Tag Archives: wdfw

WDFW Looking For Input On Possible Land Buys, Including Sekiu Resort’s Ramps, Parking

Purchasing the only saltwater boat ramp not dependent on tides on a 70-mile stretch of the Strait of Juan de Fuca is one of nine potential land buys WDFW is looking for public comment on between now and early February.

The agency put out the package this afternoon, and reports that the new owners of Mason’s (formerly Olson’s) Resort at Sekiu are interested in selling the 6.5-acre facility, including its four-lane ramp and two parking areas.

A WDFW IMAGE LOOKS DOWN ON THE RAMPS AT MASON’S RESORT, FORMERLY KNOWN AS OLSON’S, IN SEKIU. (WDFW)

“This project will ensure continued public access to the Strait of Juan De Fuca from a highly popular boat launch that has been in continuous operation since 1939,” a project description reads.

However, it and the other eight are far, far from done deals.

Following comment — which runs through Feb. 2 — WDFW land managers first need to get approval from Director Jim Unsworth to seek funding through the state’s competitive land-buy review process, and then the Fish and Wildlife Commission must sign the check for the properties.

“This is an opportunity to comment on these proposals in the early stages of our strategic thinking,” said Cynthia Wilkerson, WDFW lands division manager, in a press release. “We want to know what the public thinks about these projects before we move forward.”

All would be bought to provide recreational access as well as to benefit fish and wildlife.

WDFW REPORTS THAT BUYING 103 ACRES OF NEMAH RIVER TIDELANDS WOULD PROVIDE NEARLY A MILE OF PUBLIC BEACH ACCESS TO AN AREA “KNOWN FOR AN ABUNDANCE OF HARD SHELL CLAMS.” (WDFW)

This year’s list is more Westside oriented than past ones, and generally the properties are smaller. Still, several stand out in terms of size.

Others proposed buys include 1,750 acres between Westport and Grayland in Grays Harbor County, 643 acres between Joseph Creek and the Snake River in Asotin County and 256 acres on Bickleton Ridge in the Simcoe Moutains of eastern Klickitat County.

Smaller ones are proposed in Snohomish, Thurston, Ferry, Columbia and Pacific Counties

For more, see the project descriptions here.

Comments can be sent to lands@dfw.wa.gov.

 

Proposed Puget Sound Chinook Plan Panned In Another Analysis

Adopting a new Puget Sound Chinook plan that could further decrease the region’s salmon angling won’t save fall kings in a highly degraded watershed, where the stock appears to be less and less able to naturally replace itself despite 30 years of restrictions.

That’s the nut of another analysis of comanagers’ 10-year harvest management plan now out for federal review.

THE SUN RISES OVER THE LOWER STILLAGUAMISH RIVER VALLEY AND HIGHWAY 530 NEAR ARLINGTON IN OCTOBER 2014. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Headlined “WDFW Gives Up Puget Sound Fishing… For Nothing,” the pro-sportsfishing blog Tidal Exchange focused on the Stillaguamish River’s highly constraining Chinook, concluding that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound tribes’ proposal is worse than the status quo for two primary reasons:

“Because it allows — for another 10 years — the continued narrative that further curtailing fishing will lead to recovery on this river”;

And it “seems likely to deliver … a negative spiral for recovery and WDFW itself” through the loss of as much as an estimated $32 million annually in economic activity due to curtailed Chinook fisheries in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and North Sound and lost angler interest.

Where a mid-December review by a retired longtime WDFW salmon expert focused on that potential “tighter noose” on fisheries, in this new one, authors Curt Kraemer and Brian Fleming look at the Stilly’s underlying and overwhelming habitat problems.

The basin does include the pristine, sheer-sided 76-square-mile Boulder River Wilderness but also hundreds of square miles of scalped heights of the North and South Forks and their ever-shifting glacial strata underneath midelevation tree farms, as well as a highly modified floodplain, presenting problems from top to bottom, from Segelsen Ridge to Port Susan.

The authors use the analogy that before settlement, the Stillaguamish watershed was a 5-gallon bucket that produced runs of 50,000 Chinook, but with farming, diking, logging and development, the bucket can now only hold a pint of water.

Between tribally produced hatchery and natural-origin fall kings, returns have declined from around 900 in 1988 to 700 in 2015, according to a graph directly from the management plan, which was posted at this time last month and which we first reported on.

(PUGET SOUND CHINOOK HARVEST MANAGEMENT PLAN)

Because Puget Sound Chinook are listed under the Endangered Species Act, Washington managers have federal overseers looking over their shoulders asking how they’re going to protect them.

With the fisheries that impact Stilly kings the most outside of state control — namely off Vancouver Island, British Columbia and Alaska — the only way currently to get more back on the gravel is to reduce fisheries here.

Yet it’s a catch-22 — even fully curbing those would yield “surprisingly few … perhaps a dozen” more spawners, the authors write.

I know this will come across as the equivalent of the radio stations that last month switched to a Christmas format and put “Sleigh Ride” by The Spice Girls on heavy rotation until you couldn’t stand it, but the fix really does come down to one thing.

“Unless and until we repair the bucket, the habitat, we’re never going to see those numbers again,” the authors argue.

Furthermore, Kraemer — who retired from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife after decades as a fisheries biologist in charge of the Stilly among other rivers — and Fleming say that by reducing Chinook fishing even further, you “end up losing the most engaged and enthusiastic resource we have — which is the tens of thousands of license buyers” — who could otherwise muster up the public support as well as manpower for habitat fixes.

That in itself will be a pretty tall order because it’s not easy to convince people that there really is a habitat problem for Chinook in such a beautiful, bucolic valley, one of postcard views, tidy farms, and a smaller human population, relatively speaking.

Yet there is, as salmon production here shows.

The authors call for anglers to write to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and urge members of the citizen oversight panel to confirm with other experts that their biological arguments are sound, “as the social and economic implications of the proposed Puget Sound fisheries changes are enormous.”

Meanwhile, the commission will be briefed by WDFW staff about said plan at their upcoming meeting in Ridgefield.

Kyle Adicks, intergovernmental salmon advisor, is scheduled to speak beginning at 1:20 p.m. on Jan. 19. It’ll be a chance for agency brass to defend the plan.

At least one commissioner has already voiced displeasure with it.

Vice Chair Larry Carpenter told Director Jim Unsworth that for such a potentially weighty document, it was “an unacceptable practice” to not brief the commission during its behind-closed-doors, federal-judge-mediated development.

The plan is now being reviewed by the National Marine Fisheries Service for midspring 2019 approval, but WDFW has stated it wants to implement it starting with 2018 salmon seasons.

Possible Skagit Basin Winter-spring Steelhead Fishery Subject Of 2 Meetings

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has scheduled meetings to discuss with the public a proposed recreational steelhead fishery in the Skagit Basin, where rivers have been closed to steelhead fishing for several years.

TWO STEELHEADERS FISH THE SAUK RIVER UNDER WHITEHORSE DURING A PAST SEASON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The public meetings are scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. and include the following dates and locations:

Mill Creek: Jan. 12, WDFW Regional Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd., Mill Creek

Sedro-Woolley: Jan. 16, Sedro-Woolley Community Center, 702 Pacific St., Sedro-Woolley

At the meetings, state fish managers will discuss a proposal to allow fisheries for wild steelhead in the Skagit, Sauk and Suiattle rivers. These rivers have been closed to steelhead fishing since 2010 due to low numbers of returning fish.

WDFW is proposing catch-and-release recreational fishing for wild steelhead.

“In recent years, we’ve seen more steelhead returning to the Skagit Basin than before we closed the rivers to fishing,” said Edward Eleazer, WDFW regional fish program manager. “Given the low number of steelhead mortalities associated with this sport fishery, we don’t expect it will harm efforts to recover steelhead populations.”

The Skagit Basin steelhead proposal, developed by state and tribal co-managers, is pending approval from NOAA Fisheries.

The federal agency is seeking comments through Jan. 8 on the proposal, which can be found on NOAA’s website at
http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/…/skagit-steelhead_….

If the proposal is approved, the state could allow a sport fishery within the next few months. During public meetings, WDFW will gather feedback on timing for the proposed fishery as well as discuss gear regulations.

WDFW Sets 3-day, Jan. 6, 10, 13 Skagit Co. Brant Hunt

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today announced a restricted three-day hunting season for brant geese in Skagit County, but has revived hunts in two other counties where brant counts have been increasing.

AN IMAGE FROM A PAST ARTICLE IN NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN SHOWS BRANT HUNTERS HUNKERED BEFORE DEKES ON THE BAY. (MAYNARD AXELSON)

This year’s brant season in Skagit County will occur on Jan. 6, 10, and 13, based on criteria set when the season was adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in April.

Kyle Spragens, WDFW waterfowl section manager, said the restrictions were scheduled after aerial bird counts conducted in Skagit County indicated numbers fell short of the 6,000 birds required for a full eight-day hunting season for high arctic brant.

Spragens said surveys conducted over Padilla, Samish, and Fidalgo bays tallied 3,044 birds, then 4,793 birds, triggering this year’s three-day season.

“The number of hunting days is directly related to how many brant are counted during those surveys,” he said. “These low counts require us to prioritize conservation responsibilities for this distinctive, coastal species, while providing harvest opportunity when appropriate.”

Spragens said annual counts in Skagit brant numbers can vary widely, noting that this is the second restricted brant season in the past three years.

Meanwhile, stable populations of brant that do not return to western high arctic breeding regions have allowed for new hunting opportunities in other parts of the state. For the first time in decades, brant hunting will open in Clallam and Whatcom counties.

This year’s brant season in Clallam and Whatcom counties will occur on Jan. 6, 10, and 13. Counts in those two counties have increased in recent years and have remained above the 1,000 brant threshold for the past three years, the state criteria required to consider seasons in each area.

Also, the traditional 10-day brant season in Pacific County will open Jan. 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 21.

WDFW reminds hunters to familiarize themselves with local regulations and boundaries. Specifically, hunters in Clallam County are advised to consult the closed zones of Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge (https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Dungeness/visit/rules_and_regulations.html) and hunters in Whatcom County are advised to review boundaries relevant to Bellingham and Lummi Bays (https://www.lummi-nsn.gov/Website.php?PageID=39).

Information on brant seasons is available in WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons hunting pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/. Brant hunters are reminded they must possess a valid migratory bird authorization and brant harvest report card.

McNary Pool, Hanford Steelheading Update (1-3-18)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION ORIGINATED FROM PAUL HOFFARTH, WDFW, AND WAS TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

McNary Reservoir Steelhead Sport Fishery

The Columbia River from McNary Dam to the Tri-cities reopened for the harvest of hatchery steelhead on December 1. Angler effort has been steady averaging 9 boats and 16 bank anglers per day. There were 1,588 angler trips for steelhead in December.  WDFW staff interviewed 303 anglers in December.  Anglers averaged 14 hours per steelhead, unfortunately most of the fish caught were wild.  321 of the 407 fish caught were wild and had to be turned back. For the fishery (August 1 – December 31) 120 steelhead have been harvested and 346 wild steelhead have been caught and released from 3,779 angler trips.

LIZ BUTOWICZ SHOWS OFF A MCNARY POOL HATCHERY STEELHEAD CAUGHT SEVERAL SEASONS AGO NOW. SHE WAS HER DAD, HOWARD, AND “COUSIN IN LAW” JERRY HAN. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective January 1 the daily limit will increase to two hatchery steelhead per day (see Washington Sport Fishing Rules for additional information).

Hanford Reach Steelhead Sport Fishery (Hwy 395 – Hanford)

Steelhead fishing continues to be slow to fair in the lower Hanford Reach.  Effort has been light.  WDFW staff interviewed 123 anglers in December.  Bank anglers averaged a steelhead for 13.5 hours of fishing in December.  Boat anglers are doing a bit better at 9 hours per fish. An estimated 115 steelhead were caught in December and 92 were harvested. Since the fishery opened on October 1, 286 steelhead have harvested plus an additional 154 steelhead were caught & released from 1,814 angler trips.

Effective January 1 any hatchery steelhead may be harvested.  Daily limit is one steelhead per day.  This year’s return to Ringold Springs Hatchery is estimated at ~900 steelhead.

With Broodstock Needs Met, Tokul Creek Opening For Steelhead

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

Action: Open Tokul Creek from the Fish Hatchery Road Bridge to the posted boundary marker downstream of the diversion dam fish ladder for trout and other gamefish.

TRISTAN BEUTNER SHOWS OFF A NICE STEELHEAD FROM TOKUL CREEK, CAUGHT SEVERAL DECEMBERS AGO. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective dates: 7:00 AM, Sat. Dec. 23, 2017 through Feb. 15, 2018

Species affected: Trout, hatchery steelhead and other game fish.

Location: Tokul Creek from the Fish Hatchery Road Bridge upstream to the posted boundary marker below the diversion dam fish ladder.

Rules: Tokul Creek is closed to fishing daily from 5:00 PM to 7:00 AM. Anti-snagging rules are in effect.

Reasons for action: This section of Tokul Creek is closed in the permanent regulations until Jan.15 to allow for winter steelhead broodstock collection at the Tokul Creek Hatchery. The Tokul Creek Hatchery facility has met their egg take goals for winter steelhead allowing for expanded fishing opportunity in Tokul Creek.

Other information: Tokul Creek remains open from the mouth to the downstream edge of the Fish Hatchery Road Bridge as listed in the fishing rules pamphlet. Tokul Creek will close to fishing Feb. 16, 2018 to protect wild steelhead.

Washington Wolf Maps Reveal Canid’s Spread, Real And Otherwise

Say what you will about wolves, the predators’ peregrinations make for fascinating stuff.

At least to cartography and wandering wildlife geeks such as myself.

A pair of new Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife maps are revealing more about the ranges and ranginess of the state’s wolves over the past decade.

Both are based off data from all the GPS collars WDFW has strapped to various breeding males and females and other pack members since 2008.

(Dozens upon dozens more wolves over the years haven’t been collared.)

One shows nearly 72,000 of their locations — gulp, they’ve got Deer Camp surrounded, boys!

(WDFW)

Well, from the 35,000 foot level they do.

Though the GPS locations of wolves on the Colville and Spokane Reservations aren’t included, it represents “the most complete dataset currently available of wolf telemetry in Washington State,” according to WDFW.

Many of the green dots correspond to known pack areas in Northeast Washington, Kittitas County and the Blue Mountains.

But there’s a relatively surprising amount of wolf activity in state and federal lands between the Chewuch and Okanogan Valleys — the well-tracked Loup Loup Pack appears to roam north of its state-identified territory, or there’s a second pack with a collared animal there.

It also shows where the Marblemount wolf, which was captured and collared last spring, is hanging out.

The other new WDFW map shows the dispersal paths of 14 telemetry-bearing wolves since 2012, several of which are rather remarkable.

I’ve reported on two of these before — the Teanaway female shot in a British Columbia pig sty, the Smackout male that ventured into the province’s Coast Range due north of Neah Bay and set up a territory.

Another was killed in Central Montana.

But I believe this is the first time I’ve seen the winding path one took to the Cowboy State.

The wolf exited Washington north of Spokane, followed I-90 east into western Montana, trotted into the lower Bitterroot Valley before heading back southwest over Lolo Pass and down the Lochsa to the Clearwater, then south past Riggins and Cascade, Idaho, to the Boise area, loped across the north side of the Snake River Plain to Yellowstone National Park, then angled to the southeast towards the heart of Wyoming.

The new maps were part of a presentation to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission earlier this month by Donny Martorello, WDFW’s wolf policy advisor.

The next time he talks to the citizen oversight panel, probably in March, he’ll have an updated pack range map, if that first map above is any indication.

Here’s what the one the agency published late last winter looked like:

(WDFW)

Damnit, I gotta get to work now, but I’m going to leave one final WDFW wolf map here, one I closely watch for “clusters” of citizen reports.

They’re an indication of possible wolf activity for biologists to check out —  there may be something going on south of Snoqualmie Pass and in the upper Lewis River watershed — and help keep tabs on known packs, reconfirming activity.

(WDFW)

But while WDFW’s new GPS maps do lend credence to many public observations by showing the locations of actual wolves and the campfire sparklike spread of dispersers, some state residents’ reports are, shall we say, slightly less likely to have been actual wolves, especially those coming from the I-5/405 corridor, where an inordinate number are annually spotted in the shrubberies.

Here are a couple of my favorites from this year:

No doubt.

Nisqually To Open For Chum Salmon Fishing

UPDATED 3:30 P.M. DEC 19, 2017

Salmon anglers will have a chance to cast for winter chums in the Nisqually after all this season, thanks to a better than expected return.

With a lower run forecast, a fishery wasn’t even written into the regulations, and late last month a December game fish opener as well as tribal fisheries were subsequently closed.

JR HALL HOLDS A NISQUALLY RIVER WINTER CHUM CAUGHT DURING DECEMBER 2015’S FISHERY ON THE SOUTH SOUND SYSTEM. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

But Aaron Dufault, a WDFW chum salmon biologist in Olympia, says that early counts at a key location that generally correlates well to actual runs are currently pointing to a projected return of 22,000-plus wild chums, providing around 4,000 fish overall for harvest.

(The Nisqually’s escapement goal in pink salmon, or odd, years is 18,000, while in even years it’s 27,000.)

WDFW posted an emergency rule-change notice opening the South Sound river effective immediately for the retention of up to two adult chums.

The Nisqually Tribe yesterday also announced it would open the first of several multiday fisheries effective noon today.

Dufault said the run size could ultimately be higher still as more fish return, and termed it “a good sign,” as the last couple seasons have been below forecast.

The Nisqually will also reopen for catch-and-release fishing for game fish species.

Wind, Drano, Klickitat Spring Chinook Forecasts Out

Spring Chinook fishery managers have announced their forecasts for 2018 returns to several Columbia Gorge tributaries on the Washington side.

They’re expecting a total of 17,500 springers back to the Wind River, Drano Lake and Klickitat River this coming season, 4,000 more than they said would this year and nearly 1,000 more than did return, though they also warn that ocean conditions may produce different results.

DRANO LAKE SPRING CHINOOK ANGLERS SHOW OFF LIMITS CAUGHT DURING THE 2016 SEASON. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

The highlight of the trio is the Drano prediction, where 10,200 are expected, well up from the 2017 forecast of 7,500 and the actual return of 8,900.

The Wind forecast is up from last season’s estimate, 5,300 vs. 3,600, but slightly under how many came back, 5,400.

The Klickitat is down from the preseason prognostication and actual return — 2,000 vs. 2,100 and 2,300.

According to managers, last year’s actual returns were close to the five-year average for Wind and Drano.

The forecast did come with this warning:

“Poor ocean conditions could potentially have negative impacts on spring Chinook returns,” managers say.

As for other rivers, the 2018 forecasts call for:

Columbia (above Bonneville): 166,700 (2017 forecast: 160,400; actual: 115,822)

Upper Columbia: 20,100 (2017 forecast: 19,300; actual: 11,166)

Snake: 107,400 (2017 forecast: 95,800; actual: 51,948)

Willamette:  55,950 (2017  forecast: 38,100; actual: 50,774)

Clackamas: 4,490 (2017 forecast: 8,100; actual: 4,527)

Cowlitz*: 5,000 (2017 forecast: 17,500; actual: 14,000)

Kalama*: 1,400 (2017 forecast: 3,100; actual 2,500)

Lewis*: 3,600 (2017 forecast: 700; actual: 2,400)

* The Columbia mouth forecast for these three tribs is 5,150, 1,450 and 3,700

Puget Sound Salmon Anglers Called On To Voice Concerns Over Chinook Plan

Alarms are blaring ever louder in the Puget Sound salmon fishing world.

A proposed 10-year Chinook harvest plan revealed less than two weeks ago could be “a lot tighter noose” for sport fisheries, and state and tribal managers may try to implement it as early as this spring.

THE NEW PROPOSED PUGET SOUND CHINOOK HARVEST PLAN COULD BE “A LOT TIGHTER NOOSE” FOR ANGLERS, ACCORDING TO A SPORTFISHING ADVOCATE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“It will very seriously reduce the very limited opportunities we’ve had in the past few years,” warned Pat Patillo in a 17-minute segment on a Seattle-based outdoor radio show last Saturday morning.

WDFW fish bosses, already the subject of displeasure from the Fish and Wildlife Commission about the plan they’ve sent to federal overseers, may publicly talk more next month about it, but Patillo is not shooting from the hip.

He’s a retired salmon policy advisor for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, where he worked for over three decades, and is now a sportfishing advisor to the agency.

After the resource management plan for Puget Sound Chinook emerged from confidential, federal-judge-mediated negotiations between WDFW and area treaty tribes, he ran this year’s run forecasts through it to get a feel for what it might portend in the near term, as expectations aren’t too bright.

Speaking on 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line, Patillo explained that fishing impacts on Stillaguamish wild Chinook in, essentially, Puget Sound would be halved.

But he said that even more constraining might be a new limit on that river’s mass marked fin-clipped hatchery kings.

That’s because with the basin’s Chinook being federally listed, mass-marking has provided an option for anglers to release wild kings so they can continue on the way to the gravel while culling out generally abundant production fish missing their adipose fins.

That approach could face significant challenges under the new plan.

“With that limit on hatchery fish, it effectively eliminates selective fishing as a management tool for providing opportunity to catch all Puget Sound hatchery Chinook,” Patillo told hosts of Tom Nelson and Rob Endsley.

In danger, northern summer king and winter blackmouth fisheries.

“These fish, hatchery fish and wild fish, are mixed with all the others in Puget Sound,” Patillo explained. “So if you’ve got a constraint on your hatchery fish that are mass-marked — you can’t tell a mass-marked Stilly fish from a Green River fish, for example — so you’re, what’s the term? You pick it.”

Washington managers are screwed because many Stillaguamish Chinook get picked off in fisheries to the north, in southeast Alaska and along the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Puget Sound is the only place they have any power to reduce impacts on the stock to try and rebuild it, though there are doubts that that’s possible.

In the meanwhile, anglers face a very bitter pill.

Patillo estimated that even if we’d had a total closure of Puget Sound sportfishing in 2017, it would have yielded all of “10 or 11” more wild Stillaguamish Chinook on the gravel.

Nelson, who labeled the overall approach “a harvest solution to a habitat problem,” urged listeners to contact Director Jim Unsworth and the Fish and Wildlife commission with their concerns.

Patillo echoed that, and pointing to Stilly kings, summarized an argument to make — that the plan’s constraints go “beyond the level necessary to enable rebuilding … and will not provide fishing opportunity for surplus hatchery Chinook salmon throughout Puget Sound or other healthy salmon like pink salmon, coho salmon — you’re not going to have those fisheries.”

As it stands, the plan will be reviewed by the National Marine Fisheries Service for compliance with ESA and it may be approved in early 2019 for 2019-20 to 2028-29 fisheries.