heads of nearly 1,100 northern pike caught at Lake Roosevelt for cash this year, part of a multipronged effort to keep the unwanted invasive species from getting further down the Columbia system.

The news was reported in the December quarterly newsletter of the Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department, along with word that the reward program will begin again Jan. 1 and run throughout 2018.

THE COLVILLE TRIBES’ ROBERT THOMAS HOLDS UP A 20-POUND FEMALE NORTHERN PIKE CARRYING A COUPLE POUNDS OF EGGS BEFORE BEING GILLNETTED OUT OF LAKE ROOSEVELT EARLIER THIS YEAR. (BRYAN JONES, COLVILLE TRIBES)

According to the newsletter, Colville officials paid out more than $10,000 for the 1,095 heads dropped off in bags at two drop stations since May 1, mostly since mid-July when the catch stood at 216.

Six anglers received the maximum available per fisherman, $590.

The year’s tally didn’t surprise Bill Baker, the WDFW district fisheries biologist in Colville.

“At $10 a head, there’s some incentive there,” he noted.

WDFW’s position couldn’t be more clear: “Pike are a problem, not an opportunity,” reads a line in an October update on the situation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The state and Colville and Spokane Tribes are working together to try and keep the pike, which came down through the Columbia system from Canada, Idaho and Montana, from getting past Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph Dams.

“We are concerned about the impacts pike are having on native fish in Lake Roosevelt, primarily redband trout, kokanee, white sturgeon and burbot,” Holly McLellan, a tribal fisheries bioloigst, stated in the newsletter. “If the northern pike are allowed to expand downstream into the mid and lower Columbia River, they have the potential to compromise recovery efforts for ESA listed salmon species.”

The furthest down Lake Roosevelt they’ve been discovered so far is the Hunters area.

State biologists also told the Fish and Wildlife Commission that suppression netting this year had removed another 1,083 northerns, largely at the mouths of the Kettle and Colville Rivers, and around the corner at Singers Bay.

Most were very young, but one weighed 26 pounds and went 44 inches long.

Editor’s note: The $10 reward is open to all licensed anglers, tribally and state-licensed alike. An earlier version of this misspoke by suggesting it was just available to tribal anglers. My apologies.

Washington Razor Clam Bosses Pencil In New Year’s, Midwinter Digs

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

State shellfish managers have proposed the first round of razor clam digs in 2018, starting with the addition of New Year’s Day on two beaches followed by a weeklong dig extending from late January into early February.

A FULL MOON RISES BEHIND A RAZOR CLAM DIGGER AT COPALIS BEACH IN DECEMBER 2017. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will confirm that schedule prior to each dig, provided that upcoming marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat.

Under WDFW’s plan, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks beaches will open for digging at noon Jan. 1, extending a dig previously scheduled for New Year’s Eve dig at four ocean beaches. Starting Jan. 28, WDFW then plans to open various beaches for razor-clam digging through Feb. 3.

No digging will be allowed at any beach before noon.

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said the Jan. 1 opening is designed to give families a chance to ring in the new year digging clams on the beach.

“We know that digging razor clams is a New Year’s tradition for many families and we want to help them keep tradition alive,” Ayres said.

That and other digs are proposed on the following beaches, dates and evening low tides:

  • Dec. 31Sunday5:12 p.m.; -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks (previously announced and pending final toxin results)
  • Jan. 1Monday6:02 p.m.; -1.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Jan. 28Sunday4:06 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Mocrocks
  • Jan. 29Monday4:59 p.m.; -1.0 feet; Copalis
  • Jan. 30Tuesday5:47 p.m.; -1.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Jan. 31Wednesday6:33 p.m.; -1.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • Feb. 1Thursday7:17 p.m.; -1.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Feb. 2Friday8:00 p.m.; -1.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • Feb. 3Saturday8:42 p.m.; -0.4; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

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. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

More Details Come Out On 2 Poached NE WA Wolves

Washington wildlife managers are adding and correcting details from the weekend’s story that two female wolves have been found shot dead in Northeast Washington in recent weeks and are the subject of poaching investigations.

WDFW this afternoon reports that one was retrieved last Tuesday, Dec., 5, 15 miles southwest of the town of Republic in Ferry County.

A TRAIL CAM SHOT CAPTURED A MEMBER OF THE PROFANITY PEAK PACK. (WDFW)

It had been part of the Profanity Peak Pack in the northern portions of the county when it was radio-collared in fall 2016, but wasn’t associated with any group of wolves this fall, according to the agency.

The animal’s collar had quit transmitting early last month.

The other wolf was classified as a breeding female, and it was discovered by hunters 10 miles southeast of Colville in Stevens County on Nov. 12.

WDFW is assuming that since it was within the range of the Dirty Shirt Pack, it was a member.

Earlier press reports listed the wolves as belonging to that pack and the Smackouts, the latter of which drew outrage from Conservation Northwest, which has worked closely to prevent the pack from tangling with a local producer’s livestock over the years.

Still, it along with two other organizations subsequently, are offering up to $20,000 in reward for info on the cases.

Anyone with information is being asked to call (877) 933-9847 or (360)902-2936.

Killing a wolf in the federally delisted part of the state is listed as a gross misdemeanor, with a penalty of as much as a year in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000, according to WDFW.

Westport Commercial Crabber Fined $5,000 For Stealing Others’ Pots

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

A Grays Harbor County judge has sentenced a commercial crab fisherman to 90 days of electronic home monitoring and fined him $5,000 for stealing crab pots offshore of Westport, concluding a case that began with an investigation last year by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Larrin Breitsprecher, 57, of Westport, was sentenced Dec. 1 by Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge Mark McCauley after a jury found him guilty of possessing stolen property and related charges. Beginning May 1, Breitsprecher will be required to remain at home for three months unless he requires medical attention.

WITH STOLEN CRAB POTS PILED AS EVIDENCE IN THE CORNER OF A COURTROOM, GRAYS HARBOR DEPUTY PROSECUTOR RANDY TRICK (LEFT, BACKGROUND) CONFERS WITH ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANT LARRIN BREITSPRECHER, WHO WAS ON TRIAL FOR STEALING CRAB POTS. IN THE FOREGROUND, WDFW FISH AND WILDLIFE OFFICER ED WELTER STANDS BY. (WDFW)

WDFW Police Captain Dan Chadwick said the department began its investigation after a deckhand on Breitsprecher’s crab boat told officers that his boss directed him to steal crab pots while fishing near Westport.

After obtaining a search warrant, police officers from WDFW and the Quinault Indian Nation seized 32 commercial crab pots from Breitsprecher’s gear stack at the Port of Westport and determined that at least 24 of them belonged to other crabbers, Chadwick said.

OFFICER WELTER POSES WITH COMMERCIAL CRAB POTS HAULED INTO A GRAYS HARBOR COURTROOM. (WDFW)

“A commercial crab pot fully rigged can run $200 to $250, so the loss of multiple pots can really add up,” he said. “We appreciate that the Grays Harbor prosecutor’s office pursued this case, because it demonstrates that the law extends to ocean waters.” Chadwick said the department also appreciated the assistance of the Quinault tribal police.

WDFW currently licenses 223 coastal crab vessels, which landed 16.4 million pounds of Dungeness crab with a dockside value of $52 million during the 2016-17 season.

Editor’s note: This WDFW press release has been updated with the correct spelling of the defendant’s last name. It is Breitsprecher, not Brietsprecher as originally reported by the agency.

Commissioner ‘Not Very Happy’ To Be Left Out Of Loop As New Sound Chinook Plan Negotiated

This morning, more light was shed on the new proposed Puget Sound Chinook harvest comanagement plan, the result of confidential negotiations mediated by a federal judge but which left the vice chair of the Fish and Wildlife Commission “not very happy” about things.

The plan only came to light this Tuesday following months of talks behind closed doors between WDFW, tribal and Department of Justice officials following the disastrous 2016 North of Falcon and its delayed state fisheries.

WASHINGTON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION VICE CHAIRMAN LARRY CARPENTER TOLD WDFW DIRECTOR JIM UNSWORTH HE WAS NOT HAPPY TO HAVE BEEN LEFT OUT OF THE LOOP AS A PROPOSED 10-YEAR PUGET SOUND CHINOOK HARVEST MANAGEMENT PLAN WAS NEGOTIATED IN SECRET BY AGENCY, TRIBAL AND DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OFFICIALS. (TVW)

And while meant to try and avoid that fiasco again, as well as conserve key stocks, that the negotiations were done without knowledge of the citizen panel that oversees policy for the state agency irked the recently reappointed Larry Carpenter.

“Director (Unsworth), the commission delegates authority to you on a variety of issues, and that’s an appropriate thing to do. I agree with it. But I don’t think that that eliminates your responsibility to have consultations with us on issues of importance,” the former Mount Vernon boat seller and member of the Southern Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission said during a meeting of the commission in Olympia broadcast on TVW.

“And I certainly consider the Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan to be an issue of significant importance. It’s very critical, and not having discussions with the commission, I think, is an unacceptable practice.”

WDFW DIRECTOR JIM UNSWORTH BRIEFED THE FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION ON THE PROPOSED CHINOOK PLAN. (TVW)

Carpenter, who is the chair of the commission’s  fish committee and member of its executive committee, said that at a recent closed-door briefing just enough information about the ongoing mediation was given to he and fellow commissioners to “read between the lines about what was really happening.”

“We didn’t know,” he said.

Then the plan was posted online, and with its warnings of potentially reduced fishing for the basin’s premier salmon stock, anglers and tackle and boat makers immediately started fretting about the future of fishing and the industry.

“And we got stakeholders calling us and emailing us — angst,” Carpenter said. “I feel like we were really, really left out on a limb on this one. And I’m really not very happy about it.”

During public input afterwards, some of his concerns were echoed by Ron Garner, president of Puget Sound Anglers, among the state’s largest sporting organizations.

“The commission needs to be apprised of this as a major stakeholder,” Garner said.

RON GARNER, PRESIDENT OF PUGET SOUND ANGLERS, SPEAKS DURING PUBLIC COMMENT AT TODAY’S FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION MEETING. (TVW)

He also took issue with a major change from the previous management strategy for Puget Sound — lowering exploitation rates on Stillaguamish fall kings, which are caught in fisheries everywhere from Stanwood to Juneau.

The plan reduces that rate from 13 percent to 8 percent. While that lower figure is actually near the rate of recent years, it also drops down to as low as 4 percent for years of lower abundances.

Garner called that “very restrictive,” and while he said he understood the reason why, he disagreed that it would actually help out Stilly Chinook.

“Even if you shut down every fishery on the West Coast, the Stillaguamish River would not recover. It’s strictly a habitat-water issue,” he said.

“It has the possibility of closing down a lot of businesses, manufacturing businesses, loss of jobs, maybe in the tens of thousands, and the quality of life in Washington state,” Garner added before his three minutes of time to speak were up.

Using 2017 preseason fishery forecasts as an example, Mark Yuasa, the former Seattle Times fishing reporter and current Northwest Marine Trade Association staffer, reported that sport fishers would have lost out on 18,000 Chinook in mostly hatchery-targeted fisheries in North and Central Puget Sound this year, all to save nine wild Stillaguamish kings. Nine.

It is not immediately clear how it would affect tribal fisheries, but likely would impact open-water fishermen more so than terminal zone ones.

Following the meeting, Perry Mancheca, who has been calling for more open meetings between state and tribal officials, asked fellow anglers to attend tomorrow’s commission meeting and pour on the pressure.

“It is now more important than ever that the we follow such a strong statement by our Commission with a loud and strong message from the stakeholders,” he said via a petition update on Change.org.

The job of informing the Fish and Wildlife Commission how the confidential negotiations came about fell to Assistant Attorney General Mike Grossman, who advises WDFW on legal matters.

Grossman explained that after 2016’s highly contentious North of Falcon wrapped up, the state received a request from the U.S. Department of Justice and tribal officials to “meet and confer,” which resulted in confidential discussions mediated by U.S. District Court for Western Washington Judge Marsha Pechman.

He said that the number one priority of those talks was an updated 10-year resource management plan for Puget Sound Chinook, and to get it in place by April or May 2019, it needed to be wrapped up by Nov. 30 for the National Marine Fisheries Service’s NEPA review, estimated to take about 17 months.

The previous 10-year plan expired in 2014 and the comanagers have been taking it year to year.

ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL MIKE GROSSMAN SPEAKS BEFORE THE FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION. (TVW)

Grossman said that the state “benefited from being able to converse with the tribes on a confidentiality basis.”

He acknowledged the “tension” that that created with state laws on openness, and indeed, news of the secret talks comes as sportsmen like Mancheca have been working for more than a year to open up the state-tribal North of Falcon negotiations, which otherwise aren’t public.

Grossman explained that without Endangered Species Act coverage through the Chinook plan, “we can’t fish,” meaning nontribal anglers, as the feds “don’t have the view” they’ll do an individual consultation for the state like they would the tribes.

“Really, this … comanagement plan or a unilateral plan, which would very problematic, are the only two vehicles. And we made a decision, after a lot of talk with you and with the agency to proceed based on a comanager plan,” he said.

He described it as an umbrella, underneath which the state and tribes could divvy up the harvestable catch, though work remains.

“But it is a crucial piece that I think does recalibrate and puts us in a much better position to negotiate North of Falcon not having to worry about whether or not we have ESA protection at the end of the day. The focus will then entirely be on, do we have fair and balanced fisheries between the various comanagers, knowing that collectively we have to live within these limits,” Grossman said.

More details on what the Chinook plan may mean for sport fisheries may be forthcoming at the commission’s January meeting.

Outside today’s meeting, a question was raised by Frank Urabeck, a member of the sportfishing community, about whether not having the commission approve the plan before it was sent to the feds might invalidate it, but Garner said that that had been looked at and WDFW can act and then inform members.

One final note on the commission and Chinook: During discussion about Puget Sound orcas, Director Unsworth said that WDFW is evaluating what can be done via their facilities.

“Hopefully we can do something to increase hatchery production that will be helpful for killer whales, as well as salmon in general and our recreational and commercial, tribal use of those fish,” he said.

More information could come out as Governor Inslee pushes out his supplemental budget proposals for the coming legislative session.

Editor’s note: This blog was updated at 8 a.m., December 11, 2017, to clarify Mark Yuasa was reporting estimated 2017 fishery impacts and the figures were not his own. Larry Carpenter’s commission committee assignments were also added.

Drone To Be Tested Next Week In Ongoing NE WA Moose Study

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is working with University of Montana wildlife researchers to test the use of a drone this month to document the presence of moose calves in northeast Washington.

HOW WELL A DRONE WORKS FOR RESEARCHING NORTHEAST WASHINGTON MOOSE COWS AND CALVES MAY DETERMINE WHETHER THE PLATFORM IS USED TO STUDY OTHER EVERGREEN STATE CRITTERS BY THE DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE. (DANA BASE, WDFW)

A contractor for the university will fly an “unmanned aerial system” equipped with a video camera during the week of Dec. 11-15 over radio-collared cow moose on public and private lands in Stevens, Pend Oreille and Spokane counties. Researchers from the university’s cooperative wildlife research unit began the study in 2014 in cooperation with WDFW and other partners to learn more about moose populations, movement, reproduction, and survival.

Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife scientist, said the goal of the drone project is to document the presence of moose calves more safely, more efficiently, and less expensively than is possible with traditional wildlife surveying methods.

The craft will be flown over U.S. Forest Service lands and timberlands owned by Hancock Forest Management, Stimson Lumber Company, and Inland Empire Paper Company. All have given permission for the drone to fly over their lands.

By flying the drone over 35 collared moose cows, researchers expect to be able to document the presence of nearby calves. Harris said the only other ways to conduct such research – through close-up approaches on foot or from a helicopter – are less safe, require more time, and are more expensive than using a drone.

Harris said the drone would be flown only during daylight hours, at a maximum height of 400 feet. It will not be flown over people or buildings.

THIS IS THE DRONE THAT UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA PHD CANDIDATE JAMES GOERZ WILL BE TESTING NEXT WEEK. (JAMES GOERZ, VIA WDFW)

Harris said the flight schedule was chosen to avoid weekends and most major hunting seasons, which will minimize disturbance to recreationists.

The drone to be used in the test is white, slightly larger than one square foot, and looks like a four-legged helicopter with a rotor blade on each corner. It will be flown when a ground crew is within about 700 feet of a radio-collared cow moose and will record video only of wildlife and their habitat.

Harris said researchers expect the drone will be less stressful to moose than traditional ground monitoring, because moose have no overhead predation threats. If researchers conclude the moose are not substantially disturbed by the drone and calves are successfully documented, drones may be used for other wildlife research in Washington.

A 2016 update on the moose research is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01859/.

Predators May Be To Blame For Recent Moose Calf Survival Issues In Part of NE WA

Washington wildlife managers looking into how a growing suite of hungry predators are affecting deer, elk and moose populations believe a Shiras subherd in the state’s northeast corner bears watching.

WDFW reports an unusual signal seen in moose calf survival in east-central Stevens and southern Pend Oreille Counties in recent years.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS TWO MOOSE STUDY AREAS, THE NORTHERN ONE OF WHICH SAW LOWER CALF SURVIVAL THAN THE SOUTHERN ONE. (WDFW)

It was lower in back-to-back years than in a study area just to the south and a cause for concern, biologists say.

“Calf-survival in the northern area, particularly during 2014, was low enough to elicit concern for population stability,” note authors Brock Hoenes, Sara Hansen, Richard Harris, and Jerry Nelson in the just-posted Wildlife Program 2015-2017 Ungulate Assessment.

They’re not sure why that is, except to say it’s probable some — maybe all — of the calves in question ended up as dinner and that more study will help flesh that out.

“Calf mortality occurred irregularly, with no discernible seasonal concentration,” they report. “We are unable to attribute specific causes to any of the calf deaths (the study is not designed to attribute specific causes to any of the calf deaths). That said, it is likely that at least some of the calf deaths were caused by predators.”

Among the toothsome crew roaming this country are cougars, black bears, perhaps a grizzly or two, and wolves.

According to WDFW’s latest wolf map, the Carpenter Ridge, Dirty Shirt, Goodman Meadows and Skookum Packs occur entirely or partially in the northern moose study area, and  all of which were successful breeding pairs in 2016. And in the past the Diamond wolves were here too.

A CLOSE-UP OF WDFW’S MARCH 2017 WOLF MAP SHOWS PACK LOCATIONS. THE NORTHERN MOOSE STUDY AREA OVERLAPS ALL OR PORTIONS OF THE DIRTY SHIRT, GOODMAN MEADOWS, CARPENTER RIDGE AND SKOOKUM PACKS. (WDFW)

By contrast, in the southern moose study area — Blanchard Hump and Mt. Spokane — there are no known packs, or at least were at the time of the biologists’ review last December.

Their 186-page report was posted late yesterday afternoon, two days before the state Fish and  Wildlife Commission will be briefed on wolves, wolf management and the future thereof by WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello.

It’s important because buried in the aforementioned wolf plan is a section addressing the species’ impacts on ungulates.

If “at-risk” big game herds such as woodland caribou are found to fall 25 percent below population benchmarks for two straight years or others see their harvests decline by a quarter compared to the 10-year average for two consecutive seasons, it could trigger consideration of reducing local wolf numbers if that particular recovery zone has four or more breeding pairs, regardless of statewide delisting.

As for the assessment of the rest of Washington’s moose, as well as its wapiti, deer and bighorn sheep, the report looks at each species, breaking them down by major herds or zones, details recent hunter harvest, and discusses other sources of mortality and factors that may influence population dynamics, before wrapping up with “Sub-herd Concerns” and “Management Conclusions.”

“Using the data at our disposal, none of the ungulate populations in this assessment appear to show clear signs of being limited by predation,” state Hoenes, Hansen, Harris, and Nelson in the executive summary.

That conclusion may not go over well with some Evergreen State hunters concerned about what their and others’ observations are telling them about how the animals are doing in the woods.

And it’s not to say that bucks and bulls, does and cows, calves and fawns aren’t affected in other ways by mountain lions, bruins, coyotes and wolves. They are, of course.

New research is beginning to show how wolf packs affect mule deer and whitetail behavior in North-central Washington, leading to different use of habitat than before.

The authors also acknowledge that limitations in the data sets “might preclude the ability to detect impacts of predation on a specific ungulate population.”

But the assessment is another way WDFW is attempting to show hunters it is keeping its eye on wolf impacts as numbers of the wild dogs near recovery goals and the conversation begins to turn to post-statewide delisting management.

Biologists will also take to the air and woods again soon for year two of a half-decade-long predator-prey study in the Okanogan, and Huckleberry and Selkirk Ranges.

Skagit-Sauk Steelhead Fishery Proposal Going Out For Public Comment

Steelheaders are a step closer to once again tossing spoons, jigs and more into a pair of famed North Sound rivers during prime time for their brawny wild winter-runs, but there’s still thick brambles and slick cobbles to wade through first.

Tomorrow, federal overseers will put a proposed Skagit-Sauk winter-spring fishery out for a 30-day public comment period.

IMAGES FROM A TRIP IN SEARCH OF EARLY SAUK WINTER STEELHEAD ON THE LAST JANUARY 2017 WEEKEND THE RIVER WAS OPEN FOR FISHING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Yet even if OKed for this coming season, the rub for sport anglers will be whether state funding is found to monitor fishing over Puget Sound’s strongest, yet still ESA-listed stock.

The rivers are otherwise scheduled to again close at the end of January.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Recent years have certainly seen enough winter steelhead in the system that alone accounts for 38 percent of the inland sea’s overall production.

Springs 2013, ’14 and ’15 saw an average of 8,800 hit the gravel on the upper Skagit and Sauk Rivers and their tribs.

That’s a 350 percent increase over 2009’s woeful return and well above the average for the 25 years between 1980 and 2004. (The 2018 forecast isn’t out yet.)

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

And support has been building since Occupy Skagit held its first hookless fish-in at Howard Miller Steelhead Park in April 2013.

That was the year after the last time the rivers were scheduled to be open as the cottonwoods budded, grouse drummed and skunk cabbages bloomed, but four springs after it actually was due to emergency rule changes.

Opening the water would put anglers back on a once-proud system where the only viable opportunity of late has been plunking for sockeye due to critically low pink and coho salmon runs and the end of hatchery steelhead releases.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

But just as WDFW is required by its NMFS permit to do on fisheries it holds on the Methow and a host of Columbia Basin waters over federally protected runs, it must track angler effort and catches on the Skagit and Sauk.

The agency’s Wild Futures fee-increase bid this year would have paid for that.

Some steelheaders strongly urged others to support it.

But it got snagged by fellow sportsmen and Senate-side state lawmakers during the legislative session.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

So now, with other projects competing for the same scarce dollars, WDFW managers are struggling to rationalize spending, let alone come up with the estimated $110,000 needed to perform creel sampling from Concrete to Rockport on the Skagit, and from Rockport to Darrington on the Sauk.

Some are optimistic; some are pessimistic.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

As it stands, under the plan now out for review and submitted by WDFW and the Sauk-Suiattle, Swinomish and Upper Skagit Tribes, as well as the Skagit River System Cooperative, sport fishing could open as early as February and run through April 30, depending on run forecasts.

Late winter and early to midspring are the best times to get after wild steelhead with pink worms, double-stacked spoons, flashy plugs and flies.

Retention of them is even possible, but would require the Fish and Wildlife Commission to amend the regulations.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Tribal harvest could occur from Dec. 1 to April 15.

A range of 40 to 457 wild steelhead were taken annually during test and other netting this millennium, according to the plan.

Proposed overall sport and tribal impacts range from 4 percent at run sizes of less than 4,000 to 25 percent at returns greater than 8,000.

“While we recognize that substantial improvements to enhance the productivity and protection of habitat are necessary to ensure the long-term viability of Skagit steelhead populations, the assessments presented in this plan indicate that a low level of fishery mortality is consistent with the survival and recovery of the Puget Sound DPS,” the authors argue.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I appreciate that WDFW and the tribes worked together on the proposal, and hats off to NMFS for getting it out for comment. This is a really important fishery to start up again.

Best case scenario is that commenters don’t find faults, the state does locate money to sample anglers, and the tribes get their share of fish.

Worst case scenario is that it’s approved, the state doesn’t find the money, the tribes get their share of fish, and anglers are stuck on the bank.

Comments on the plan when it comes out can be sent to James Dixon, NMFS Sustainable Fisheries Division, 510 Desmond Drive, Suite 103, Lacey, WA 98503 or skagit-steelhead-harvest-plan.wcr@noaa.gov with “Comments on Skagit River Steelhead Harvest Plan” in the subject line.

TILL THE SAUK AND SKAGIT ARE REOPENED IN FEBRUARY, MARCH AND APRIL, ANGLERS WILL HAVE TO MAKE DO WITH THE OCCASIONAL EARLY WINTER STEELHEAD AND PLENTIFUL BULL TROUT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW, Tribes Send NMFS Updated 10-year Harvest Plan For Sound Chinook

State and tribal salmon comanagers have posted a new 10-year management plan to guide harvest and conservation of ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook and which could reduce the risk of North of Falcon-related delays, but also may mean less fish to catch in bad years.

It updates a plan that expired in 2014 but also must be approved by federal overseers before it goes into effect for the 2019-20 to 2028-29 fishing seasons.

WDFW AND 17 PUGET SOUND TRIBES’ 10-YEAR MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR PUGET SOUND CHINOOK HAS BEEN SENT TO FEDERAL OVERSEERS FOR APPROVAL. IT WILL COVER FISHERIES SUCH AS POSSESSION BAR, WHERE ALLISON HARVEY CAUGHT THIS 19.5-POUNDER THIS PAST SUMMER ON HERRING AIDE KINGFISHER BEHIND A GIBBS RED RACER FLASHER. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Written by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and 17 tribes under a confidential, court-mediated negotiation process this year, the plan is meant to “refine the management of state and tribal fisheries to better support efforts to conserve and recover wild Puget Sound Chinook salmon stocks, whose numbers have continued to significantly decline since they were listed for protection in 1999,” according to a summary posted by the state agency.

WDFW also warns of “reductions to state and tribal fisheries in Washington, especially in years with expected low salmon returns. For example, increased protections for wild Chinook salmon returning to the Stillaguamish and Snohomish Rivers will likely further restrict numerous fisheries because those fish are caught in many areas of Puget Sound.”

The 338-page plan includes data on where and who catches kings bound for the inland sea’s rivers — some of those Stilly fish are actually landed in Alaska — as well as exploitation rates, low abundance thresholds and points of instability for each stock.

It says the abundance of the region’s Chinook is “constrained by habitat conditions,” and their recovery is “primarily dependent on restoration of” functioning habitat.

It only makes the briefest mention of marine mammal predation, which may be masking recovery as pinniped populations increase, according to a recent paper. And as for increasing hatchery production of Chinook, that’s not specifically addressed, but it should be noted the plan is subheaded “Harvest Management Component.” More on that front may be ahead in the near future.

Along with WDFW, the coauthors include the Lummi, Nooksack, Swinomish, Upper Skagit, Sauk-Suiattle, Tulalip, Stillaguamish, Muckleshoot, Suquamish, Puyallup, Nisqually, Squaxin Island, Skokomish, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Lower Elwha Klallam, and Makah Tribes.

The plan will be reviewed by the National Marine Fisheries Service through April 2019, but according to WDFW, state and tribal comanagers will use its framework during next year’s North of Falcon negotiations.

The agency says having it in place “would reduce the risk of having to cancel or delay state salmon fisheries in Puget Sound due to the uncertainty of an annual federal review” like we saw in spring 2015 and which led to a late start to sport seasons in the salt and rivers and even affected bass fisheries on Lakes Washington and Sammamish.

Grinches Illegally Netting Chums Get Coal, And A Trip To Jail

If your house is anything like mine, there’s been plenty of Christmas cheer of late as the lights and tree go up, advent calendars start yielding goodies, and Bing and Harry get us in the spirit of the season.

The folks at WDFW’s Enforcement Division are also feeling it, and today posted news of yet another case of illegal netting, this time roughly set to The Night Before Christmas.

To wit:

T’was a typical day for Officer Jewett on patrol, but his peek under the bridge wasn’t for trolls

Skookum Creek isn’t much of a creek, but it attracts its share of wrongdoing creeps

(WDFW)

When he noticed a car parked alongside of the road, he sensed numerous violations of fishing codes

“Not today!” the officer thought, as he set out sneakily for the poachers to be caught

He watched the two robbers under Kamilche Lane; For unlawful netting, these two were to blame

After seeing plenty they were put into cuffs, t’was the least of their problems – they had other bad stuff

With felony warrants for their arrest, accommodations in jail seemed for the best.

Happy Holidays from Fish and Wildlife Police!

Indeed, happy holidays, officers – and keep up the great work!