Tag Archives: winter steelhead

Oregon Lawmakers Hear Dire Warning About Willamette Salmonids, Fish Passage Work

Oregon lawmakers heard grim news about the future of Willamette Valley salmon and steelhead runs unless plans to increase fish passage around the Corps of Engineers’ so-called “Big 4” dams are expedited and fully implemented.

ODFW’s Bruce McIntosh warned that the stocks otherwise will go extinct, “likely within our lifetime,” if the federal agency and Congress doesn’t better connect the large amount of fish habitat available in the upper watersheds of the North and South Santiams, McKenzie and Middle Fork Willamette to the rest of the system.

Even as some projects to do that are years behind schedule, important funding to finish the work has been zeroed out starting this fall, he said.

WATER FLOWS THROUGH FLOOD GATES AT LOOKOUT POINT DAM DURING A 2013 TEST TO DETERMINE HOW BEST TO AID THE DOWNSTREAM MIGRATION OF LISTED SALMON AND STEELHEAD STOCKS. A STATE MANAGER SAYS THAT 70 TO 90 PERCENT OF SMOLTS DIE AT THE DAMS. (MARY KAREN SCULLION, CORPS OF ENGINEERS RESERVOIR REGULATION & WATER QUALITY SECTION)

The Corps has operated 13 dams in the watershed starting with the first 50 years ago for hydropower and flood control — preventing $1 billion in damage this spring, it touted — and has provided hatchery mitigation since Congress authorized it in 1951. They’ve also built adult collection facilities.

But the problem is getting young fish hatched in redds in the mountain reaches safely down past the dams. McIntosh says 70 to 90 percent die as they try to navigate through the facilities.

It’s more and more important with listed wild returns at Willamette Falls decreasing since at least the turn of the millennium, from 20,000-plus spring Chinook in the first years of the 2000s to 5,000 last year, and from 16,000 winter steelhead in 2002 to 2000 in 2018.

“Frankly, when you look at that, you can hear the battle drums of endangered species, not just threatened species. That’s the crossroads we sit at now,” McIntosh, the state’s deputy fish chief, told members of the House Committee on Natural Resources in a televised work session (starts at about 1:12:30) yesterday.

Increasing the number of returning wild fish could mean that fishery restrictions can be eased, but if runs continue to plummet, they will only get tighter due to the Endangered Species Act.

Pointing to a slide in his presentation that also showed Grand Ronde Tribe members dipnetting for the first time, McIntosh said, “There’s a whole fleet and economy around the fisheries at Willamette Falls and the Lower Columbia that is at stake here.”

McIntosh did acknowledge the “new actor on the stage” affecting returning salmonid numbers — sea lions that arrived at Willamette Falls in the past decade and which feast on returning salmon and steelhead at the chokepoint.

But he also reported that since ODFW received the OK from the National Marine Fisheries Service last fall to kill pinnipeds there, 34 have been euthanized.

A SEA LION FLINGS A SALMONID AT WILLAMETTE FALLS. (ODFW)

McIntosh said that most of what federal engineers need to do further up in the watershed is included in a 2008 federal biological opinion.

“Frankly, the Corps needs to get about the business of modifying those dams and operations, and Congress must fund them. That’s where we sit today,” McIntosh said.

He allowed that the Corps’ task was not easy, given the nature of the reservoirs, predation in them and how young fish prefer to travel at the surface of the lakes, and that some work has been accomplished.

Adult fish are being trucked around Detroit Dam on the North Santiam and Foster on the South Santiam, for instance, but there’s no way to collect smolts that otherwise have to go over the spillway or through the turbines and hope for the best. However, an “extreme draining” test on Fall Creek Reservoir showed promise for flushing fish and ridding the impoundment of nonnative fish.

THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS FISH COLLECTION FACILITY BELOW COUGAR DAM, ON A MCKENZIE TRIBUTARY. (ACOE)

He also said that other improvements are several years behind schedule, with the completion date at Lookout Point Dam on the Middle Fork — behind which is an estimated 94 percent of the highest quality spawning and rearing waters for springers in that system — now “unknown.”

Eighty-five percent of the best habitat on the South Santiam is behind Foster and Green Peter Reservoirs, 71 percent on the North Santiam is behind Detroit Reservoir, and 25 percent is behind Cougar Dam on a tributary of the McKenzie, he said.

And what’s even worse, according to McIntosh, is that the Trump Administration’s construction budget for Willamette basin work has been “zeroed out” starting this October.

McIntosh also highlighted how the Corps has been backing away from mitigating its dams with hatchery fish and is now producing 20 percent less than in past decade.

“And we frankly suspect there are more reductions to follow,” he said.

He claimed that the feds consider putting out their 4.6 million salmon and steelhead and 750,000 trout to be “discretionary” rather than a line item in their budget.

As the Corps has recently mulled turning over hatchery production in the basin to private vendors, McIntosh said he’s joked with federal staffers that they should turn over their dams to PGE, which saw “significant increase in survival” after it installed upstream and downstream fish passage at its Clackamas River dams.

At a cost of $90 million, 97 percent of juvenile salmon and steelhead now safely pass the facilities, according to the Portland-based utility.

ODFW’S BRUCE MCINTOSH SPEAKS BEFORE THE OREGON LEGISLATURE’S HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES, CHAIRED BY REP. BRAD WITT. (OREGON LEGISLATURE)

“What’s at stake? It’s our legacy. While we fully support the Corps and federal government efforts to restore wild fish to sustainable levels in the valley, they also have a mitigation responsibility, and our message to them is, we will not accept paper fish in exchange for real fish,” McIntosh said.

“When they get about the business of recovering wild fish, we can talk about reducing that mitigation responsibility,” he said.

At the end of the work session, Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) said that he intended to have a letter drafted supporting construction work on the Willamette system to aid fish passage.

Kalama Steelhead Retention Closing Due To Low Run; C&R Fishing, Springers Still Open

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

Action: Closes steelhead retention on the lower Kalama River. This rule also makes the use of barbless hooks voluntary, including when fishing under selective gear rules and in fly-fishing-only waters. All other stipulations of selective gear rules and fly fishing only rules remain in effect.

AN ANGLER FISHES THE KALAMA RIVER IN SPRING 2014. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Effective date: April 1, 2019 until further notice.

Species affected: Steelhead, all species.

Location:

From the mouth to 1,000 feet below the fishway at the upper salmon hatchery (i.e. Kalama Falls Hatchery): Release all steelhead.

From the mouth upstream to the 6600 Road Bridge immediately downstream of Jacks Creek: Use of barbless hooks is voluntary.

Reason for action: To date, the number of hatchery-origin winter steelhead that have returned to Kalama River hatchery facilities is much lower than needed to meet hatchery egg collection goals. Closing steelhead retention will increase the number of hatchery fish available for broodstock and help improve hatchery returns in future years.

Additional information: Retention of 3 hatchery steelhead per day remains open in the Kalama River from 1,000 feet above the fishway at the upper salmon hatchery to the 6600 Road bridge (immediately downstream of Jacks Creek), where steelhead fisheries primarily encounter summer-run fish. Retention of hatchery spring chinook is also open in the lower river, with a daily limit of 6 fish, including no more than 1 adult.This emergency rule also implements on the Kalama River a voluntary barbless hook policy approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in early March. (See the news release at https://wdfw.wa.gov/news/commission-approves-modifications-its-columbia-river-salmon-fishery-policy.) Under this rule, anglers are no longer required to use barbless hooks during this fishery, although fishery managers encourage anglers to voluntarily use barbless hooks when appropriate.

SW WA, Lower Columbia, Gorge Pools Fishing Report (3-20-19)

THE FOLLOWING FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

 

Salmon/Steelhead:

Lower Columbia mainstem from Warrior Rock line to Bonneville Dam– 129 salmonid boats and 15 Washington bank rods were tallied during last Saturdays flight count.

SPRINGER BOATS ON THE COLUMBIA RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Sturgeon

Bonneville Pool- 8 bank anglers released 2 sublegal sturgeon.  6 boats/17 rods kept 3 legal sturgeon and released 26 sublegal sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 15 bank anglers released 1 sublegal sturgeon.  7 boats/13 rods had no catch.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 6 boats/12 rods kept 9 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No anglers sampled.

John Day Pool- 63 boats/152 rods kept 75 walleye and released 68 walleye.

Bass:

John Day Pool- 1 boat/2 rod kept 1 bass and released 1 bass.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 6 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.

Germany Creek – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 42 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  38 bank rods released 3 steelhead.  48 boats/156 rods kept 26 steelhead and released 8 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 20 winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released two winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom in Morton and they released three winter-run steelhead adults into the Cispus River in Randle.

The remainder of the fish are being held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

Kalama River – 29 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.  4 boats/11 rods kept 2 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Lewis River – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

East Fork Lewis River – 11 bank anglers had no catch.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Catchable Trout Plants:  

Lake/Pond                           Date Species Number    Fish/lb Hatchery

LK SACAJAWEA (COWL)         Mar 14, 2019 Rainbow 3,001           2.3 GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

SWOFFORD PD (LEWI)           Mar 14, 2019 Rainbow 2,750           2.8 MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

SWOFFORD PD (LEWI)           Mar 14, 2019 Rainbow 3,000           3.0 MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

HORSE THIEF LK (KLIC)           Mar 11, 2019 Rainbow 31                0.1 GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

SW WA, Lower Columbia, Gorge Pools Fishing Report (3-13-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

The first spring Chinook was counted at Bonneville Dam March 11, 2019.

2019 2018 10-yr Avg
Dam Date Adult Jack   Adult Jack   Adult Jack
BON 3/11/19 1 0 3 0 24 0

 

Salmon/Steelhead:

Lower Columbia mainstem from Warrior Rock line to Bonneville Dam– 55 salmonid boats and 28 Washington bank rods were tallied during last Saturdays flight count.

WINTER STEELHEADING ON THE COWLITZ RIVER IS PICKING UP AS THE LATE-TIMED STOCK BEGINS TO ARRIVE IN BETTER NUMBERS. JASON BROOKS TOOK THIS PIC AT BLUE CREEK SEVERAL RUNS AGO. (JASON BROOKS)

Lower Columbia Washington only creel checks:

  • Sec 3 (I-5 area) bank – 5 salmonid bank anglers had no catch.
  • Sec 3 boat – 5 boats/14 salmonid anglers had no catch.
  • Sec 4 (Vancouver) bank – 22 salmonid anglers had no catch.
  • Sec 4 boat – 31 boats/ 65 salmonid anglers had no catch.

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 7 bank anglers had no catch.  5 boats/14 rods kept 3 legal sturgeon and released 51 sublegal sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 15 bank anglers had no catch.  2 boats/6 rods had no catch.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 3 boats/6 rods kept 20 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No anglers sampled.

John Day Pool- 11 boats/23 rods kept 26 walleye and released 3 walleye.

Bass:

John Day Pool- 1 boat/1 rod had no catch.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 2 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.  1 boat/3 rods released 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 60 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  4 boats/5 rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  17 bank rods released 3 steelhead.  31 boats/106 rods kept 22 steelhead and released 4 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered two winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

All of the fish collected last week were held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,160 cubic feet per second on Monday, March 11. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 41 F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

Kalama River – 32 bank anglers had no catch.

Lewis River – 5 bank anglers had no catch.

East Fork Lewis River – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 9 bank anglers had no catch.

 

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Catchable Trout Plants:

Lake/Pond                           Date Species Number    Fish/lb Hatchery

LEWIS CO PRK PD-s (LEWI)    Mar 07, 2019 Rainbow 2,000           2.5 MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

KlineLine PD (CLAR)                Mar 05, 2019 Rainbow 1,500          2.3 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

Lacamas LK (CLAR)                  Mar 04, 2019 Rainbow 4,000          1.9 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

Lower Columbia, Gorge, SW WA Fishing Report (3-6-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Lower Columbia mainstem from Bonneville Dam to Warrior Rock– 47 salmonid boats and 6 Washington bank rods were tallied during last Saturdays flight count.

ANTHONY CLEMENTS SHOWS OFF A NICE BROODSTOCK WINTER-RUN FROM AN OREGON NORTH COAST STREAM. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Washington only creel checks: February 25-28, 2019

? Sec 8 (Longview) bank- 2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 8 boat -2 boats/4 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 9 (Cathlamet) bank- 3 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 10 (Cathlamet) boat – 1 boat/2 salmonid anglers had no catch.

Washington only creel checks: March 1-3, 2019
? Sec 3 (Vancouver) boat – 1 boat/2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 4 (Vancouver) bank – 2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
? Sec 4 boat – 4 boats/ 6 salmonid angler had no catch.

John Day Pool – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- No anglers sampled.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention. No report.

John Day Pool- 8 bank anglers had no catch. 1 boat/4 rods had no catch.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 1 boat/3 rods kept 3 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No anglers sampled.

John Day Pool- 11 boats/25 rods kept 9 walleye and released 8 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:


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Columbia River Tributaries

Elochoman River – 6 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.  1 boat/2 rods kept 1 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

Germany Creek – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 106 bank rods kept 7 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  25 bank rods released 4 steelhead.  47 boats/137 rods kept 46 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 12 winter-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released three winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and one winter-run steelhead adult into the Cispus River near Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,060 cubic feet per second on Monday, March 4. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 41 F.

East Fork Lewis River – 16 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.  1 boat/1 rod had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 7 bank anglers had no catch.

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Catchable Trout Plants:  No report on angling success.

Lake/Pond Date Species Number Fish per
Pound
Hatchery Notes
KLINELINE PD (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5BATTLE GROUND LK (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Feb 25, 2019

Mar 04, 2019

Rainbow

Rainbow

1,500

2,000

1.9

2.3

VANCOUVER HATCHERY

VANCOUVER HATCHERY

LACAMAS LK (CLAR)
Clark County – Region 5
Mar 04, 2019 Rainbow 4,000 1.9 VANCOUVER HATCHERY

 

Smelt

Reports of smelt in showing up in the Lower Columbia and Cowlitz River.

Mainstem Columbia and all other Washington tributaries – Closed to sport fishing for smelt (eulachon).

Lower Columbia, Gorge Pools, SW WA Fishing Report (2-27-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Lower Columbia mainstem from the I-5 Br. downstream – Water looks good for salmon fishing but only 31 boats and 68 bank rods were tallied during last Saturdays boat count.

Washington only creel checks:
Sec 4 (Vancouver) bank – 9 salmonid anglers had no catch.
Sec 5 (Woodland) bank – 9 salmonid anglers had no catch.
Sec 5 boat – 1 boat/ 1 salmonid angler had no catch.
Sec 6 (Kalama) bank – 2 salmonid anglers had no catch.
John Day Pool: 1 bank angler kept 1 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

A BIG WALLEYE CAUGHT ON THE MID-COLUMBIA STRETCHES THE TAPE TO MORE THAN 34 INCHES. IT WAS CAUGHT BY TRI-CITIES ANGLERS DURING A RECENT GUIDED TRIP AT NIGHT. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 4 boats/8 anglers kept 1 legal sturgeon and released 29 sublegal sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention. No report.

John Day Pool- 12 bank anglers had no catch. 10 boats/22 anglers kept 1 legal sturgeon.

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 2 boats/4 rods kept 3 walleye and released 3 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No anglers sampled.

John Day Pool- 9 boats/22 rods kept 5 walleye and released 2 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:
Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Abernathy Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Germany Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 65 bank rods kept 3 steelhead. 2 boats/6 rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br: 21 bank rods kept 1 steelhead. 19 boats/53 rods kept 12 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered seven winter-run steelhead adults during four days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

All of the fish collected last week were held at the hatchery for broodstock needs.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,930 cubic feet per second on Monday, Feb. 25. Water visibility is 9 feet and the water temperature is 41.9 F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility

East Fork Lewis River – 24 bank anglers released 4 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Catchable Trout Plants:

No report

SW WA, Lower, Middle Columbia Fishing Report (1-29-19)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORTS WERE TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN AND PAUL HOFFARTH

Washington Columbia River and Tributary Fishing Report Jan 21-27, 2019

Sturgeon:

Bonneville Pool- 27 bank anglers released 4 sublegal sturgeon.  31 boats/85 rods kept 14 legal sturgeon and released 8 legal, 236 sublegal and 2 oversize sturgeon.

The Dalles Pool- Closed for retention.  No report.

John Day Pool- 34 bank anglers released 2 sublegal sturgeon.  24 boats/59 rods released 1 oversize sturgeon.

WALLEYE ARE STARTING TO BITE IN THE COLUMBIA SYSTEM. GLENN STEFFLER CAUGHT THIS ONE ON THE UPPER RIVER RECENTLY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Walleye:

Bonneville Pool- 5 boats/7 rods kept 2 walleye and released 3 walleye.

The Dalles Pool- No report.

John Day Pool- 17 boats/36 rods kept 26 walleye and released 7 walleye.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 17 bank anglers kept 4 steelhead and released 3 steelhead.

Abernathy Creek – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 16 bank rods had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  27 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.  10 boats/28 rods kept 1 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered one winter-run steelhead adult during four days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released one winter-run steelhead adult into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,370 cubic feet per second on Monday, Jan. 28. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 44.6 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 16 bank anglers had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Trout Plants and stocking schedules:

https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?orderby=StockDate

McNary Steelhead Sport Fishery: January Update

WDFW staff have interviewed 76 boats in January with 13 hatchery steelhead harvested, 1 hatchery released, and 67 wild steelhead caught and released. Anglers averaged just over 1 steelhead per boat, 8.8 hours per fish including wild. The majority of the steelhead caught were A run but 4 B run fish have been harvested and 24 wild “B” run were caught and released. In addition, 79 bank anglers were interviewed with 3 wild caught and released. Fishing has been very slow from the bank (47 hours per steelhead).

ODFW Begins Culling ESA-steelhead-eating Sea Lions At Willamette Falls

Three Willamette Falls sea lions have been killed so far by state managers under a recently issued federal permit, an action being taken to help the watershed’s threatened wild steelhead.

A CALIFORNIA SEA LION CAPTURES A SALMONID BELOW WILLAMETTE FALLS. (BRYAN WRIGHT, ODFW)

ODFW plans to lethally remove as many as 40 California sea lions in the first four months of the year, and are allowed to take out up to 93 a year.

The news, first reported yesterday by OPB and followed up by the Associated Press this morning, comes as at least 145 wild winter steelhead have been able to navigate past pinnipeds feasting below the falls as of the end of last month.

In 2015, they ate 25 percent of a very weak return, according to ODFW, which in 2017 estimated that there was a 90 percent chance that one of the Willamette’s ESA-listed runs would go extinct if nothing was done to counter predation by sea lions.

Attempts to capture and move them to the Oregon Coast were unsuccessful as the male marine mammals tended to just swim right back.

“The only fish in the river right now are the winter steelhead,” ODFW’s Bryan Wright told OPB. “If we can remove all these sea lions right now that will be a huge benefit to them.”

In mid-November, his agency was authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service to begin killing CSLs seen at the falls and in the lower Clackamas River for at least two days or observed eating steelhead or salmon.

Last month, Northwest states and tribes were also authorized to lethally remove as many as 920 California sea lions and 249 Steller sea lions in portions of the Columbia and its salmon-bearing tributaries such as the Willamette to help address too many pinnipeds taking too big a bite out of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead stocks and help keep one of their new favorite targets, sturgeon, from ending up on the list too.

Southwest Washington Fishing Report (1-9-19)

The creel checker was a little surprised when I volunteered the city that my zip code – which she’d asked for – belonged to.

Shoreline was a mighty far way to come fish Vancouver’s tiny Salmon Creek for hatchery winter steelhead, she noted.

A SALMON CREEK STEELHEADER POSES FOR A SELFIE ON THE VANCOUVER STREAM.

One hundred seventy miles, to be exact, but I had other business in the neighborhood last Saturday — namely, picking up my two sons at a halfway point between the Seattle suburb and Newport, where the boys had just spent a week with their Nana.

Dropping them off or retrieving them during school and summer breaks over the years has always given me a chance to try a few casts in the creek, or the Kalama or East Fork Lewis Rivers.

Can’t say I’ve been very lucky overall, but that jig-biting winter-run on the blog’s skyline did come from Salmon several years ago, during a better run.

Hooked it twice, the first time on a spoon, lost it, let it rest, came back 20 minutes later, hooked it again, got it in and then made a mad dash to the pickup point where my mother-in-law was waiting with one of the boys.

This season, however, steelhead so far have been few and far between in this part of the Evergreen State, as well as elsewhere.

WDFW’s weekly creel summary for Southwest Washington has been pretty woefully low on fish actually creeled, and last week was once again no exception.

As she enquired about what I’d been using, its hook size and how long I’d fished (about half an hour’s worth more of one more last casts than I should have — sorry, Diane!), the Salmon Creek checker told me she hadn’t actually checked any fish of late and had only heard rumor of two caught since New Year’s.

When the official stats were emailed out this morning by the agency’s Bryant Spellman, it reported 40 of my fellow bankies had had no catch either.

Pretty discouraging. Other weekly reports this winter haven’t been any better and, frankly, I didn’t even bother posting the last one or two from Spellman, they were so grim compared to years past.

Washington Columbia River mainstem and its tributaries sport sampling summaries for Dec. 29 (2014)-Jan.4 (2015)

Cowlitz River – 72 bank anglers kept with 3 steelhead and 3 coho kept.  49 boat anglers had 31 steelhead and 8 coho kept and 7 coho released.

Partially it’s poor ocean conditions.

Returns are much lower than recent years at this same time at state hatcheries throughout Western Washington, and last week that led to closures on my home waters, the Skykomish and Wallace, as well as the North Fork Stilly, to meet eggtake goals.

Partially it’s a question of access.

That’s the case on the Elochoman, which saw smolt releases doubled, but where the new owners of a prime spot aren’t allowing access across their property.

And mostly it’s just the long-term switch away from early Chambers Creek fish to late-timed local stocks.

The former used to fuel solid holiday steelheading, most notably on the Cowlitz — 1,980 were harvested in December 2012, a figure which had slumped to just 88 in December 2016.

Future flame runs to pick up River and Kiran this time of year will just see fewer and fewer steelhead around.

With the new Mitchell Act biop, WDFW said the last release of Chambers smolts would be in spring 2017, into the Kalama, Coweeman, Washougal Rivers and Rock and Salmon Creeks, for return this winter.

Starting last year, Salmon and Kalama releases were being switched to a late-returning stock, while the other three were to be bridged with Eagle Creek, Oregon, fish.

WDFW said it hoped to develop an early-returning strain of winter steelhead out of late-timed broodstock, but warned that “will likely take a decade or more.”

By then I won’t have to taxi the boys anymore — they’ll be able to drive themselves back and forth to their Nana’s.

The younger one is more likely to detour to one of the streams along the way, and hopefully there will be some fish around for some midwinter break angling.

Ahhh, the continuing changing world of winter steelheading in the Northwest …

For what it’s worth, here is Spellman’s latest Southwest Washington fishing report, covering Jan. 1-6

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Elochoman River – 31 bank anglers kept 3 steelhead and released 1 coho jack.  2 boats/7 rods kept 2 steelhead.

Abernathy Creek – 3 bank anglers had no catch.

Germany Creek – 4 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 3 boats/5 rods kept 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  8 bank rods released 1 coho jack.  2 boats/4 rods had no catch

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 35 coho adults, 57 coho jacks, one cutthroat trout, one summer-run steelhead adult and four winter-run steelhead adults during four days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released one coho jack into the Cispus River near Randle and they released two coho adults and 15 coho jacks into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

Tacoma Power released 27 coho adults, 36 coho jacks, three winter-run steelhead adults and one cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,680 cubic feet per second on Monday, Jan. 7. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 44.8 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

East Fork Lewis River – 24 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.  3 boats/8 rods released 1 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 41 bank anglers had no catch.

  • Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Skykomish, Wallace, NF Stilly Closing Due To Low Steelhead Returns

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Portions of Skykomish and Wallace rivers to close to fishing

Action: Closes the Skykomish and Wallace rivers to fishing.

DUE TO LOW RETURNS OF HATCHERY STEELHEAD, THE SKYKOMISH (HERE), WALLACE AND NORTH FORK STILLAGUAMISH WILL CLOSE TO FISHING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Effective date: Jan. 7, 2019 through Feb. 15, 2019.

Species affected: All species.

Location: Skykomish River, from the mouth to the forks
Wallace River, from the mouth to 200 feet above the hatchery water intake.

Reason for action: The Wallace River and Reiter Ponds hatcheries currently have less than half of the early winter steelhead broodstock on hand needed to meet egg take goals. The early winter steelhead goals are 140,000 smolt from Reiter Ponds and 27,600 smolt from the Wallace Hatchery.

Additional information: Fishing will reopen when egg take goals have been met. The Snoqualmie, Snohomish rivers and tributaries remain open as described in the fishing rules pamphlet.

North Fork Stillaguamish River to close to fishing

Action: Closes the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River to fishing.

Effective date: Jan. 7, 2019 through Feb.15, 2019.

Species affected: All species.

Location: North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, from the mouth upstream to the Swede Heaven Bridge (includes the Fortson Hole area).

Reason for action: The Whitehorse Hatchery does not have enough early winter steelhead broodstock on hand to meet egg take goals. The goal is 130,000 smolt and the hatchery currently has 72,400 eggs on hand.

Additional information: Fishing will reopen when egg take goals have been met.