Archive for February, 2010

RMEF Fires Back On Wolf Groups’ ‘Disingenuous’ Use Of Its Data

February 26, 2010

(ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE)

In letters to legislators and newspapers across the West, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is calling out groups like Defenders of Wildlife, Western Wildlife Conservancy and others for their disingenuous use of data on wolves and elk.

The RMEF action was prompted by each group’s recent op-ed articles in the media, as well as testimony before Utah lawmakers by Western Wildlife Conservancy Executive Director Kirk Robinson. All cited RMEF statistics to argue that restored wolf populations have somehow translated to growing elk herds in the northern Rockies.

“The theory that wolves haven’t had a significant adverse impact on some elk populations is not accurate. We’ve become all too familiar with these groups’ tactic of cherry-picking select pieces of information to support their own agenda, even when it is misleading,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “We will not allow that claim to go unchallenged.”

RMEF population data, which come from state wildlife agencies, show that elk populations are expanding the most in areas of the northern Rockies where wolves are not present.

However, where elk share habitat with wolves, such as the greater Yellowstone area, some elk populations are declining fast. In fact, since the mid-1990s introduction of gray wolves, the northern Yellowstone elk herd has dropped from about 17,000 to 7,100 animals – a 58 percent decline. Other localities in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming also are documenting precipitous downward trends.

Additionally, some research shows that elk remaining in areas of concentrated wolf populations are suffering nutrition loss, lower body weights and decreasing birth rates.

Allen said, “Every wildlife conservation agency, both state and federal, working at ground zero of wolf restoration – Idaho, Montana and Wyoming — has abundant data to demonstrate how undermanaged wolf populations can compromise local elk herds and local livestock production. There’s just no dispute, and emotion-over-science is not the way to professionally manage wildlife.”

RMEF continues to support state-regulated wolf management to include hunting and other viable methods. This position is supported by new reports of diseased wolf populations in the Yellowstone area.

“When wolves are too abundant, they’re more susceptible to diseases, just like all wildlife. The viruses and mange now spreading through wolf packs is another sign of way too many wolves,” said Allen. “Defenders of Wildlife would like to spin sick wolves as a reason to end hunting. But real conservationists know that diseased wildlife populations need better management. Hunting as a management tool delivers that, period.”

He added, “Remember, pro-wolf groups make their living by prolonging this conflict. There is no real incentive for them to admit that wolves are overly recovered. Fundraising is their major motive and they’ve built a goldmine by filing lawsuits and preaching that nature will find its own equilibrium between predators and prey if man would just leave it alone. That’s a myth. The truth is that people are the most important part of the equation. This isn’t the Wild West anymore. People live here – actually quite a lot of us. So our land and resources must be managed. Wildlife must be managed. Radical spikes and dips in populations show that we should be doing it better. It’s not profitable for plaintiffs, but the rest of us would be better served if the conflict ended and conservation professionals were allowed to get on with their business of managing wildlife, including a well regulated hunting strategy.”

In 2009, RMEF got involved in the ongoing wolf litigation, supporting defendant agencies by filing legal briefs used in federal court to help delist wolves and proceed with hunting – “facts conveniently ignored by groups who misuse our name, data and credibility to prolong the conflict. We stand for elk and other wildlife and what is happening right now is simply not good wildlife management,” said Allen.

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‘Easy Pickings’ For Sea Lions As Sturg Keg At Dam

February 26, 2010

The Columbia Basin Bulletin reports today that the gathering of Steller sea lions below Bonneville Dam is chewing through white sturgeon at “nearly double last year’s record pace as they take advantage of a ‘slug’ of the big fish that have once again assembled in the area below the hydro project’s second powerhouse fish ladders.”

According to CBB’s article, the Stellers and a California sea lion have so far killed 532 sturgeon through late last week; they report that 758 sturgeon were observed killed from January through May of last year.

“It’s easy picking for them,” Corps of Engineers researcher Robert Stansell tells CBB.

A decline in the number of younger sturgeon led fishery managers in Washington and Oregon to reduce this year’s Lower Columbia sport-fishing quota by a whopping 40 percent. At the same time, they expanded the spawning sanctuary for the species by 3.5 miles and closed fishing there a fourth month, August.

Up to 19 sea lions and 12 seals have been seen at Bonneville at once so far this year, CBB reports. They cite a “status report” which indicates that “boat hazing continues to have some limited, local, short term impact in reducing predation in the tailrace.”

They say trapping will begin next week, but as for finding a zoo or aquarium that will take the surplus, though protected mammals, “as of this week, there are no such prospects this year.”

Managers are also expecting a large return of spring Chinook soon, and that could take the pressure off the sturgeon.

‘A Significant Loss Of Services’: WDFW Chief On Senate Budget

February 26, 2010

WDFW Director Phil Anderson is challenging cost-savings assumptions built into the state Senate Ways & Means Committee’s supplementary budget which merges his department into DNR, saying there would be “a significant loss of services” in several areas.

In a conversation this afternoon, he indicated that if passed, the Senate’s budget would mean things like fewer hatchery trout, salmon and steelhead, fewer game wardens and fewer state staffers around to answer questions from the public.

Already, the Fish & Wildlife Commission, the agency’s policy setting voice, has voiced its opposition to the merger. And now even sportsmen who don’t think highly of WDFW are rallying to the agency’s defense.

As it stands, the Ways & Means Committee would use Senate Bill 6813, introduced early this month, to abolish WDFW and move it, and State Parks, into DNR.

In an interview on TVW, 6813 cosponsor Sen. Rodney Tom says a merger would save $10 million a year “from a combination of personnel and operations — ending leases on the duplicate buildings.”

However, the cuts would come after WDFW has already seen 25 percent of its general fund budget stripped away over the past year, a cut that led to the loss of 10 percent of the agency’s workforce, Anderson says.

The effect of those cuts are becoming more apparent as this reporter waits longer and longer to get responses or information from WDFW staffers around the state (I actually called WDFW PR yesterday morning after the Senate budget was rolled out, but didn’t get a call from Anderson until around 3 p.m. today.)

As for what could go on the chopping block next, Anderson says 10 percent of the Fish Program’s budget would be cut, which would mean the Department couldn’t “continue to have the same levels of hatchery production and fisheries like selective fisheries.”

Selective fisheries, seasons which specifically target hatchery salmon and steelhead, have been rolled out in recent years, leading to good opportunities for Chinook in Central Puget Sound in summer and elsewhere in the winter.

Stocker trout are the most popular fishery around the entire state, generating $145.9 million in economic activity and 48 percent of all angler days, according to a Fish & Wildlife Commission report.

Then there’s policing those opportunities and others.

“You would lose 10 percent of 137 officers, so 14 officers,” says Anderson. “We think that’s bad for the resource. We don’t think it helps us meet our mandate of protecting fish and wildlife.”

Merging would seriously impact the scope of enforcement officers’ jurisdiction, basically extinguishing their “general authority,” making them more like park rangers.

Anderson says Business Services would be cut 20 percent.

And aquatic work by the Habitat Program would also be hurt, he adds.

“We don’t believe there are efficiencies to be had without a significant loss of service,” says Anderson, who has basically presided over some of the agency’s darkest days since coming on as the interim director in Dec. 2008, then as the permanent chief last September.

He acknowledges the state is in a very serious budget predicament and that there needs to be cuts, “no question about it.”

But he points out that the natural resource agencies suck up only 2 percent of the general fund, but already WDFW has had 25 percent of its budget from that source cut from just a year ago.

“With each additional cut, the public will notice fewer and fewer services we can provide,” says Anderson.

It’s not a done deal. The Senate’s Ways & Means Committee must reconcile its budget with the House Ways & Means Committee’s (which doesn’t include killing off WDFW) as well as Gov. Gregoire’s plan for the upcoming year.

But Anderson says he’ll be watching closely what happens.

As should sportsmen.

Below are the emails for all 22 members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Hunters and anglers are being asked to contact them and voice their opposition to folding WDFW into DNR.

Just now I fired off an email to my rep.

State Senator Margarita Prentice (Chair) – prentice.margarita@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Karen Fraser (Vice-Chair, Capital Budget) – fraser.karen@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Rodney Tom (Vice Chair, Operating Budget) – tom.rodney@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Joseph Zarelli (Ranking Minority) – zarelli.joseph@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Dale Brandland – brandland.dale@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Mike Carrell – carrell.michael@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Darlene Fairley – fairley.darlene@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Mike Hewitt – hewitt.mike@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Steve Hobbs – hobbs.steve@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Jim Honeyford – honeyford.jim@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Karen Keiser – keiser.karen@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Adam Kline – kline.adam@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles – kohl-welles.jeanne@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Joe McDermott – mcdermott.joe@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Ed Murray – murray.edward@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Eric Oemig – oemig.eric@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Linda Evans Parlette – parlette.linda@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Cheryl Pflug – pflug.cheryl@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Craig Pridemore – pridemore.craig@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Debbie Regala – regala.debbie@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Phil Rockefeller – rockefeller.phil@leg.wa.gov

State Senator Mark Schoesler – schoesler.mark@leg.wa.gov

HSUS Ups Reward On Tillamook Elk Poaching

February 25, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a $2,500 reward related to an Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division investigation to help solve the illegal kill and waste of three elk in the Trask Unit near Tillamook.  This reward is also in conjunction with a reward of up to $1,000 offered by the Oregon Hunter’s Association for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case.

On the weekend of February 13, 2010 a hunter came upon fresh elk remains in the roadway on Clear Creek Ridge Road, and a dead spike and cow elk about 40 yards off the roadway. The information was provided to the OSP Tillamook office several days later. On February 17th OSP Senior Trooper Lalo Guerra responded to the complaint and found three dead elk (one spike and two cows) in the area which is open to an emergency hunt.

“Reward offers from organizations like the Humane Society of the United States and Oregon Hunter’s Association can be a huge boost in helping to generate tips to solve cases such as this irresponsible poaching of elk in Tillamook County.  We appreciate this help and hope it will provide the key link to identifying who is responsible,” said Captain Walt Markee, Director of the OSP Fish & Wildlife Division.

Anyone with information is asked to call Senior Trooper Guerra at (503) 815-3315 or the Turn in Poacher (TIP) number at 1-800-452-7888.

More Salmon Forecasts Out

February 25, 2010

A Federal fishery management group’s salmon forecast finds just a hair more Puget Sound Chinook this year in the ocean and a solid jag more Sound coho, but mixed news for Willapa Bay silvers and kings.

And factoring in this year’s Columbia River salmon forecasts, early word is “more Chinook opportunity but less coho opportunity in 2010 ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon.”

The news comes from a press release put out today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council and their “Preseason Report I: Stock Abundance Analysis for 2010 Ocean Salmon Fisheries.”

PFMC uploaded the 113-page report yesterday, the second of four documents it will produce this winter and spring “intended to give perspective in developing 2010 management measures” as Washington, Oregon and California set summer fishing seasons.

The annual North of Falcon salmon-season-setting process has already kicked off in Washington, with a meeting last week on Strait of Juan de Fuca fisheries. WDFW will set out its forecasts and potential seasons next Tuesday, March 2, at a meeting in Olympia.

Meanwhile, here are some highlights from PFMC’s report:

PUGET SOUND CHINOOK

The 2010 preliminary forecast for Puget Sound summer/fall stocks is for a return of 225,664 Chinook, slightly higher than the 2009 preseason forecast of 222,371. The 2010 natural Chinook return forecast of 42,981 (includes supplemental category forecasts) is lower than the 2009 forecast of 56,568

Nooksack/Samish kings: 30,300; 09: 23,300

Skagit summer/fall kings: 13,000; 09: 23,400

Snohomish hatchery summer kings: 5,600; 09: 4,900

Hood Canal hatchery kings: 42,600; 09: 40,100

South Puget Sound hatchery kings: 97,400; 09: 93,000

PUGET SOUND COHO

The 2010 total hatchery and natural coho ocean recruit forecast for the Puget Sound region of 613,930 is 5.4 percent above the 2009 forecast of 582,462. The hatchery coho forecast of 316,133 is 6.7 percent below the 2009 forecast of 338,968, and the natural coho forecast of 297,797 is 22.3 percent above the 2009 forecast of 243,495.

HIGHLIGHTS

Skagit wild coho: 95,900; 09: 33,400

Snohomish wild coho: 99,400; 09: 67,400

Snohomish hatchery coho: 24,500; 09: 53,600

Hood Canal wild coho: 33,200; 09: 48,600

Hood Canal hatchery coho: 51,200; 09: 52,000

South Puget Sound hatchery coho: 186,400: 09: 188,800

South Puget Sound wild coho: 25,300; 09: 53,600

COASTAL KINGS

The 2010 Willapa Bay hatchery fall Chinook ocean escapement forecast is 31,135, which is lower than the 2009 prediction of 34,817. The 2010 natural fall Chinook ocean escapement forecast is 2,023, about the same as last year’s prediction of 1,951, but still less than the WDFW spawning escapement goal of 4,350.

For the Hoh River, the 2010 natural spring/summer Chinook ocean escapement forecast is 814, below the FMP conservation objective of 900. The natural fall Chinook forecast is 3,250, above the FMP conservation objective of 1,200.

The 2010 Quillayute hatchery spring Chinook ocean escapement forecast is 1,477 and the natural summer/fall Chinook forecast is 7,468 (1,184 summer, 6,284 fall). The FMP conservation objectives are spawning escapements of 1,200 summer Chinook and 3,000 fall Chinook.

HIGHLIGHTS

Willapa Bay fall hatchery kings: 31,100; 09: 34,800

Quillayute summer/fall kings: 7,500; 09: 6,800

COASTAL COHO

The 2010 Willapa Bay hatchery coho abundance forecast is 78,700 ocean recruits compared to a 2009 preseason forecast of 59,420. The natural coho forecast is 20,400 ocean recruits, compared to a 2009 preseason forecast of 33,544.

For 2010, Grays Harbor natural and hatchery coho forecasts were not agreed-to by the co-managers at the time of this report. This forecast and a description of the method used will be provided at a later date.

HIGHLIGHTS

Willapa Bay wild coho: 20,400; 09: 33,500

Willapa Bay hatchery coho: 78,700; 09: 59,400

NORTH OREGON COAST CHINOOK

Based on the density index of total spawners, the generalized expectation for NOC stocks in 2010 is
above recent years average abundance. Specifically, the 2009 spawner density in standard survey areas for the NOC averaged 60 spawners per mile, the lower bound of the FMP aggregate goal of 60 to 90 spawners per mile.

If there’s some really good news, it’s that PFMC doubles the forecast of Sacramento-bound Chinook this year — 245,000, up from a forecast of 122,000 in 2009. Officially, that “should provide adequate spawning escapement to meet management objectives and provide some fishing opportunity.”

While the Klamath River forecast is down, 331,500 this year compared to last year’s forecast of 505,700, it too “should provide adequate spawning escapement to meet the management objectives and provide some fishing opportunity.”

Again, these are abundance forecasts for which managers will then determine how much are needed to meet spawning goals and how many surplus will be available for all fisheries.

Poker, For A Cause

February 24, 2010

Got a good poker face, know the difference between a royal and straight flush, AND want to benefit Northwest sport fishing advocates?

You, my friend, may be perfect for the 1st Annual Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association Poker Tournament Fundraiser, presented by Three Rivers Marine & Tackle in Woodinville, Wash.

The event will be held March 5. It’s limited to 80 players, and seating begins at 6 p.m., shuffle up and deal at 7 p.m.

Buy-in is $100. All benefits go to the NSIA.

A partial list of the prizes include York Central AC Unit (installed), Silver Horde tackle package, private guided duck hunt, Scotty 1106 Electric Downrigger, a Sandy River steelhead trip, custom graphics, Sypher Custom Foot Orthotics, Lamiglas Rods and Yakima Bait tackle bags.

Sponsors include Three Rivers Marine, G. Loomis Rods, Daiwa Reels, Dick Nite Spoons, Trevor’s Guide Service, All Sports, Bob’s Heating & Air, Posey Company and Yakima Bait.

Three Rivers is located at 24300 Woodinville Snohomish Road, Woodinville, 98072. For more, call (425) 415-1575.

RMEF Projects In OR, WA Announced

February 24, 2010

(ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE)

Wildlife conservation projects in 12 Oregon and 17 Washington counties have been selected to receive grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in 2010.

In the Beaver State, funding totaling $153,500 will affect Benton, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Union and Wallowa counties.

In the Evergreen State, $186,270 will go towards projects in Asotin, Chelan, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Jefferson, King, Kittitas, Lincoln, Pacific, Pierce, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Whitman and Yakima counties.

RMEF president and CEO David Allen said the grants are possible because of the successful banquets and fundraisers staged over the past year by volunteers in Washington and Oregon, “most of whom are elk hunters as well as devoted conservationists.”

Since 1984, RMEF annual grants have helped complete 433 different projects in Washington with a combined value of more than $101 million, 633 different projects in Oregon with a combined value of more than $36 million, he says.

RMEF grants will help fund the following projects, listed by county:

Asotin County, Wash.: Reduce decadent grasses and improve elk forage by prescribed burning 932 acres in the Dry Fork area of Umatilla National Forest; use herbicide to treat noxious weeds on 995 acres and re-seed native grasses on 200 acres in the Lower Grande Ronde River corridor; treat noxious weeds scattered throughout 60,640-acre Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex (also affects Garfield and Columbia counties); treat noxious weeds on 300 acres in the Grande Ronde River breaks to improve native forage and encourage elk to use public lands rather than private-land hayfields to the north; treat 250 acres of invasive weeds as part of an early detection rapid response program; treat 425 acres of weeds in the Snake River canyonlands; treat 200 acres of noxious weeds in the Meyer Ridge area.

Crook County, Ore.: Thin 575 acres of juniper encroachment in meadows and aspen stands, treat noxious weeds on 160 acres, and restore riparian habitat along 2 miles of stream in the Deep Creek area of Ochoco National Forest; hand-cut and burn 400 acres of encroaching juniper in the Maury Mountains area of Ochoco National Forest.

Curry County, Ore.: Prescribe burn 129 acres, and re-seed native grasses on 20 acres, to maintain forage areas for elk and other wildlife in the Wildhorse Prairie area of Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Deschutes County, Ore.: Thin conifer from willow and aspen stands, prescribe burn 15 acres and treat noxious weeds on 5 acres in Tumalo Creek area of Deschutes National Forest.

Douglas County, Ore.: Create 20 acres of forage openings and plant shrubs on 93 acres to improve 113 acres of habitat for elk in the Umpqua National Forest.

Ferry County, Wash.: Prescribed burn 550 acres of elk winter range to reduce hazardous fuels and improve grasses, forbs and shrubs in Colville National Forest.

Grant County, Ore.: Rehab 100 acres of meadow habitat used by foraging elk and deer in the Rudio Mountain area; thin encroaching conifer to restore 150 acres of meadow in the Logan Valley area of Malheur National Forest; remove juniper to promote sagebrush and bitterbrush growth on 1,235 acres in the Murderer’s Creek area of Malheur National Forest and state lands; re-seed native grasses on 880 acres in the Chrome Ridge area; thin 270 acres, construct fencing around 2 acres of aspen stands, treat noxious weeds and reconstruct two springs in Ochoco National Forest.

Harney County, Ore.: Enhance habitat for elk and other wildlife by repairing wildlife drinking stations, collecting native shrub seeds, reseeding habitat areas and employing livestock practices to control noxious weeds in the Egley wildfire area of Malheur National Forest; thin encroaching conifer on 160 acres, replace fencing around aspen stands and develop five ponds or wildlife drinking stations in the Pine Creek area of Malheur National Forest.

Kittitas County, Wash.: Provide funding for Green Dot Access Management Program projects managed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (also affects Chelan, King, Jefferson, Pierce and Yakima counties).

Lane County, Ore.: Improve forage for elk by removing encroaching conifer and noxious weeds to restore 283 acres of meadows in Willamette National Forest; treat noxious weeds and re-seed native grasses on 100 acres, and rejuvenate browse on 102 acres, in the Foley Ridge area of Willamette National Forest; thin and prescribe burn 112 acres and re-seed native grasses in the Chucksney and Grasshopper meadows area of Willamette National Forest; prescribe burn 56 acres, plant oak seedlings on 40 acres, and re-seed native grasses on 200 acres in the Jim’s Creek area of Willamette National Forest; mechanically treat noxious weeds and re-seed native grasses on 500 acres in the Siuslaw National Forest (also affects Benton, Douglas and Lincoln counties).

Linn County, Ore.: Remove encroaching trees from meadow complexes used year-round by foraging elk in the Lodgepole Flats area of Willamette National Forest; create 40 acres of forage openings in the Yellowstone Creek area of BLM lands.

Pacific County, Wash.: Improve forage for elk, dusky Canada geese and other wildlife by treating noxious weeds, cultivating, applying lime, fertilizing, seeding and mowing on 200 acres at Chinook Wildlife Area.

Pend Oreille County, Wash.: Enhance meadow habitat for elk by thinning 96 acres of encroaching forest and installing fencing to protect aspen stands in the Pend Oreille Valley area of Colville National Forest; prescribed burn 200 acres to improve forage in the Upper Middle Fork of Calispell Creek area of Colville National Forest; rejuvenate browse species by prescribed burning 90 acres in the Lost Creek area of Colville National Forest.

Skamania County, Wash.: Thin encroaching conifers on 617 acres to promote forage for elk and other wildlife in the Wind River area of Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Spokane County, Wash.: Capture and radio-collar 20 elk for a research project to study elk movement patterns and habitat use in response to a new hunt program at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (also affects Whitman and Lincoln counties).

Stevens County, Wash.: Prescribed burn 200 acres to reduce conifers and improve grassland habitat for elk in Colville National Forest.

Union County, Ore.: Control noxious weeds, re-seed native grasses and develop water sources for elk and other wildlife on 705 acres near Ladd Marsh Wildlife Management Area.

Wallowa County, Ore.: Treat 828 acres of noxious weeds to improve forage for elk along the Grande Ronde and Imnaha river corridors (also affects Union County).

Senate Budget Kills WDFW

February 24, 2010

Budgets released this week by majority Democrats in both houses of the Washington Legislature show one branch wants to merge WDFW and State Parks with DNR while the other would keep the agencies separate.

The Senate Ways & Means Committee’s 2010 supplemental budget, put out yesterday, zeroes out WDFW’s budget for 2010-11 and consolidates it with DNR and Parks through SB 6813.

However, the House Ways & Means Committee’s budget, sent out this morning, keeps WDFW as a separate agency.

As the state has grappled with monstrous budget deficits, the Senate’s move follows up on efforts last year exploring whether to merge the natural resource agencies into a single entity, DNR. Late in 2009 word came out that a merge wasn’t recommended, but it still appears the Senate at least has it on the table through 6813.

Recently, the Fish & Wildlife Commission came out against the bill, which has been mired in a committee since introduction in late January.

TVW has a piece that talks to one of 6813’s sponsors, Sen. Rodney Tom. He explains a merger would save $10 million a year “from a combination of personnel and operations — ending leases on the duplicate buildings.”

TVW also speaks with Sen. Joe Zarelli who points out that putting WDFW under DNR would mean the agency would be under a statewide office holder “who might be more inclined to direct decisions around politics, which has been the historical problem. The commission has all but worked through that issue and would hate to see a reversion.”

DNR is overseen by Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, an Okanogan County Democrat who defeated Doug Sutherland, a Republican, in 2008.

Even as some sportsman claim WDFW has become the “Department of No Fish and No Wildlife” — an agency “less interested in enhancing deer and elk herds than it is in bringing back wolves and giving them a big hug” — game advocates are still sounding the alarm about the Senate’s move, firing off a “high priority action alert” this morning with instructions to readers on what to do.

They suggest contacting the 22 members of the Ways & Means Committee and stating that “hunters and fishers of the state are adamantly opposed to merging WDFW into DNR.”

Warns Dave Workman, a longtime observer of Washington politics and game species:

Want to talk about a disaster? This is the kind of scenario that the late Irwin Allen would have put on film as The Towering Bureaucracy. If hunters think they have little influence now, wait until that mega-agency becomes a reality.

He worries that under DNR, hunters and anglers would be the folks at the bottom of the totem pole. Above us would be “hikers, commercial fishermen, wolf lovers, loggers, bird watchers, campers,” among others.

On piscatorialpursuits, a poster claiming to be a WDFW employee points out:

“DNR is a resource extractor. Fish and Wildlife is a conservation agency but the hunting fishing side is similar to the resource extracting for DNR. The scary aspect is thatthat the 3 agencies are not merging. Instead DNR is taking over the WDFW and state parks functions. My job is safe short term and possibly the long term. But DNR butts heads with Fish and Wildlife all the time. What will happen once DNR has a say in who the Assistant Directors are for the Wildlife, Hababit and Fish programs.”

(As an aside, House Bill 3144 “Requires the director of the department of fish and
wildlife, before appointing or employing an individual as the regional director of a departmental suboffice, to ensure that the candidate is fully vetted with the local community.”)

WDFW is the bastard child of a 1994 merger of the Department of Fisheries and Department of Wildlife (the latter known as the Department of Game until 1987).

Workman, who remembers those days, says instead of a merger, split WDFW in half again, one part dealing with tribal and commercial issues, the other a “Department of Fish and Game, whose job it should be to put ten million more trout into our lakes and streams, produce two to five million more steelhead, increase the deer herds by 50,000 and add 10,000 more elk, and that’s just for starters.”

Meanwhile, the halves of the Legislature will try to reconcile their budgets as well as Gov. Gregoire’s.

“All three budgets would raise taxes to fill at least part of the budget gap,” reports the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

February 24, 2010

Well, if you’re not all sports-showed out, you can hit this weekend’s event in Medford, or next week’s saltwater fishing show in Newport.

In the meanwhile, here’s what’s fishing in Oregon, courtesy ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Cooper Creek Reservoir and Lake Selmac have been recently stocked with trout.
  • Several area lakes and reservoirs continue to offer good fishing for holdover trout stocked last fall. These include the Coos County lakes, Expo Pond, Galesville Reservoir, Lost Creek Reservoir and Reinhart Pond.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Steelhead fishing continues to be good for boat anglers in The Dalles and John Day Pools. Bank anglers are also catching a few fish.
  • Winter steelhead and a few spring chinook should be available on the lower Columbia for boat and bank anglers.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • A few early arrival spring chinook are being taken on the Willamette River.
  • Winter steelhead fishing is good in the Clackamas and Sandy rivers and Eagle Creek. Steelhead are spread throughout both systems and some good catches have been reported.
  • Sturgeon fishing is good on the lower Willamette River

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Fly fishers should consider a trip to the Fall River where good hatches are producing good catches.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Ice fishing on Unity and Wolf Creek reservoirs has been very good. But ice conditions are changing so please use caution.
  • Thief Valley Reservoir currently has excellent fishing for large rainbow trout.
  • Fly-fishing (catch-and-release only) has been good on the Blitzen River.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Anglers continue to report good fishing on the Grande Ronde, Wallowa, Imnaha and John Day rivers.
  • Anglers have been catching both stocked trout and kokanee on Wallowa Lake.

MARINE ZONE

  • Ocean conditions allowed many fishers to pursue ling cod and rockfish. The fishing was good, proving that bottom fishing is good when ocean conditions permit. Calmer oceans usually mean better fishing success. Lingcod are in shallower waters to spawn. Divers may find success spearing along rocky jetties for ling cod and black rockfish.
  • The entire Oregon coast is now open to recreational and commercial clam harvesting. The area from Clatsop Beach north of the Necanicum River to the Columbia River had been closed to razor clamming since Dec. 18, 2009 but opened last week when PSP levels dropped below the alert level.
  • Mussel harvesting is open on the entire Oregon coast, from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border. The consumption of whole, recreationally-harvested scallops is not recommended. However, coastal scallops are not affected by toxins when only the adductor muscle is eaten.

Dishonor Roll: Two Cited In NW Poaching Cases

February 23, 2010

Word out today naming Travis J. Bush, 25, of Tillamook, and Jake B. Fouts, 20, of Nampa, Idaho, as suspects in a pair of unrelated poaching incidents.

Bush is suspected in the illegal shooting and waste of a trophy bull elk near Tillamook last October, according to an Oregon State Police press release today.

It reads:

The investigation started October 31, 2009 when OSP Trooper Casey Thomas responded to a report of the illegal killing and waste of the trophy elk off the Aldercrest Road System just north of the Wilson River near Tillamook.  A news release was sent out asking for the public’s help to identify a suspect.

According to OSP Trooper Ryan Howell, a tip led the investigation to identify TRAVIS J. BUSH, age 25, from Tillamook, as a suspect in the case.  BUSH was subsequently cited to appear in Tillamook County Circuit Court for:

* Taking a Bull Elk Closed Season
* Waste of a Game Mammal – Bull Elk

Meanwhile, over in Idaho Fouts was charged with shooting and killing a bighorn sheep ewe last Sunday afternoon in Owyhee County.

The alleged incident took place just off the upper Reynolds Creek Road above Hemmingway Butte.

According to an IDFG press release:

A witness to the incident was watching the same band of sheep when the ewe pitched over dead. The witness secured vehicle descriptions and license plate numbers from the suspect vehicles, then called the Owyhee County Sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office quickly passed the word to Idaho Fish and Game.

From opposite sides of the Reynolds Creek area, Fish and Game Officers Kurt Stieglitz and Craig Mickelson converged. Stieglitz stopped Fouts on Highway 45 just north of Walter’s Ferry. After seizing several firearms, Stieglitz arrested Fouts, who was then booked into the Owyhee County jail. Mickelson and Owyhee County Sheriff Daryl Crandall recovered the dead bighorn ewe at the location described by the witness.

The felony charge against Fouts carries a maximum fine of $50,000, a prison sentence of up to five years and a civil penalty of $1,500. A judge could also revoke Fouts’ hunting privileges for one year to life.

SW WA Fishing Report

February 22, 2010

(JOE HYMER, PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Steelhead fishing improved last week.   Lots of rumors that anglers have heard from other anglers that people have caught a springer or two though none have been found in the creel sample yet.  The first spring Chinook of the year returned to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator today!

Last week 50 bank anglers kept 5 steelhead and released 1 while 27 boat anglers kept 6 and released 1.

Lower Columbia mainstem from the I-5 bridge downstream – We sampled our first spring Chinook of the season last week.  The fish was caught in the Longview area.

Spring-like weather and reports of some fish being caught resulted in higher effort this past weekend with almost 200 boats and 175 bank anglers counted during the Saturday Feb. 20 flight.

Bonneville Pool – No effort for steelhead was observed.

The Dalles Pool – Low effort though anglers are catching steelhead though most were wild fish that had to be released.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers are catching some wild steelhead that had to be released.  No catch was observed from the bank.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia mainstem from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – Boat anglers around Kalama were catching some legals; slow on other areas of the river.

Bonneville Pool – Now catch and release through the end of the year.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers are catching some legals.  Slow from the bank.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged a legal kept/released per every 9 rods.  Slow from the bank.   Effective March 1, 2010 through the end of the year, the retention of sturgeon will be prohibited. Catch-and-release fishing will be allowed.

WALLEYE AND BASS

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers are catching some walleye; no effort observed for bass.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers averaged over a walleye kept/released per every 2 rods.  Bank anglers were also catching some fish.  No effort observed for bass.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers are catching some walleye.  No effort observed for bass.

TROUT

Horseshoe Lake in Woodland – No report on angling success.  Planted with 30 four-pound and 297 half-pound rainbows Feb. 16.

Rowland Lake near Lyle – No report on angling success.  Planted with 31 four-pound and 292 half-pound rainbows Feb. 17.  However, Feb. 28 is the last day to fish.

Carlisle Lake (near Onalaska), Davis Lake (Lewis County), Fort Borst Park Pond and Plummer Lake (near Centralia), Kidney Lake (near North Bonneville), Scanewa Lake (Cowlitz Falls Reservoir), Northwestern Reservoir (on the White Salmon River), and Spearfish Lake (near Dallesport) – Feb. 28 is the last day to fish.

SMELT

Cowlitz River – No smelt were observed or reported caught Saturday Feb. 20.  Next Saturday Feb. 27 is the last day to fish for smelt in the Cowlitz.

He’s ‘INN’ Tune With NW Game And Fish

February 22, 2010

Ever walk away from your duck blind to go pee and have flocks finally drop in?

Or put your rifle away and watch as a buck suddenly appears at deer camp?

Or move from one fishing spot to another only to have the bite happen where you just were?

Been there, done that.

And so has Bill Monroe, the venerable columnist for The Oregononian.

He’s figured out that our game animals aren’t just hard-wired for survival: They’re also wired up to the Inter-Nature-Net, a “network among wild things through which they not only connect and track our every movement, but also read our minds.”

The creation of the Internet by humans is a bit of a breakthrough in understanding the foundations of Mother Nature’s secret, but the Inter-Nature-Net (INN.wild, or INN for short) has been eons in development. We’re no match for advanced silent communication. Even ESP and Hollywood imaginations pale in comparison. The better a critter tastes, the more tuned it is to the INN.

This is, of course, the revelation we’ve suspected all along, the only logical excuse for shortcomings in the field, where evidence abounds.

Pretty good stuff. You can read the rest of it here.

2010 Columbia Fall King Forecast Out

February 20, 2010
 
 
Stock Group
2010 February Forecasts 2009 Actual Returns 2009 February Forecasts
Lower River Hatchery – LRH 90,600 76,700 88,800
Lower River Wild – LRW 9,700 7,500 8,500
Bonneville Pool Hatchery – BPH 169,000 49,000 59,300
Upriver Bright – URB 310,800 212,000 259,900
Bonneville Upriver Bright – BUB 30,300 39,000 50,000
Pool Upriver Bright – PUB 42,300 34,100 44,400
Columbia River Total 652,700 418,300 510,900

3 Elk Shot, Wasted Near Tillamook

February 19, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish and Wildlife Division is asking for the public’s help to identify the suspect(s) responsible for the illegal kill and waste of three elk in the Trask Unit near Tillamook. A reward of up to $ 1000.00 is being offered by the Oregon Hunter’s Association for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case.

ONE OF THREE ELK SHOT AND LEFT OUTSIDE TILLAMOOK. (OSP)

On the weekend of February 13, 2010 a hunter came upon fresh elk remains in the roadway on Clear Creek Ridge Road, and a dead spike and cow elk about 40 yards off the roadway.  The information was provided to the OSP Tillamook office several days later.  On February 17th OSP Senior Trooper Lalo Guerra responded to the complaint and found three dead elk (one spike and two cows) in the area which is open to an emergency hunt.

Anyone with information is asked to call Senior Trooper Guerra at (503) 815-3315 or the Turn in Poacher (TIP)

Late Feb. Steel Ops Shrink In ’11-12

February 19, 2010

If you’re a Nooksack, Skykomish or Snoqualmie River steelheader sitting at home this mid-February weekend instead of trying to tangle with a wild winter-run or two — or maybe card a late hatchery fish — get used to that empty feeling.

This season’s early close of fishing will be repeated the next two years, at a minimum.

Not that there’s a whole lot of steelhead in those rivers to chase this time of year — and that’s the problem.

Returns of hatchery and native fish have been declining for over a decade. Search WDFW’s news releases and you’ll find an article about eight North Sound streams that closed for a month during the winter of 1997-98 to ensure that hatchery broodstock goals were met.

Then in November 2000, it was announced that the Skykomish’s popular spring catch-and-release wild-steelhead fishery would be a no-go. It was one of eight streams, from the Skagit to the Puyallup, that were closed early that winter.

While the Sky’s C&R season managed to stay in the fishing pamphlet for half a decade, managers finally wrote it out of the book.

And now the Fish & Wildlife Commission has edited the book even further, chopping out the last half of February on a host of North Puget Sound streams including the lower Skykomish.

At its meeting earlier this month, commissioners approved moving the end of the season up by two weeks to Feb. 15 for the 2011 and 2012 winter seasons.

In addition to the streams listed at the top of this piece, Pilchuck Creek and the Snohomish, Pilchuck, North, South and Middle Forks of the Nooksack, Stillaguamish and Raging rivers come under the new rule as well.

The end of retention and start of catch and release seasons on the Skagit was also moved up a month to Feb. 15, except from Highway 536 to the Dalles Bridge where you can still keep two hatchery steelies a day under selective-gear rules from Feb. 16-March 31 next winter.

April on the Skagit? Adios, it seems.

For now, the Sauk would still be open in the fourth month — just not this year.

The Fish & Wildlife Commission also approved closing wild steelhead retention on the Green/Duwamish, Hoko and Pysht rivers, moved the start of wild steelhead keeper season on the remaining West End rivers to Feb. 16, and tightened gear regulations there too.

According to WDFW, these new early closures are meant to “provide more protection for wild steelhead present in these rivers.”

The fish were listed under the Endangered Species Act in spring 2007.

At that time we all wondered what, exactly, the affect of the federal listing on the fishing would be.

Weren’t many answers at the time, but officials did suggest there would probably be more targeted seasons.

That’s becoming apparent.

Under the new rules, the Skykomish will stay open through the end of February from the mouth of the Wallace River upstream to the forks, the Snoqualmie from Plumb Landing up to the falls to intercept pokey hatchery fish waiting to enter Reiter Ponds or Tokul Creek.

And WDFW’s statewide steelhead manager Heather Bartlett told me for our November 2009 issue that rivers without hatchery traps will no longer be planted with smolts.

The Tolt, a Snoqualmie trib without a trap, hasn’t seen a winter-run stocking since 2004; 2006 was the last year for the Samish, Canyon Creek, South Fork Stillaguamish and North Fork Skykomish. And in the future, the list will include the Raging, Sultan, Sauk and more.

Bartlett also said that traps will be kept open longer to collect as many fin-clipped fish as possible, but that all broodstock steelhead must be in hand by Jan. 31.

“Get a fish Feb. 1? You can’t use it,” she told me.

It represents a massive change from the winter waterscape that King and Snohomish county steelheaders have known for decades.

“There was a time when a guy could go fish almost any river in north Puget Sound and there was an opportunity to catch a hatchery steelhead,” a source told me. “Now that opportunity is not going to be there in a real sense. There may be a stray fish or two, but if a guy in December goes down to, say, the Pilchuck, they’re going to be wasting their time. They’re going to be fishing vacant water.”

It’s a new world for Northwest Washington steelheaders, and that’s becoming clearer and clearer.

We’ve been told, in so many words, that our job is now to remove as many hatchery steelhead from the spawning grounds, to keep them from breeding with the wilds and messing up the genetics.

Over on the upper Columbia, we’ve actually been required to keep every hatchery we catch this season.

Kayaker Karl Stomberg just this moment sent me a pic that shows he’s doing his part, pulling a near-limit from the Okanogan last weekend. He describes his adventure over Northwestkayakanglers.com.

OKANOGAN STEELHEAD FOR KARL STOMBERG OF STANWOOD. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Back on the Westside, the problem is that the new shorter season may not always coincide with good fishing.

Mark Coleman of All Rivers Guide Service and several others wrote letters to WDFW this week, arguing that the early shut down of fishing effective yesterday on the Snoqualmie is ill-timed with a number of fin-clipped fish still in the river.

“Seeing an abnormal amount of these late hatchery fish is great except for the fact that the WDFW is shutting the rivers down after today. That means instead of being able to catch, kill and remove these fish from the system … these hatchery steelhead will remain in the system. Sounds like some fine management again, don’t it!?” Coleman stated.

Fine management or not, this is what the future looks like for now.

Bank Only Spring King Fishing Above I-205

February 19, 2010

A pair of fishery managers, one from Washington, one from Oregon, signed off on spring Chinook regulations Feb. 18 that will give this season on the Lower Columbia a different feel from usual.

While much of the river will see the usual hoglines and fleets of trollers, the water from the I-205 bridge to Bonneville Dam will be completely bereft of boats.

Only bank anglers will be allowed to work the big river in that stretch for this year’s projected record return of upriver spring Chinook — some 470,000 fish.

And the best bank fishing will likely be just below Bonneville Dam — at least before hordes of sea lions show up, as they have in recent years.

According to one longtime fishery observor, it will be the first time since at least 2000 that that sort of regulation has been put on the lower river — and may be the first time ever. But with the Columbia running lower than in previous seasons, it’s a way to keep from chewing up impacts on ESA-listed wild fish too quickly.

And then there’s this year’s catch-sharing agreements. As Allen Thomas of The Columbian writes, “Pete Hassemer of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said Thursday the big fleet in the lower Columbia is catching a disproportionate number of spring chinook from four Idaho hatcheries, shorting inland anglers.”

The seasons are emblematic of managers’ caution with this year’s return. The past two seasons have seen forecasts fall flat on their faces — returns of just 54 percent and 66 percent of the preseason prediction in 2009 and 2008.

There’s also that massive jack return last season, some 82,000, and whether all those 3-year-old fish will translate into adults this year.

But if the run comes in, it would be the largest return since at least 1938.

We preview the best spots to fish, top rigs, run science and more in our March issue, out to subscribers and on newsstands starting next week!

Here are reactions to the seasons from overnight:

“It’s going to be very difficult for us to explain to the angling public why there’s a half million fish in the river and their fishing options are so constrained.”

Liz Hamilton, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, as reported by Joel Shangle of Northwest Wild Country Radio

“Ok ive read it several times. So my understanding is that you will not be allowed to fish for springers Above 205 on the columbia holy man that sucks!! I love that water I think im gonna cry now all those boats that fish that area will be with all the boats that fish 205 I-5 water oh my!!”

Metal Head on Ifish

“Guess I will have to throw away all the eggs and learn to troll herring.”

Kevin Lund on piscatorialpursuits

“WTF April 3rd Look at the old counts things don’t even get going til around the second week. Un believable!! Maybe they want to buy my damn boat!! “Fishing From the Bank ” It is the damn Coumbia river one of the largest in the world. Come ON!!”

fire escape, also on piscatorialpursuits.com

“It doesn’t seem right to discriminate on the basis of geography.’’

Bob Morgan of Washougal, quoted by Allen Thomas of The Columbian

“I’m extremely frustrated again that anglers in the Gorge are going to bite the bullet for spring salmon.”

Sheilla Cannon of Dodson, Ore., also quoted by Thomas

“Above I-205 sounds like “Boating to a Bank” may be a good option to try.”

Wheatie, also on Ifish

“It looks about normal to me … restricted fishing to protect the ESA listed stocks and areas determined to help extend the season as long as possible … We’re going to have to work hard to catch 17000 fish … tune up your reels, re-tie your knots, sharpen your hooks, grease your axels, test your motors … this warm weather is going to light up the fishing!”

Pete, an administrator on Ifish

“Calm is a good thing … I’m pleased with what we’ve done here today.”

Steve Williams, ODFW, on the “remarkably smooth” season-setting process this year as compared to previous go-arounds, as reported by Henry Miller of the Salem Statesman Journal

“The message sent to the sport anglers of Washington and Oregon today by the Columbia River Compact: Learn how to fish upriver.”

Joel Shangle, Northwest Wild Country Radio

“Compared to the past two years, anglers will have much more generous spring chinook seasons in the lower Columbia River this year.”

Tom Paulu, Longview Daily News

Shangle and Paulu are both correct.

Managers say they’re “encouraged” by the forecast — 559,000 fish overall when you add in a good Willamette run plus the Cowlitz and other tribs — and say they’ve approved rules that will “provide Columbia River anglers with a full range of fishing opportunities above and below Bonneville Dam in March and April.”

They slapped a 40 percent buffer on the run to ensure that upstream tribal and recreational anglers can fish, as well protect wild stocks.

“This approach gives us the flexibility to match fishing opportunities to the actual size of the run,” said Guy Norman, WDFW regional director, in a press release.  “As we’ve seen in the past two years, it can create real problems when runs fall short of expectations.”

A run update will be done in early May.

“Thanks to the large run forecast this year we are able to craft a spring chinook season that includes plenty of fishing opportunity throughout the river,” said Steve Williams deputy administrator of ODFW’s fish division, also in a press release. “If the forecast comes in as expected we may be able to provide even more opportunity.”

Norman and Williams were the two gents signing off on the fishery.

While the bank-only fishery from I-205 to Bonneville rankles some anglers, as Shangle points to, there’s a whole lot of opportunity above the dam.

Indeed, Stuart Ellis, one of the guys who we both talked to about how he and a technical committee came up with the springer forecast, warned me months ago, “The opportunities may not be in your favorite area, or your preferred area to fish. You may have to go to choice number two or three.”

Managers approved 7-day-a-week fishing from Bonneville to McNary from March 16 through May 31. While it’s also bank only from Bonneville upstream to the Tower Island power lines, which is six miles downstream from The Dalles Dam, there’s a lot of water up here for boat fishing. Plus you’ll be able to keep two hatchery Chinook a day in that stretch.

We’re also learning that springer fisheries below Lower Granite, Little Goose and Ice Harbor dams are probably.

Bill Monroe, a columnist for The Oregonian, blogged about yesterday’s season-setting meeting as it happened.

As it stands, spring Chinook seasons for March and April are:

* Buoy 10 upstream to the I-5 Bridge: Seven days per week from March 1 through April 18, except closed on the following Tuesdays: March 9, 16, 23 and 30.

* I-5 Bridge upstream to I-205 Bridge: Seven days per week from March 1-14, except closed on Tuesday March 9. Beginning March 18 through April 3, fishing will be limited to three days per week, Thursday through Saturday.

* I-205 Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam: Bank angling only, seven days per week from March 1-14, except closed on Tuesday March 9. Beginning March 18 through April 3, fishing will be limited to three days per week, Thursday through Saturday.

Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam will be allowed to retain one adult adipose-fin-clipped spring chinook salmon per day.

ODFW also announced that the Willamette River will stay open seven days a week, with a daily bag limit of two adipose fin-clipped Chinook or steelhead in any combination. The agency is forecasting a return of 62,700 Chinook in the Willamette, which is one of the strongest returns in several years.

As outlined in WDFW’s rule pamphlet, Columbia River anglers may retain shad and hatchery steelhead when fishing is open for spring Chinook.

Springer Seasons Being Set

February 18, 2010

Will it be what’s behind Door No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 — or some combination thereof?

We’ll have to wait and see as Washington and Oregon fishery managers decide today on Lower Columbia sport fisheries for prized spring Chinook.

Here are the options on the table, according to a PDF from ODFW:

OPTION 1

Below I-5 Bridge March 1 – April 24, 2010  (7 d per week except closed to salmon & steelhead angling on Tuesdays, March 9, 16, 23, and 30)

Bank angling only from Rooster Rock upstream to Bonneville Dam, March 1 – March 14 (7 d per week)  and March 18 – April 2 (3 d per week, Thursday – Saturday)

Total angler trips = 143,400 (51 retention days)

OPTION 2

Below I-5 Bridge, March 1 – April 20, 2010  (7 d per week except closed to salmon & steelhead angling on Tuesdays, March 9, 16, 23, and 30)

I-5 Bridge to I-205 Bridge, plus bank angling only from I-205 upstream to Bonneville Dam, March 18 – April 3 (3 d per week, Thursday – Saturday)

Total angler trips = 139,600 (47 retention days)

OPTION 3

Below I-5 Bridge, March 1 – April 16, 2010  (7 d per week except closed to salmon & steelhead angling on Tuesdays, March 9, 16, 23, and 30)

I-5 Bridge to Rooster Rock, plus bank angling only from Rooster Rock upstream to Bonneville Dam, March 1 – March 14 (7 d per week ) and March 18 – April 2 (3 d per week, Thursday – Saturday)

Total angler trips = 134,600 (43 retention days)

Daily limit would be two hatchery salmonids, but only one hatchery adipose-fin-clipped spring Chinook.

While a record run of 470,000 upriver springers are forecast, managers will set preliminary seasons as if the run actually is 30 percent lower than that to provide upriver states and tribes with more of the catch. The past two years have seen runs only 54 and 66 percent of forecast and those fishermen have missed out.

Agency directors met prior to this meeting and agreed to, as an ODFW PDF reads, the following management options:

• Manage non-treaty fisheries for a 40% run size buffer prior to the run update

• Prior to the run update the allocation of upriver fish including release mortalities would be:

• 17,200 fish for the sport fishery below Bonneville Dam

• 4,500 fish to be used as follows (based on in-season assessment):

• To provide a higher degree of certainty of meeting the sport season objectives above Bonneville Dam

• To provide flexibility to meet pre-update sport season objectives below Bonneville Dam

• 8,300 fish for the mainstem commercial fishery

• 400 for the SAFE commercial season

• At the forecasted run size, it is expected that no more than one half of the non-treaty harvest would occur prior to the run size update.

Writer Bill Monroe, a freelancer for The Oregonian, is doing a live blog from the meeting. As it kicks off, he reports “40-50 public here.”

“You upriver folks will be happy to learn all options include a March 16-May 31 fishing season from Bonneville to McNary,” he adds.

While we’ve got a mess of other things we’re working on here at the office, Bill’s rundown isn’t just distracting for us.

“Your making for an unproductive day but thanks for the updates, I’ve got everyone on the crew asking me every 5 minutes for the update. thanks thanks thanks bill,” writes jordanb38.

The meeting will also set Lower Columbia and SAFE commercial  springer, and recreational sturgeon fisheries.

Chetco ‘Fishing Fair To Good’

February 18, 2010

Before he headed for the Roseburg Sportsmen’s and Outdoor Recreation Show this weekend, Brookings guide and Capt. Andy Martin filed this South Coast steelheading report and pic:

The Chetco is fishing fair to good. The Elk was good early in the week, but is now low and clear. The Sixes should be good for the weekend. We’ve been getting one to three fish a day. All of the fish are nice, mostly chromers.

Pink Puff Balls, roe cured in Pautke’s BorxOFire and size 2 Eagle Claw hooks have been the go-to bait all week.

The Chetco dropped to 4,000 cfs Wednesday morning and should be in the 2,000 to 3,000 cfs range this weekend. If we get showers this weekend, even if the river doesn’t rise, it should be prime.

CLIENTS OF GUIDE ANDY MARTIN (RIGHT) WITH A CHETCO STEELHEAD FROM TUESDAY. (WILDRIVERSFISHING.COM)

Sprague Boots Out Limits

February 18, 2010

“It was a good way to start trout season,” says Leroy Ledeboer about he and a friend’s trip out to rainbow-stuffed Sprague Lake yesterday.

The Moses Lake-based Northwest Sportsman writer and Glen Steffler both limited on gorgeous pink-meated trout, one of which went 21 1/2 inches and fought as hard as a “salmon.”

BIG FISH OF THE TRIP, A 21.5-INCHER FOR NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN PEN LEROY LEDEBOER. (GLENN STEFFLER)

The duo were dragging three lines — Ledeboer’s taken advantage of Washington’s new two-rod license — two of which were spinners and worms, the other a Needlefish.

Red and silver seemed to be the color of the day: That was the color of the Needlefish, which accounted for three trout, as well as the pattern on the spinner blade.

They also used a two-toned yellow and green blade in front of worms, a color that’s done well at the lake other times.

Ledeboer says they ran the spoon straight off the back of his boat at about two and a half colors of leaded line while they ran the spinners off downriggers set from 8 to 20 feet.

After launching at the gravel launch on the eastern end of the lake off the Max Harder Road around 9 a.m., Ledeboer had a fish on within 20 minutes. But it wasn’t for another hour before the next three bit, “bing, bing, bing.”

That said, Ledeboer says the action was not red-hot, but they didn’t have to venture more than a mile from the launch either.

“I’d bet that if we’d gone to midlake or further, we’d have done the same … I just think there’s a lot of fish in that lake. To try and narrow it down and say, ‘You gotta do this,’ you’re kidding yourself. But if you aren’t catching fish, experment. And stick with it,” Ledeboer advises.

It took them till around 2 p.m. to finally limit.

After October 2007’s rehab, Sprague was stocked with huge numbers of trout fingerlings and catchables (200,000 and 160,000, respectively).

Ledeboer and Steffler’s catch ranged from 13 inches up to Ledeboer’s gorgeous 21 1/2-incher. Some fought well, but others were more lethargic.

And he feels there are larger rainbows to be caught at Sprague; 3,200 triploids were planted in 2008, 2,165 last year.

“They should have grown to tremendous sizes by now,” he says.

With steady weather forecast for the next half week or so, Ledeboer feels that fishing should continue to be good.

He says there were maybe a half-dozen other craft out on the lake yesterday including a couple of fly fishermen on pontoon boats.

And as uncrowded as the lake was, the rainbows’ tummies were full up.

“Those fish were crammed with chironomids,” he says. “Maybe that’s why it wasn’t a red-hot bite.”

A NICE PAIR OF SPRAGUE RAINBOWS FOR GLENN STEFFLER. (LEROY LEDEBOER)

Ledeboer says that Sprague Lake Resort, at the eastern end of the lake, is closed for the time being.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

February 17, 2010

“Excellent” steelheading in the Ronde, good blackmouth fishing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, springers and sturgeon in the Columbia, trout in Yakima lakes — some of the fishing highlights from today’s Weekender.

Here’s the rundown:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

Fishing for blackmouth continues to be slow throughout the marine waters of northern Puget Sound, but some anglers have been reeling in some nice fish recently in the San Juan Islands. Meanwhile, five major river systems in the Puget Sound area will close Feb. 18 to protect wild steelhead.

The early closure for steelhead will affect the Puyallup, Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Samish and Snohomish rivers and their tributaries. Pre-season estimates developed by the department indicate that returns of wild steelhead will fall far short of target levels in all five river systems, said Bob Leland, WDFW steelhead manager.

“This is the fourth straight year that we’ve seen a downward trend in wild steelhead returns,” Leland said. “These closures are necessary to meet the conservation objectives of our statewide steelhead management plan and comply with provisions of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).”

Wild steelhead in the Puget Sound region have been listed as “threatened” under the ESA since 2007. Although anglers are required to release any wild fish they catch in those rivers, some of those fish inevitably die from the experience, Leland said.

For more information on the fishing closures, see the recent news release at http://wdfw.wa.gov/do/newreal/release.php?id=feb1210a or visit WDFW’s emergency rule update website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

On Puget Sound, most marine areas are open for salmon, but blackmouth fishing continues to be slow. The Strait of Juan de Fuca, including the western portion of the San Juan Islands, is likely the best bet for anglers, said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist.

Anglers fishing Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is closed to salmon fishing.

Before heading out, anglers should check the regulations for all saltwater and freshwater fisheries in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

The blackmouth season is off to a good start near Port Angeles and final word is expected late today (Feb. 17) on a razor-clam dig on five ocean beaches.  Prospects are also improving for steelhead fishing on the Olympic Peninsula, although a number of rivers on the east side of Puget Sound – including the Puyallup, Carbon and White rivers – will close to steelheading Feb. 18.

Anglers having trouble finding blackmouth elsewhere in Puget Sound might want to give the Strait of Juan de Fuca a try.  Creel checks conducted at Ediz Hook during opening day of the blackmouth season in marine areas 5 and 6 tallied 72 anglers with 30 fish.  At Olson’s Resort in Sekiu, 26 anglers brought in 14 resident chinook.

“That’s pretty good fishing,” said John Long, WDFW statewide salmon manager.  “I don’t think we’ve seen a stronger opening for blackmouth anywhere else this year.”  The daily limit for blackmouth in marine areas 5 and 6 is one fish, measuring at least 22 inches.

Anglers have also been docking blackmouth, albeit in lesser numbers, at boat ramps from Point Defiance in Tacoma to Misery Point in Seabeck.  In the South Sound area, the fishery is open in marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal), and opens March 1 in Marine Area 13 (south of the Narrows Bridge).

For regulations specific to those waters, check the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).

Then again, conditions are shaping up for some good steelhead fishing on northern Olympic Peninsula rivers.  High water rendered the Calawah and Hoh rivers unfishable during the second weekend of the month, but 63 bank anglers checked on the Bogachiel kept 19 wild fish and released 10 others.

“High water has brought a lot of wild steelhead into area rivers, and the forecast is calling for a period of dry weather,” said Randy Cooper, a WDFW fish biologist.  “Once those rivers drop into shape, the fishery should really pick up.”

Anglers may retain one wild steelhead per license year on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers.  On all other rivers, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar. Specific rules for each river are described in the 2009-10 Fishing in Washington pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

Meanwhile, the Puyallup, Carbon and White rivers will close to steelhead fishing Feb. 18, along with more than a dozen other rivers on the east side of Puget Sound.

Pre-season estimates indicate that returns of wild steelhead will fall far short of target levels in all five river systems, said Bob Leland, WDFW steelhead manager.  “This is the fourth straight year that we’ve seen a downward trend in wild steelhead returns,” Leland said.  “These closures are necessary to meet the conservation objectives of our statewide steelhead management plan and comply with provisions of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).”

Razor-clam digging may be an option.  WDFW has tentatively scheduled a dig from Feb. 26 through March 1 at various ocean beaches and expects to receive the results of toxin tests later today (Feb. 17).

If the tests show the clams are safe to eat, five ocean beaches will open for digging on the following schedule.  Evening low tides are shown in parentheses.

* Friday, Feb. 26, (4:49 p.m., -0.7) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
* Saturday, Feb. 27, (5:34 p.m., -0.9) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Sunday, Feb. 28, (6:16 p.m., -0.8) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Monday, Mar. 1, (6:57 p.m., -0.1) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only

Digging will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight each day at all beaches. The best time to start is an hour or two before low tide.  A lantern is strongly recommended for evening digs.

Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container. Clam diggers are no longer required to display their licenses on outer clothing.

A license is required for anyone age 15 or older. Any 2009-10 annual shellfish/seaweed license or combination license is still valid. Another option is a razor-clam only license available in annual or three-day only versions. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov .

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

The Bonneville Pool has been the “hotspot” for sturgeon fishing in recent days, but time is running short.  Sturgeon retention from Bonneville Dam to The Dalles Dam and its tributaries ends for the year one hour after official sunset on Feb. 20.  Meanwhile, anglers have been working hard to find late-run winter steelhead in lower Columbia River tributaries, and spring chinook are just beginning to show up in the catch on a daily basis.

But new fishing opportunities are coming up soon.  At a meeting scheduled Thursday, Feb. 18, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are scheduled to set 2010 fishing seasons for spring chinook salmon and white sturgeon.  News releases outlining those seasons will be posted on WDFW’s website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/ ) the following day.

“This will give anglers a chance to make their plans for the months ahead,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.  “Fishing in the Columbia River Basin always slows down a bit in February, but things really start heating up in March, when the spring chinook begin to return in large numbers.”

Harvest levels for white sturgeon are expected to be down this year due to declining stock estimates, but the spring chinook run is forecast to be the highest since at least 1938.

Clam diggers are also awaiting news on the next razor-clam dig , tentatively set to begin Friday, Feb. 26, and run through Monday, March 1, at various beaches – including Long Beach.  That announcement, based on the results of marine toxin tests, will also be posted on WDFW’s website by Friday, Feb. 19.

Here’s a rundown on fisheries now open on the lower Columbia River and its tributaries:

* Steelhead:   Anglers are catching late-run winter steelhead returning to hatcheries on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers where they were raised.  Most are working hard to find fish, but fishing could improve as the run nears its peak in late February or early March.  Fishing for leftover summer-run steelhead remains good in The Dalles and John Day pools, although anglers are encountering significant number of wild and dark fish.
* White sturgeon:   A creel check found that 60 boat anglers caught or released 41 legal-size fish in the Bonneville Pool during the second week in February.  Bank anglers also caught or released five legal-size fish.  Clearly the hotspot for sturgeon, the Bonneville Pool will be closed to retention fishing beginning Feb. 21. Below Bonneville Dam, where fishing has been slow, anglers can retain legal-size white sturgeon seven day a week from Buoy 10 upriver to the Wauna powerlines, and Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from the powerlines upstream to the dam.
* Smelt: The Cowlitz River will be open for smelt dipping two more Saturdays – Feb. 20 and 27 – between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. this year.  A few dippers took 10-pound limits during the Feb. 13 opener, but the run still appears to be weak as predicted.  Sport fishing for smelt on the mainstem Columbia River remains open seven days per week, although anglers catch very few fish there.
* Trout:   WDFW plants trout and some excess hatchery steelhead in a number of area lakes throughout the winter months.  On Feb. 8, Klineline Lake and Battle Ground Lake in Clark County were each stocked with 1,500 catchable-size rainbows, while Kress Lake in Cowlitz County received 20 excess steelhead from the Kalama Falls Hatchery.
* Walleye and bass:   Boat anglers averaged nearly two walleye kept per rod from The Dalles Pool and 0.4 per rod from John Day Pool during the week of Feb. 8-14.  Bass are also beginning to stir in the John Day Pool.

For fishing regulations on waters throughout the state, see the 2009-10 Fishing in Washington pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

EASTERN WASHINGTON

For the first time in several years, the March 1 fishing opener in the region is likely to promise all open-water fishing opportunities, thanks to a mild winter.

In the south end of the region, most of the seven impoundments off the Tucannon River on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County that open to fishing March 1 are being stocked now with hatchery rainbow trout . Beaver, Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes are receiving “catchable-size” (about one-third pound) and “jumbo” (about one-and-a-half pound) trout from the Tucannon and Lyons Ferry fish hatcheries.

Here’s what’s going in this month: Beaver, 500 catchables; Big Four, 2,000 catchables and 300 jumbos; Blue, 4,500 catchables and 150 jumbos; Deer, 700 catchables; Rainbow, 3,000 catchables and 100 jumbos; Spring, 2,000 catchables and 100 jumbos; Watson, 3,000 catchables and 100 jumbos.

Also opening March 1 to fishing for stocked rainbows are Fishhook Pond in Walla Walla County, which is receiving 3,000 catchables this month, and Pampa Pond in Whitman County, which is receiving 2,000 catchables and 25 jumbos.

Two year-round-open small impoundments off the Snake River near the bottom of Alpowa Grade west of Clarkston in Asotin County are also being stocked at this time.  Golf Course Pond gets 3,500 catchables and 100 jumbos, and West Evans Ponds gets 4,500 catchables and 100 jumbos.

Orchard Pond, a year-round impoundment off the Snake River in Columbia County, gets 1,000 catchables and 25 jumbos.

In Walla Walla County, two year-round fisheries are scheduled to receive trout this month – Quarry Pond, 8,000 catchables and 100 jumbos, and Bennington Lake, 2,500 catchables and 50 jumbos.

When WDFW hatchery crews complete trout stocking, the results are posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/ .

Other waters opening March 1 in the region should provide some open-water action on a variety of fish.   Downs Lake in southwest Spokane County might be best early in the season for yellow perch , but it also has bass, crappie , and rainbow trout .  Liberty Lake east of Spokane has rainbow and brown trout, bass , and perch .  Medical Lake near the town of the same name in southwest Spokane County has brown and rainbow trout.

Amber Lake in southwest Spokane County opens for catch-and-release of rainbow and cutthroat trout on March 1.  Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County opens on March 1, under selective gear rules, for rainbows, perch and crappie. Both of these special rule fisheries should provide excellent fly-fishing opportunities.

Deer Lake in southern Stevens County also opens March 1 and offers bass, crappie, perch, rainbow and lake trout , and kokanee .

Three year-round fisheries in the region that continue to provide good fishing, are Lake Roosevelt for rainbows and kokanee, Sprague Lake for rainbows, and Rock Lake for rainbow and brown trout.

Steelhead fishing on the Grande Ronde River in the southeast has been excellent, said WDFW Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex Manager Bob Dice.  Steelheaders in the Boggan’s Oasis area, near the mouth at the Snake River, have been doing quite well, and fishing has also been good from WDFW lands in the Shumaker area, he said.

Anglers can gear up and learn about fishing opportunities at the third annual Great Western Sportfishing Show, March 5-7, at the Spokane Convention Center. For more information see http://www.greatwesternsportfishingshow.com/Home.html .

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

All of the Columbia Basin rainbow trout lakes that open to fishing March 1 are ice-free and ready for good open-water fishing, reports WDFW District Fish Biologist Chad Jackson.

Martha Lake, along I-90 just east of George in Grant County, should be among the best on the opener, likely providing lots of five-fish daily catch limits. Martha is scheduled to be well stocked with thousands of half-pound or better hatchery rainbows.

Other Columbia Basin lakes opening March 1 on WDFW’s Quincy Wildlife Area include Burke and Quincy lakes, southwest of the town of Quincy; Upper, Lower and West Caliche lakes, southwest of George; Dusty Lake, a selective gear rule fishery south of Quincy; and the small “walk-in” lakes – Cascade, Cliff, Crystal, Cup, Dot, George and Spring.

Lenice, Nunnally and Merry lakes, on WDFW’s Crab Creek Wildlife Area just east of Beverly in southwest Grant County, open under selective gear rules March 1. Lake Lenore, north of the town of Soap Lake in Grant County, opens for catch-and-release trout fishing March 1.

Trout fishing further north in the region in Okanogan County had been mostly through the ice on stocked year-round lakes, but safe ice is marginal now with warming temperatures. However, WDFW Okanogan District Fish Biologist Bob Jateff reports that Patterson Lake near Winthrop and Sidley Lake near Oroville still have sufficient ice cover to provide some angling opportunities.  Yellow perch are being caught at Patterson, while rainbow trout are the predominant species at Sidley.

Jateff also reports steelhead fishing is starting to pick up on the Methow and Okanogan rivers. “Warmer water temperatures are contributing to catch rates of one steelhead for every five to six hours of fishing for both lure and fly anglers,” he said.

Jateff reminds anglers that they must retain all adipose-fin-clipped steelhead up to the daily limit of four fish.  He also notes two sections of the Okanogan River will close March 15 – from the first powerline crossing downstream of the Highway 155 Bridge in Omak (Coulee Dam Credit Union Building) upstream to the mouth of Omak Creek; and from the Tonasket Bridge (4th Street) downstream to the Tonasket Lagoons Park boat launch.  Those section closures are to protect natural origin steelhead staging prior to spawning in those tributaries.

The rest of the steelhead areas upstream of Wells Dam will remain open until March 31, but Jateff advises anglers to periodically check for changes on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

Further west in the region, the Wenatchee River, from the mouth to 800 feet below Tumwater Dam, including the Icicle River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam, closes to steelhead fishing Feb. 28. The allowable impacts to natural origin steelhead due to angling on the Wenatchee River will be met by the end of February.

Whitefish remains open on portions of the Methow and Similkameen rivers until March 31.  The daily catch limit is 15 whitefish and gear restrictions are in effect. Check the rules pamphlet for all details.

Fishing has been slow recently at year-round Rufus Woods Lake, the Columbia River reservoir on the Douglas-Okanogan county line.

SOUTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson reports that major rainbow trout stocking efforts have started this month in many of the region’s year-round open lakes. Yakima County’s Sarg Hubbard Park Pond and Rotary Lake, both near the Greenway Trail in Yakima, usually receive some of the first catchable-size hatchery rainbows.

Kittitas County’s North and South Fio Rito lakes east of Ellensburg, along with McCabe Pond southeast of Ellensburg and Mattoon Lake in town, should also be receiving trout this month.

Franklin County’s  Dalton Pond, east of the Tri-Cities and about five miles northeast of Ice Harbor Dam on the north side of the Snake River, is scheduled to receive 8,000 one-third pounders and 100 “jumbos” or one-and-one-half-pounders, from WDFW’s Lyons Ferry Hatchery.

When WDFW hatchery crews actually complete trout stocking, the results are posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/ .

Although steelhead fishing in the district has been spotty this winter, it usually picks up in late February and early March, said WDFW fish biologist Paul Hoffarth of Pasco. He reminds anglers that the Columbia River is open for the retention of legal size sturgeon in the John Day Pool (Lake Umatilla) of the Columbia River.

“Sturgeon must be between 43 and 54 inches in fork length,” Hoffarth said. “New regulations went into effect last year changing how sturgeon are measured from total length to fork length.  Fork length is defined as the distance from the tip of the nose to the middle of the fork in the tail, and that’s the length you record on your catch record card, even if the card has the old ‘total length’ column.”

Hoffarth notes the sturgeon fishery in this area will remain open until the quota is reached and closure announced.

Springer Science

February 17, 2010

So what affects how fast spring Chinook blow up the Columbia? Why do they hit the big river when they do? What saltwater and freshwater cues factor into the species’ decisions? And why won’t they bite your killer cutplug?!

In recent years, scientists have been working on these questions.

Well, maybe not that last one, but what they are learning could help fishery managers make more accurate forecasts.

The latest and greatest comes from a December 2009 paper by James J. Anderson and W. Nicholas Beer of the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. They say that 62 percent of when a springer heads for the barn has to do with just the fish itself.

“Run timing variations were largely due to variations in the abundances of the distinct stocks comprising the runs,” they write in Ecological Applications.

Have lots of salmon from earlier- or later-running stocks and you get a return that skews earlier or later.

Anderson and Beer found that only 15.5 percent of timing depends on what’s happening out in the ocean and in the river itself. We’ll touch on the former in a bit.

THEIR WORK ADDS TO that of Matthew Keefer and other University of Idaho researchers who looked at river temperature and discharge and some cues in the Pacific.

Among their 2008 conclusions was that, generally, when the Columbia flows low and relatively warm in late winter, the 17 stocks that make up the upriver run come in earlier. And when the big crick is high and cold, those salmon come in later.

Good examples are 2001 and 2006’s springers, among the eagerest and tardiest runs in recent years.

One of the most important run-timing factors across the basin is February river conditions, Keefer et al found. It affected twice as many stocks – 10 East Cascades and Central Idaho runs – as any other single factor.

While last winter saw a mini Ice Age in Spokane – and a correspondingly cold Columbia deep into spring – this year, snowpack is lighter than normal, and ice-covered lakes were opening up in late January and early February. “Things are pointing to an earlier run this year,” said Keefer on Feb. 1.

AS FOR HOW QUICKLY springers swim upstream, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Keefer and others at UI’s Fish Ecology Research Lab radio- and PIT-tagged nearly 3,700. They determined the salmon covered anywhere from 71/2 to 201/2 miles a day.

Different water conditions made for quicker or slower passage, anywhere from 13 to 26 days on average to go from Bonneville to Priest Rapids between 1996 and 2001, while those taking a reggie at the Snake needed 14 to 33 days to battle up to Lower Granite from Bonnie.

THIS MAP SHOWS PASSAGE UPSTREAM PASSAGE OF SIX RANDOM COLUMBIA BASIN SPRING CHINOOK DURING LAST YEAR'S RETURN. THE FISHES' PIT TAGS WERE READ AT ARRAYS ON CERTAIN DAMS AND FISH WEIRS AS THE SALMON SWAM PAST. FOR MORE ON EACH FISH, SEE THE MARCH ISSUE OF NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Interestingly, their data also showed that springers are the slowest of the Columbia’s Chinook stocks. Summers and fall brights are slightly speedier.

“They migrate at a relatively cold time compared to summers and falls, so metabolically they can’t move as fast,” explains Keefer. They also found the later a springer gets the itch, the faster it swims – 1 to 3 miles a day faster every two weeks season progresses.

BUT LET’S GO BACK downstream, to the Pacific Ocean.

As we pointed out in a previous issue, once springer smolts leave the Columbia, they basically disappear into an ocean the size of Mars. The fish don’t turn up in commercial catches, their little PIT tags pass by no receivers, they are just somewhere … out there for one, two, even three years.

Anderson now figures that with prevailing ocean currents, it’s likely that the fish return to the Columbia from their mysterious sojourn not from the north or northwest and the Gulf of Alaska, but from due west.

He uses hypothetical fish but real magnetic keys and offshore currents to make that point. In winter off our coast, the ocean “flows” northerly, and it’s easier to swim with or across it than against it.

“It’s really kind of interesting stuff,” says Anderson.

Also interesting will be how last year’s record jack return – around 82,000 of the precocious males – will translate into adults this season. Was it a meaningless anomaly or really a sign of a fantastic number of 4-year-old fish about to make the run?

As reports of the first springers surfaced in early February, Anderson was licking his chops – and not just about what interesting data might come in.

“I eat the fish with great pleasure,” he says.

So maybe a new study on cutplugs isn’t that far off. –Andy Walgamott

Cabela’s Continues Partnership With RMEF

February 17, 2010

(ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE)
MISSOULA, Mont.—More than 6,500 conservation projects completed. Over 5.7 million acres of habitat, mostly on public land, enhanced or protected. Nearly 600,000 acres opened or secured for public access. These and other milestone achievements of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation wouldn’t be possible without partners like Cabela’s.

One of the organization’s longest and most generous supporters, Cabela’s has announced renewed sponsorship of several RMEF initiatives for 2010.

“Conservation and stewardship of wildlife and wild lands is at the core of our business,” said Cabela’s Chief Executive Officer Tommy Millner. “We’re proud to partner with and support the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in their efforts to preserve the heritage of conservation that’s so important to our customers and our employees.”

For 2010, Cabela’s is again donating gift cards and merchandise used as premiums in RMEF membership drives, contributing items for auctions and other fundraisers, underwriting the RMEF 2010 conservation art print, sponsoring Elk Camp seminars and the Elk Country Legacy mission campaign, and more.

“Cabela’s is more than the World’s Foremost Outfitter; it’s one of the reasons why RMEF has become a premier force for conservation. Words don’t express our gratitude nearly as well as our rising numbers of completed projects and conserved acres,” said Steve Decker, vice president of marketing for RMEF.

He added, “We thank everyone at Cabela’s for their long and continuing partnership.”

SW WA Fishin’ Report

February 17, 2010

JOE HYMER, PSFMC)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – 35 bank anglers kept 2 steelhead; 6 boat anglers had no catch.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 38 winter-run steelhead during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. During the week Tacoma Power employees released twelve winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and ten winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa. 

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,090 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, February 16. Water visibility is nine feet.

Lower Columbia from the I-5 Bridge downstream – 2 boats/4 anglers near Vancouver had no catch.

A Compact/Joint State Hearing is scheduled for February 18 to consider the 2010 mainstem Columbia recreational spring salmon seasons and modifications to the March-December 2010 lower Columbia mainstem sturgeon recreational fisheries.

Bonneville Pool – No effort for salmonids.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers averaged over 1.5 steelhead per rod.  Bank anglers were also catching some fish.  Two-thirds of the fish caught were wild and had to be released.

John Day Pool – Boat and bank anglers are catching some steelhead.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – 3 boats/4 anglers near Vancouver had no catch as did 2 bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers averaged nearly 0.7 fish per rod when including fish released.  Bank anglers averaged one kept/released per every dozen rods.  Saturday Feb. 20 is the last day sturgeon may be kept from Bonneville Dam to The Dalles Dam (including tributaries) for the year.

The Dalles Pool – Slow for legal size fish.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers are catching some legals; slow from the bank.

WALLEYE AND BASS

Bonneville Pool – Light effort for walleye and no catch was observed.  No effort observed for bass.

The Dalles Pool – The few boat anglers sampled averaged 2 walleye kept per rod.  Some walleye were also caught by bank anglers.  No effort observed for bass.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged 0.4 walleye kept per rod.  Boat anglers were also catching some bass.  No bank anglers were found in the sample.

TROUT

Kress Lake near Kalama – Planted with 20 surplus hatchery adult winter steelhead averaging 10 pounds each Feb. 8.  No report on angling success.

Klineline Pond and Battleground Lake – Both were planted with 1,500 half-pound rainbows Feb. 8.  No report on angling success.

SMELT

Cowlitz River – Lower numbers of smelt were confirmed caught during last Saturday’s (Feb. 13) sport fishery.  If you were around the Kelso Bridge, had waders and a long-handle pole plus a good back and a few hours, some fishers were able to get up to a few pounds of smelt.   Most of the dips were zeros with an occasional ones and twos.  Most of the fish caught were smaller, mature males.

Open only Saturdays Feb. 20 and 27 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Daily and possession limit 10 pounds (about ¼ of a five-gallon bucket) per person.

Mainstem Columbia from the mouth to Bonneville Dam – No reports on any sport dipping success. Through March 31, open 7 days/week, 24-hours/day.  Daily and possession limit 10 pounds per person.

All other Washington Columbia River tributaries – Remain closed.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

February 17, 2010

A few springers, a lot more steelhead and the late, late, late goose hunt opener in Southwest Oregon highlight weekend opportunities in the Beaver State.

But if you want to stay indoors, there’s the big outdoors show in Roseburg too — we’ll be there giving away free mags and sweet deals on subscriptions (the dagger deal is back!!).

‘Here’s a roundup from OFDW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Steelhead fishing continues to hold up on many southwest rivers and streams.
  • Cooper Creek Reservoir and Lake Selmac have been recently stocked with trout.
  • Several area lakes and reservoirs continue to offer good fishing for holdover trout stocked last fall. These include the Coos County lakes, Expo Pond, Galesville Reservoir, Lost Creek Reservoir and Reinhart Pond.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • A few early arrival spring chinook are being taken on the Willamette River.
  • Winter steelhead fishing is good in the Clackamas and Sandy rivers and Eagle Creek. Steelhead are spread throughout both systems and some good catches have been reported.
  • Sturgeon fishing is good on the lower Willamette River.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Nestucca River: Steelhead angling should be fair to good. Fish are spreading out in the river system, but as flows drop more fish will hold up lower in the system waiting for rain. Look for a mixture of hatchery and wild fish. Drifting lures or bait near the bottom has been productive. With flows dropping, bobber and jigs will be more effective. Spinners are generally a good bet in the upper river also. With rain forecasted through the weekend fishing may improve as flows increase.
  • Siletz River: Winter steelhead angling is slowing but still fair overall. Many hatchery fish have moved into the upper river but some are expected to continue returning through the month. Good numbers of native steelhead are showing up. River conditions for the week should allow anglers to fish the entire river.
  • Siuslaw River: Steelhead angling is good. Recent rains have moved a new group of fish up into the system. Good catches of hatchery and native steelhead are coming from the lower river up to the Whittaker Creek area. River conditions should be good for this week.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • For fly fishers, warm spring-like days have been triggering caddis and blue-wing olive hatches on the lower Deschutes River.
  • Fishing also has been good on the Crooked River.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Ice fishing on Unity and Wolf Creek reservoirs has been very good. But ice conditions are changing so please use caution.
  • Because their water temperatures stay fairly constant throughout the year, both Ana River and Ana Reservoir can offer good winter fishing opportunities.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Anglers continue to report good fishing on the Grande Ronde, Wallowa, Imnaha and John Day rivers.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Sturgeon angling is excellent for boat anglers in the Bonneville Pool.
  • Counting fish released, steelhead fishing is excellent in The Dalles Pool and good in the John Day Pool for boat anglers. Bank anglers are also catching a few fish.
  • Walleye fishing is excellent in The Dalles Pool and good in the John Day Pool for boat anglers.

Wolves A Tough Hunt, Idahoans Find

February 17, 2010

Last September, as Idaho prepared for its wolf hunt, we talked to a pair of Panhandle sportsmen about how the season might shape up.

Former guide Brian Peters told reporter Ralph Bartholdt that hunters would have a tough go of it, if his experience in Alaska had any bearing.

“In most cases, (my clients) never saw a wolf,” Peters said.

As for how to hunt them, he said you could try howling them in, but also that “Wolves learn fast.”

Ralph also spoke to Milt Turley, a 60-year North Idaho resident described as an “avid elk hunter” and who was eager to  shoot a wolf. He writes of an encounter Turley had with watching a wolf kill site over several days”

“Wolves are extremely intelligent, and the patience of a hunter who plans to take part in this year’s scheduled Idaho wolf hunt must rival a wolf’s smarts.”

Today, Turley’s back in the news, in a Spokane Spokesman-Review article.

Despite living in wolf country, he has yet to fill his tag.

“We’re finding out that it’s damn difficult to kill a wolf,” he tells reporter Becky Kramer, adding, “I’ve seen four or five wolves this year, but boy, are they quick. And, they’re wary now.”

Which probably is for the best, if you live, work or recreate in the region.

She reports that 155 wolves in Idaho’s 220-animal quota have been killed. She also writes that, according to IDFG aerial surveys, elk populations are actually higher in the Panhandle’s Unit 7 today than they were when wolves first showed up in the area in 1998.

Kramer has another article on wolves today too — indeed, the Spokesman-Review’s front page is all wolves, all the time. It’s about how large Idaho wolves are. Based on IDFG data, the average of hunter- and road-kills have been 86 pounds for adult females, 101 pounds for adult males.

That’s well below the larger size some outdoorsmen claim, though there was at least one 130-pound male.

Meanwhile, in regional anti-wolf/elk-advocacy circles, questions are being raised about the kind of wolves reintroduced into the Northern Rockies back in 1995 and about a tapeworm those animals carry.

Those are parried in Kramer’s article, but they will continue to make the rounds as Web sites like savelk.com and http://washingtonwolf.info draw attention to the issue of wolves in the Northwest and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife works on its wolf management plan.

And there was also news recently about National Park Service biologists suggesting using triploid, err, neutered wolves to help keep deer and elk populations in check in national parks. Though it’s just in the “germination” stage, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist who’s in charge of wolves in the Northern Rockies, Ed Bangs, reportedly said, “Wolves fix very few problems compared to the ones they create.”

Columbia Fishing Report

February 17, 2010

Well … you’d expect a few more springers to turn up in the catch, but the latest from ODFW shows that anglers checked in the Lower Columbia weren’t landing much.

Better bets, courtesy of Jimmy Watts:

* Sturgeon angling is excellent for boat anglers in the Bonneville Pool.
* Counting fish released, steelhead fishing is excellent in The Dalles Pool and good in the John Day Pool for boat anglers.  Bank anglers are also catching a few fish.
* Walleye fishing is excellent in The Dalles Pool and good in the John Day Pool for boat anglers.

Here’s the rest of Watts’ weekly report for ODFW

SALMON STEELHEAD

COLUMBIA RIVER MAINSTEM, Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington Border:  Under permanent regulations this section of the Columbia River is open January 1-March 31, 2010 to the retention of adipose fin-clipped steelhead with a daily bag limit of two fish. The retention of spring chinook is prohibited.  Modifications to the 2010 spring chinook fishery will be considered at the February 18th Compact hearing.

Steelhead anglers did well in both The Dalles and John Day pools last week.  Many anglers are plying the water on the lower Columbia in anticipation of the arrival of the 2010 spring chinook run, but success was very limited last week.

Gorge Bank & Boat:

No report.

Troutdale Boats:

No report.

Portland to Longview Bank & Boat:

Weekly checking showed no catch for 36 bank anglers and no catch for 30 boats (69 anglers).

Estuary Boat (Above Tongue Point):

No report.

Bonneville Pool:

No report.

The Dalles Pool:

Weekly checking showed three adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept plus two adipose fin-clipped steelhead and 12 unclipped steelhead released for six boats (11 anglers); and one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept for four bank anglers.

John Day Pool (Columbia River above John Day Dam and John Day Arm):

Weekly checking showed one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept plus two unclipped steelhead released for three boats (five anglers); and one unclipped steelhead released for 14 bank anglers.

STURGEON:

Effective January 1-April 30, 2010 the lower Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the Wauna power lines is open to the retention of white sturgeon seven days per week with a daily limit of one fish between 38 and 54 inches (fork length) and an annual limit of five sturgeon.

The Columbia River between Wauna power lines and Bonneville Dam is open to the retention of white sturgeon three days per week (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) during January 1-July 31 with a daily limit of one sturgeon between 38 and 54 inches (fork length) and an annual limit of five sturgeon.

The Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam is open to the retention of sturgeon seven days per week with a daily limit of one sturgeon between 38-54 inches (fork length) and an annual limit of five sturgeon. Effective 12:01 AM Sunday February 21, 2010 the retention of sturgeon in the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam will be prohibited because the catch guideline of 1,400 fish is projected to be reached.

The Columbia River between The Dalles Dam and McNary Dam (The Dalles Pool and John Day Pool) is open for the retention of sturgeon seven days per week with a daily limit of one sturgeon between 41 and 54 inches (fork length) and an annual limit of five fish until the respective guidelines of 300 and 165 fish are reached.

As of February 1, 2010, the cumulative surgeon catch was 390 fish in the Bonneville Pool, 87 fish in The Dalles Pool, and 41 fish in the John Day Pool.  Catch rates really jumped in the Bonneville Pool during the first two weeks of February. Sturgeon angling on the lower Columbia is very slow.  During January 2010, sturgeon anglers on the lower Columbia made 1,700 trips and kept 25 white sturgeon.

Gorge Bank:

No catch for two bank anglers. Effort has been very light.

Gorge Boats:

No report. Effort has been very light.

Troutdale Boats:

No report.

Portland to Longview Bank:

No report.

Portland to Longview Boats:

Weekly checking showed 15 sublegal sturgeon released for 11 boats (36 anglers).

Bonneville Pool Boat and Bank:

Weekly checking showed four legal white sturgeon kept, plus one legal, one oversize, and 43 sublegal sturgeon released for 62 bank anglers; and 35 legal white sturgeon kept, plus six legal, 297 sublegal, and one oversize sturgeon released for 22 boats (60 anglers).

The Dalles Pool Boat and Bank:

Weekly checking showed two sublegal sturgeon released for 40 bank anglers; and 37 sublegal sturgeon released for 11 boats (24 anglers).

John Day Boat and Bank:

Weekly checking showed no catch for 25 bank anglers; and three legal white sturgeon kept, plus three oversize and 28 sublegal sturgeon released for 34 boats (66 anglers).

WALLEYE:

Bonneville Pool Boats:

Weekly checking showed no catch for one boat (one angler).

The Dalles Pool Boats:

Weekly checking showed one walleye kept for four bank anglers and 16 walleye kept for four boats (eight anglers).

John Day Pool Boats:

Weekly checking showed 16 walleye kept for 17 boats (41 anglers).

New Law Targets Feral Swine
ODFW biologists believe it is still possible to eradicate Oregon’s population of feral swine before the population gets out of control and wildlife habitat and agricultural crops are laid waste. To put some teeth in the fight, the 2009 Legislature passed a law that prohibits the sale of feral swine hunts and requires land managers to report and remove feral swine from their property.New rules adopted at the January meeting of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission give land managers 10 days after discovering feral swine on their property to contact ODFW and 60 days to work with the agency on a removal plan that includes a timeline.

“Landowners should contact their local wildlife biologist if they suspect they have feral swine on their property,” said Larry Cooper, Deputy Administrator of ODFW’s Wildlife Division. “We can help them with a removal plan and technical advice.”

Feral swine rooting
Feral swine can “rototill” a hillside in a night, destroying crops, pastureland and stream banks.
Photo courtesy of ODFW

It is legal to hunt feral swine, but opportunities are limited because most of the feral swine identified to date have been on private land, which requires landowner permission. On public lands, swine can be hunted with a valid hunting license. There is no limit or tag required, but on public property all hunting regulations must be followed.

Feral swine are free-roaming pigs, that is, they are not being held under domestic confinement. They are responsible for damage to habitat and depredation of livestock and wildlife as well as disease transmission to wildlife, livestock and humans. Read the Feral Swine Action Plan for Oregon on the Oregon Invasive Species Web site. For information on hunting feral swine .

CSI: Enterprise

February 16, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

The efforts of numerous sportsman groups’ paid off with the conviction of four suspects in a Wallowa County case where DNA results were a critical component of an Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish and Wildlife Division investigation.  Normally known as a valuable investigative tool helping to identify and convict suspects in criminal cases, this is the first conviction in a case where the DNA results helped prosecute Oregon wildlife violators.

Three of the four suspects convicted in Wallowa County Circuit Court are from Oregon.  The fourth suspect is a Ridgefield, Washington resident.  They are identified as:

George Chechelnitski, age 53, from Ridgefield, Washington, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Taking Elk without a Valid Tag.  Sentencing included:
* Two year Hunting Suspension
* Two years probation
* $2108.00 in fines and fees

Aleksandr Katko, age 53, from Gresham, Oregon, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Aiding in a Violation of Wildlife Laws.  Sentencing included:
* Two year Hunting Suspension
* Two years probation
* $2008.00 in fines and fees

Vadim Titoukh, age 44, from Boring, Oregon, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Aiding in a Violation of Wildlife Laws.  Sentencing included:
* Two year Hunting Suspension
* Two years probation
* $2143.00 in fines and fees

Vasiliy Pitsul, age 48, from Portland, Oregon, who pled guilty to a violation charge of Aiding in a Violation of Wildlife Laws.  Sentencing included:
* Two year Hunting Suspension
* $1208.00 in fines and fees

The OSP Fish & Wildlife Division had been researching new ways to help a trooper investigating an illegal big horn sheep killing and met with the Oregon Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS).  When the FNAWS organization asked how they could help, DNA analysis support was seen as an answer.

FNAWS and Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) presented a proposal for a two-year pilot project to evaluate the needs and effectiveness of a DNA program to user organizations. These organizations raised $25,000 to fund a pilot project in partnership with OSP and Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG).  IDFG is home to a premier, cutting-edge wildlife forensic program that offers a full-service biological testing program, including DNA services (species comparison, gender determination, individual identification, and time/cause of death).

On November 7th, 2007, Oregon State Police Senior Trooper Mark Knapp of the received information regarding an elk that was illegally killed in the Chesnimnus Big Game Unit in Wallowa County.  A subsequent investigation determined that on November 3, 2007, the opening morning of the Chesnimnus Elk Season, the group of four hunters had harvested two spike elk. It was later determined that only one of the hunters possessed a valid elk tag for that unit. In addition, parts of the second illegally killed elk were left behind and some of the elk meat was wasted. Numerous evidentiary items were seized at the crime scene.

With the assistance of several individuals who had been hunting in the area, the Oregon State Police was ultimately able to identify the four suspects. Interviews were later conducted, one search warrant was executed and additional evidence was seized. Some of the seized evidence from the scene and the residences of two suspects were analyzed at the Oregon State Police Forensic Crime Lab in Springfield, Oregon.

A critical part of the investigation also involved DNA analysis conducted by Dr. Karen Rudolph of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Forensic Program in Caldwell, Idaho.  The analysis was done on evidence seized from the scene and during the execution of the search warrant.  A positive match on the DNA of the illegally taken elk was made.  The results of the forensic evidence from the labs in Oregon and Idaho helped lead to the arrest and ultimate conviction of the four suspects in the Wallowa County Circuit Court.

EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS PRESS RELEASE ORIGINALLY CALLED F.N.A.W.S. A FEDERATION RATHER THAN A FOUNDATION.

30-pound Steelhead!

February 16, 2010

Northwest steelheaders have been getting cantankerous in recent days.

Dave Vedder posted a pic of his first 30-pound-plus steelhead over on piscatorialpursuits while steelbum on Ifish threw some adult beverages down his gullet and reports that it turns out he’s caught a mess of 30s too.

Vedder was kidding; steelbum was too.

But in their own ways they were pointing out the dread condition known as catch inflationitis. Seems particularly contagious around this time of year when we’re catching large wild steelhead sans digital scale and Mom’s sewing tape measure, snapping pics of the fish with our hands held towards the camera, and posting ’em for all the world to see.

(DAVE VEDDER'S 30-POUNDER THREAD ON PISCATORIAL PURSUITS.

If truth must be known … I’m a recovering catch inflater.

Yep.

Happened 11 years ago next month.

With the nearest certified scale 40-plus miles away, I pronounced a wild steelhead I caught on the Grande Ronde River a 14-pounder.

Because, you know, it looked like a 14-pounder!

It had a thicker, longer body than the hatchery fish also in the river, plus its jaw was kyping.

Which totally put it into the midteens.

At least in my mind.

The buddies of my fishing partner that day — guys who’d long fished the Ronde — later rolled their eyes at my “14-pounder.”

In retrospect, was it a 13? Perhaps

A 12? More likely.

An 11? Well …

A 10? Hey, now, you’re cutting it a bit thin, buddy!

And that’s the thing. In reality, most of us regular joe anglers ain’t gonna catch 30-pound-plus steelhead. Heck, many of us won’t top 20 pounds.

But we can in our minds.

Till someone on a board somewhere points out otherwise.

Lake Tahuya Fishing Access Case Heads To Court

February 15, 2010

Entrenched landowners, fishermen and WDFW are headed to court tomorrow as a “bitter” battle over whether public access should be allowed to Lake Tahuya through state land there comes to a head.

It’s a hopelessly complex case for yours truly’s small brain — seems like it all boils down to whether Tahuya was a bog or a lake in the distant past (never mind that geologically bogs are basically dying lakes) — but Christopher Dunagan of the Kitsap Sun took a stab at it yesterday.

The lake is located 10 miles due west of Bremerton on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Shorter Bear Season, Guns For Bowmen

February 15, 2010

Chop a couple weeks off black bear season in three areas, close a couple Columbia River islands to deer hunting, open up the Blues to a general fall turkey season, allow bowhunters and muzzleloaders to carry handguns afield.

Just four proposals for Washington’s 2010-11 hunting seasons up for public comment through Feb. 24.

They, and a raft of others, can be found online.

The first rule above would move the fall bear opener from Aug. 1 to Aug. 14 in the Okanogan, South Cascades and Northeastern bear management unit. That’s because, according to WDFW, “indicators suggest that hunting seasons should be more conservative.”

The Okanogan bear area includes Okanogan County west of the Okanogan River as well as Chelan County lands on the north side of Lake Chelan. The South Cascades bear area includes the west side of the Cascades from I-90 south to the Columbia River. The Northeast includes the eastern half of Okanogan County, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Spokane counties.

As for the deer, Cottonwood Island (off the west side of Carrolls Slough) and nearby Howard Island would be made off limits to deer hunting because both “sites (are) proposed for Columbian white-tailed deer release to further Columbian white-tailed deer recovery.”

The unique species is protected under state and federal laws.

Also along the state’s southern border, but further east, WDFW proposes to switch from a fall permit turkey hunt to a general season in the Blues.

And they’d also like to add the Couse unit for spring permit bear hunting, with four tags on offer.

As for handguns for bowmen and blackpowder hunters, our colleague Dave Workman was filing a story for the March 1 issue of Gun Week that explains:

Prior to last year, neither bowhunters or black powder hunters were allowed to carry a handgun, with the exception of muzzleloader hunters carrying black powder revolvers or single-shot pistols. The new rule will allow the carrying of modern handguns, but still prohibit their use to dispatch a big game animal shot with an arrow or a muzzleloader bullet or ball.

Written comments can be e-mailed to Wildthing@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to Wildlife Program Commission Meeting Public Comments, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501

A public hearing with the Fish & Wildlife Commission is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on March 12-13, 2010, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, First Floor Room 172, 1111 Washington St. SE, Olympia, WA  98504

Update On Upcoming Columbia Springer Seasons

February 13, 2010

The Columbia Basin Bulletin reported yesterday on what managers are thinking about in terms of seasons for this years forecasted record return of springers.

… Oregon policy makers did not consider specific season options, but were briefed on possible scenarios ranging from a 56-day season entirely below Portland’s Interstate 5 Bridge to a 30-day season with a mix of opportunities above and below the I-5 Bridge.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fishery managers also last week outlined their plans for the spring chinook fishery on the Columbia River that would ensure meeting conservation goals, catch-balancing responsibilities between tribal and state fisheries, and fishing opportunities throughout the river and its tributaries.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during its Feb. 4-6 meeting also voiced support for reserving a portion of the catch until there is clear evidence the run is as large as expected.

5 Sound Rivers Closing Early To Steelheading

February 13, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Steelhead fishing will close Feb. 18 in five major river systems in the Puget Sound area to protect wild fish, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

The closure will affect the Puyallup, Nooksack, Stillaguamish, Samish and Snohomish rivers and their tributaries.

Pre-season estimates developed by the department indicate that returns of wild steelhead will fall far short of target levels in all five river systems, said Bob Leland, WDFW steelhead manager.

“This is the fourth straight year that we’ve seen a downward trend in wild steelhead returns,” Leland said.  “These closures are necessary to meet the conservation objectives of our statewide steelhead management plan and comply with provisions of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).”

Wild steelhead in the Puget Sound region have been listed as “threatened” under the ESA since 2007. Although anglers are required to release any wild fish they catch in those rivers, some of those fish inevitably die from the experience, Leland said.

Rivers closing to steelhead fishing Feb. 18 include:

Puyallup River system

  • Puyallup River mainstem from the 11th St. Bridge in Tacoma upstream to Electron Power Plant Outlet
  • Carbon River from the mouth to Hwy.162 Bridge
  • White (Stuck) River from the mouth to R Street Bridge in Auburn

Nooksack River system

  • Nooksack River from the mouth to the confluence of the North and South Forks
  • North Fork Nooksack from the mouth to Nooksack Falls
  • South Fork Nooksack from the mouth to Skookum Creek
  • Middle Fork Nooksack from the mouth to headwaters.

Samish River system

  • Samish River from the mouth to the Hickson Bridge.

Stillaguamish River system

  • Stillaguamish River from sloughs south of Marine Drive to forks.
  • North Fork of the Stillaguamish from the mouth to Swede Heaven Bridge.
  • South Fork of the Stillaguamish from the mouth to the Mt Loop Hwy. Bridge (above Granite Falls).
  • Canyon Creek from the mouth at the South Fork of the Stillaguamish to the forks.

Snohomish River system

  • Snohomish River from mouth (Burlington-Northern railroad bridges) to the confluence of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers including all channels, sloughs, and interconnected waterways.
  • Snoqualmie River from the mouth to the boat launch at Plum Landing (~1/4 mile below Tokul Creek).
  • Skykomish River from the mouth to the forks.
  • North Fork of the Skykomish from the mouth to Deer Falls (about ź mile upstream of Goblin Creek).
  • South Fork of the Skykomish from the mouth to the Sunset Falls Fishway.
  • Pilchuck River from mouth to the Snohomish city diversion dam.
  • Sultan River from mouth to the diversion dam at river mile 9.7.
  • Tolt River from mouth to the confluence of the North and South Fork.
  • Raging River from the mouth to the Highway 18 Bridge.

The Wallace River, Tokul Creek and Snoqualmie River above the boat ramp at Plum Landing will close Feb 28.

Reopening dates for all of these waters will be noted in the 2010-11 Fishing in Washington fishing rules pamphlet.

‘These Were Not Kids With BB Guns’

February 12, 2010

I know we are only 33 days into 2010, but I’m very, very sorely tempted to go ahead and award three Renton, Wash., men Northwest Sportsman magazine’s Jackasses of the Year award for their boneheaded decision to shoot … flickers.

Yeah, northern flickers, those songbirds with the white patch on their back, just a bit bigger than a robin, very pretty, protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and state law.

“The excuse they gave is they were shooting them for food,” says Capt. Rich Mann of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Enforcement Division in Yakima this morning.

“That’s a bogus excuse,” says Annie Morton at Audubon Washington in Seattle. “You are what you eat, and they eat lots of ants so they would be very acidic.”

The trio were allegedly caught in late January with 19 flickers and several other birds as well as expensive “high-tech” air rifles with “muzzle suppressors,” Mann says.

“These were not kids with BB guns,” Mann says.

He gave the rifles’ retail value at $1,500.

Officers just happened to be in the right spot — along the Yakima River near Union Gap — at the right time to catch them.

Mann says that day officers were actually going to run a plain-clothes patrol in response to complaints of illegal harvest of wild steelhead in the river. When they arrived on the scene they saw one of the three men about to enter the woods. They called a sergeant and “caught the guy in the act,” says Mann.

The other two initially stashed their guns and birds and denied they were hunting, but eventually retrieved the items, Mann says.

“They were basically hunting the Russian olive thickets,” he says. “They knew the patch very well — much better than a person on their first trip over.”

Officers interviewed the men to try and establish a commercial-sale angle — flicker tails are used in Native American regalia.  Last March, four men, including three from the Yakima Valley, were arrested as part of a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service investigation into the illegal killing and selling parts of flickers, golden and bald eagles as well as other birds of prey.

Mann says case reports will be forwarded to the Yakima County prosecutor in the next few weeks for charging.

News also came out today about five sea lions and seals shot and washed ashore dead in West Seattle. The National Marine Fisheries Service is investigating.

FWC To Legislature: Abolish This!

February 12, 2010

After talking it over last weekend and teleconferencing today, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission let fly a press release this afternoon announcing its opposition to SB 6813, which would abolish WDFW and merge it into DNR.

Here’s the text of the commissioners’ statement:

The Fish and Wildlife Commission hereby expresses its strong opposition to Senate Bill 6813.  This proposed legislation would abolish the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State Parks and Recreation Commission and transfer their powers, duties, and functions to the Department of Natural Resources. While the Legislature states that it intends no transfer of powers and duties away from the Fish and Wildlife Commission, it in fact would eliminate the central authority of the Fish and Wildlife Commission — the power to hire and fire the Director. It would also remove the Commission’s authority over the Department budget.

The three agencies that are affected by this bill have very different mandates and missions — each important to the quality of life of our citizenry. It would be improper to intentionally or unintentionally make the vital resource conservation mission of the Department of Fish and Wildlife subordinate to the resource extraction mission of the Department of Natural Resources.

After a thoughtful and deliberative process considering the costs and benefits of various natural resource agencies re-organization options, the Governor proposed ways to enhance efficiency and reduce redundancy. The Governor’s government reform process involved resource professionals, the affected stakeholders, and the public.  SB 6813 proposes to enact a merger option that was thoroughly reviewed but ultimately eliminated because it lacked benefits sufficient to justify the costs and risks to the state’s natural resources.

The merger proposed in this bill will diminish the ability of each component agency to successfully focus and consolidate the needed resources on the core elements of its own unique mission. Because of the important differences in their purposes, the component parts of the agencies would not be integrated, but would remain distinct parts of the resulting combined agency. The transition is likely to give rise to a host of procedural issues which will distract staff from strategic priorities.

The impact on the governance of WDFW is our preeminent concern. In passing Referendum 45 in 1995, the voters of Washington empowered the Fish and Wildlife Commission with supervisory authority over the Department director for a purpose: to guarantee that fish and wildlife management would be both directly responsive to the public and insulated from political pressures.  As is the case in states around the country, the Commission process was designed to assure that the interests of long-term conservation would not be compromised for short-term political ends.

By eliminating the Commission’s source of authority — the authority to hire and fire the director — this bill will reverse Referendum 45. If enacted, this bill will remove the power of the Commission. It will remove the Commission’s ability to demand conservation of fish and wildlife. The Commission will no longer be able to provide the public a direct avenue to exert control over the agency that sets important hunting and fishing rules.  The Commission will no longer have the clout to insulate uniquely important conservation decisions from the politics of the day.

The people made their intent absolutely clear. The people voted to provide a citizen commission with the authority to govern the agency that makes decisions on the fish and wildlife resources of this state.

As we reported earlier today, the Senate’s Natural Resources and Ocean & Recreation committee is slated to hear testimony on the bill Feb. 17. The meeting begins at 8 a.m.

Study Finds Half Young Steelhead Die In 2 OR Estuaries

February 12, 2010

The Salem Statesman-Journal is reporting on a new Oregon State University study that “found that up to nearly half of the ocean-bound juvenile steelhead surveyed in the Alsea and Nehalem river systems appear to have died in the estuaries, before they could reach the ocean.”

Before, it was believed that the ocean was the driver in steelhead smolt survival, but this study seems to indicate otherwise.

There are many questions to answer, but researchers found some tags from fish at a seal colony.

Hearing Date Set For Bill To Abolish WDFW

February 12, 2010

A Washington Senate committee is holding a public hearing next week on a bill that would abolish the Department of Fish & Wildlife and move it into the Department of Natural Resources.

The Natural Resources and Ocean & Recreation committee is slated to hear testimony on SB 6813 on Feb. 17. The meeting begins at 8 a.m.

A fiscal note prepared by in the last week by WDFW staffers indicates merging would initially cost $1 million a year through 2013 and then a savings of $1.5 million a year starting in 2015.

The note identifies where cuts might be made. Among the agency’s 1,444 employees,  somewhere around 7 to 8 full-time jobs could be eliminated because of overlap. Among other savings it identifies is $50,000 for road maintenance and $30,000 for fire suppression; DNR and WDFW manage vast swaths of the state’s timber and sagelands.

The guys on Piscatorialpursuits.com are also talking about SB 6813.

The State Parks and Recreation Commission would also be abolished and moved into DNR under the bill.

Senators Ken Jacobsen, Kevin Ranker, Bob Morton, Karen Fraser, Jim Hargrove, Brian Hatfield, Val Stevens and Dan Swecker all sit on the Natural Resources and Ocean & Recreation committee.

OR Anti-poaching Bill Under Scrutiny

February 11, 2010

Official advice: Read your Oregon fishing and hunting regulations very, very, very carefully before wetting a line or drawing a bead.

For the moment, your fishing and hunting privileges “shall” be revoked for even the lightest of game violations due to a bill passed out of the state Legislature last year.

Mark Freeman of The Mail Tribune has the head’s up on this one:

A law that went into effect last month requires the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to automatically revoke all fishing and wildlife permits, licenses and tags for any conviction of a fish or wildlife violation regardless of its severity or where it occurs — even in other states.

In a nutshell, what happened was that House Bill 3089 took away a judge’s discretion to revoke licenses by replacing the word “may” with “shall.”

“It would be the equivalent of losing your driver’s license for a rolling stop,” ODFW deputy director Curt Melcher tells Freeman.

Up to 5,000 individuals a year could lose their privileges; that’s about how many citations are written annually in the Beaver State.

The reporter says that a short-term fix is being worked on, but he also notes that “the new law is one of the better get-tough-on-poaching changes to hit Oregon in years. It sets some serious restitution minimums for poachers to pay Oregonians for their illegal kills.”

Hear hear — at least on one front.

Redden: One More Try, NOAA, Or I Decide

February 11, 2010

The latest Federal plan to save and recover Columbia River salmon is “technically flawed,” and Judge Redden says NOAA-Fisheries gets “one last chance to come up with something better that won’t violate the Endangered Species Act” “before he rules on its broader merits.”

Redden’s been a stickler on this salmon issue. He has “twice before rejected federal blueprints for Columbia Basin salmon, but he has given the government multiple opportunities to amend the one currently before his court.”

That according to articles by the New York Times, Associated Press and The Oregonian out today.

In a three-page letter from Redden released yesterday (and available on The Oregonian’s site), the judge writes:

Federal Defendants have an obligation under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) to rely on the best available science. They cannot rely exclusively on materials that support one position, while ignoring new or opposing scientific information. Federal Defendants recognize that they must supplement of the Administrative Record with all of the documents that support the (Adaptive Management Implementation Plan). They must also include new and pertinent scientific information relating to the proposed action (e.g., recent climate change data). If that scientific data requires additional analysis or mitigation to avoid jeopardy, Federal Defendants must adequately address those issues. I will not sign an order of voluntary remand that effectively relieves Federal Defendants of their obligation to use the best available science and consider all important aspects of the problem. This court will not dictate the scope or substance of Federal Defendants’ remand, but Federal Defendants must comply with the ESA in preparingW amended/supplemental biological opinion.

There are two options. Pursuant to the attached proposed order, Federal Defendants can conduct a voluntary remand using the best available science and addressing all relevant factors. Alternatively, Federal Defendants can reject the proposed order, and I will issue a ruling on the validity of the 2008 BiOp without consideration of the AMIP.

The Obama Administration has until Feb. 19 if they wish to improve upon the plan.

A NOAA spokesman in Seattle said the agency would carefully consider the letter; the AP reports that “salmon advocates said the judge echoed what they have been arguing all along: that the plan needs to do more for salmon.”

WDFW To Destroy 250K Winter-run Eggs; Makahs Step In With Replacements

February 11, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has scheduled a public meeting Saturday, Feb. 13, in Forks to discuss plans to destroy about 250,000 winter steelhead eggs at the Bogachiel Hatchery, where a waterborne fish virus was recently discovered.

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon at the Forks Sportsmans Club, 243 Sportsmans Club Road.

The virus, Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis (IHN), was recently discovered in returning adult winter steelhead at the Bogachiel Hatchery. Eggs taken from those fish at the hatchery will be destroyed because they could also have the infectious virus, said Ron Warren, regional fish program manager for WDFW.

“There is no reliable test that will tell us if the eggs are infected,” said Warren. “To ensure we don’t increase risks to wild fish in the Bogachiel River or spread the pathogen to other watersheds, we have decided to destroy the eggs. It’s unfortunate, but we must take a precautionary approach.”

WDFW developed the response plan after meeting with the tribes and other natural resource management agencies.

To partially make up for the loss, about 130,000 winter steelhead eggs from the Makah Tribe’s Hoko Falls Hatchery will be transferred to the Bogachiel Hatchery for rearing and release, said Warren. Those steelhead eggs are genetically similar to the fish raised at the Bogachiel Hatchery.

Receiving these eggs at this time guarantees continued production at the Bogachiel Hatchery, said Warren.

“We appreciate the Makah Tribe stepping up and providing us these winter steelhead eggs,” said Warren. “These eggs will help make up for some of the production loss and provide for future fisheries in the basin.”

Juvenile steelhead at the Bogachiel Hatchery have been tested and are free of the virus, said Warren.

IHN has no known cure and can be fatal to infected fish, but cannot be passed on to humans. The virus affects both wild and hatchery fish, including salmon and trout species, and is regularly detected in the Columbia River basin. The virus is spread from fish to fish.

Battle Brewing Over McKenzie R. Stockers

February 11, 2010

A story we did last April on the McKenzie River spoke to the crazy numbers of trout you can catch on this stream just southeast of the Eugene-Springfield area.

“It’s absolutely something you need to witness,” guide Bret Stuart told our Larry Ellis. “It’s anywhere from 16- to 20-inch trout and up to 50 a day. We’re talking big redsides and big cutthroats. These are all caught swinging a fly. You can be a complete idiot with a fly rod and catch them too.”

Many of those fish are products of the nearby Leaburg Hatchery, “the biggest single trout program on the West Coast,” manager Tim Wright told Ellis.

A group of anglers is now saying it’s time to rethink the huge releases of stockers which, they say, are harming wild redside rainbows (hatchery trout are fin-clipped, just like salmon or steelhead).

The McKenzie River Native Trout Coalition packed a recent meeting in Springfield.

They dispute “that the current managment of the river represents best practices and that it maximizes benefit.Our vision for the river is that the Mckenize be managed primarily if not exclusively for the benefit of native fish and fisheries. In our view, proper managment will allow for a slot limit on native trout.”

According to an Oregon fly fishing blog, the McKenzie River Guides Association “wants the McKenzie River be stuffed to the bursting point with hatchery fish.”

Stuck in the middle is ODFW.

“We do know that there’s an impact of the hatchery fish on the wild trout population. There’s an impact of the anglers on the wild trout population,” fisheries biologist Jeff Ziller tells KEZI.

UPDATE FEB. 12: This morning, Oregon Public Broadcasting has done a story on the issue. Reporter Angela Kellner talks to Ziller who explains there will be a 15 percent reduction in hatchery stocking and 5 miles of river added for wild fish management only.

Ziller says the state is compiling data from last year’s survey of McKenzie River anglers and using a 2006 statewide survey to better understand fishing preferences.

What they need next, Ziller says, is a survey of the people who aren’t fishing the McKenzie, but would like to.

Fab Feb. Mack Fly Bite On The Yak!

February 10, 2010

What might be Washington’s best (err, only) fly bite for Mackinaw in a river is going on (err, went on last week) in the Yakima Canyon.

Bo Lybeck, a part-time fly fishing guide, landed a decent-sized Mackinaw in the famed Central Washington, err, rainbow fishery.

Rob Phillips, a freelance writer for the Yakima Herald-Republic, forwarded me a couple pics of his unusual catch this afternoon.

“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?” was my approximate response?

It’s unusual … but not Bigfoot-unusual.

Phillips querried biologists at WDFW’s Yakima office who said it was likely it had come from Lake Cle Elum after being “entrained” during high irrigation flows.

They produced pics of another riverine Mack caught in the Ellensburg area, upstream of the Canyon, and said they’d also seen a few in the Naches, west of the town of Yakima.

Regional fisheries manager John Easterbrooks tells me it’s almost an annual occurrence for a fly angler to hook a laker on a big Woolly Bugger or streamer pattern.

“If we had our druthers, we’d have anglers remove any they find,” he says of the non-native “exotic” char, which, unfortunately looks a bit too similar to ESA-listed bull trout to declare all-out war on.

Macks, however, don’t do well in river environments — there’s a reason they’re called lakers. Their environment is by and large, err, lakes, where they cruise for other fish and, when the mood strikes, broadcast spawn over wind-swept beaches on midfall nights.

In the past, Phillips has reported on how to catch the large lakers up at Lake Cle Elum.

“You’ve got 5- to 20-pound trout you can troll around for in summer. It’s a pretty specialized fishery,” says Easterbrooks.

He adds that Macks have been at Cle Elum for at least 80 years.

Phillips say he may write more on lakers — there are management considerations — so watch the YHR.

State To Cull Sick Yakima Bighorns

February 9, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

State and federal wildlife officials later this month will take steps to curb the spread of pneumonia in wild bighorn sheep in the Yakima River canyon by euthanizing the sickest animals.

Biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services will spend several weeks identifying and removing sheep that show signs of pneumonia, such as coughing and lethargy, said Donny Martorello, wildlife manager for WDFW.

“We are attempting to limit the spread of the disease inside and outside the canyon by selectively removing bighorn sheep that are clearly sick,” Martorello said. “It’s unfortunate, but we believe it is a necessary step in limiting the spread of a disease that could devastate herds in the Yakima River area.”

About a third of two wild bighorn sheep populations in the canyon – the Umtanum herd on the west side of the Yakima River and the Selah Butte herd east of the river – are expected to be euthanized, Martorello said. Those two herds currently total about 260 animals.

In early December, wildlife managers received reports of sick and dead sheep in the Yakima River canyon. To date, 18 dead sheep have been found by WDFW biologists conducting aerial and ground surveys in the canyon.

Carcasses tested at Washington State University’s veterinary laboratory were found to have pneumonia, caused by Mycoplasma and Pasteurella bacteria.

The disease is often fatal in wild bighorn sheep, and can also affect the survival rate of lambs later born to animals that survive the disease, Martorello said. There is no treatment for bighorns with pneumonia and there is no preventative vaccination for the disease.

Pneumonia in wild bighorn sheep is not transmissible to humans or domestic livestock, Martorello said. But because the euthanized sheep could be carrying secondary infections, the meat will not be donated to local food banks, he added.

Heads and other biological samples from euthanized sheep will be removed from the canyon, Martorello said.

The Yakima River area is home to more than half the state’s 1,500 wild bighorn sheep, with herds totaling nearly 800 animals. Other bighorn sheep herds in the area include the Quilomene herd to the northeast and the Cleman Mountain and Tieton herds to the west.

So far, no dead or sick bighorn sheep have been found outside the Umtanum and Selah Butte herds.

Past outbreaks among bighorn sheep in Washington and other parts of the western United States have been linked to contact between wild sheep and domestic sheep or goats that carry Pasteurella but are unaffected by the bacteria. However, there is no evidence that such contact occurred in the Yakima River Canyon, said Martorello.

Other western states, including Montana and Nevada, also are experiencing disease outbreaks in their wild bighorn sheep populations. WDFW is in contact with wildlife experts across the western states and are working closely with WSU and other veterinarians.

MORE INFORMATION:

Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic has been reporting on this all along. His post from yesterday can be found here.

Here are other links:

https://nwsportsmanmag.wordpress.com/2009/12/30/bios-may-have-to-kill-yakima-bighorns/

https://nwsportsmanmag.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/the-rush-to-save-yakima-bighorns/

A Very Large Walleye, Or Two?

February 9, 2010

Late last Friday afternoon, just after I left the office, I got emails from two guys in the walleye world wondering if I’d heard of a very large, potential Washington state-record walleye landed the day before.

I have to admit that I didn’t read those emails until coming back to the office yesterday, but it immediately set off red-alert alarm bells at HQ.

Ms. Piggy, you’re on next!

(And what timing too, especially with where and how to catch whopper walleye articles in the Columbia system in our February issue!!)

With the standing state record at 19.3 pounds, I began dialing frantically. Biologists, enforcement officers, the state capitol — surely someone official must have weighed something somewhere sometime!!!

Twenty-four hours later and, well, I don’t have any definitive proof that a 20-plus was landed … because the person who says he caught it, Kurt Sonderman, turned it loose instead of having it officially weighed in.

Incon-@#$@%#$-ceivable.

Or is it?

Goes with this guy’s character. He’s said to be “real adamant about releasing big fish.” Thems the breeding stock, after all. Even has told folks on his boat they were only photographing the big girls, then letting them go.

I didn’t speak to Sonderman directly (have only managed to get in touch with him a couple times in my years in this biz), but Leroy Ledeboer did reach him somewhere way down in the Blue Mountains, where he goes to get the hell away from it all.

The catch, he told Leroy, was witnessed by friends fishing nearby.

“He said if he’d been alone, (news of the catch) wouldn’t have gotten out there,” Leroy tells me.

Rumors grew.

Indeed, a lot of things are unclear about this whole escapade, starting with whether photos were taken, the accuracy of whatever scale the fish was weighed on, whether length and girth measurements were taken (which we could then plug into standard fish-size calculators), etc.

I don’t think Sonderman would bullshit Leroy. I’m tempted to believe he let her go because of how he feels about large fish.

But at the end of the day, we’re left with someone’s word that the very large walleye they hooked was over 20 pounds.

Or two were.

As his story goes, his wife had an even bigger one, but it got loose at the boat.

So he’s not really too willing to attract attention to his Tri-Cities-area honey hole.

Till he catches the she-piggy.

And bonks it.

2010 Columbia, OR Coho Forecasts Out

February 9, 2010

This year won’t be last year — at least if forecasts for Columbia River and Oregon Coast coho hold up.

This year’s prediction is for an overall return just 37 percent of 2009’s whopper run of 1.3-plus million hatchery and wild silvers.

Expectations for the Columbia drag the forecast down. Fishery managers expect just 245,300 early and 144,200 late coho back, just 35 and 38 percent of last year’s actual returns (681,400 and 374,100).

Oregon Coast rivers and lakes are in better shape: 131,400 and 16,600 are expected back, roughly 55 percent and 86 percent of 2009’s final run tallies.

7 ATV Hunters Barred From Private Timberlands

February 9, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Seven people who were found illegally operating their All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) on Longview Timber Company during archery season near Silverton in September 2009 have pled guilty in Marion County Justice Court.

In September 2009 an Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division trooper responded to complaints from archery hunters regarding a group of five people operating ATVs on Longview Timber property.  The operation of ATVs on Longview Timber property is prohibited year round. The complainant confronted the riders and told them they were not allowed to ride their ATVs on the property.  The five people ignored the warning and continued on their way.  The trooper located the group approximately seven miles from the nearest locked gate.  There were signs outlining the restrictions that the riders had driven past.  The group had driven around a locked gate.  Members of the group indicated that they didn’t think it was a big deal because they were on gravel roads.

The following five defendants pled guilty to Criminal Trespass – 2nd Degree:

JAMES CULVER, age 49, Stayton, OR
RICHARD FRERES, age 32, Stayton, OR
CHAD HAFNER, age 33, Stayton, OR
THEODORE HAFNER, age 56, Stayton, OR
JACOB TOEPFER, age 32, Sublimity, OR

Each of the defendants was ordered to pay:

Court Fees                              $167
Fine                                    $250
Restitution to Longview Timber          $500

Personnel from Longview Timber Company were at the court appearance.  They served the five defendants with notice that they are not allowed on Longview Timber Company property for five years.

Six days later, the trooper was patrolling the same area.  The trooper heard ATVs approaching his location.  He waited and then observed two ATV’s.  The riders told the trooper that a contractor had opened the gate and let them into the property.  The trooper located the contractor, who told the trooper a totally different story.  The contractor was leaving the property and met the riders at the gate.  He had told the two riders that they were not allowed to ride their ATVs on the property.  When the contractor opened the gate to leave, the two riders squeezed by him through the gate, and continued on.

The following 2 defendants pled guilty to Criminal Trespass – 2nd Degree:

CHRIS SCHUMACHER, age 53, Aumsville, OR
SHEILA ROGERS, age 46, Silverton, OR

Each of the defendants was ordered to pay:

Court Fees                              $167
Fine                                    $250
Restitution to Longview Timber          $500

Personnel from Longview Timber Company were at the court appearance.  They served Ms. Rogers and Mr. Schumacher with notice they are not allowed on Longview Timber Company property for lifetime.

SW WA Fishing Report

February 8, 2010

(JOE HYMER, PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – 33 bank anglers kept 5 steelhead and released 2.  Sixteen boat anglers kept 4 steelhead and released 1.  The steelhead were caught at Blue Creek.  The anglers who permanently use a wheelchair are doing really well at the outfall structure at the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery.

Last week Tacoma Power recovered 42 winter-run steelhead and two coho adults during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. During the week Tacoma Power employees released six winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and eleven winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,850 cubic feet per second on Monday, February 8. Water visibility is ten feet.

Lower Columbia from the mouth to the I-5 Bridge –Near Kalama  6 bank anglers as well as 3 boats/5 anglers had no catch.  With the spring like weather and reports of a few spring Chinook being caught, effort increased last weekend with 53 boats and nearly 100 bank anglers counted during the Saturday Feb. 6 flight.

Bonneville Pool – No effort observed for steelhead.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers averaged over 2 steelhead per rod while bank anglers averaged one per every 2 rods.  However, over three-quarters of the fish caught were wild and had to be released.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged over a steelhead per rod.  Bank anglers were also catching some fish.  Nearly two-thirds of the fish caught were hatchery fish.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – 5 boats/10 anglers near Kalama kept 2 legals and released 11 sublegals.  Near Woodland 3 boats/7 anglers had no catch.  During the Saturday Feb. 6 flight, sixty six boats and 27 bank anglers were counted.

Lower Columbia from the mouth to Bonneville Dam – In January 2010, an estimated 1,750 angler trips produced a measly 25 keepers.

Bonneville Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged just under a legal per rod.  Bank anglers are also catching some legals.  Through January 2010, an estimated 390 (28%) of the 1,400 fish guideline had been taken.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers caught some legals; fishing from the bank was slow.    An estimated 87 (29%) of the 300 fish guideline had been taken through January 2010.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged a legal per every 9 anglers when including fish released.  Fishing from the bank was slow.  Through January 2010, an estimated 41 (25%) of the 165 fish guideline had been taken.

WALLEYE AND BASS

Bonneville Pool – No effort was observed for either species.

The Dalles and John Day pools – Boat anglers in both pools averaged better than a walleye kept/released per every 3 rods.  No effort was observed for bass.

TROUT

Mayfield Lake – Good catches of trout.

Silver Lake near Castle Rock – No report on angling success.  Planted with 1,811 catchable size rainbows Feb. 1.

Kress Lake near Kalama – High effort and good catches.

Horseshoe Lake near Woodland – Low effort but excellent catches.  Some anglers were catching their limits in under an hour.  Planted with 2,150 catchable size rainbows Feb. 2.

Battleground Lake – Average effort but low catch.  Only a few of the steelhead were reported caught.  Planted with 35 cutthroats averaging 1.5 pounds each Feb. 3.

Lacamas and Vancouver lakes – No effort.

SMELT

Cowlitz sport – Last Saturday was a bust with no smelt observed caught.  No smelt were reported caught during last Wednesday’s or last night’s commercial fisheries.

Senseless Wastage

February 8, 2010

We’re learning of three spree killings of wildlife across Washington in recent weeks, including preliminary word about a pair of Southwest Washington men who killed 26 animals over a month — “all illegal, all wasted,” says the investigating officer. “They just let it rip. Whatever got in their sights, they shot.”

Here are two other cases being worked on:

WENATCHEE WASTAGE, by Leroy Ledeboer

When a late January coyote hunt wasn’t paying off, apparently three rifle toters decided to switch to targets, mule deer does, deer crowded onto a piece of their Chelan County winter range.

“It was up in Fairview Canyon, just south of Monitor,” WDFW enforcement officer Sgt. Doug Ward reports, “where the deer are pressed up against the urban interface in winter, already stressed and very vulnerable.”

Fortunately, a resident, a seasoned hunter, heard the sporadic rifle fire that day, became suspicious and drove up the canyon to investigate.

“He saw activity he considered suspicious,” Ward says, “so he called it in to our Officer Grant, who along with three Chelan County Sheriff’s deputies caught the suspects as they were exiting the area. They had three deer in their vehicle and said they had planned to come back for the fourth.”

The three males, two from the Wenatchee Valley area, one who resides west of the Cascades, have been cited with poaching three mature mule deer does and one yearling. Two of the deer were salvaged, the meat turned over to a charitable organization. The other two, one because it hadn’t been gutted, the other because it had been left in the field, were wasted.

So besides the already extremely serious charges of poaching, this trio now faces two counts of game wastage.

“Those three does most likely were all carrying fetuses, but we couldn’t prove this because the coyotes and ravens had already been at the gut piles before we were on the scene,” Ward adds.

What the final outcome will be has yet to be determined in court, but everything related to their crime was seized, four rifles, other hunting equipment and the vehicle they were driving, a 2000 Toyota Tundra. WDFW is following up on the process to take ownership.

“When people ask if they can lose ownership of their rigs when they do something like this, the answer is yes,” Ward adamantly states.

If that doesn’t make potential poachers pause, well, there’s little hope. A hefty fine, a lost rifle, bad and bad, but lose your pickup or SUV? That’s gotta hit home.

CLARKSTON WASTAGE, by Andy Walgamott

In late January, the USA Today reported on “spree killings” of wildlife across the country, including cases in Washington.

We dug further and learned about a pair of Asotin County teens, 18 and 16, who officers say spotlighted six bucks over a five-week period.

“Four of the six bucks are trophy class, and no meat was taken from any of the deer – just antlers on skull plates,” WDFW reports.

A seventh deer, allegedly the older boy’s second taken during modern firearm season, was also wasted, according to the agency.

WDFW reports that the older teen’s father wasn’t very cooperative, but the younger’s dad wasn’t pleased. His son led investigators to six kill sites where skulls “perfectly” matching the six antler plates were recovered.

ANTLERS AND SKULLS FROM THE CLARKSTON CASE. (WDFW)

Charges are pending.

For more, see Eric Barker’s article in the Lewiston Morning Tribune.

Big Lakers Coming Out Of Chelan: Guide

February 8, 2010

(DARRELL AND DAD’S GUIDE SERVICE PRESS RELEASE)

What’s hot is… holy cow! Did we have a week to remember for big lakers on Chelan! Steelhead continued to bite baited jigs on the Upper Columbia. Particularly the area between Wells Dam and Beebe bridge was productive. Roses Lake is a mixture of open water, slush and thin ice. Stay off of it.

On Chelan, we are into the peak period for big Mackinaw above the Yacht Club. Go to our web site to see this week’s pictures. Purple Glow Rushin’ Salmon Wobblers by Critter Gitter were the hot ticket. We continued to fish straight out through the Narrows from 200 feet deep all the way out to the 400’ break.

To put this last week in perspective we get about one fish over ten pounds for every forty fish caught over the course of the year. This week we put forty nine lakers in the boat with ten of them being over ten pounds. That is better than 1 in 5.

Twenty pound fish are one in a thousand here. We got one this week. Fish over 15 are about 1 in 200. We got three this week. Which is the long way around to say “it doesn’t get much better than this.”

JAY BOMGARDNER WITH THE "BIG FISH OF THE YEAR SO FAR" AT LAKE CHELAN, A 20-PLUS-POUND MACKINAW. (DARRELL AND DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

We dealt with some rain this week. Temps were in the high 30’s to low 40’s all week. No wind. In other words, perfect for this time of the year.

The Upper Columbia Steelhead fishing is doing pretty well, well… below Well’s Dam. Bait up Mack’s Lures quarter ounce Rock Dancer jigs baited with purple shrimp. — Anton Jones

JACQUELINE SWINDELL OF WENATCHEE WITH TWO HATCHERY STEELIES FROM THE UPPER COLUMBIA. (DARRELL AND DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

Sturgeon News

February 8, 2010

The infamous “Wall” in Oregon City, a bank-fishing spot for Willamette River anglers, may close, reports the Statesman Journal in Salem, while KIRO TV reports on poaching rings capturing oversize fish in the Columbia, tethering them up and offering them for sale.

For a picture of The Wall, and previous coverage of sturgeon issues in the Willamette, see Bill Monroe’s piece here and here.

Sea Lions Munch 300+ Sturgeon In January

February 5, 2010

A report in today’s Columbia Basin Bulletin says that from Jan. 8 through the end of last month, Steller and California sea lions had eaten well over 300 white sturgeon below Bonneville Dam.

A little bit concerning seeing as how that number is “already nearly halfway to last year’s record total, 758,” CBB reports.

The pinnipeds are being monitored five days a week; last year, researchers started counting Jan. 13.

The sturgeon taken last year were estimated to be from 2 to 7 feet long but most, 79.4 percent were fish 4 feet long or shorter, according to the study’s final 2009 report.

CBB points out that predation will probably switch over to springers as this year’s forecasted bumper run builds next month. Sea lions, the article says, usually leave the dam in May.

There’s also word that NOAA Fisheries is about to begin a review of the status of ESA-protected Steller sea lions in the eastern Pacific “in the very near future,” a spokeswoman for the federal agency tells CBB.