Tag Archives: wdfw

Columbia Springer Managers Discuss Reopener

Columbia spring Chinook managers are today discussing potentially reopening portions of the big river starting as early as this Friday.

A fact sheet out ahead of an 11 a.m. hearing says that even with this week’s downgraded runsize, there are still 2,565 of the salmon available for fisheries below Bonneville, 503 from the dam to the Washington-Oregon border.

AN ODFW SAMPLER WANDS AN ANGLER’S SPRING CHINOOK DURING 2015’S SEASON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Biologists are recommending that the lower river be reopened May 25 through June 6, or 13 days of fishing, while the upper section be fished May 25 through June 15, 22 days.

“Staff estimates that the below Bonneville season as recommended would accrue an additional 2,400 upriver Chinook mortalities, bringing the season total to 6,933 fish, or 98% of the allocation at the current run size,” the fact sheet reads.

An estimated 210 would be caught in the gorge pools to the border.

This year’s run has been slow to come in, and earlier this week managers reduced their forecast to 116,500 back to the mouth of the Columbia, down from the 166,700 predicted last December.

During the late winter and early spring fisheries, anglers accounted for 4,332 upriver-bound salmon mortalities, which would be covered under run buffering by as few as 81,800 past Bonneville. It now appears many  more than that will in fact return, with the dam count at 70,000 and change through yesterday.

More as final word comes down.

Steelhead Retention On King County’s Green-Duwamish Closed Due To Low Run

With a low return of summer-runs forecast, Washington fishery managers are closing the Green-Duwamish to steelhead retention to try and ensure enough broodstock are collected.

GREEN RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The rule change announced today takes effect June 2, when season opens between Harbor Island and the Headworks Dam deadline.

In 2015, after a winter with little snowpack and a hot start to the year,  low flows and high water temperatures killed at least 34,000 young steelhead being reared at Soos Creek Hatchery, half of all those set for release in 2016, WDFW reported at the time.

Subsequent figures show only 11,800 went out that year for return in 2018, nearly 10 times fewer than Soos as well as Icy Creek facilities produced the year before.

The Green-Duwamish has produced angler harvests of as many as 711 summer-runs in 2013 to as few as 67 in 2015, the last year figures were available for.

The system is one of the last three consumptive summer steelhead fisheries in Pugetropolis.

The others are the Skykomish and the North Fork Stillaguamish.

A sea lion was spotted in the upper Duwamish earlier this month.

Managers say they will reopen retention once eggtake goals are met. Steelhead are defined as rainbows 20 inches or longer.

Salmon Managers Downgrade Columbia Springer Run Expectation

Columbia salmon managers today downgraded this year’s spring Chinook run, though they say there’s still some uncertainty with the new number.

They now predict 116,500 back to the mouth of the big river, down from the 166,700 forecasted last December.

ANTHONY CLEMENTS SHOWS OFF A SPRING CHINOOK CAUGHT IN THE COLUMBIA GORGE EARLIER THIS SEASON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“Given daily fluctuations of Chinook passage and the current river flow level at Bonneville Dam, there is some uncertainty in the run size estimate,” a statement from supervising biologist Joe Hymer says.

Through yesterday, May 20, a total of 64,479 springers have been counted at the dam, a bit below half of the 10-year average for the date, 133,655, but nearly 20,000 more than last year at this time.

According to catch estimates from late last month, anglers accounted for 4,332 upriver-bound salmon mortalities through April 14 (4,268 kept, 64 released and estimated died).

Managers said that a return of just 81,800 would cover that impact to the ESA-listed stock.

Flows at Bonneville are around 480,000 cubic feet per second right now, whereas the 10-year average is around 325,000 cfs.

Over the past three weeks, daily counts have been as high as 7,287 to as low as 852.

Today’s runsize update is just slightly more than actually came back in 2017, when managers had initially predicted 160,400. Only 115,882 did.

 

SW WA Fishing Report (5-21-18)

THE FOLLOWING ORIGINATED WITH WDFW AND WAS TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Washington Columbia River tributaries salmonid sport sampling summaries for May 14-20

Elochoman River from mouth to Elochoman Hatchery Bridge located 400′ below the upper hatchery rack.
ALL SPECIES – selective gear rules.

Other Game Fish Last Sat. in May-Fri. before first Sat. in June
Statewide min. size/daily limit except no min. size/daily limit for BASS, CHANNEL CATFISH, and WALLEYE.

SALMON & STEELHEAD
Last Sat. in May- Fri. before first Sat. in June
Min. size 12″. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adult SALMON or hatchery STEELHEAD may be retained of which only 2 may be SALMON.
Release wild CHINOOK.

GREEN RIVER_ (Cowlitz Co.) from mouth to 400′ below Toutle Hatchery intake and South Fork Toutle River from mouth to 4700 Rd. Bridge:

All Game Fish Last Sat. in May-Fri .before first Sat. in June
Catch-and-release except daily limit 3 hatchery STEELHEAD.
Selective gear rules.

AUSTIN RODRIGUEZ SHOWS OFF A HEFTY SPRING CHINOOK FROM DRANO LAKE, REPORTED AT 22 POUNDS. IT BIT A PRAWN SPINNER, AND RODRIGUEZ REPORTS HE AND A FRIEND LIMITED. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Lower Cowlitz River (I-5 Br downstream) –  51 bank rods kept 1 adult Chinook.  1 boat angler had no catch.

Upper Cowlitz River (Above the I-5 Br) – 27 bank rods kept 2 adult and 1 jack Chinook.

From the Lexington (Sparks) Road Bridge upstream to 400 feet or boundary markers below the barrier dam – Beginning June 1, barbed hooks will be allowed for salmon, steelhead, and cutthroats.

Kalama River – 28 bank anglers kept 2 adult Chinook and 2 steelhead and released 1 steelhead. 15 boat anglers kept 4 adult Chinook.

Lewis River (mainstem) – 4 bank rods had no catch.  10 boat rods kept 1 adult Chinook.

Lewis River (North Fork) – 51 bank rods kept 5 adult and 1 jack Chinook.  4 boat rods had no catch.

East Fork Lewis River from the mouth to 400 feet below Horseshoe Falls (except closures around various falls) and the Washougal River from the mouth to Salmon Falls Bridge – Under permanent rules these areas will be open to fishing with bait for hatchery steelhead beginning the first Saturday in June.

Wind River (mouth) – 14 bank rods had no catch.  256 boat rods kept 54 adult Chinook and released 8 adult Chinook.

Wind River (upper) – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Drano Lake – 6 bank rods had no catch.  435 boat rods kept 97 adult and 1 jack Chinook and released 3 adult and 1 jack Chinook.

Klickitat River – 35 bank anglers kept 2 adult Chinook and 1 steelhead and released 2 adult Chinook.

Klickitat River from the mouth (Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge) upstream the Fisher Hill Bridge and from 400 feet upstream from #5 fishway upstream to boundary markers below the Klickitat Salmon Hatchery – Effective June 1, open to fishing 7 days per week. Daily limit 6 hatchery Chinook of which 2 may be adults. In addition, up to 3 hatchery steelhead may be retained.

Washington lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville sport sampling summaries for May 14-20

Hatchery steelhead and Chinook jacks – Some anglers are doing ok on hatchery steelhead.

Sturgeon – 1 out of every 24 boat anglers kept a legal sturgeon. Only 1 bank angler was checked with a fish they could take home!

Shad – We did not sample any shad anglers last week.

Flooding Closes WDFW Campgrounds, Roads, River Accesses in Okanogan Co.

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

Flooding has forced local officials and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to close several roads and campgrounds at three wildlife areas and numerous water access sites in Okanogan County.

WDFW’S DRISCOLL ISLAND UNIT, WHERE THE SIMILKAMEEN AND OKANOGAN RIVERS CONVERGE, HAS BEEN INUNDATED BY FLOODWATERS CAUSED BY RAPID MELTOFF OF MOUNTAIN SNOWPACK. (JUSTIN HAUG, WDFW)

The closures are intended to protect the public and prevent property damage, said Justin Haug, WDFW Okanogan Lands Operations Manager. Runoff due to snowmelt is causing significant flooding in the area, where water levels are anticipated to remain high for several more weeks. Areas will reopen when conditions improve, he said.

THE SINLAHEKIN ROAD HAS BEEN WASHED OUT NEAR BLUE LAKE. (JUSTIN HAUG, WDFW)

Closures or access restrictions are in effect as of May 17 at the following locations in the Sinlahekin, Methow, and Scotch Creek wildlife areas:

Sinlahekin:

  • Sinlahekin Road from Reflection Pond to Blue Lake.
  • Fish Lake East, West and Southwest Campground.
  • Sinlahekin Creek Campground.
  • Southeast Forde Lake Campground.
  • Reflection Pond Campground.
  • Conners Lake Campground.
  • Driscoll-Eyhott Island Unit (underwater).

FLOODWATERS SURGE AGAINST AN ADA FOOTBRIDGE ON THE DAVE BRITTELL TRAIL, IN THE SINLAHEKIN WILDLIFE AREA. (JUSTIN HAUG, WDFW)

Methow:

  • Bear Creek Campground No. 2 (also known as Lower Bear Creek).
  • Cougar Lake Campground.

Scotch Creek:

  • Hess Lake Road.
  • Similkameen-Chopaka Unit (mostly underwater)

WDFW Water Access Sites along the Okanogan, Methow and Chewuch rivers are also closed.

EYHOTT ISLAND, BELOW DRISCOLL ISLAND, HAS ALSO BEEN FLOODED. (JUSTIN HAUG, WDFW)

Citing Exotic Virus, WDFW Says No To Cooke Putting 800K Atlantics Into Rich Passage Net Pen

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

Citing the risk of fish disease transmission, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has denied permission for Cooke Aquaculture to transport 800,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon from its hatchery near Rochester to net pens at Rich Passage in Kitsap County.

In late April, Cooke applied for permission to move juvenile non-native salmon from its hatchery into pens in Kitsap County to replace adult fish that were recently harvested. Washington lawmakers enacted a bill earlier this year that will phase out Atlantic salmon net-pen aquaculture by 2022, but Cooke plans to continue to operate until then.

WDFW officials cited two factors in denying the permit that they said would increase the risk of disease transmission within the net pens and possibly to wild and hatchery-raised Pacific salmon outside the pens:

  • The population of Atlantic salmon that would have been transported from Cooke’s hatchery near Rochester tested positive for a form of the fish virus PRV (piscine orthoreovirus) that is essentially the same as the PRV that occurs at the Iceland hatchery from which Cooke receives Atlantic salmon eggs. The Icelandic form of PRV is not known to occur in the eastern Pacific Ocean or Puget Sound, so WDFW classifies it as “exotic” in Washington.
  • Cooke proposed to place fish into pens that have not been empty (or “fallow”) for at least 30 days after the most recent harvest of adult fish, and within a farm that still contains adult Atlantic salmon. These actions would contradict the company’s own management plan.

“Each of these factors raised an unacceptable risk of introducing an exotic strain of PRV into Washington marine waters,” said Ken Warheit, WDFW fish health manager. “This would represent an unknown and therefore unacceptable risk of disease transmission.”

Warheit said samples of the juvenile fish that would have been transported were collected by an independent licensed veterinarian under contract with Cooke.  The samples were tested for PRV at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Washington State University. Test results were confirmed at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Washington Fisheries Research Center.

Until recently, Cooke operated up to nine net pens in Puget Sound, including one at Cypress Island in Skagit County that collapsed last August and allowed approximately 250,000 Atlantic salmon to escape. The company’s latest permit application is not related to the Cypress Island operation or the August mishap.

Westport Skippers Group Named WDFW Organization Of The Year

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

An association of charter boat skippers is playing a vital role in helping the department monitor salmon fisheries, while a volunteer from Pend Oreille County has helped the department manage species ranging from moose to mountain lions.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recognized the contributions of these and other top volunteers during its 2018 citizen awards ceremony today in Olympia.

The Westport Charterboat Association (http://charterwestport.com) took home an Organization of the Year award for its work to monitor salmon, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the salmon encounter data provided by volunteers coast-wide this past year.

CAPT. JONATHAN SAWIN OF THE CORMORANT ACCEPTS WDFW’S ORGANIZATION OF THE YEAR AWARD, GIVEN TO THE WESTPORT CHARTERBOAT ASSOCIATION FOR HELPING COLLECT CRUCIAL SALMON HARVEST DATA. (WDFW)

These data are used to determine overall impacts on salmon populations in mark-selective ocean salmon fisheries.

Mark-selective fisheries target salmon produced and marked at hatcheries to provide fish for harvest while supporting conservation of naturally spawning populations, said Wendy Beeghley, a WDFW fish biologist.

Data provided by the skippers and crews on both marked and non-marked fish have increased the department’s knowledge about salmon mark rates among all the salmon caught, including impacts of mark-selective salmon fisheries on unmarked populations.

“Over the past three years the Westport Charterboat Association skippers have really stepped up to help gather the data we need, supporting our science and management objectives in ways that are both economically efficient and effective,” said Beeghley.

The Lummi Nation was recognized with a Director’s Award for its swift response to Cooke Aquaculture’s accidental release of Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound last year.

LUMMI NATION OFFICIALS AND FISHERMEN WERE HONORED BY WDFW FOR THEIR FAST WORK TO CAPTURE ATLANTIC SALMON THAT ESCAPED FROM A SAN JUAN ISLANDS NETPEN LAST SUMMER. (WDFW)

“They were the first eyes on the water, providing the critical information Washington agencies needed to respond to this emergency,” said Joe Stohr, WDFW director. “Their fishers were on the scene immediately, working to contain the spill. We are grateful for their clarity of vision and expertise.”

Hank Jones, a land manager with the Calispel Duck Club, was recognized with a Volunteer of the Year award. Jones volunteers with the department to monitor wildlife–including moose, white-tailed deer and mountain lions by placing cameras and ground blinds to assist researchers.

HANK JONES’ HELP WITH NORTHEAST WASHINGTON WILDLIFE PROJECTS EARNED HIM VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR FROM WDFW. (WDFW)

“Hank’s willingness to volunteer his time, labor and considerable outdoor knowledge has benefited wildlife research on dozens of occasions,” said Jared Oyster, a WDFW wildlife biologist. “He has even helped moose researchers weather snow emergencies in the field, including freeing a stuck snowmobile and housing our moose technician when the power went down.”

Hank’s support for both our research and the people on our research team means that we understand predator-prey relationships better in Washington, Oyster said.

Other citizen awards announced by WDFW recognize volunteer educators, including the following:

· Terry Hoffer Memorial Firearm Safety Award: John Malek received the Terry Hoffer award for his contributions as a hunter education instructor. Malek’s work with teams of instructors in 21 separate hunter education classes from across the state resulted in certification of more than 500 students.

JOHN MALEK RECEIVES THE TERRY HOFER MEMORIAL FIREARM SAFETY AWARD FROM WDFW DEPUTY DIRECTOR AMY WINDROPE. (WDFW)

“John is a workhorse that goes the extra mile,” said Steve Dazey, a hunter education and volunteer coordinator with WDFW. From training new hunter education instructors, to conducting spring turkey hunting clinics, to assisting at our largest National Hunting and Fishing Day event, John is always there preparing the next generation of safe and ethical hunters.”

The award honors Wildlife Agent Terry Hoffer, who was fatally wounded by a hunter accidentally discharging his firearm in 1984.

· WDFW also recognized Educator of the Year, Marty Kotzke for his work to certify 227 new hunters in 15 classes, recruit new instructors, and train more than 400 young hunters through state and national Youth Hunter Education Challenge competitions (https://yhec.nra.org/).

MARTY KOTZKE, HERE SHARING ADVICE DURING NATIONAL FISHING AND HUNTING DAY, WAS NAMED THE HUNTER ED EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR. (WDFW)

“Marty’s passion to teach youth is paralleled by his willingness to assist the department. He volunteers a tremendous amount of time not only to hunter education, but also to the department’s wildlife program. Marty is always there for us when we need a hand,” said Dave Whipple, hunter education division manager.

Citizen volunteers around the state logged nearly 60,000 hours on WDFW projects in 2017. WDFW welcomes volunteer help to benefit fish, wildlife and habitat. For more information, visit the agency volunteer page at http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer/.

SW WA Fishing Report (5-15-18)

THE FOLLOWING ORIGINATED WITH WDFW AND WAS TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Cowlitz River from I-5 Br downstream- 199 bank rods kept 1 steelhead and released 1 adult Chinook and 1 steelhead.  49 boat rods kept 3 adult Chinook.

HUNTER HIGGINBOTHAM SHOWS OFF A NICE DRANO LAKE SPRING CHINOOK FROM THIS SEASON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Cowlitz River upstream from the I-5 Br:  133 bank rods kept 18 adult and 1 jack Chinook and 1 steelhead.  34 boat rods kept 3 adult Chinook and 3 steelhead.

Kalama River – 92 bank anglers kept 2 adult and 1 jack Chinook and 2 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.  51 boat anglers kept 7 adult Chinook and 1 steelhead.

Mainstem Lewis River – 5 bank rods and 1 boat angler had no catch.

North Fork Lewis River – 29 bank rods kept 1 adult Chinook.  6 boat rods kept 1 adult Chinook.

Lower Wind River – 15 bank rods kept 1 adult Chinook.  683 boat rods kept 184 adult and 8 jack Chinook and released 7 adult Chinook and 1 steelhead.

Upper Wind River – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Drano Lake – 39 bank rods kept 2 adult Chinook.  697 boat rods kept 230 adult and 2 jack Chinook and released 11 adult Chinook.

Klickitat River – 25 bank anglers kept 2 adult Chinook.

Skagit-Sauk Catch Estimates Show A Hot Day, And Mostly Good Fishing

If you were lucky enough to be steelheading in Washington’s North Cascades on April 18, you most likely had a very, very good day.

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

One-fifth of all the wild winter-runs caught during the recently concluded 12-day catch-and-release fishery on the Skagit and Sauk Rivers were landed that Wednesday, according to preliminary estimates from state monitors.

That didn’t surprise Brett Barkdull, the district fisheries biologist, who’d dropped some not-so-subtle hints that it might be a good one to call in sick.

BOBBER AND SPOON RODS AWAIT EMPLOYMENT ALONG THE SAUK THIS SPRING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“I thought the total catch on that first Wednesday when the Sauk was first in shape might have been higher actually,” he said.

The Sauk, which shot up to 9,500 cubic feet per second as rains swept in on the eve of opening weekend, had dropped back to 6,000 cfs by that morning, and the river’s fish had yet to feel the hidden sting of fishermen’s pink worms, plugs and spoons.

GLACIAL FLOUR FROM THE SUIATTLE RIVER CLOUDS THE SAUK BELOW GOVERNMENT BRIDGE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Barkdull cautioned that data his team of creel samplers collected haven’t been finalized yet, but the early estimates show that anglers caught 118 steelhead on April 18, or one for every 8.86 hours of effort that day, a figure that may be a high mark for some time to come.

“I don’t expect there will be a day like that again unless we get a year with a huge return,” noted Barkdull.

WHITEHORSE MOUNTAIN RISES OVER THE FLATS NEAR DARRINGTON. AT ONE TIME SEVERAL THOUSAND YEARS AGO, THE SAUK ACTUALLY DRAINED WEST THROUGH THE NORTH FORK STILLAGUAMISH RIVER VALLEY, BUT NOW MEETS THE SKAGIT AT ROCKPORT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Over the dozen days of fishing, 565 steelhead were caught in 11,504 total hours of fishing, or one every 20.36 hours.

A rate of 20 hours a fish is considered to be “off the charts good,” Barkdull said.

“Three hundred hours for a fish is more the norm for Puget Sound,” he said.

The slowest day was the final Saturday, April 28, when it zipped up to 85 hours a fish as several consecutive days of hot weather wilted mountain snowpack, sending both rivers back up.

While the National Marine Fisheries Service holds WDFW to a 10 percent mortality rate in C&R steelhead fisheries, Barkdull personally feels it’s likely far lower. He pointed to a study from the Vedder showing a 2.5 percent rate as a good surrogate, but acknowledged the feds’ 10 percent as the management standard.

Barkdull said there wasn’t anything unexpected in the preliminary figures, which he said are probably within 10 percent of where final ones will be.

“We put people right on top of a bunch of naïve fish late in the season when they were all upriver staging to spawn,” he said.

THIS DOUBLE-STACK SPOON HAS BEEN SLUMBERING IN THE EDITOR’S TACKLE BOX FOR NINE YEARS IN HOPES OF ONE DAY AGAIN SPLASHING DOWN IN THE SAUK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

He doubts that this year’s 20-hours-a-fish rate will hold up in the coming four federally permitted winter-spring fisheries, what with their likely earlier start dates and longer seasons.

“The fish will trickle in, get caught, some will get smart, some will move out of the fishing area, and effort will even out and be less,” Barkdull forecasted.

It took what felt like forever to get this year’s fishery approved. The last season here was in 2009, and following a number of poor returns, the rivers were closed.

But in 2013, the group Occupy Skagit began rallying to reopen the rivers. A management plan that WDFW and three area tribes sent to NMFS in 2016 was finally approved early last month.

TILL NEXT SEASON! (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It requires strict monitoring of catches, and Barkdull’s estimates show that steelheaders also kept three hatchery steelhead, released 219 bull trout, 12 rainbow trout, six cutthroat and three spring Chinook, rounding up and down.

“We saw no illegal kept fish of any sort,” he added.

He said there are plans in the works to break out catches for bank, jet, drift, conventional, fly, and guided and unguided anglers.

Crabbing Won’t Open In South Sound This Summer

Bad news for Tacoma and Olympia crabbers: Marine Areas 11 and 13 won’t open for Dungeness — or even red rocks — this summer.

PUYALLUP’S JASON BROOKS PULLS A POT OFF FOX ISLAND DURING THE 2013 SEASON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Dungie numbers have crashed in recent years and state managers say the idea behind the full closure is to try and rebuild the populations.

Tribal commercial fisheries will also not open.

It’s unclear why the crabs are not doing well, but a recent presentation to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission pointed to three possibilities: excessive harvest, poor water conditions, and distance larva must ride currents to here from primary breeding areas.

That PDF also shows how bad it is.

Graphs in it show state and tribal crab harvest in Area 11, off Tacoma, peaked in 2014 at about 225,000 pounds, produced 200,000 in 2015, then dropped like a rock to 50,000 in 2016 and half that last year.

Similarly, Area 13, deep South Sound, peaked in 2012 at 300,000 pounds, but zipped downhill like a ski jumper to an almost negligible amount last year, 9,462 pounds, or one-tenth of one percent of all that were harvested in Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

WDFW GRAPHS SHOW HOW DUNGENESS HARVEST IN MARINE AREA 13 (CRAB AREA 7) AND AREA 11 (CRAB AREA 6) HAVE TANKED OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS. (WDFW)

Test fishing earlier this year found one legal Dungie a pot in Area 11 and maybe a quarter of one in 13.

On the flip side, those graphs also reveal the extreme spike in harvest, tripling and even quadrupling from the 100,000- and 50,000-pound ranges of the last decade.

A rather frightening graph WDFW also put together shows that two entire back-to-back year-classes of crabs are “missing, not detected.”

Those would be year 2 and year 3 Dungies.

Year 4 crabs — which would be legals in summer 2019 — are also said to be “greatly reduced.”

That means we may be in for a few years of rebuilding the stock.

“It is a very sad day when a family activity such as Puget Sound crabbing is shut down due to very foreseeable and predictable mismanagement,” said Puyallup shellfisherman and Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks. “Overharvest by other user groups and a lack of enforcement, along with winter and summer seasons, and it’s pretty apparent the crab numbers will dwindle.”

The last winter recreational season in Areas 11 and 13 occurred in 2015

Last year, as it became blindingly obvious there were very few Dungeness and even red rocks around the South Sound, crabber ire turned towards tribal fishermen who were said to have put out huge numbers of pots in recent years, perhaps a sign they were also having trouble finding legals.

Another theory revolves around The Blob years, 2014-15, and how high water temperatures as well as low dissolved oxygen levels could have negatively affected juvenile crabs.

The book The Highest Tide aside, because of the inland sea’s shape, the Tacoma Narrows restricts the flow of saltwater that might otherwise carry larval crabs into the South Sound. But it’s been like that since the end of the last ice age too.

Whatever the cause, it’s all leading state shellfish managers to take another look at how they manage crabs in South Sound.

Currently, it’s done with the 3-S model — restricting harvest by size, sex and season.

“The 3-S model of management was developed for open systems, such as coastal waters, where the effects of harvest are mitigated by regular larval production and recruitment,” says the WDFW presentation. “A confined system like South Puget Sound may need to incorporate a 4th metric, larval production and juvenile recruitment.”

“Shellfish populations become stressed when critically low density levels are reached, and reproductive success is greatly diminished,” it continues. “This is known as an Allee Effect. For Dungeness crab extremely low density could affect successful mating.”

WDFW had also considered just barring Dungie retention or reducing limits and seasons. It said that some recreational crabbers supported closing it down.

Crab seasons for the rest of Puget Sound are expected to be announced later this month after state and tribal managers agree to them. No other similar closures are expected, according to WDFW.

According to the agency, nearly 5.1 million pounds of crabs were harvested in the San Juan Islands last year (and who knows how many more from Canadian poachers), almost 3 million pounds worth in Areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 alongside Whidbey and Camano Islands, and 864,000 pounds in Area 6, the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.

AN AUGUST 2017 WDFW GRAPH SHOWS STATE (GRAY) AND TRIBAL (BLUE) CRAB HARVEST OVER THE PREVIOUS 25 YEARS. THE STATE SHARE IS COMPRISED OF COMMERCIAL AND RECREATIONAL AND WAS DOMINATED BY THE FORMER UNTIL 2011 AND FAIRLY CLOSE EVER SINCE. (WDFW)