Archive for February, 2011

SW WA Fishing Report (2-28-11)

February 28, 2011

COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – No report on angling success.  Last week Tacoma Power recovered 59 winter-run steelhead, one spring Chinook adult and one cutthroat trout during four days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released the spring Chinook adult and 17 steelhead into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek and they released five winter-run steelhead and one cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 10,800 cubic feet per second on Monday, February 28. Water visibility is four feet.

Lower Columbia mainstem from the I-5 Bridge downstream – Effort and catches are building.  Last week we sampled 241 anglers with 25 chinook and 2 steelhead.  Boat anglers averaged a Chinook kept/released per every 5.7 rods based on completed trips.  All the catch was sampled from Woodland to Vancouver.  We did not check any Chinook from the nearly 100 bank anglers sampled.

88% of the Chinook caught were kept.  88% were upriver stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).

Over a hundred salmonid boats were counted on the lower Columbia from I-5 downstream last Saturday – most were between Woodland and the I-5 Bridge.

Effective March 1, the adult salmonid limit will be 2 fish of which no more than one may be a hatchery Chinook.  Release all salmon other than hatchery chinook.

Mainstem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam Effective March 1 through April 4, open to fishing for hatchery Chinook, hatchery steelhead, and shad.  Bank fishing only from Rooster Rock to Bonneville Dam.  The adult salmonid limit will be 2 fish of which no more than one may be a hatchery Chinook.  Release all salmon other than hatchery chinook.

The Dalles and John Day pools – Boat anglers are catching some steelhead.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Light effort and catch.  We did not sample any legals last week.

The Dalles and John Day pools – Light effort and catch.  No legals were sampled last week.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles and John Day pools – Boat anglers are catching some walleye.  Little to no effort for bass.

 

 

 

AndyCoho Breaks Feb. Springer Drought

February 28, 2011

ODFW is today reporting that spring Chinook fishing “got off to a strong start on the lower Columbia during February.”

“Salmonid angler effort is beginning to increase, and catch rates were very good for the end of February.  On Saturday’s (2/26) flight, 107 salmonid boats and 57 Oregon bank anglers were counted.  Most of the effort was found upstream of St. Helens,” the agency reports.

Yesterday, the 27th, found Northwest Sportsman contributor Andy Schneider on the water, catching his first February springer since 2003. Here’s his tale:

The last time I personally caught a February Springer was Valentine’s Day 2003, so it’s been a long drought.  I’ve made an effort to get out at least once every February in an attempt and catch a early Springer.  Last year I made 4 February Springer trips, a record for me, but proved Springerless until March.

 

ANDY SCHNEIDER'S SPRINGER. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Tom VanderPlaat proved tough enough to volunteer to pursue some Springers with me. We started off at Davis Bar, (at the mouth of the Willamette) and made our way almost to the bottom of Sauvie Island.  A boat that started fishing at the exact time we did, hooked a fish with a mere minute into their Springer Season….it took us 3 hours of fishing before I was rewarded with a bite.  Throughout the day we say only 3 other fish caught, maybe it was my special brine of Sea Salt and Pautzke Nectar, the spin of the Herring, or just being in the right spot at the right time, no matter I couldn’t be happier!

The bite came just seconds after telling Tom to reel them up to make another pass.  The bite and fight was pretty uneventful and before we could really comprehend what had just happened a chrome February Columbia River Spring Chinook was flopping in the bottom of the boat.  While I cant prove otherwise, I swear that a February Springer tastes better than a ‘Peak Season’ Springer 😉

Thanks Tom for the excellent net job and great company!  And here is hoping that it doesn’t take another 8 years for a February Springer!

ODFW also reports that last week between Portland and Longview, 11 ad-clipped springers were kept and another four wild fish were released between 24 boats with 60 anglers.

Monday Morning Links

February 28, 2011

My vow this week is to work, not blog, blog, blah, blah, blah, so in that spirit, here are just links to issues/articles popping up in my email over the weekend, predators first:

Seattle Times follows up on carcass of wolf found in North Cascades.

The Oregonian reports on the not-so-stellar sea lion toll on sturgeon at Bonneville Dam, a kill that’s already surpassed last year.

And The Magic Valley Times-News summarizes where we’re at on wolves.

KOMO News does a story on protecting geoducks in Puget Sound.

Old Soldier on ifish has a head’s up on a bill in the Oregon legislature that would merge ODFW with other natural resource agencies.

The Kitsap Sun reminds us that tomorrow, WDFW unveils their summer salmon forecasts in Oly.

Scott Sandsberry reports (via the TNT) “Nuisance trappers offer aromatic relief.”

WA Legislative Update

February 25, 2011

Good news if you hate poachers and derelict nets.

Bills that would toughen penalties for spree wildlife killings and require commercial fishermen to report lost nets are moving forward in the Washington legislature.

The former, HB 1340, was passed out of the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources on a 13-0 vote last week and has been placed on the floor of the House for a second reading. It:

Adds a new element to the crime of unlawful hunting of big game in the first degree so that a person may be convicted of this crime without first being convicted of a different wildlife-related crime if the person kills, or attempts to kill, three or more big game animals within the same course of events.

We wrote about it here.

The latter, SB 5661, is waiting in the Rules Committee for a decision on whether it will be placed on the floor of the Senate for a second reading. Under current law, skippers who lose nets are only encouraged to call WDFW. It was voted out of the Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee on a 7-0 vote.

We wrote about it here.

Substitute Senate Bill 5669, the WDFW merger bill, sits in Ways and Means. We wrote about it here, here, here and here.

Another WDFW-related bill, SSB 5622, which creates a $30 annual parking pass to access state lands ($7 for hunters and anglers) is also before Ways and Means. It cleared Natural Resources with a 6-0 vote, with one senator forwarding it without recommendation.

A trio of predator-related bills are stirring as well.

In a bit of a surprise, HB 1109, which had been considered all but dead earlier in the week, has been scheduled for a public hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources at 8 a.m. on March 4. It:

“prohibits the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife from sending the final gray wolf conservation and management plan, along with the associated environmental impact statement, to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for final review and approval without first receiving legislative approval of the documents.”

We wrote about it here and here.

Meanwhile, two bills aim to extend cougar hunting with hounds in several Eastside counties, one for five years (SSB 5356), the other permanently (SHB 1124).

The former was voted out of the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee on a 5-1 vote earlier this week and has been sent to the floor of the Senate, the latter out of the House Ag and Naters committee on a 9-4 vote last week and is in the rules committee.

Comments for and against 5356 included:

PRO: The pilot project for hunting cougar with dogs has been successful, and should be continued. This is a sensitive issue, but DFW is trying to use it as a tool to address public safety and better cougar management. Livestock producers have noticed a decrease in cougar depredation in areas where the pilot has occurred. This program has worked in the field, and the date indicates the pilot is working.

CON: Citizens have banned the use of dogs for hunting cougar by initiative. This is not extension of the pilot, but instead is a permanent and broader bill. Outfitters should not be able to profit from facilitating cougar hunting with dogs. This program is not responsible cougar management, and is not supported by good science.

Persons Testifying: PRO: Donny Martonello, Dave Ware, DFW; Lee Barker, citizen; John Stuhlmiller, WA Farm Bureau; Heather Hanson, Cattle Producers of WA; Jess Kasger, Jack Field, WA Cattlemen’s Assn.; Brad Cameron, Klickitat Co. Cattlemen.

CON: Jennifer Hillman, Humane Society of WA; Sylvia Moss, PAWS; Bob Aegerter, citizen; Seth Cool, Conservation NW.

Comments for and against 1124 included:

(In support) There were minimal issues related to cougars prior to 1996 when an initiative was passed banning the use of dogs in the hunting of cougars. Before the initiative, cougar population levels were at a healthy level, but there were few complaints or negative human interactions because the cougars were conditioned to fear humans after being pursued by dogs. After the initiative passed, the cougars lost that fear and animal and human attacks started to be reported. Human safety must be paramount in managing any wildlife.

The seven-year cougar hunting pilot project gave confidence in rural communities that something was being done about cougar populations. As a result, cougar populations were able to be managed according to science and proper management and not through vigilante poaching incidents. The pilot program has also led to less complaints and requests for depredation permits. A permanent program would continue these benefits.

When the initiative passed, it reflected an ethical standard for hunting cougars with dogs for sport. However, the indication is now that society values a science-based management approach designed for improving safety and maintaining healthy population levels. This bill allows additional hound hunting opportunities in a controlled manner and allows management based on science and not rhetoric.

It is critical for the WDFW to have as many tools available as possible to manage predatory wildlife. Utilizing licensed hunters to help control population levels, as opposed to using public money to hire contract hunters, is both more cost-effective and accepted by the public.

A statewide program allows this and provides the flexibility to address the management differences that exist between urban and rural settings. Less money available in the WDFW’s budget leads to fewer management options, and licensed hunters provide options.

Cougar attacks on livestock threaten businesses and livelihoods. Killed livestock is a total loss to the owner. However, even livestock that is not killed still leads to expense to the owner and a diminishment of the animal’s value.

Hounds allow a hunter to confine a cougar to a tree before killing it. This allows selection as to the age and sex of cougars harvested and provides a clean, humane shot. A hunter who is not given the option of hunting cougars with the aid of dogs is only given a few seconds to decide if a cougar he or she sees is one that should be taken, and often leads to shots that injure the cougar but does not kill it. Hounds are necessary for tracking problem cougars in western Washington where the rainfall makes tracking the animals without dogs very difficult.

The will of the voters is a transient event and is often invoked as a term of art. The drafters of Washington’s Constitution provided a mechanism for initiatives to change over time to reflect changing circumstances. Controlled, science-based management does not return state law to the pre-initiative cougar hunting provisions.

(Opposed) The citizens overwhelmingly passed an initiative in 1996 to stop hound hunting. The Legislature has eroded that initiative over the years, and now proposes the final repeal of the initiative and the erosion of the voter’s intent.

It has never been disputed that there is a need to protect public safety and private property, but this bill allows for the blanket use of dogs for sport and not for targeted problems. Sport hunting with dogs is not an acceptable wildlife management tool. The existing law provides the necessary tools and there is no need to undermine the will of the people.

Persons Testifying: (In support) Representative Blake, prime sponsor; Representative Kretz; Dave Ware, Department of Fish and Wildlife; Lee Barker; Bruce Vandervort; John Stuhlmiller, Washington Farm Bureau; Ed Owens, Hunters Heritage Council; Jack Field and Keith Kreps, Washington Cattlemen’s Association; Jess Kayser, Brad Cameron, and Bruce Davenport, Klickitat County Cattlemen’s Association; Clay Schuster and Harry Miller,
Klickitat County Livestock Growers; Duane Dewey; Jim Detro, Okanogan County; Heather Hansen, Cattle Producers of Washington; and Darvin Ecklund.

(Opposed) Jennifer Hillman, The Humane Society of the United States.

Orr, And Ore. And Our Wolves

February 25, 2011

I hesitated on posting links to the three stories below.

They were in the cue to publish on our blog yesterday, but for one reason or another, I held back.

The first is Rich Landers’ article about George Orr, who retired from the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission at the end of 2010.

The Spokane Spokesman-Review outdoors columnist terms him one of the citizen panel’s “biggest guns.”

And perhaps because the Spokane resident and former legislator is done serving on the commission, he was more open about his frustrations while on it.

I hesitated because his words were unusually harsh against sportsmen. I’ll bet 10 pounds of claw meat he won’t get invited to any Puget Sound Dungie boils this summer.

But upon reflection, I think we’re all big boys and girls and can handle it.

Landers quotes him:

“People don’t want to understand the whole issue. If they want more funding for fish hatcheries, they don’t care about funding for habitat or anything else.”

“People don’t want to hear about a few restrictions on lead fishing tackle that might inconvenience them even if it means saving loons and swans.”

When shellfishers recently pushed for more liberal recreational limits on crabs, Orr took a minority commission position and sided with the commercial crabbers who would, in turn, have to accept lower quotas.

“If recreational crabbers who live in Puget Sound get to keep more crabs, that means higher prices and fewer crabs available for people who live elsewhere and want to buy crabs from the supermarket,” he said. “Everybody has a stake in those crabs, not just the people who can go out their door and catch them.”

Then there are the two articles that came out of two very different talks on wolves in extreme eastern Oregon last weekend.

I hesitated on posting a link to the story by the Blue Mountain Eagle of John Day, Ore., because it makes some assertions that I just don’t buy, and is pushed by some with clear political agendas, including a former Idaho gubernatorial candidate who awaits trial for an elk poaching incident last fall.

But I recalled that after the author Douglas Chadwick spoke with a pair of stridently anti-grizzly ranch women in the Yellowstone area, he began to get a better grasp of the real depth of their feelings.

As the Eagle’s Carl Sampson reports:

“They did not put oatmeal-eating wolves in the Bitterroot, and they did not put oatmeal-eating wolves in Oregon,” said Mike Popp, a hunting guide who said he has seen the damage wolves caused to the elk populations in Idaho. He lives in the Lolo region, where he said the elk population plummeted from 16,000 in 1995 to 2,100 currently.

“I’m just trying to let people know what is going on,” said Dale Potter, who organized the meeting. He fears that if wolves continue to proliferate in the region large-scale cattle operations will be impossible to sustain.

“There are people who will tell you that the wolf is a tool to destroy the rural economy,” he said.

He called for area residents to join forces and speak out about the threat wolves present.

“It’s not just going to kill cows, it’ll change our whole lifestyle,” Potter said.

He called for public demonstrations, at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office in La Grande and at the Capitol in Salem.

Public safety is a growing concern, the speakers said.

A teacher was killed last year in rural Alaska, according to the Los Angeles Times, and a Canadian was killed several years ago in northern Alberta.

“A lot of people are afraid to walk their dogs on the area’s trails,” Linda Graning, a volunteer at the meeting, said.

The third article, by the Argus Observer of Ontario, Ore., counterbalances the Eagle‘s piece. It details a talk that Carter Niemeyer, a retired federal wolf recovery coordinator in Idaho and Montana, gave to an audience at Treasure Valley Community College last Friday.

I hesitated because the reporter wrote, “However, Niemeyer attributed any downturn in elk numbers to a loss of habitat.”

Ummmm, say what?!?! I knew he was outspoken, but that went against the evidence.

A couple hours of email and phone tag later, Niemeyer caught up to me from his Boise home. He said the paraphrasing was an “oversimplification” of what he believes — which is, the decline is linked to wolves and habitat.

“I’ve been in the battle too long to say it’s just the habitat,” he told me.

He says he stays in the fight to counter “the lying, the embellishment,” which he says is “rampant.”

“It drives me nuts to read all the crap out there. It’s surreal,” he says.

He says we need to “get off the emotional fear trip that everyone’s trying to convey.”

Niemeyer terms himself a “middle of the road guy” and hopes the debate — now dominated by extreme anti-wolfers — can be toned down. He tells me that moderate hunters and pro-wolf lobbies  have gone silent on the issue.

His new book, Wolfer — at turns laugh-out-loud amusing (to establish his bona fides with west-central Alberta locals who will help him radio-collar wolves for eventual reintroduction back in the U.S., he wins a wine-soaked wolf-skinning contest with a fur trapper) — outlines his decades at USDA Wildlife Services and then with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

He scoffs at stories that bringing wolves into Yellowstone and Central Idaho was done to “disarm America and do away with hunting.”

“All of us hunt, all of us fish, some of us trap,” he says of the federal biologists working on wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies. “Trust us, none of us did that to kill our recreational pastime.”

He told the community college audience he supports the cattle industry, and told me that as a livestock-kill investigator, he knows the pain ranchers experience when losing animals. That said, he’s also called BS on stock deaths that have nothing to do with wolves.

As politicians attempt to get Canis lupus off the Endangered Species Act through various bills, Niemeyer says he too is for delisting.

(I didn’t ask him this question, but on the book’s Facebook page, Niemeyer responds to a question about those bills by saying, “I am opposed to Congress trying to legislatively delist wolves to circumvent the ESA. It is a dangerous precedent to pick and choose which species the laws of the land apply to.”)

He’s for wolf hunting, says it will “never get rid” of them, and adds, “The quicker they have fair-chase sensible hunting seasons, that’ll cool it down quicker than anything else.”

Give hunters a couple seasons, maybe a couple wolf rugs, and the howling will fade, Niemeyer thinks.

We got to talking about Washington’s wolves. He’s the guy who slapped collars on the Lookout Pack’s alpha pair in July 2008 — the state’s first confirmed breeding pack in 70 years — and the alpha male in the Diamond Pack in July 2009.

I’ve been paying especially close attention to the Lookout gang since it resides in the upper Methow Valley, where I’ve hunted mule deer for over a decade, but was surprised to learn that the alphas were pretty long in the tooth when Niemeyer caught them.

“They were gummers,” he says, “no less than 7 or 8 years old, way over their prime.”

They had chipped, broken and yellowish teeth that were worn to the gums, he says, and called the pair “probably the oldest I’ve ever handled.”

A pair of government wildlife biologists who monitor the pack suspect the alpha female, which disappeared last May, was shot, but Niemeyer’s take makes me wonder anew.

Who knows.

Ahh, hell, I’ve hesitated posting this blog long enough, I have actual work to do, so here goes nothing.

1st Springer Checks Into Cowlitz Hatchery

February 24, 2011

I seem to recall that last month, a certain someone in Southwest Washington said he was all done giving us fishhead journalists blow-by-blow accounts of the 2011 springer season.

Must’ve been secretly crossing his mouse cable or something, because lo and behold what pops into my email moments ago but this missive:

“1st spring chinook of the year has returned to Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery”

Ahem, Joe.

“Gotta keep you up-to-date.”

OK, good point.

And since I’ll use ANY excuse to further put off writing this stinkin’ editor’s note, I’ll gladly update everyone not on his email list.

THEY'RE BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK, SPRINGERS -- OR AT LEAST ONE -- TO THE UPPER COWLITZ'S SALMON HATCHERY. THIS IMAGE COMES FROM THE 2009 SEASON. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Here are the springer season tallies as we know them as of Feb. 24 in the year of our lord 2011:

Bonneville count: 10

Season average thru yesterday: 10.0

Cumulative commercial catch (Lower Columbia sturgeon, nontreaty, thru Feb. 8-9): 75

Average weight during most recent reporting period: 20.1 pounds

And here’s Hymer’s most recent fishing report for the Lower Columbia:

Lower Columbia mainstem from the I-5 Bridge downstream – The 3 bank anglers sampled in the Longview area had no catch.  Some spring Chinook and large hatchery winter run steelhead were reportedly caught.

Effort is increasing with 72 salmonid boats and over 210 bank anglers counted during the Saturday Feb. 19 flight.  Over half the boats were counted from Woodland to Vancouver.  Majority of the bank effort was on the Oregon side.  Both the Willamette and mainstem Columbia below the Cowlitz were reported to be turbid.

Umm, OK, that’s all I’ve got. Damnit, back to work on that note.

New Line Of Steelie Drifter Launched

February 24, 2011

They say the Northwest fishing-boat market is starting to pick up, and one of the newest owners took his model out for a spin yesterday.

The good news is that it floats, the bad is that it could use a little pumping up.

Err, pumping up?

Yeah, it’s an inner tube that Oregon guide David Johnson plucked out of the brush alongside a North Coast river.

“It was left there by the last Tillamook County flood,” says DJ. “I just thought we’d give it a shot, so I pulled the drifter over and ‘launched’ my new craft.”

Since he was fishing, he pitched a cast and did a little side-, err, tubing.

And how’d that go, David?

“It actually didn’t have enough air and I ended up taking on water down the back of my waders.  Sadly, not enough time to catch anything,” he says.

He posted the escapade to his Facebook page and got 15 comments and seven likes.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington (2-23-11)

February 23, 2011

Whether your part of Washington is getting snowed upon or not today (currently not at NWS World HQ in Seattle), you’re probably already thinking ahead to this weekend and where to go fishin’.

May we be of some assistance.

Well, actually not us, Northwest Sportsman, per se. Rather, the good folks at the Department of Fish & Wildlife & Conservation & Recreation & Woofs & Parks & Slumping Morale, or whatever the hell the agency is being called these days.

They’ve just posted their latest Weekender, and after a bit of quick edits  — ahem, guys, your new Areas 1-3 lingcod opener is March 12, not 19, as version 1 of the doc states — I’m blatantly ripping it off for our Web site. To wit:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

With the region’s rivers closed to steelhead fishing, anglers’ attention has turned to blackmouth salmon in the marine areas of Puget Sound.

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 salmon. Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is closed to salmon fishing.

While there have been a few reports of anglers hauling in some nice blackmouth, salmon fishing in Puget Sound has been slow the last couple of weeks of February. “Anglers that have put in their time on the water have been most successful,” said Steve Thiesfeld, fish biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “It looks like that will continue to be the case as we head into March. But hopefully fishing will improve as spring approaches.”

Anglers looking for some competition might want to participate in the Everett Blackmouth Derby on March 19. Prizes include $3,000 for the largest fish, $1,500 for second place and $500 for third place. For details, visit the derby’s website.

Meanwhile, numerous rivers are closed to fishing for steelhead and other game fish, including the Skagit, Sauk and Samish. The three rivers, usually open in March, closed early to protect wild steelhead that are returning in low numbers this year.

Freshwater anglers, however, can wet a line at some local lakes. Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish are good spots to fish for perch, cutthroat and smallmouth bass, said WDFW fisheries biologist Danny Garrett.

“Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish continue to produce 14-18 inch cutthroat trout with the occasional lunker over 20 inches,” he said. “Fishing for bass, perch, and crappie in all lakes should improve in March as water temperatures increase and fish move shallower.”

Looking forward to the summer salmon fishing season? There’s still time to provide input on proposals for this year’s fisheries. Several public meetings have been scheduled throughout March as fishery managers continue to develop the 2011 salmon seasons, which will be finalized in mid-April. For more information on the meetings, visit WDFW’s North of Falcon website.

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

More wild steelhead are moving into rivers on the Olympic Peninsula, blackmouth salmon fisheries are under way in Puget Sound and the lingcod season opens March 12 in ocean areas south of Cape Alava.

Wild Steelhead fishing on the northern peninsula is a good bet right now, said Kirt Hughes, regional fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“This is peak season for wild steelhead,” he said.  “Anglers need to keep an eye on river conditions, but fishing is good right now.”

As in years past, anglers may retain only one wild steelhead per license year on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, 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.

Anglers looking to hook a hatchery steelhead should try fishing rivers in the Chehalis River Basin. “During the last weeks of February, fishing slowed in the basin,” Hughes said. “But the Satsop, Skookumchuck and Wynoochee rivers still offer the best opportunities for hatchery steelhead in March.”

For more information on steelhead fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

As water temperatures begin to warm, freshwater anglers also might want to try fishing at one of the region’s lakes. Popular lakes open year-round include Thurston County’s Saint Clair Lake for rainbow and brown trout, American Lake in Pierce County for kokanee and Kitsap Lake in Kitsap County for rainbow trout.

Rather catch a blackmouth salmon?  Several areas of Puget Sound are open to fishing for resident Chinook. Anglers fishing marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal) have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild Chinook.

Those fishing the Strait of Juan de Fuca – marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait) – have a daily limit of one salmon. “During the last weekend of February, anglers fishing for blackmouth at Coyote and Partridge banks in the eastern Strait had success,” said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for WDFW.

Anglers fishing for salmon in Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound) continue to have success hooking resident coho, said Larry Phillips, regional fish biologist for WDFW. Best bets include the Tacoma Narrows, the Squaxin Island area and in Eld Inlet off Evergreen Beach. Anglers fishing Marine Area 13 have daily limit of one salmon.

Another option is lingcod fishing, which gets under way March 12 in marine areas 1-3, south of Cape Alava. The minimum size for lingcod in these areas is 22 inches, with a daily limit of two fish per angler. In Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores), recreational fishing for lingcod is not allowed in waters deeper than 30 fathoms. Additional information about the lingcod fishery and other bottom fish is available in the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

WDFW also expects to schedule a razor clam dig in mid-March. Check the department’s website for an announcement.

SOUTHWEST

Spring Chinook fever is beginning to take hold on the Columbia River. More than 50 boats were counted on the lower river one day in mid February when only a few fish had been counted at Bonneville Dam. By late March – when the bulk of the run is expected to arrive – that number is expected to grow to nearly 2,000 per day.

KIRBY CANNON CURBED THE ENTHUSIASM OF THIS BIG SPRINGER WITH A LITTLE WOODEN SHAMPOO EARLIER THIS WEEK. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

“At first, the fish usually arrive in fits and starts, then eventually start moving upriver in a steady flow,” said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Through March, we expect to see the number of boat and bank anglers on the river to increase week by week.”

According to the pre-season forecast, 198,400 upriver spring Chinook will return to the Columbia River this year, close to the 10-year average. While that prediction is well below last year’s banner run of 315,345 fish, the number of large five-year-old Chinook is expected to be up significantly over last year.

The forecast anticipates the return of more than 100,000 five-year-old fish to the upper Columbia and Willamette River this year, Hymer said. By comparison, only about 26,000 of the fish that returned last year were in that age class.

“We’re already seeing a high number of large fish in the early catch,” Hymer said. “Those five-year-olds generally run 18 to 30 pounds apiece.”

FOR MORE ON SPRINGER FISHING, SEE NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN'S MARCH ISSUE AND ...

... OUR BRAND-SPRINGER-SPANKIN'-NEW SPRING CHINOOK "MAPAZINE," BOTH ON THE WAY TO NEWSSTANDS NOW!

Through Feb. 28, spring Chinook fishing is open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from Buoy 10 near the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to the Interstate 5 Bridge under rules described in the 2010-11 Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

From March 1 through April 4, the fishery will be expanded 22 miles upriver to Rooster Rock, under new rules approved by fishery managers in Washington and Oregon. Bank anglers will also be allowed to fish from Rooster Rock up to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam during that time.

Above Bonneville Dam, the fishery will be open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from March 16 through April 24 between the Tower Island powerlines six miles below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines during that time.

As in years past, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared fish, marked with a clipped adipose fin. All unmarked wild spring Chinook must be released unharmed.

Anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville Dam may retain one hatchery-reared adult Chinook per day as part of their catch limit. Above the dam, anglers can keep two marked hatchery Chinook per day.

To guard against overestimating the run, the states will manage the fishery with a 30 percent buffer until the forecast is updated in late April or early May, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for WDFW. “If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in spring,” she said.

Initial seasons announced today allocate 7,750 upper river spring Chinook to the sport fishery below Bonneville Dam, 1,650 to anglers fishing above Bonneville and 2,100 to the commercial fleet. Those guidelines do not include the catch of spring Chinook returning to tributaries flowing into the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam or into the Bonneville Pool.

The Cowlitz River is currently open to fishing for spring Chinook, with a daily limit of two adult Chinook salmon. On the Kalama and Lewis rivers, the limit is one adult Chinook salmon per day. Above Bonneville, the Wind River and Drano Lake are scheduled to open for spring Chinook March 16 with a limit of two Chinook per day.

All of those rivers are also open to fishing for hatchery steelhead under rules outlined in the 2010-11 Fishing in Washington pamphlet. Hymer said fishing for late-run hatchery steelhead is still going strong, particularly on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers, noting that summer-run steelhead will start coming in right behind them later in the month. Although spring Chinook start arriving on the Cowlitz in early March, hatchery steelhead usually make up the bulk of the catch until later in the month, he said.

In other waters, anglers should be aware that March 15 is the last day to fish for steelhead on Abernathy, Cedar (Clark Co.), Germany, Mill (Cowlitz Co.), Rock (Skamania Co.), Salmon (Clark Co.) creeks and on the Coweeman, Elochoman, Grays, East Fork Lewis and Washougal rivers.

Sturgeon anglers should also be aware of new joint fishing seasons and catch guidelines established for 2011. Concerned about the decline of legal-size sturgeon in the lower Columbia River, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed to reduce this year’s total catch by 30 percent. As in years past, 80 percent of the allowable catch will be allocated to the sport fishery and 20 percent to the commercial fishery.

“In practical terms, this year’s action is expected to reduce the amount of time sturgeon fisheries in the lower Columbia River will be open at the end of the season,” said Brad James, another WDFW fish biologist.

Fishing seasons approved for 2011 in the lower Columbia River are as follows:

* Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines:  Retention of white sturgeon is allowed daily from Jan. 1 to April 30; May 14 through June 26; and July 1-4. From Jan. 1 to April 30, sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. From May 14 through the end of the season they must measure 41 inches to 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited.

* Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam: Retention of white sturgeon is allowed three days per week (Thursday through Saturday) from Jan. 1 through July 31 and from Oct. 8 until Dec. 31. Sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited. All fishing for sturgeon will be closed from May 1 through Aug. 31 in the sturgeon sanctuary downriver from Bonneville Dam described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.

At a previous joint state hearing, the two states took action to close the Sand Island Slough near Rooster Rock to fishing at least through April 30.

Bucking the trend in the lower river, monitoring and fishery data show that sturgeon populations are growing above Bonneville Dam, James said. In response, catch guidelines were increased from 1,400 fish to 2,000 fish in the Bonneville Pool and from 165 fish to 500 fish in the John Day Pool. The 300-fish guideline in The Dalles Pool remains unchanged.

Despite the higher quota, the Bonneville Pool was closed to sturgeon retention at the end of the day Feb. 18. Anglers are advised to watch the WDFW website for updates on The Dalles Pool and the John Day Pool.

While sturgeon fishing has been slow in the lower river, the walleye fishery has been picking up above Bonneville Dam. By mid February, boat anglers fishing The Dalles Pool were averaging a walleye per rod.

Rather catch trout? WDFW plans to plant a total of 10,000 half-pound  rainbows in Klineline Pond, Battle Ground Lake and Lacamas Lake – all in Clark County – in March. In addition, Lacamas Lake is expected to receive 5,000 browns of similar size.  Anglers fishing Klineline Pond averaged nearly two fish apiece in mid February after a previous trout plant. See the trout-stocking schedule on the WDFW website for more information on winter trout stocking.

EASTERN

March may start off a bit slow for fishing in the region with the recent return of wintery weather and iced-over waters that will keep anglers home, limit their access, or slow fish stocking.

RUFUS SCHMUFUS, LAKE ROOSEVELT'S TOP DOG FOR TROUT IN EASTERN WASHINGTON, AS LOGAN BRAATEN PROVED EARLIER THIS WEEK. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Lyons Ferry and Tucannon fish hatchery crews have been working to get “catchable” size (about one-third pound) and “jumbo” size (one-plus pound) rainbow trout  stocked in several lakes and ponds in the southeast end of the region that open to fishing March 1 or are open year-round.

Six of the seven March 1-opening impoundments off the Tucannon River on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County are getting some of their annual allotment of hatchery rainbows, with others stocked later in the season. Big Four Lake is scheduled to receive a total of 2,000 catchables and 300 jumbos; Blue Lake will receive 23,000 catchables and 400 jumbos; Deer Lake gets 3,400 catchables and 50 jumbos; Rainbow Lake gets 15,000 catchables and 325 jumbos; Spring Lake gets 11,000 catchables and 325 jumbos; and Watson Lake gets 21,300 catchables and 325 jumbos. Beaver Lake has water depth and quality issues that preclude it from viable fish stocking this year.

Also opening March 1 for stocked rainbow fishing is Fishhook Pond in Walla Walla County, which is scheduled to receive a total of 5,000 catchables and 150 jumbos this season, and Pampa Pond in Whitman County, which will receive a total of 6,000 catchables and 200 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 will get a total of 22,000 catchables and 475 jumbos, and West Evans Ponds will get a total of 22,000 catchables and 475 jumbos.

Orchard Pond, a year-round impoundment off the Snake River in Columbia County, will receive a total of 2,000 catchables and 50 jumbos.

In Walla Walla County, two year-round fisheries are scheduled to receive some of their annual allotment of trout – Quarry Pond will get a total of 25,000 catchables and 400 jumbos, and Bennington Lake will get a total of 20,500 catchables and 625 jumbos.

Anglers can check Catchable Trout Plant Reports to see when WDFW hatchery crews will complete trout stocking.

Other waters opening March 1 in the region will likely provide action on a variety of fish later in the month when ice melts and access is easier. Most of these waters are not dependent on catchable fish stocking, but have fish populations that carry over through the winter.

Chris Donley, WDFW central district fish biologist, said that Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County, will be “fantastic” for carryover brown trout that run 16 to 25 inches. Liberty will also yield some of the earliest yellow perch and crappie, he says, “but not on the first of March this year.”

When warmer weather returns, Downs Lake in southwest Spokane County might be the best place in the region for the first smallmouth bass. Downs also has yellow perch, crappie, and carryover rainbow trout.  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 the first, under selective gear rules, for rainbows, perch and crappie. When conditions improve, both of these special rule fisheries should provide excellent fly-fishing opportunities.

Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, reports Deer Lake in southern Stevens County is still iced over. “If anglers attempt to fish it on the March 1 opener they need to be very cautious about safe ice depth,” he said. Deer Lake has bass, crappie, perch, rainbow and lake trout, and kokanee.

Baker also notes that northern Stevens County’s two winter-season rainbow trout lakes – Williams and Hatch – are still producing catches of fish measuring 13 to 14 inches.  “The bite seems to be best in the early morning,” he said. Both lakes remain open through the month of March, but Baker warns anglers to be cautious about quickly changing ice conditions this late in the season.

WDFW police Sgt. Dan Rahn said fishing action has slowed at the central district’s two winter-season (December through March) lakes – Hog Canyon in Spokane County and Fourth of July in Lincoln County.  In February, many anglers checked were taking limits of rainbows, he notes, but changing conditions may be keeping anglers at home.  “There’s still plenty of nice fish to be caught at these lakes,” he said. “But anglers do need to be careful about marginally safe ice.”

Baker also said Lake Roosevelt kokanee and rainbow trout fishing has been good and should continue through March.  In the Spring Canyon area of the big Columbia River reservoir, both species are being caught near the surface.

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

Another kind of fishing is available at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s 51st annual Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, March 17-20, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. Some 5,000 trout are stocked in three huge indoor lakes for kids to catch at “Fishing World,” and there’s a “Virtual Reality Fishing Simulator,” fishing demonstration tank, lots of fishing seminars by experts, and hundreds of fishing equipment and charter service vendors. The show also offers a rifle range, archery range, laser shot shooting simulators, and of course the origins of the event – “Trophy Territory,” where hundreds of hunter-harvested antlered and horned animals are displayed and judged by Boone and Crocket scorers.

NORTHCENTRAL

At least 18 rainbow trout-stocked waters in the northcentral region open to fishing on March 1, but only a few will likely be fishable early in the season. Only two lakes in Grant County – Martha Lake just east of the town of George and Upper Caliche Lake just west of George – were at least half-open from ice, reports Chad Jackson, a district fishing biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Fishing at Martha Lake should be good for 11 to 13-inch trout that were stocked late last fall,” Jackson said. “There is also a good number of catchables at least 14 inches to be caught in Martha.”

“Upper Caliche Lake will fish well, too, but the trout will be smaller, running eight to ten inches,” he said. “We were unable to plant fish late last fall when the lake was iced over with that early winter weather in November.”

Two other popular March 1-opening waters – Quincy and Burke lakes on WDFW’s Quincy Wildlife Area southwest of the town of Quincy – were mostly iced over and unfishable at last check.

“When they do open up, I expect them to fish well since they received pretty hefty catchable plants last spring and fall,” Jackson said. Burke Lake was stocked with 18,000 rainbows weigh a third of a pound and Quincy received 16,000.

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

Three other lakes – Lenice, Nunnally and Merry on WDFW’s Crab Creek Wildlife Area in southwest Grant County just east of Beverly – 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. The fishery there for two to four-pound Lahontan cutthroat trout usually catches fire there by April.

UMMM, RUFUS SCHMUFUS WHAT? MARK SUYAMA SHOWS OFF WHAT'S IN STORE FOR YOU AT THE BIG RESERVOIR BELOW THAT OTHER IMPOUNDMENT OF THE UPPER COLUMBIA. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

In Okanogan County, lake fishing is an option on several stocked year-round waters, including Patterson Lake near Winthrop and Sidley Lake near Oroville. Yellow perch are usually caught at Patterson and rainbow trout are the predominant species at Sidley.

WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff reminds steelhead anglers fishing the upper Columbia River and its tributaries that they are required to retain any hatchery-origin adipose-fin-clipped steelhead they catch up to the limit of four fish per day. The Wenatchee and Icicle rivers remain open to steelhead fishing until further notice. Anglers may retain hatchery steelhead with a clipped adipose fin and a circular (hole) punch in their caudal (tail) fin on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers, along with other waterways in the upper Columbia.

SOUTHCENTRAL

Spring Chinook salmon are moving up the Columbia River and steelhead fishing should pick up soon, but trout fishing in area lakes is probably best bet for catching fish over the next few weeks.

“We start stocking year-round lakes in late February and continue right through June,” said Eric Anderson, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “This fishery is really our bread and butter, and anglers look forward to it all year.”

By mid-March, about a dozen lakes and ponds in Yakima, Kittitas, Franklin and Benton counties are scheduled to receive thousands of “catchable size” rainbow trout, along with hundreds of jumbos and triploids. For a complete list, see the stocking schedule for southcentral Washington on the WDFW website.

But anglers should also be aware that steelhead fishing usually picks up in March on the Columbia River and its tributaries. Paul Hoffarth, another WDFW fish biologist, notes that some of the highest catches of the season occur in March near the Ringold Springs Hatchery.

“A lot of steelhead that have been hanging out all winter will make their final spawning runs,” Hoffarth said. “That’s when catch rates start rising again.”

The daily limit is four hatchery steelhead per day from the Columbia River from Priest Rapids to Chief Joseph Dam and all tributaries in between. Under rules now in effect, anglers are required to retain the first four adipose-fin-clipped steelhead they catch. See the WDFW fishing rule issued Feb. 9 for details on that rule and other new regulations.

Meanwhile, the spring Chinook fishery opens March 1 above Bonneville Dam with a two-Chinook daily limit. The area open for spring Chinook fishing has been extended upstream of McNary Dam to the Washington-Oregon border, 17 miles upstream from the dam.

Spring Chinook probably won’t start showing up in the catch that far upriver until mid April, while walleye are already starting to make a good showing, Hoffarth said. “We’re are starting to see a few walleye in the creel, including some good-size fish running over 10 pounds. Walleye fishing should continue to improve for the next few weeks as these fish get ready for their early spring spawn.”

White sturgeon are also still an option. The sturgeon fishery above McNary Dam (Lake Wallula) is scheduled to run through July 31, and the catch guideline for the John Day Pool (Lake Umatilla) was recently increased from 165 to 500 fish. “That increase should allow us to keep the fishery open for retention on into March,” Hoffarth said.

COTTONWOOD'S STARTING TO BLOOM FOR STEELHEADERS. JEFF MAIN AND PAL (PICTURED HERE) HAVE BEEN DOING WELL AT THE RELEASE SITE ON THE GRANDE RONDE ABOVE BOGGAN'S. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

5th Largest Fall King Run in 60 Years Forecast To Columbia

February 23, 2011

This just in from Vancouver/Portland: Expect a nice little bump up in fall Chinook returns to the Columbia.

Managers are forecasting a return of 760,000, up from last year’s forecast and return of around 650,000.

It would be the fifth largest since 1948 if it comes to pass, they say.

And the upriver bright component — just under 400,000 — would be the second largest run since record keeping began in 1964.

JAMIE HAWKINS AND MANY OTHER COLUMBIA RIVER FALL CHINOOK ANGLERS ARE IN FOR WHAT MAY BE THE FIFTH BEST RUN SINCE 1948. SHE CAUGHT THIS NICE UPRIVER BRIGHT, ESTIMATED AT 40 POUNDS, NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE COWLITZ LAST FALL. HER BOYFRIEND, BEAU, FOLLOWED IT UP A BIT LATER WITH A 25. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Last fall, 325,000 URBs came back to the Hanford Reach, Snake River and other upper system tribs.

Here’s more from today’s announcement:

COLUMBIA RIVER FALL CHINOOK

2011 PRESEASON FORECASTS

    Stock Group 2011 February Forecasts 2010 Actual Returns 2010 February Forecasts
    Lower River Hatchery – LRH 133,500 103,000 90,600
    Lower River Wild – LRW 12,500 10,900 9,700
    Bonneville Pool Hatchery – BPH 116,400 130,800 169,000
    Upriver Bright – URB 398,200 324,900 310,800
    Bonneville Upriver Bright – BUB 37,600 29,400 30,300
    Pool Upriver Bright – PUB 62,400 49,600 42,300
    Columbia River Total 760,600 648,600 652,700
    2011 Forecasts
  • LRH – Best return since 2003 and greater than the 10-year average (92,500).
  • LRW – Improved over last four years, but slightly below 10-year average (15,400).
  • BPH – Slightly less than 2010 actual return but greater than the 10-year average (105,900).
  • URB – 2nd largest return since record keeping began in 1964 (The largest return was 420,700 in 1987).  Over 60% of the 2011 return is expected to be age-4 fish.
  • BUB – Similar to the 10-year average of 47,500.
  • PUB – 3rd largest return on record (1986).  Greater than 10-year average (43,800).
  • Total forecast of 760,600 Columbia River fall Chinook is the 5th largest since at least 1948 and greater than the 10-year average of 565,800.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (2-23-11)

February 23, 2011

The word in our March issue is that something like 100,000 5-year-old spring Chinook are heading up the Columbia over the coming months, most taking the right turns at St. Helens and Portland, but what exactly does a 5-year-old springer look like?

Well, like a 4-year-old, only bigger. And beefier.

Kirby Cannon of PDX provided photographic evidence of what to expect with the below shot of an estimated 25-pounder he caught on President’s Day on the Columbia.

KIRBY CANNON CURBED THE ENTHUSIASM OF THIS BIG SPRINGER WITH A LITTLE WOODEN SHAMPOO EARLIER THIS WEEK. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

He says the 39-incher bit a sardine-wrapped Kwikfish around Marker 19, which is just downstream from Vancouver.

It’s not the only springer caught recently, nor the only species to fish for around Oregon this time of year. Here are more ideas, courtesy of ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Trout stocking has begun in the Rogue Watershed for 2011, with trout released into Lake Selmac and Agate Lake for early season anglers.
  • The 2011 trout stocking schedules have been posted.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Sturgeon retention fishing is now open on the Willamette and anglers have reported that the fish are hungry and biting. The daily bag limit is one white sturgeon with a fork length of 38 to 54 inches.
  • Several hundred brood trout ranging in size from two to five pounds were released last week in Blue Lake and West Salish Pond near Gresham. Some of those fish should still be available.
  • A few confirmed reports of spring chinook landings in the Willamette River have been reported the past week.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Midcoast Lakes: The 2011 trout stocking schedule is available online. The first stocking of rainbow trout start in February. Several areas in the Newport area will be stocked the week of the 21st. Stocking will continue periodically in most lakes into June. The schedule can change with out warning depending on equipment availability and weather conditions.
  • Alsea River: Winter steelhead fishing should remain productive for the week in most areas of the Alsea. Returns from the wild broodstock typically continue to return well into March. Anglers should be able to find fish in most sections of the river.
  • Nestucca River: The Nestucca River has been good for winter steelhead during favorable water conditions. Fish are spread throughout the system. The upper river above Blaine offers good bank access and is the first part of the river to clear after high water. Three Rivers is producing a few fish also, with best fishing below the hatchery. Drifting brighter colored presentations near the bottom has been the most productive.
  • Siletz River: Winter steelhead fishing is fair with anglers finding fish throughout the river. The bite has been sporadic and more fish are expected to pulse in over the next couple weeks. Most drift boat sections should produce fish when conditions are right. Plunking the lower river can be effective during higher turbid flows.
  • Wilson River: Angling for winter steelhead has improved with better river flows. Good numbers of fish are in the system throughout the open fishing areas. The slide at MP 6 on Hwy 6 may still dirty the river after rains, so check the river conditions before fishing, or fish upstream. The slide deposited some large trees into the river also, which are obstructing the river at lower flows. Boaters need to use extreme caution or avoid that section of river. Use bright colored lures or baits near the bottom while the river still has some color.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Both the Deschutes and Crooked rivers can offer good winter trout fishing, but keep an eye on water levels before heading out.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Steelhead fishing on the Umatilla River has been good upstream of McKay Creek.
  • Water levels in the Wallowa and Imnaha rivers have been at fishable levels and steelhead fishing has been good.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • The water is still a bit chilly, but a few spring Chinook and winter steelhead are milling around the lower Columbia for anglers willing to brave the elements.
  • Sturgeon anglers in The Dalles Pool and John Day Pool are catching a few keepers. The Bonneville Pool is closed for sturgeon retention, but remains open for catch-and-release angling.
  • February is the prime month for big walleye in the John Day pool; anglers target the Irrigon to Glade creek area for best results.

MARINE ZONE

  • One angler who submitted a report to ODFW Fishing Reports said he had great success fishing from the south jetty on Yaquina Bay recently. He recommends jigging with an eight-inch white rubber worm with 2 oz lead head or a large black and white rubber shad with a 3 oz lead. Cast out around 30 yards into a income or outgoing tide. Let jig hit bottom use a medium-speed retrieve letting the jig travel around five to 10 feet. Repeat until you catch one or fully retrieve jig. Bring lots of jigs.

Update on WA Blue Mtns. Wolf

February 23, 2011

Update on that yearling Oregon wolf sighted in Washington’s Blue Mountains last month and which we reported on earlier this week. It has been heard but not seen by WDFW officials.

“We have heard its collar with our telemetry equipment,” confirms wildlife biologist Paul Wik who is based in Clarkston. “Where we heard it was 80 air miles from where it was collared.”

In its January wolf update PDF, ODFW reported that the Imnaha Pack member, a yearling female known as OR-5, was “discovered” Jan. 20 by WDFW then visually spotted five days later during a flight by Oregon officials.

Wik says that it hasn’t been located in the weeks since.

The wolf was one of three collared over two days in February 2010 by ODFW wolf coordinator Russ Morgan. It disappeared from the radar back in late November. Morgan says it’s common for wolves to disperse in winter.

FEMALE IMNAHA PACK WOLF COLLARED FEB. 13, 2010, BY ODFW. (ODFW)

This is also the thick of the mating season for Canis lupus.

It is not the first confirmed wolf on Washington’s side of the Blues.

“We’ve heard them, we’ve gotten remote camera pics, seen tracks in snow,” says Wik.

None have been captured, however.

In recent weeks, the “Walla Walla unit” of wolves has been observed about 8 miles east of the Milton-Freewater and several miles south of the Oregon-Washington border.

“We’ve also had a large number of reports in that same area over the last couple years,” says Wik.

He urges anyone who spots wolves in Washington to call (888) 584-9038 with their reports.

“We appreciate any sightings people may have,” he says. “There’s definitely more people out in the woods than we have.”

In other wolf news, WDFW is looking for tips in a case involving the skinned carcass of a male discovered in the North Cascades in fall 2009, a trio of wolf-related bills before the Legislature — HBs 1107, 1108 and 1109 — are basically dead, and a Methow Valley resident who has previously reported watching the Lookout Pack details some of the questions that a British Broadcasting Company team filming there asked him today.

And outside the state, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula took arguments from federal and environmental groups on the question of whether the 10(j) wolf-culling rule can apply to areas where reintroduced and naturally reoccuring packs may intermingle.

UPDATE FEB. 26, 2011: The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin yesterday reported on a recent wolf encounter in the Bennington Lake area, written about in a letter to the editor published earlier this week.

WDFW Merger Bill Moves Forward, With Twists

February 23, 2011

It’s out with the Washington Department of Conservation and Recreation, in with the Washington Department of Fish, Wildlife and (take a breather here) Recreation — and the Fish & Wildlife Commission would retain its policy- and rule-making authority under Senate Substitute Bill 5669.

It was passed out of the Natural Resources & Marine Waters Committee by a 4-2 vote on President’s Day and forwarded to the Ways & Means Committee.

Instead of a director, the super-agency — a conglomeration of WDFW, State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office — would also have a “secretary” as its head.

According to Allen Thomas of The Columbian, “The substitute bill gives the governor authority to appoint a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation secretary from a list of five candidates submitted jointly by the wildlife and parks commissions.”

The Senate would have final say on confirming the governor’s choice, according to the substitute bill.

During a public hearing Feb. 10, Natural Resources chair Kevin Ranker promised that the bill that would emerge out of his committee would be different from the one that went in.

He was joined in voting for the second take by vice chair Debbie Regala, Karen Fraser and Dan Swecker, three Democrats and a Republican, respectively.

Voting against it were Senators Bob Morton and James Hargrove, a Republican and Democrat.

Senator Val Stevens a Republican, said send it without recommendation.

Fraser and Regala also sit on the 22-member Ways and Means panel.

Late last week, the Fish & Wildlife Commission fired off a statement against the original bill’s gutting of its authority over rules, policies and WDFW oversight. Before that, sport fishermen voiced their opposition during the public hearing.

In the House, companion bill 1850 sits in the State Government & Tribal Affairs Committee.

Both bills came at the request of Governor Gregoire who last December proposed merging numerous natural resource agencies.

In other legislative news, HB 1340, which would ramp up penalties for spree killing of wildlife, sailed out of the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources on a 13-0 vote and is before the rules committee. And SB 5661, which would require commercial fishermen to report lost gillnets, was passed out of Natural Resources to the rules committee as well.

5,000 More Acres Of E. Ore. Ranch Permanently Protected

February 22, 2011

(ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE)

A rancher in eastern Oregon has placed over 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat under permanent protection via conservation easement with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The easement ensures the future of vital winter range for a regional herd of 600-800 elk.

John and Patricia Habberstad of China Peak Ranch, near Monument, Ore., have placed 10,334 acres under easement with RMEF in three stages dating back to 2002. The most recent action, completed in January, added 5,101 acres to the total.

(RMEF)

(RMEF)

(RMEF)

Bill Richardson, RMEF lands program manager for Oregon and Washington, said, “The Habberstads are doing a wonderful job of managing their land for the benefit of wildlife. They have worked to rejuvenate decadent fields, control invasive weeds and juniper, establish water sources and develop springs. The native bunchgrasses on the ranch are flourishing and the habitat quality is on an upward trajectory.”

“We appreciate the Habberstad family for the conservation ethic and generosity that led to this donated conservation easement and a guarantee of outstanding wildlife habitat – forever,” added Richardson.

The China Peak Ranch is a private working ranch, with cattle and timber operations, south of the North Fork John Day River and north of an area known as Rudio Mountain.

Elk can be found on the property year round, but hundreds more depend on China Peak Ranch for winter range. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says most of the elk that winter here inhabit public lands in the area during hunting seasons.

The ranch also is home to mule deer, pronghorn, black bears, mountain lions, eagles, hawks, neo-tropical migratory birds and a host of other species. Cottonwood Creek, an important tributary to the North Fork John Day River, provides coldwater inputs and spawning and rearing habitat for spring Chinook and summer steelhead, as well as bull trout.

A conservation easement ensures the property will remain much like it is today. The legal agreement to protect and manage wildlife habitat alongside working-ranch operations will stay with the land – even beyond the lifetimes of the Habberstads and all future owners.

RMEF holds several other conservation easements, and has completed a number of habitat enhancement projects, in the China Peak Ranch area.

Wolf Activity In, Close To WA’s Blues

February 21, 2011

A yearling female wolf from Oregon’s Imnaha Pack trotted into Washington’s Blue Mountains last month.

According to ODFW’s January wolf management update, OR-5, an animal that hadn’t been heard from since late November, “was discovered in the north Blue Mountains of Washington by WDFW personnel on 1/20/11.”

Five days later, “A subsequent flight by ODFW visually confirmed the young female wolf had dispersed and is now in Washington. This is the first evidence of dispersal from this pack,” says ODFW.

WDFW officials were unavailable due to the Federal holiday. Tomorrow is also a furlough day for many state employees.

It’s been assumed for some time that there are wolves on Washington’s side of the Blue Mountains. WDFW’s draft management plan for the species says there have been “multiple public reports of wolves (there) dating back to at least 2006, including several groups of 2-5 wolves made in Garfield/Asotin and Walla Walla counties in 2008 and 2009.”

Confirmations have been more difficult to come by, until now apparently.

The state has at least two confirmed packs, Diamond Peak and Lookout.

Two others, Salmo and Cutoff Peak, spend a limited amount of time in Washington’s Pend Oreille County, according to state staffers.

ODFW reports that other members of the Imnaha Pack were spending considerable time in the Zumwalt area roughly halfway between Enterprise, Ore., and the Washington border.

That’s the area that a pair of wildlife photographers are said to have come across a calf elk kill and three wolves, according to a PDF sent to media outlets last week by greywolfnews.com, operated by Dale Denney of Bearpaw Outfitters in Northeast Washington.

Since at least 1999, wolves have been coming into Oregon from reintroduced packs in Central Idaho. The state’s first pack was documented in spring 2008.

The agency also said that the new three- or four-member “Walla Walla unit” hanging out 8 miles or so east of Milton-Freewater appears to be a different group of wolves than the nearby five-member Wenaha Pack because they located both in different areas on the same day.

“In addition, the close proximity of the tracks to Washington (approximately 3 miles) may indicate shared wolves between states,” reports ODFW.

Elsewhere in Northeast Oregon, last month state and federal agents followed up on reports in the Beulah Unit (nothing found), Mt. Emily Unit (tracks of a male wolf spotted heading west on Summit Road northwest of La Grande), Ukiah Unit (a lone wolf tracked for 13 miles in the North Fork John Day River), and Pearson Creek winter range (nothing found).

 

WA FWC On 5669: Opposition, and ‘Deep Concern’

February 21, 2011

Just in case you missed it, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission fired off a statement against the part of SB 5669 that would neuter the citizen panel.

In the press release, which came after hours Friday evening, the FWC said the bill would “reverse the will of the majority of the people as reflected in Referendum 45.”

The statement also expresses “deep concern” about the Senate bill’s attempt to merge Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife with State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office.

“The cost savings identified in the bill are relatively small in light of the substantial reorganizational effort that a merger would entail,” the FWC says.

SB 5669 and its companion bill in the House, 1850, came at the request of Governor Gregoire who last December proposed merging WDFW, State Parks and the RCO in response to the $4.6 billion revenue shortfall as well as drives in recent years to make natural resource management more efficient.

During a public hearing before the Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee Feb. 10, sport anglers were very protective of the commission and the agency.

“Do not allow this merger take place,” said Norman Reinhardt, president of the Kitsap Poggie Club, adding that it would turn the clock back, putting politics before science.

(For more coverage of the hearing, see articles by The Columbian and Kitsap Sun.)

On the other side of the fence, Gregoire’s policy adviser for natural resources John Mankowski explained to High Country News, “The commission form of government can work, but it’s an expensive way to run government. It takes a lot of time and money to hold meetings all around the state and get input. The commission also makes fine-scale decisions about management that should be at the discretion of the director (of Fish and Wildlife).”

The commission would become an advisory group under 5669. Currently, it sets policies and regulations for managing the state’s wildlife, as well as oversees WDFW.

An audio file of the Fish & Wildlife Commission’s conference call last Friday has been posted. In it, Chair Miranda Wecker of Naselle explains how the statement came about.

“I drafted this because I thought this agency had something to say — the commission in particular — had something to say about the real costs of mergers, since we have some fairly recent experience with that. When the Department of Fisheries and Department of Wildlife merged, it was not an easy thing, it took a lot of time,” she said.

Commissioner Rollie Schmitten of Lake Wenatchee termed Gregoire’s estimated savings of $2.5 million and elimination of 14 jobs — which would come from shrinking the number of natural resource agencies from 11 to five — “very, very modest.”

Commissioner Chuck Perry of Moses Lake said merger efficiencies are a long ways off in the future.

“The pains of the merger, if the combination of the Department of Fisheries and Department of (Wildlife) are any indication, are extremely time consuming and extremely long lasting. The efficiency gains are simply not there. This may not move the legislators by itself, but I think put together in a package like this letter outlines, it makes a  fairly strong argument, in fact a very strong argument,” said Perry.

Earlier last week, a WDFW manager told me he didn’t think the two halves were yet fully joined since the 1994 merger.

There was a bit of discussion among commissioners on when to send the statement out. Schmitten, Wecker and David Jennings of Olympia all thought sooner was better so as to have an influence on the legislature.

“I’m starting to hear questions where the commission actually stands. So many people have come forward. We’ve had an initial round of hearings. And there looms this question: ‘The Parks Commission has come out in opposition. Where is the Fish & Wildlife Commission?’ So I think it’s timely we do make a statement,” Scmitten said.

Putting a statement out came to a vote; there were no votes against it.

Here’s the full text of the commission’s statement:

The Fish and Wildlife Commission believes that the Governor has demonstrated true leadership in proposing significant government reform measures. The budget crisis facing the state is without precedent. Hard choices must be faced. Every reasonable means to increase the efficiency and productivity of government agencies should be explored. It is with respect that the Commission offers these perspectives on the provisions of SB 5669 proposing the merger of natural resource agencies.

Changes to the Commission Role

The Commission is opposed to changes to the Commission authority proposed in SB 5669 which would reverse the will of the majority of the people as reflected in Referendum 45. Following the popular vote approving Referendum 45, the Legislature endorsed the special role of the Fish and Wildlife Commission as an “open and deliberative process that encourages public involvement and increases public confidence in department decision making” (RCW 77.04.013).

The popular vote demonstrated that the public wants this unique access to fish and wildlife decision-makers and wants greater openness and transparency in fish and wildlife decision-making. The people made it clear that without access and openness, their confidence in decision-making will be undermined. The special importance voters placed on decisions affecting fish and wildlife is self-evident in the results of the vote: the referendum was approved by over 60% and passed in every county of the state.

SB 5669 eliminates all aspects of the Commission’s authority—its power to appoint and remove the Director as well as its authority to set regulations. Both elements of its power are essential if the Commission, as the people intended, is to establish policy for the agency and hold the agency accountable for its implementation. If approved, the role of the Commission would be reduced to one that is advisory in nature.

Citizens in this state, and in almost every other state in the country, have put their trust in the Commission process as a way to reduce the influence of politics on natural resource management. No public policy issue can be fully insulated from the political process. Nevertheless, management of the public’s natural heritage of resources is widely seen as falling in a special category. In this arena more than others, it is most important to limit the influence of short sighted thinking, narrow special interests, and shifting electoral politics. The long-term view and the public trust must be safeguarded.

Merger of the Departments

The Commission expresses deep concern about the added administrative burdens associated with the merger proposed in this legislation. The Department has relatively recent experience with the very real and costly logistical and procedural hurdles presented by a major merger. When agencies are merged, a great deal of time must be spent in meetings focused on a range of procedural questions that must be addressed. Procedural matters take center stage, reducing the time spent achieving the agency’s mission. New lines of authority have to be established. In some cases, the challenges of integration take many years to truly address the complexities of integration. In some cases, a dominant unit emerges and the program of the subordinate agency loses its ability to advance its interests.

The cost savings identified in the bill are relatively small in light of the substantial reorganizational effort that a merger would entail.

In recent years, budget cuts have taken their toll on staff numbers. The Department has fewer employees with which to achieve our mission.  The remaining staff are being asked to do more and more. The Commission holds serious reservations regarding the expenditure of significant staff time and resources on the many administrative issues that will need to be resolved if a merger takes place.

During the last legislative session, the commission posted a statement against SB 6813, which would have folded WDFW into DNR. That bill eventually died.

More Details Emerge On Latest WA Wolf Kill Case

February 18, 2011

UPDATE: FEB. 26, 2011: The Wenatchee World has more details on the case.

It’s been a year and a half or so since the skinned carcass of a male wolf was discovered in extreme eastern Skagit County, but despite “a number of people aware of the poaching,” wildlife investigators are struggling to make a case.

Mike Cenci, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Division’s deputy chief, couldn’t provide many details about the investigation, but hopes that those who know about it step forward with tips.

“We’ve had some leads, and they’ve been helpful, but we’d appreciate more information if people have it,” he says.

Cenci has been extremely cagey about the case since I first learned of it last summer. It became public earlier this week with an article in the Methow Valley News.

The investigation began in fall 2009 with a phone call from a citizen. His officers went to the scene at or near Rainy Pass on Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway, and found where the carcass had been “dumped.”

“It had been there for some time,” Cenci says.

The hide had been removed, maggots were crawling around the body and muscle tissue, and there was a bullet hole in it.

Cenci says he can say for sure that it was a wolf and not a hybrid or other canine.

The animal’s age is unclear, and so is where it may have come from.

“The evidence we have so far is that it came from Eastern Washington,” Cenci says.

That’s where the state’s two known and a couple suspected packs exist, but he wouldn’t detail more.

This case would raise the number of wolves known to have been killed in the region over the past few years to at least two, and possibly as many as four.

Late March 2009 news articles detail the alleged killing of one member of the Lookout Pack by a Twisp man and the attempted shipping of its pelt to Canada; Cenci adds that there are indications that at least one other wolf was also killed in the case. No charges have been filed, but an assistant to the U.S. Attorney in Spokane said it was still active, according to a Methow Valley News article last week.

In the same article, a pair of wildlife biologists voice their opinions that the disappearance of the Lookout’s alpha female last May was the result of foul play.

However, Cenci says that his officers are not investigating it.

Word of the newest poaching came during a very busy couple of weeks of wolf news in the West, including dueling delisting bills in Congress, sparring hunting groups in Montana, efforts to reduce wolf numbers on both sides of the Bitterroots, and Governor Schweitzer’s letter to the Secretary of the Interior that he was directing game wardens not to investigate wolf killings by ranchers north of I-90.

“Wolves are boring,” notes Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s wolf recovery coordinator for the Northern Rockies in Helena. “The fascinating thing is the human reactions … Right now it’s at a fevered pitch.”

Back in Washington, the killings illustrate more clearly the problem that wolves will have re-establishing themselves in the state, both in terms of core refuge and local tolerance.

“Bottom line, people will decide where wolves live and where they don’t,” says Bangs.

To explain wolf survival to me this morning, he used an archery analogy — he’s a bowhunter himself — and the greater Yellowstone area.

He says that in the “bull’s eye” core of their habitat — the famed national park where wolves were reintroduced in the mid-1990s — 80 percent of wolves survive each year.

In the next ring out — the park’s edges, surrounding wildernesses and national forest lands — it dips to 70 percent.

The next ring — public lands extensively used for cattle grazing and a bit of private land — it drops to 60 percent.

In the fourth ring — which includes private lands such as ranches as well as more roaded public lands — it drops to 50 percent, and in the one beyond that, survival is 40 percent, he says.

At that level, “You don’t have packs persisting,” Bangs says.

The more open the habitat, the fewer the trees, the more roaded and private it is, the less chance wolves have of living very long.

He adds that 85 percent of wolves die by human hands — poaching, livestock damage control and collisions.

Bangs uses another metaphor to illustrate the persistence of packs in that fifth ring: “little lights blinking on and off.”

It’s debatable what ring Washington’s North Cascades represent.

In summer, it could be the bull’s eye. There are something like 2.5 million acres, or 4,000 square miles, of mountainous, forested wilderness or near wilderness from the Canadian border south to Stevens Pass, and from Mt. Baker east to Loomis, all of it crossed by just a single two-lane state route, Highway 20.

In winter, the heights are snowed in, driving the deer herds into the settled Methow and Okanogan Valleys and even to the edge of the Columbia River further south — country that might be typified as the outer rings.

Bangs points out that wolves have pushed out of the Rockies onto Montana’s eastern prairies for 50 years but packs have yet to persist there.

“Why? Illegal killing and control,” he says. “In some instances, areas are kept wolf-free through illegal killing and control.”

At the moment, biologists, and apparently a film crew from the British Broadcasting Company, are monitoring whether the two or three wolves left in the Lookout Pack — the state’s first breeding pair in 70 years, and at one time numbering as many as ten — keep the lights on, or wink out.

Online, initial word of the new killing sparked an array of emotions.

“The presence of wolves in Washington is very polarizing,” acknowledges Cenci. “Our officers don’t pick and choose which species to protect. They’re sworn to protect all, and we’re going to do that.”

For now, he’s hoping someone comes forward and talks.

“We know a lot of people are aware of the poaching,” Cenci says, and pointing to handsome permit point rewards and cash for information that may lead to an arrest, adds, “If someone wants to become a confidential witness, there are ways to reach us.”

For Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest, which has helped WDFW monitor the pack and other animals in the North Cascades, the killing is doubly troubling.

“And not just as a conservation setback for a fragile wolf population. I wonder if we, as a hunting community, have slacked off a bit in how we react to poachers. Whoever did this is as bad as any elk spree killer. I hope he is caught and made to pay,” he says.

According to WDFW’s draft wolf management plan, penalties for killing a state endangered species range up to $5,000 and/or a year in jail while federal penalties range up to $100,000 and a year in jail.

WDFW’s poaching tip hotline is (877) 933-9847.

WDFW Investigating Another Poached Wolf

February 17, 2011

The Methow Valley News is reporting that WDFW is investigating another wolf poaching.

Very little information on the case is included in the paper’s story, which appeared online this morning, except a quote from WDFW Enforcement Division deputy chief Mike Cenci:

“We have been asked to investigate further poaching allegations… unrelated to the Okanogan case … We do have a wolf corpse, minus a hide. At this point I’m not willing to discuss which pack that animal may have come from,” Cenci said Tuesday (Feb. 15).

He declined to say when the department discovered the carcass.

The rest of the article talks about the investigation into the killing of two wolves back in late December 2008. Tom White of Twisp has allegedly admitted to killing one.

An article in the paper the week before also indicates that local wildlife biologists believe it is likely the alpha female from the Lookout Pack was shot. The animal and its collar went off the air last May.

More as the stories develop …

Pic Of Eight Cougars In Basin Confirmed

February 17, 2011

Well, damnit, Landers beat me to the story on the eight cougars photographed at night on a trail cam in the western Columbia Basin around last Christmas.

The Spokane Spokesman-Review outdoor columnist has a huge ol’ write-up in his column today about the truth behind the images.

For a couple of weeks now I’ve been getting the images along with the story that the cats were on a dead cow somewhere in Moses Coulee, but was pretty skeptical.

Once upon a time we hunters traded baseball cards — things with verifiable facts — but these days we swap whatever comes through the Internet.

Take the pics of that giant bear shot in the strangely mossy Saddle Hills of northern Alberta last September (actually shot on Afognak Island, Alaska, in 2007 and debunked here).

And then there’s the pic of the glowing-eyeballed cougar sneaking up on the elk hunter (Scott Sandsberry at the Yak Herald-Republic puts the smack down on that tale here).

Nonetheless, I began to look into all those big cats.

In emails late last week, a pair of WDFW biologists couldn’t confirm where the images were taken, the dead cow or the authenticity of the images themselves, but they did have some interesting things to say about the unusual gathering:

Rich Beausoleil, WDFW bear and cougar specialist:

If it isn’t a “photoshopped” photo, the only thing that could be plausible is that it is a mom and her kittens and her daughter and her daughter’s kittens.  Females usually take over part of their mom’s home range when they mature. Males never do; they travel about 100 miles away when they are about 16 months old (survival is about 50%).

David Volsen, WDFW district wildlife biologist:

What you are seeing in the image is a family group (mother and kittens), and a second family group that is most likely a daughter of the other female.  It is not unusual to acquire images of family groups like this, and given the now common use of trail cameras, these images (and their distribution on the internet) make it appear as though we are being overrun by cougars.

The kittens appear to be roughly 6 months old, which coincides with the known peaks in cougar breeding.  While they appear large, they are still kittens, and almost completely dependent on their mother.

Washington leads the western states with our research of cougar populations and cougar social structure.  From this work we have learned that cougars have a very highly defined social structure in which adult males control large territories and exclude other males, but allow females to occupy smaller territories within the male’s home range.  Often the females within a male’s territory will be related; mothers and daughters.

Because cougars feed on deer, their seasonal home ranges shift to follow deer as deer get concentrated onto winter ranges during the winter.  As deer get more concentrated, so do cougars, but only the females and kittens. The adult males continue to defend those very large home ranges, excluding other males. During winter we can and do get images of cougar family groups because litters are timed to overlap the period when food is most readily available.

But even with the abundance of food during winter, most of the kittens will not survive.  It is common for as few as one or even none of  kittens to survive from a litter. Young adult (teenage) cougars, both females and especially males, disperse and search out territories of their own.  During this period many will be killed by other larger adult cougars in territorial disputes. So in the end, what appears to be an abundance of cougars in your backward, turns out to be a one-day snapshot of a balancing act that has been occurring within cougar populations over thousands of years.

Landers fleshes out the rest of the story in a pretty good article.

As for the area being overrun with cougars, the 2007 season was the most recent that WDFW reported any killed in that game management unit (Moses Coulee), a male and a female. Two were also reported in 2006 and 2004, and one in 2001. Hunting season runs through March 31 in the unit, and is open for any weapon type. There are large areas of BLM land above the lower coulee.

UPDATE FEB. 18, 2011: The Seattle Times put this story on their front page today and KXLY did a piece on it last night.

UPDATE FEB 21, 2011: KING 5’s Gary Chittim did a story on the use of game/trail cams,

Wolves In The News

February 16, 2011

UPDATED FEB. 17, 2011: A pair of wildlife biologists in western Okanogan County say they believe the Lookout Pack’s alpha female was illegally killed last spring.

Previously, indications to this reporter were that the animal had died but not necessarily been killed.

In other wolf news around the region:

an Idaho Congressman “fast-tracked” legislation to delist the species to a federal budget bill

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer told ranchers north of I-90 to go ahead and shoot wolves harassing their cattle;

a billboard offering a $10,000 reward for info on an Oregon wolf poached last summer was tacked up along Highway 82 outside La Grande

and the Washington Cattlemen’s Association filed a lawsuit to force the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to conduct a status review of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies.

“It is regrettable that it requires litigation to prod the Fish and Wildlife Service to fulfill its statutory duties on species review,” said Jack Field, WCA’s executive director in a press release.  “We are bringing this action in order to make sure that the Service is following the law, and is guided by solid science, when it makes regulatory decisions.”

Schweitzer’s letter reads:

February 16, 2011

The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Secretary Salazar:

I write to you today regarding wolf management in Montana.

While almost everyone acknowledges that the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population is fully recovered, as the Governor of Montana I am profoundly frustrated by the lack of any actual results that recognize Montana’s rights and responsibilities to manage its wildlife. Montana has for years done everything that has been asked: adopting a model wolf management plan; enacting enabling legislation; and adopting the necessary implementing rules. Our exemplary efforts have been ignored. I cannot continue to ignore the crying need for workable wolf management while Montana waits, and waits, and waits. Therefore, I am now going to take additional necessary steps to protect the interests of Montana’s livestock producers and hunters to the extent that I can within my authorities as governor.

First, for Montana’s northwest endangered wolves (north of Interstate 90), any livestock producers who kill or harass a wolf attacking their livestock will not be prosecuted by Montana game wardens. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) wardens will be directed to exercise their prosecutorial discretion by not investigating or citing anyone protecting their livestock.

Further, I am directing FWP to respond to any livestock depredation by removing whole packs that kill livestock, wherever this may occur.

Still further, to protect the elk herds in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley that have been most adversely affected by wolf predation, I am directing FWP, to the extent allowed by the Endangered Species Act, to cull these wolves by whole-pack removal to enable elk herds to recover.

At this point, I can do nothing less and still maintain my commitment as Governor to uphold the rights of our citizens to protect their property and to continue to enjoy Montana’s cherished wildlife heritage and traditions.

Sincerely,

Brian Schweitzer
GOVERNOR

Back to the Lookout wolves. The female, part of the state’s first confirmed breeding pack in 70 years, has been missing since last May, when the signal from its radio collar abruptly ceased.

Why has been unclear, but in an article printed last week, local Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin told a reporter for the Methow Valley News, “circumstances around her disappearance indicate that somebody killed her.”

The article continues:

“We stopped seeing her at exactly the same time we stopped being able to receive any signals. She was probably shot and the collar destroyed,” John Rohrer, a U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist, said this week. Rohrer said there has been no sign of the female since May 2010.

The biologists believe she was killed because she wore a collar that had a “mortality switch,” which would have started giving off a different signal if the wolf became immobile for more than 24 hours, or if the collar had fallen off, Rohrer explained.

The collar had been functioning until the signal suddenly disappeared, along with any sign of the wolf. Wolf team members flew over the wolves’ territory to try to pick up a signal, but found nothing.

Rohrer and a WDFW staffer in Olympia clarified the thinking as the biologists’ own, not the official positions of WDFW or the USFS.

That wolves are poached is nothing new — the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that 10 percent of annual deaths in the Northern Rockies are tied to illegal kills.

Currently, the U.S. attorney in Spokane is investigating the December 2008 death of another member of the Lookout Pack.

Washington’s statewide wolf population is estimated at 20 to 25, with at least half of those in the Diamond Pack in Pend Oreille County and two or three in the Lookout.

It’s unclear whether the two- to four-member group known as the Salmo Pack dens on the Washington or BC side of the border while another pack, Cutoff Peak, occasionally strays into Washington, but is considered an Idaho group. There are also wolves in the Blue Mountains, but no confirmed pack on the Washington side.

With breeding season on the horizon, the Methow Valley News reports that biologists are closely watching the remaining wolves to determine if any is a  female.

Survey Shows NW Hunter, Angler Trends 1991-06

February 16, 2011

Mixed news over the long term for hunter and angler numbers in the Northwest.

Between 1991 and 2006, the number of bass and trout fishermen and deer chasers declined in Washington and Oregon overall, according to a recently released addendum to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

However, those two and Idaho still have some of the highest participation rates in the nation for some species, and the number of Gem State bassers is actually up from the Bush I era.

Overall, the data is a reflection in national trends — long terms declines, but ripples in the woods and waters that buck trends.

“We want reviewers of this research to understand that while the generalization that hunting and fishing are declining in popularity is often heard, this report shows that the truth is more complicated,” said Richard Aiken, the USFWS’s lead economist for the study, in a press release. “This report aids those who want to point to positive aspects of participation in fishing and hunting in the U.S., and how recruitment and retention efforts can be designed to appeal to the correct demographic groups.”

THE DROPOFF AMONGST largemouth and smallmouth anglers was especially sharp in Washington between 1991 and 2006. They numbered 122,000 in 1991, 150,000 in 1996, 102,000 in 2001 and 75,000 in 2006.

Their numbers were more stable in Oregon –87,000, 73,000 63,000 and 70,000 — and actually grew in Idaho over the long haul –42,000, 73,000, 53,000 and 54,000.

Idaho’s bass angling participation rate was above the national average, which is 4 percent, but Washington and Oregon’s were below — and Washington’s was among the three lowest in the entire country.

(USFWS)

Across the U.S., 13,139,000 fished for bass in 1991, 10,181,000 in 2006.

Trout angler numbers peaked in 1996 in Washington and Idaho (628,000 and 409,000) and were roughly similar in Oregon at their high points in 1991 and 2001 (428,000 and 417,000). In 2006, there were 337,000 fishers after rainbows, browns, lakers and brookies in Washington, 320,000 in Oregon and 258,000 in Idaho.

Still, participation rates throughout almost all of the West were twice the national average, which was 3 percent in 2006, and Idaho’s was one of the five highest.

(USFWS)

Nationwide, there was just under 9.5 million trout anglers in 1991 and just over 7 million in 2006.

In the face of long-term declines in the popularity of fishing and hunting, deer hunting has actually been remarkably stable nationally. Over 10 million of us chased blacktails, whitetails and muleys in all survey years, with the highest number afield in 1996 (10,722,000) and fewest in 2006 (10,062,000).

Idaho and Oregon’s participation rates were up to twice the national average, which was 4 percent. However, Washington’s was below that.

(USFWS)

All three states saw peak deer hunting participation in 1996 (Idaho: 183,000; Oregon: 221,000; and Washington: 214,000) and lowest numbers in 2006 (119,000; 164,000; 150,000).

Double-checking Washington’s numbers, according to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife’s 2006 game harvest report, 165,436 deer tags were purchased and 135,195 hunters went out that year.

USFWS’s data also shows that in 2006 there were more duck hunters in Idaho and Oregon than in 1991 (26,000 to 19,000 and 27,000 to 23,000), but the number of greenhead gunners in Washington dropped by nearly half between those years, from 35,000 to 18,000. All three states saw peak numbers during the 1996 survey. Oregon and Washington participation rates were above the national average, 1 percent.

(USFWS)

USFWS also measured participation in catfish, flatfish, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels and dove, but at least in the Northwest, there are holes in the data that limit long-term comparisons.

And the survey looked at how many days anglers and hunters spent afield and how much we spend, and breaks out participation by income, education, location, race and gender, among other demographics.

It concludes:

The generalization that hunting and fishing are declining in popularity is often heard, but is not strictly speaking true. The growth in the fishing population has been higher than the growth in the U.S. population when the base year for comparison is 1955. Also, while participation in certain types of hunting and fishing is dropping, other types present a different picture.

Participation rates for flatfishing and saltwater anything fishing have held steady since 1991. The same is true for turkey and duck hunting. The number of deer hunters has been remarkably steady since 1991.

The shorter-term trends show a drop-off since the high-water mark of 1991. Since 1991 hunting and fishing participation has dropped significantly. But even in recent years there are areas of stability.

Several species hunter/anglers stand out. Turkey hunting is important because it is increasing in popularity at a time when outdoor recreation participation is decreasing. Duck hunting stands out because the demographics of duck hunters are so striking: urban, remarkably high income, and a preponderance of younger participants.

Flatfishing trends and demographics have similarities to those of turkey and duck hunting. Flatfishing participation has not decreased while all other species fishing has gone down, and participants tend to be urban and have remarkably high incomes. Unlike turkey and duck hunters, Hispanics and people 55 years old and older flatfish at a relatively
high rate.

Older white males have been the dominant demographic group for fishing and hunting for decades. Youth and women have recently gotten more attention as potential sources of new participants. Squirrel hunting and catfishing have the highest proportions
of young adult participants. Deer hunting and freshwater anything fishing have the highest proportions of women participants. Knowing their fishing and hunting preferences could be useful in any efforts to encourage participation

Group Aims To Grow Columbia Steelhead Fishery

February 16, 2011

Last week the directors of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Travel Oregon met with the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association to initiate a pilot project designed to grow participation in the Columbia River summer steelhead fishery.  The meeting was held in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Sportsman’s Show in Portland, the third largest consumer show of its type in America.

THE PAST FEW YEARS HAVE SEEN SIZZLING STEELHEADING ON THE COLUMBIA IN JULY, INCLUDING FOR GUYS LIKE KIRBY CANNON WHO INTERCEPTED THIS ONE AT CASCADE LOCKS, BUT INDUSTRY OFFICIALS HOPE TO INCREASE THE VISIBILITY OF THE FISHERY. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

NSIA representatives included major retailers such as Fred Meyer and Fishermen’s Marine and Outdoor, tackle manufacturers, outdoor advertising and media, including Northwest Sportsman magazine, and guides.  Facilitated by ODFW, the participants brainstormed ways to leverage their collective communication platforms and resources for better outreach to attract new customers to this thriving but underappreciated fishery.

“Steelhead are one of Oregon’s most prized game fish, known for their fight,” said Todd Davidson, Director of Travel Oregon.  “Great conditions and stable fishing seasons make summer steelhead a solid draw to Oregon for visiting anglers and their families.” Davidson continued, “The statewide potential of this pilot project is tremendous.”

Last year, nearly half a million of these summer steelhead, often nicknamed “freight trains” entered the Columbia River and were pursued by anglers from the bank and from boats.  For 2011 the steelhead returns will be down, but only slightly.

Northwest Sportsman plans on covering the fishery.

“This is the perfect fishery for the families that shop Fred Meyer,” said Cheryl Kindwall, sporting goods buyer.  “A Columbia River steelhead is easily caught from the river’s many public beaches, turning a fishing trip into a picnic and fun family outing.”

For families and friends who prefer beach fishing, the Columbia River has many islands.  The President of Northwest Guides and Angler’s Association, Bob Rees, envisions guided adventures to island beaches with transportation, licenses, gear and food chartered by the Association’s professional guides.

Focusing print media, social media, broadcast media and online media on a single fishery will produce results that can be benchmarked through increased license and boat registration sales, tackle and equipment sales, and angler trips.  An event celebrating steelhead at a Columbia River park with how-to clinics for bank and boat anglers put on by local experts is being explored.  Additionally, the group will work to develop a multifaceted online presence for fishing that will link where-to—boat launches and public beaches shown using mapping software and how-to—with videos and technical brochures.  This site could link to guide and charter business and retail tackle outlets, as well as other hospitality services, such as hotels, wineries and other uniquely Oregon offerings.

Collectively, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Travel Oregon, the Oregon State Marine Board and the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association can pool their resources to grow jobs from a sustainable natural resource by generating demand for products and services related to sportfishing.  Through license sales, these new customers will also fund the conservation mission of ODFW, ensuring that future generations of Oregonians and the visitors to our beautiful state can enjoy the unparalleled family and friend bonding that sportfishing supplies.

Spree Wildlife Killing Bill Gets Hearing

February 15, 2011

A poacher that Northwest Sportsman magazine first told you about in our January issue is getting notice on TV and on a local hunting board — and legislators today held a public hearing on a bill that would make so-called wildlife spree killings a felony.

WDFW Enforcement Deputy Chief Mike Cenci calls James Cody Stearns “the poster child” for why lawmakers need to pass House Bill 1340.

“We used a video clip to illustrate our point that there are bad people out there who deserve harsher penalties,” Cenci said immediately after the hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources this morning.

Stearns, 20, was recently shown on KIRO TV heading to the Grays Harbor County jail for a five-month sentence after pleading guilty in district court last November to five misdemeanors of illegally killing five deer.

SCREEN GRAB FROM KIRO TV OF JAMES CODY STEARNS. (KIRO TV)

That after the Hoquiam resident, known as The Headhunter, finished up a 10-month sentence just this past April for other wildlife offenses.

On tape Stearns denied having ever shot any animals, but according to KIRO, WDFW game wardens “said they believe the man has killed more than a hundred animals and that the actual total could be much higher.”

A slide show on the station’s Web site shows him posing with numerous animals, as well as evidence seized during WDFW’s investigation.

Officers dragged a local lake with grappling hooks to recover evidence in part to make the case.

“For the most part, he took the heads, and after he brought them home, he decided whether they measured up to trophy and retention potential,” Cenci told this magazine for our article that came out early last month. “If not, then they were discarded in the pond. Meat was sometimes taken, but generally, he was just interested in killing.”

Stearns hunting privileges have been revoked for life, according to WDFW.

After our article appeared, Stearns wrote on his Facebook page on Jan. 14, “Im in the sportsmen northwest hunting magazine look on page 18 lol sweet article.”

Other posts include mentions of a daughter and possibly suicidal thoughts.

SCREEN GRAB FROM KIROTV.COM'S STORY ON JAMES CODY STEARNS. (KIRO TV)

The Stearns case is being discussed at Hunting Washington, and in his Seattle Gun Rights Examiner column, Dave Workman wrote:

This column has been critical of the Department of Fish & Wildlife lately, but kudos are due to the game cops who rounded up this guy.

It’s hard enough for honest hunters to notch a tag in this state without a guy like this running around.

Now, legislators are considering stiffening poaching penalties for spree killings, which this magazine has been reporting on for about a year.

A legislative report on HB 1340 summarizes it thusly:

“The elements of the crime of unlawful hunting of big game in the first degree are changed. A person may be convicted of this crime without first being convicted of a different wildlife-related crime if the person kills, or attempts to kill, three or more big game animals within the same course of events. The same course of events is defined to mean within a 24-hour period or as part of a series of acts evidencing a continuity of purpose.”

Furthermore, it explains:

The crime of unlawful hunting of big game in the second degree is committed when a person does one of three things:

hunts for, takes, or possesses big game without the required licenses and tags;

violates any rules regarding requirements for hunting big game;

or possesses a big game animal taken during a closed season [RCW 77.15.410(1)].

The crime of unlawful hunting of big game in the first degree is committed when a person who has previously committed a wildlife-related crime, within five years of that conviction, commits one of the acts that qualifies as the unlawful hunting in the second degree [RCW 77.15.410(2)].

The unlawful hunting of big game in the second degree is a gross misdemeanor, which is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both a fine and jail time [RCW 9.92.020]. In addition, a person convicted of this crime for hunting out of season or exceeding possession limits is also subject to a suspension of hunting privileges for two years.

The unlawful hunting of big game in the first degree is a class C felony, which is punishable by confinement in a state correctional institution for five years, by a fine of up to $10,000, or by both a fine and prison time [RCW 9A.20.021]. In addition, a person convicted of this crime is subject to a suspension of hunting privileges for 10 years.

The term “big game” is defined to include the following animals: deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, caribou, mountain sheep, pronghorn antelopes, cougars, black bears, and grizzly bears

The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Kretz, McCune, Johnson and Warnick.

TVW has video of the hearing; it begins around the 50-minute mark and runs through about the 64-minute mark.

“People with a mindset that will do things like that to wildlife, there needs to be more harsh options when they get caught,” said Kretz, a Wauconda Republican who represents much of Northeast Washington, during testimony.

“This allows an additional tool in our toolbox to deal with individuals who blatantly, illegally take our state’s wildlife,” added WDFW Chief Bruce Bjork.

Cenci said that spree killing shouldn’t be confused with frustrated sportsmen who might “temporarily” lay aside ethics to get around the rules. He termed it “serial poaching, and it’s got a sick and twisted ending.”

“Generally, the criminal goes out in the middle of the night,” said Cenci. “Season’s often not open. And with the aid of a powerful spotlight, that individual uses it to locate game, and then shine it in the eyes of the animal in order to paralyze them, giving then the opportunity for the poacher to kill the animal or multiple animals. Sometimes the heads are cut off for trophy value and the rest of the animal is left in the woods. All too often the entire animal … is left to rot. That’s not something a sportsman does.”

He said violators often have criminal backgrounds with felony convictions, and “amazingly enough, jail is not necessarily a deterrent by itself.”

“But if you couple that with elevating the level of the crime and loss of coveted hunting privileges for a period to 10 years … we think that will help change attitudes that these egregious acts, they’re not worth it. The current suspension period is two years. A longer period of revocation is not only just, in our view, but it also gives fish and wildlife police officers a longer opportunity to act on tips and put together a plan to catch up to the bad guys,” Cenci added.

After he finished testifying, there was a moment of levity: Before the committee, an unlikely trio sat shoulder to shoulder in support of the bill — lobbyist Ed Owens, representing the Hunters Heritage Council, Jennifer Hillman of the Humane Society of the United States and Jack Field of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association. It sparked one legislator to take out his digital camera and snap a quick pic.

But it was quickly back to business.

“The regulated hunting community are of the opinion the bill doesn’t go far enough,” said Owens. “There is a high level of anger across the state against these individuals. They don’t hunt, they simply kill for their own pleasure.”

Hillman called the bill “a powerful deterrent” and Field asked the committee to pass the bill.

However, Owens did say there was some concern about cases where, say, a legal hunter uses a high-powered shell to shoot a targeted animal, but the bullet passes through and kills or injures other animals.

The committee is chaired by Rep.  Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) in whose district four slain elk were discovered last November and reported on by KING 5 in early December.

New Willamette Dock Opens For Fishing

February 15, 2011

The new fishing dock is now open on the Willamette River. It replaces bank access lost on the other side of the river with the closure of The Wall last year.

The 8-foot-wide by 350-foot-long dock is on the west shore of the river below the falls between the Oregon City Arch Bridge and West Linn Paper Company.

“We are pleased to be able to provide this opportunity for bank anglers,” said Jeff Boechler, manager of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s North Willamette Watershed District.

The structure was funded primarily through the sale of fishing licenses and, according to ODFW is “designed specifically to be used by anglers,” including sturgeon, springer, steelhead, coho and spinyrays.

“This is excellent,” said Molalla angler Steve Snegirev, according to an ODFW press release. “I’m really glad to see our license dollars being used for something like this. I’m sure it will get a lot of use and that people will like it.”

Back in our December issue, Terry Otto reported ODFW had “heard reports of some anglers slipping onto the still-closed site and giving it a try. The word is they have been catching and releasing sturgeon.”

STEVE SNEGIREV TRIES OUT THE NEW DOCK ON THE WILLAMETTE JUST ABOVE THE OREGON CITY BRIDGE. (ODFW)

The new dock replaces an old log “catwalk” which was deemed unsafe.

That and the closure of The Wall to protect a sturgeon spawning area left bank anglers out in the cold.

“Most of these guys can’t afford boats,” Mark Loveland of Oregon City told The Oregonian. “It shuts a lot of people out. I have no idea what they are going to do now.”

Development of the dock was a cooperative project of ODFW, the City of West Linn, West Linn Paper Company and Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation. It was built and installed by Ken’s Floatation Services, Inc., of Oregon City.

The new structure was an engineering challenge, according to Boechler, because it is anchored to the shore with pivot arms next to steep slopes that give the dock the ability to move with changes in river flows. It also required installation of a long ship’s ladder to allow users to safely cross a 20-foot cliff to the water below. The facility is accessed via a new path built by the West Linn Parks Department adjacent to Territorial Road. The new access point also means that anglers no longer need to enter the West Linn Paper Company mill to access the dock.

Total cost of the project was approximately $250,000. The funding package was coordinated by Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit organization that champions projects that benefit fish, wildlife and habitat related projects throughout Oregon. Most of the funding was provided by a grant through the Oregon Restoration and Enhancement Program using surcharges from fishing licenses sold to Oregon anglers. Additional funding support was provided by the City of West Linn, West Linn Paper Company, the C.M. Bishop Jr. Family Trust, and Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

ODFW warns anglers that parking is pretty limited due to maintenance on the OC bridge. There’s limited parking along Mill Street adjacent to the West Linn Police Department. There is no parking available on West Linn Paper Company property or under the bridge along Territorial Road. Anglers may need to find other areas to park their vehicles or seek alternate methods of transportation to the site. Parking will remain limited for approximately two years while the bridge project is underway. During this construction period the Oregon Department of Transportation is offering free shuttle services between Oregon City and West Linn for bicyclists and pedestrians who previously used the bridge. For a shuttle schedule visit the project website at http://www.archrehab.com.

AN ANGLER YARDS A STURGEON UP THE WALL. THE FISHERY THERE WAS CLOSED LAST YEAR. (RICK SWART/ODFW)

4 Fresh Fishin’ Reports

February 14, 2011

UPDATED: Gotta blaze home here shortly to attend to a sick wife and kids — thank you, cold season, for a fine Valentine’s Day present — but thought I’d pass along a quartet of fishin’ reports.

The first comes from our Main man in Spokane, steelheader Jeff Main:

Hi andy,

I went to the Grande Ronde on Sat. I hooked 13, landed 8; Sun. 1 for 1.  River is in beautiful shape. Tried the UV Corkies on Sat. Never used them on Corkies before,  seemed to work well or could have been a day when color did not matter just right place right time — kinda like to think maybe UV though. Counted 37 people on Sat.;  most only had onesies or twosies or none (ouch).

With rain then snow in the forecast, getting to the Ronde may be adventurous, but even with not-exactly-prime conditions on the Clearwater, I’ve been hearing good things from there this winter. And that’s where our second report comes from, via Pautzke’s director of operations Chris Shaffer:

Our shipping guy won’t leave me alone! Guy went back from Eburg to Lewiston last weekend to try again

 

LAURA RODGERS WITH A CLEARWATER RIVER, IDAHO, STEELHEAD, CAUGHT ON EGGS CURED IN PAUTZKE'S BORX O FIRE. (PAUTZKE'S)

And our third report comes North-central Washington, from guide Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad’s Guide Service.

What’s hot is trolling on Lake Chelan for lakers in the trench.  Also hot is bait fishing the net pens on Rufus Woods for Triploid Rainbows.

Fish on Lake Chelan in the Trench using Silver Horde’s Kingfisher Lite spoons in chartreuse splatterback glow.  Above the Yacht Club try Worden Lure’s T4 purple glow Flatfish for some bigger fish.  Try Worden Lures M2 Flatfish in Chub pattern on “the Bar” for some nice quality fish.  Another great choice in any of those locations would be Mack’s Lures Cha Cha Squidder in a glow color.

It was slow for Upper Columbia Steelhead fishing.

Rufus Woods produced nicely bait fishing near the net pens.  Try rainbow colored Fire Bait by Pautzke.

 

DAVE MATULKA AND JOHN JENSEN, BOTH OF KITTITAS COUNTY, SHOW OFF LIMITS OF TRIPLOIDS FROM RUFUS WOODS FOR THEMSELVES AND GUIDES JEFF WITKOWSKI AND ANDY BYRD. THAT BIG ONE WHEN 9.5 POUNDS. (DARRELL & DAD'S)

Your fishing tip of the week is to remember to be creative when thinking about “matching the hatch”.  It has become passé among fly fishers for sure, but all anglers need to try and mimic their lure or bait to what the fish are eating, or “matching the hatch”.

On both Chelan and Rufus we think in terms of taking into account what the fish are eating, but instead of trying to match an incredibly plentiful food supply we try to capitalize on the fish’s opportunistic nature.  At Rufus, we know the fish are feeding below and downstream of the net pens on fish pellets.  How would they find our pellet imitation among the gazillions of actual food pellets?  Well, they wouldn’t.  So we fish where they are with a bait that is in the area they are eating, and only a bit bigger than what they are feeding on.  However, we use rainbow color and glitter to attract their attention.  On Chelan, the fish are keying on Mysis shrimp or other fish.  We put our lures closer to them and make them look a bit more vulnerable and attractive than their naturally plentiful food.  Anyhow, it’s something to consider when deciding what to use.

The kid’s tip of the week is to capitalize on school age children’s mercenary ambitions to shape desirable and useful ambitions.  Somewhere from ages 7 to 9 most kids are motivated by money.  I pay my 9 year old granddaughter a few dollars to clean the boat after trips.  After she does a good job I reinforce it with praise.  I’m saving my back and getting a helper.  She is developing that elusive “self-esteem”.  Keep it age appropriate and be reasonable with your expectations.

Your safety tip of the week is to remember to clean that fish blood and goo off the deck before people slip and fall!

 

And finally, No. 4 from biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – No report on angling success is currently available.  Last week Tacoma Power recovered eight coho adults, 63 winter-run steelhead and one winter-run steelhead jack during four days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released three coho adults and 30 winter-run steelhead into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek and 13 winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 9,570 cubic feet per second on Monday, February 14. Water visibility is two feet.

Lower Columbia from the I-5 Bridge downstream – A few more anglers were sampled last week but still no catch.  Forty-three boats and 102 bank anglers were counted during the Saturday Feb. 12 effort flight count.  Half the boat effort was found around Woodland.  The majority of the bank effort was on the Oregon shore.

Bonneville Pool – No salmonid anglers were sampled last week.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers averaged a steelhead per rod when including fish released.  Bank anglers were also catching some steelhead.

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

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Generally light effort and catch.  We did not have any catch in our sample, including sublegals released.  A total of 51 boats and 37 bank anglers were counted during last Saturday’s effort flight count.  The largest concentration of sturgeon boats were  found around Vancouver.

Bonneville Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged a legal per boat.  Bank anglers also caught some legals.

The Dalles and John Day pools – Boat anglers caught a few legals.  Slow fishing from the bank.

WALLEYE AND BASS

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

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers averaged slightly over a walleye per rod when including fish released.  Bank anglers were also catching some fish.  No effort observed for bass.

John Day Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged a walleye per boat.  No effort observed for bass.

TROUT

Klineline Pond – 28 bank anglers kept 42 rainbows.  Planted with 1,500 rainbows averaging 2/3 pound each Feb. 11.

 

OHA Asks ODFW For More Effort On Blacktail Plan

February 14, 2011

(OREGON HUNTERS ASSOCIATION PRESS RELEASE)

Concerned with slow progress being made in implementing the Oregon Black-tailed Deer Management Plan, the Oregon Hunters Association has presented the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with a critique of the plan’s weak points, provisions that have not been adequately carried out and suggestions for improvement, urging the agency to move more aggressively in addressing the issues that threaten Oregon’s black-tailed deer population.

The Oregon Black-tailed Deer Management Plan was developed to provide a framework of objectives and strategies to stem the continuing decline of black-tailed deer. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the plan in November 2008. Since the late 1980s, black-tailed deer numbers in Oregon have been steadily dropping due to a variety of causes including changes in habitat, diseases, predation and other factors.

SOUTHWEST OREGON BLACKTAILS. (TYLER DUNGANNON)

OHA’s concerns were expressed in a letter to ODFW Director Roy Elicker from OHA President Fred Craig.

“The Oregon Hunters Association is very concerned about the decline in black-tailed deer throughout western Oregon, and major declines in areas of the north coast, and Josephine and Jackson counties are particularly troubling,” said Craig. “Strategies set forth in the Black-tailed Deer Management Plan are critical to recovering and maintaining a viable, huntable population of black-tailed deer in Oregon.”

OHA identifies a decline in quality and quantity of habitat as the most prevalent factor in the population decrease and focuses on several habitat-related strategies in the plan that needs to be improved or pursued more aggressively.

These include additional meadow habitat development in forest areas, reduction in the use of herbicides that destroy forage species valuable to black-tailed deer, development of baseline data that shows the current condition of black-tailed deer habitat, identifying species of plants that provide the best forage for deer, developing methods to increase the number and duration of early forest seral stage growth, and inventorying areas burned by wildfire, which often produces high-quality habitat along its edges.

OHA also wants to ensure that ODFW field biologists are working closely with federal, state and private land managers so that habitat and forage needs of black-tailed deer are incorporated into forest management plans and actions.

Other areas of concern are the impacts of predation, especially by black bears, along with poaching, which OHA believes is a serious problem and requires more law enforcement attention, including during periods outside deer season. In addition, OHA wants to see increased harvest reporting by hunters that includes sufficient penalties for non-compliance. Better harvest data will help ODFW more accurately determine the overall condition of black-tailed deer herds.

“After two years we believe little progress has been made in implementing the black-tailed deer management plan,” said Craig. “OHA is asking ODFW to put a lot more effort and resources into the strategies and achieving the objectives of the plan.”

OHA is the state’s largest pro-hunting organization, with more than 10,000 members and 27 chapters statewide. —Jim Yuskavitch

Monday Hearing On Bill Requiring Lost Net Reporting

February 11, 2011

A state Senate bill that would require commercial fishermen to report lost gillnets is up for a public hearing this Monday, Feb. 14, in Olympia.

Currently, they’re merely “encouraged” to report lost or derelict gear, but that system isn’t working, says Bear Holmes.

“Only two nets have been reported lost since the program’s inception in 2003,” says the secretary of Puget Sound Anglers. “One of those, a gill net reported lost in Port Susan Bay in 2008, was removed by the Northwest Straits Initiative. It contained 162 seabirds, 14 salmon, 42 dogfish, 1,400 Dungeness crab and one harbor seal.”

It may have killed even more sea life, if you factor in decomposition rates over the 23 weeks between the time it was lost and then found, he says.

“In an ecologically rich area like Port Susan Bay, derelict gear can be a tremendous stress on the ecosystem and a source of mortality so you can see the need for prompt reporting and removal of these indiscriminate killers,” says Holmes.

SB 5661 would revise state code 77.12.780 and require commercial anglers to report their lost or abandoned gear within 48 hours to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. It was introduced by Senators Nelson, Pridemore, Swecker, White, Morton and Fain

The companion bill in the House is 1717. It was introduced by Representatives Fitzgibbon, Rolfes, Chandler, Dunshee, Orcutt, Appleton, Van De Wege, Hinkle and Stanford.

Since 2002, the Northwest Straits Initiative has removed 3,860 nets in Puget Sound, and nearly 2,500 of those since July 2009 alone.

But even so, new lost gear is appearing all the time. Holmes reports that in just one area cleaned up in 2010, 12 fresh ones appeared.

“It is estimated that more than 20 nets or parts of nets are lost or abandoned each year in Puget Sound,” he says.

While this may seem to some like just another attack on commercial fishermen, for Holmes, it just makes sense to report lost nets.

“In my opinion, not reporting derelict gear is the equivalent of killing the goose that lays the golden egg,” he says. “I know of no other business where if you lose a piece of equipment, and that piece of equipment causes environmental damage until it is recovered, the government will spend taxpayer and other dollars to retrieve it for you and then return it to you for no charge and the only stipulation is you have to tell them where and when you lost it. The commercial fishers often unfairly paint all sportsmen, conservationists and environmentalists with a broad brush as being opposed to commercial fishing.  That is not true.

“In addition, this issue is not about commercial fishing, season setting or allocation; the issue is about a piece of equipment that becomes an environmental hazard and an indiscrimanant killing machine until it is recovered.

“On top of that, Puget Sound Anglers has donated several thousand dollars to the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative to support ghost net removal efforts.  That’s pretty rich —  sportsmen paying to clean up the commercial’s mess,” he says.

The hearing before the Senate Natural Resources & Marine Waters will be held in Room 2 of the Cherberg Building at 1:30 p.m.

Holmes and Robbie Tobeck of The Outdoor Line radio show will be among those giving testimony.

Public Speaks On WDFW-Parks Merger

February 10, 2011

Much of the public testimony about Senate Bill 5669 in Olympia today centered around the Fish & Wildlife Commission, which would have its powers stripped under the bill.

Some see it as a power grab by the governor while others said it would lead to special interests horning in on fish and game management decisions.

Norman Reinhardt, president of the Kitsap Poggie Club, said it would turn the clock back, putting politics before science.

“Do not allow this merger take place,” he said.

That was a common sentiment among the anglers who spoke before the Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters committee, chaired by Sen. Kevin Ranker, a North Sound Democrat.

In a live TVW broadcast of the 106-minute-long public hearing, Ranker kept speakers moving along in their allotted two minutes, and at the end of it, took time to reassure the audience that in all likelihood, the bill in his committee now would not be the one that emerges from it based on the testimony received from the 20 to 30 speakers.

SB 5669 came at the request of Governor Gregoire who last December proposed merging the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife with State Parks and the small Recreation and Conservation Office in response to the $4.6 billion revenue shortfall and drives in recent years to make natural resource management more efficient.

However, under it, the Fish & Wildlife Commission, which was granted authority over the governor to regulate fisheries by a 61-39 statewide vote in 1995, would take a backseat advisory roll.

Several speakers said that that would set back big gains in resource management and that what we have now seems to be working.

Jim Howard, a concerned angler and the afternoon’s final speaker, said the commission exists in a “fragile balance,” and to mess with it would do “irreparable damage.”

Turning the commission into an advisory panel would “lose what we have working for us,” said Puget Sound Anglers president Ron Garner before him. “We live here not because of football, but fishing and hunting. I’ve gone other places they call paradise, but this is paradise.”

“They sent me up here with a very short message,” added Larry Snyder about members of the 82-year-old Vancouver Wildlife League. “We do not like what you’re trying to do. We worked hard on that referendum in 1995 and don’t want to do it again. We urge you to reject it.”

In response to intimations that the committee had created the bill, Vice Chair Sen. Debbie Regala, a Tacoma Democrat, reminded the gathered that she and Ranker “brought this bill forward to discuss it, not that we support it.”

The bill directs WDFW and Parks to merge into a new Department of Conservation and Recreation by mid-2012. It would structure DCR so as to “maintain at least two distinct areas of focus: One for fish and wildlife management and one for parks and recreation management.”

DCR’s head would be appointed by the governor, but Carl Burke of Fish Northwest, who said he was representing 1,100 sportfishing businesses and 11,000 employees in the industry, said he would like to see the director of the fish and wildlife part of the super agency continue to be appointed by the commission.

Ed Wickersham, one of several members of the Coastal Conservation Commission who spoke, said that a merger might lead to “years of confusion, interagency squabbling and immense cost” among the affected agencies.

Frank Urabeck, involved in any number of salmon issues around the region but speaking for himself, said he didn’t believe the merger would save much money, and he said that for WDFW staffers it would “knock morale through the basement, which is where we are now.”

Tim Young of the Washington Federation of State Employees said that surveys of members who work for WDFW found 61 percent were opposed to the merger.

Mark James, a WDFW enforcement officer, said that fellow game wardens don’t support the bill because it would dilute their work.

Ted Measor, a concerned citizen who claimed to “represent a whole heckuva a lot of fishermen in Washington state,” said the bill would alienate sportsmen in the state and that he might go spend his money in Canada where he feels like he’s wanted.”

The importance of hunting and fishing on Washington’s economy did not appear lost on the Senate committee. Ranker pointed out that it’s an industry that directly contributes $1.4 billion annually and employees 14,000 — and that doesn’t count hotel, restaurant, gas station or other service workers in places where we go to chase deer and fish.

“Know that I and this committee have been doing our homework,” he said. “It rivals some of the companies that are hallmarks of this state.”

One speaker pointed out that while the Fish & Wildlife Commission may cost the state several hundred thousand dollars to maintain, “you make more than that back in service” from commissioners.

Ray Carter, a member of several gun groups, pointed out SB 5669 would concentrate a lot of power with the governor, and warned, “think ahead, the governor won’t always be a Democrat.”

He and Ranker playfully sparred when Carter brought up the idea of a Tea Party governor.

More soberly, Joe Taller, vice chair of the State Parks & Recreation Commission, called the merger a “mistake,” pointing to internal WDFW issues such as the tensions between sport and commercial anglers, as well as co-management with the tribes, “and then you’ve got hunters on top of all that.”

Not all speakers were against the bill.

Bill Robinson of The Nature Conservancy supported it, though wanted the commissions to set long-term policies and said there should be a “fire wall” between Parks, Fish & Wildlife and RCO, which grants moneys to both agencies.

Ed Owens, speaking for Washingtonians For Wildlife Conservation and three other groups, said that “my clientele is pleased to see this.”

Jeromy Jording, a WDFW Puget Sound commercial salmon manager who was representing the Washington Fish & Wildlife Professionals, said the organization “conditionally supported” the bill.

“As employees of WDFW, we’ve gone through consolidations before and hope to share that experience with you,” he said.

Before public testimony began, a pair of staffers from the governor’s office briefed senators on the bill. One said that they had heard concerns about the proposed agency’s name, how that leaves out fisheries, and were open to other ideas.

Let me just halt this blog right here and pitch, oh, I don’t know, how about Washington Fish, Wildlife & Parks? Kinda covers the gamut, don’t you think?

OK, back to the report.

Some have grumbled about how little this and other mergers would save — $2.5 million over the coming two years — and speaking to that, Kirsten Arestad of the Office of Financial Management acknowledged that “these figures appear to be modest.”

However, she pointed to another $350,000 in savings that could be attained by consolidating things not previously considered — a boating program, office locations.

Other speakers opposed to the bill included Jack Field of the Washington Cattleman’s Association, Gregg Bufando and Paul Sparks from Trout Unlimited, and Dan Freeman of South Sound Fly Fishers.

Regala and Ranker thanked those who testified for being polite and keeping their remarks brief.

Ranker also extended invitations to the public to return to a workshop at 5:30 p.m. in the same office on Monday, Valentine’s Day.

For other takes on the meeting, see Allen Thomas’ coverage in The Columbian and Robbie Tobeck’s blog at The Outdoor Line.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (2-9-11)

February 9, 2011

Fourteen North Coast lakes are being stocked with trout this week, rainbows from 8 inches all the way up to 16-plus inches.

They’re cousins, steelhead are also biting on the South Coast and Northeast Oregon, a few sturgeon are picking up baits in Tillamook Bay and, in the words of ODFW, “It’s time to consider fishing for spring chinook in the Willamette River.”

Here are highlights from the weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Warmer weather has put winter steelhead on the bite in the middle Rogue River.
  • Hatchery steelhead are showing up in the South Umpqua and numbers should peak in February/March.
  • Low tides will offer good bay clamming opportunities in the Coos Bay area.
  • The 2011 trout stocking schedules have been posted.

VICTORIA, LAST NAME UNKNOWN, SHOWS OFF HER FIRST EVER STEELHEAD, CAUGHT BY THE MEDFORD GAL IN THE MIDDLE ROGUE WITH JORDAN ABBOTT OF KING OF THE ROGUE OUTFITTERS. (WRIGHT MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Nestucca River: The Nestucca River is dropping and clearing. Fishing has been good for winter steelhead, but is slowing as the river drops. Fish are spread throughout the system. Concentrate on the river below Blaine if targeting hatchery fish, with good prospects for catch-and-release fishing on wild steelhead in the upper river. Side drifting or drift fishing has been the most productive, but look for bobber and jig or casting spinners to produce some fish as flows drop. Three Rivers is producing a few fish also, with best fishing below the hatchery.
  • Siletz River: Winter steelhead fishing has been slow the last week. River conditions continue to be low and clear.  Anglers should focus on holding water or try fishing the lower river to find new fresh fish.  Try small presentations and light line to entice a bite. Look for the next good rain to energize the fishery. The upper river can be a good location to fly fish during low clear conditions.
  • Siuslaw River: Winter steelhead angling is slow to fair. Low flows and clear water have slowed fish movement and catch rates. Focus on deeper holding water and the lower river during these conditions. Good numbers of fish are still expected show. Look for the next good rain to activate the fishery.
  • Tillamook Bay: Sturgeon fishing is fair, but some good catches were reported on the last good tide series. The next good tide series doesn’t occur until after the middle of the month. Fish sand shrimp on the bottom near the channel edges during the outgoing tide. Move often to find fish if you are not getting bites.
  • Wilson River: Angling for winter steelhead has been slow to fair. The river is low and clear, so use light gear and small lures or baits. Good numbers of fish are in the system. The slide at MP 6 on Hwy 6 may still dirty the river after rains, so check the river conditions before fishing, or fish upstream. The slide deposited some large trees into the river also, which are obstructing the river at lower flows. Boaters need to use extreme caution or avoid that drift.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • The first trout stocking of the season takes place this week at Alton Baker Canoe Canal in Eugene, Blue Lake in Gresham and Mt. Hood Pond in Gresham.
  • It’s time to consider fishing for spring chinook in the Willamette River.
  • High water levels in area streams are starting to recede, stimulating some improvement in the winter steelhead movement.
  • Anglers have been reporting some good sturgeon catch-and-release success rates on the Willamette River.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Water levels on the Crooked River have been stable and fishing should be good.
  • Winter steelhead fishing in the lower Hood River has been good. Look for steelhead numbers to peak in March and April.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Recent warm weather has melted some ice on many lakes and reservoirs, and there is rotten ice in many locations. Anglers should exercise extreme caution when venturing out ice fishing.
  • The Ana River offers fair trout fishing for the skilled angler looking for a crowd-free escape.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Steelhead fishing has been picking up on the Umatilla River and catch rates have been fair in the Pendleton area.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Sturgeon angling is good for boat anglers in the Bonneville Pool, weather permitting.  Sturgeon anglers in The Dalles and John Day Pools are also catching some fish.
  • A few spring Chinook are milling around the lower Columbia for anglers willing to brave the elements.
  • February is the prime month for big walleye in the John Day pool; anglers target the Irrigon to Glade creek area for best results.

Columbia Springer, Sturgeon Seasons Set

February 8, 2011

We’ll be able to fish for springers a little higher up the Columbia from a boat this year and bankies again get their water below Bonneville, but Chinook season will only run into April’s earliest days.

That’s what two Oregon and Washington fishery managers decided during a meeting today in Oregon City.

After hearing testimony from sport, commercial and tribal anglers, ODFW and WDFW managers chose option one of two presented to them.

Their decision opens the river from Buoy 10 upstream to Rooster Rock for boat and bank anglers, and the water from Rooster Rock up to Bonneville Dam for bank anglers seven days a week from March 1 through April 4.

Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said fishing seasons for springers — as well as sturgeon which were also set — reflect the number of fish available for harvest within the states’ conservation guidelines.

“We’re expecting an average return of spring Chinook this year, with a fairly high number of large fish in the mix,” LeFleur said in a press release.

She adds, “If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in spring.”

Option 2 would have restricted all anglers to the water from B10 up to I-5 only, though given us two more days on the water, more angler trips and about 1,000 more fish.

(ALL RIVERS AND CHARTERS GUIDE SERVICE)

The upstream boat fishery boundary will be definied as “a true north/south line projected from Rooster Rock on the Oregon shore to the Washington shoreline.”

Rooster Rock is basically the mouth of the gorge, and is just below Crown Point.

It’s 16 miles above last year’s upstream boat fishery boundary, the I-205 bridge. Bank anglers, however, were allowed to fish from the bridge to the dam.

Above Bonneville Dam, spring Chinook will be open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from March 16 through April 24 between the Tower Island powerlines six miles below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines during that time.

Anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville Dam may retain one hatchery-reared adult chinook per day as part of their catch limit. Above the dam, anglers can keep two marked hatchery chinook per day.

While the forecast is for 198,000 above-Bonneville-bound springers, until a run-size update in midspring, managers are running nontreaty seasons as if 30 percent fewer (or 139,000) fish actually show up, per an agreement last year with upstream tribes. That provides sports and comms a total of 11,527 Chinook to harvest. According to a fact sheet released yesterday afternoon, that breaks down thusly:

a. 7,750 fish for the recreational fishery below Bonneville Dam

b. 1,050 fish for the recreational fishery from Bonneville Dam to the OR/WA state line

c. 600 fish for recreational fisheries in the Snake River

d. 1,900 fish for the mainstem commercial fishery

e. 200 fish for Select Area commercial fisheries

The overall sport catch below Bonneville, including upriver, Willamette, Cowlitz and other stocks, is expected to be 10,100 under option 1, according to the fact sheet. Option 2 would have provided 11,000.

The Columbia below I-5 is open through March 31 under permanent regulations.

According to an ODFW press release, the Willamette is open to retention of adipose fin-clipped adult chinook salmon and adipose fin-clipped steelhead seven days a week the entire year, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is leaving that regulation in place based on an expected return of 104,000 spring chinook, which is comparable to last year. The bag limit on the Willamette below Willamette Falls is two adipose fin-clipped chinook. Above the falls, one additional adipose fin-clipped steelhead may be retained under regulations for the combined salmon/steelhead bag limit.

For more on some of the reasoning behind the decision, see reporter Bill Monroe’s account on Ifish.

COLUMBIA STURGEON FISHERIES SET

Fishery managers also agreed on new seasons for Columbia River white sturgeon that reflect mutual concerns about the declining abundance of legal-size sturgeon below Bonneville Dam.

New harvest guidelines approved today will limit this year’s catch in those waters to 17,000 fish, a 30 percent reduction from last year. That action follows a 40 percent reduction imposed during the 2010 fishing season.

“In practical terms, this year’s action is expected to reduce the amount of time sturgeon fisheries in the lower Columbia River will be open at the end of the season,” said Brad James, another WDFW fish biologist, in WDFW’s press release.

As in years past, 80 percent of the allowable catch will be allocated to the sport fishery and 20 percent to the commercial fishery. In addition, 60 percent of the sport catch will continue to be reserved for the estuary fishery below the Wauna powerlines and 40 percent for the fishery upriver from the powerlines to Bonneville Dam.

* Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines:   Retention of white sturgeon is allowed daily from Jan. 1 to April 30; May 14 through June 26; and July 1-4. From Jan. 1 to April 30, sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. From May 14 through the end of the season they must measure 41 inches to 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited.

* Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam: Retention of white sturgeon is allowed three days per week (Thursday through Saturday) from Jan. 1 through July 31 and from Oct. 8 until Dec. 31. Sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited. All fishing for sturgeon will be closed from May 1 through Aug. 31 in the sturgeon sanctuary downriver from Bonneville Dam described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.

At a previous joint state hearing, the two states took action to close the Sand Island Slough near Rooster Rock to fishing at least through April 30.

WILLAMETTE STURGEON

ODFW also announced that it will reopen retention sturgeon fishing on the Willamette three days a week beginning Thursday, Feb. 17 and continuing until a harvest guideline of 2,550 fish is achieved.

“There has been a great deal of interest on Willamette sturgeon,” said Steve Williams, who announced the Oregon action after the joint state hearing. “We saw a great deal of effort last fall on the Willamette that amounted to over 500 fish caught in three days. We expect the fishery to be good when it reopens on the 17th.”

Retention of white sturgeon is allowed three days a week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday Feb. 17 until the guideline of 2,550 fish is achieved. The daily bag limit is one white sturgeon with a fork length of 38 to 54 inches.

On the Willamette, angling for sturgeon is prohibited from the I-205 Bridge upstream to Willamette Falls May 1 – Aug. 31.

Public Hearing On WDFW-Parks Merger Bill Thurs.

February 8, 2011

Washington hunters and anglers are being rallied to Olympia this Thursday for a public hearing on a pair of bills that merge WDFW with State Parks, and being asked to send letters opposing SB 5669 and HB 1850.

The companion bills, introduced in the Senate and House in recent days, also make the director of the new Department of Conservation and Recreation an appointment of the governor and turn the Fish & Wildlife Commission into an advisory body only.

That latter point irks at least two sportfishing groups and one industry heavyweight.

“The Commission would no longer be able to make policies for the people of Washington, whom own the resources,” reads a Web alert from Puget Sound Anglers. “Big government will take control of your resources and decision making. There is also the possibility our resources will be hijacked by special interest groups. Haven’t you had enough of this? This will set our fisheries back 20 years.”

The Fish & Wildlife Commission was created by a referendum in 1995 that passed 60.99 to 39.01 percent. It was supported by a majority of voters in all 39 counties of the state, and in some counties by astonishingly large percentages — 74.5 percent in Spokane County, and 70 percent in Lewis and Pierce Counties.

“The people have voted on this. They voted on this. And overwhelmingly … they said ‘We want a commission, and we want a commission to set policy,'” said Tony Floor, fishing affairs director of the Northwest Marine Trade Association and a now-retired 30-year WDFW employee, on The Outdoor Line radio show his past weekend. “We’ve got to have a commission that hears the people. There are nine people on the commission. They’re from different places in the state — Eastern Washington, sport, commercial, habitat, hatcheries — it’s very well balanced.”

A message that Coastal Conservation Association members are being asked to send terms the bills an “end run on Referendum 45,” and says it “should have sent a clear message to the legislature and the Governor, that the public wanted a citizens commission that was no longer going to tolerate business as usual when it comes to managing our State’s natural resources.”

Bryan Irwin, CCA’s regional president, recently told Allen Thomas of The Columbian that “maintaining the authority of the commission is our No. 1 legislative priority.”

PSA also challenges assumptions the merger will save the state money.

“We don’t see where combining WDFW with other agencies shows any real cost savings,” reads a statement they ask anglers to forward to their own legislators and the governor. “It is more (probable) that the merger would create nothing more than more red tape, and inefficiency in trying to merge  three disparate state agencies.”

A frequent poster on Gamefishin.com emailed his legislators and got back two responses that indicated early opposition to the bills and questions about the cost savings.

According to Governor Gregoire’s projections, merging WDFW, Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office, as well as other natural resource agency consolidations would save $2.5 million over the coming two years and kill 14 jobs.

Eliminating boards and commissions, such as the Fish & Wildlife Commission, would save $7.4 million in the next biennium.

Basically chump change in the grand scheme, coping with a $4.7 billion — that’s a “b,” not an “m” — revenue shortfall over the next two years.

While the State Parks & Recreation Commission has voiced their opposition, the Fish & Wildlife Commission so far has been mum, unlike last year when it issued a statement opposing a Senate bill that would have folded WDFW into DNR.

Who knows why, but it may be because WDFW is pinning a lot of hope on passage of license fee hikes for the first time in ten years to help stabilize its budget.

Dave Workman, one of the state’s senior gun and hunting writers, also blogs about the merger idea today.

Sportsmen and women are concerned that the merger will further remove them from the table, even though they “pay the freight” for fish and wildlife in this state through fees for hunting and fishing licenses, tags and permits, and special federal excise taxes on firearms and ammunition, fishing tackle and accessories (including boats and motors). Non-hunting shooters pay into this fund with their excise taxes, and they should also have a say because up to ten percent of those excise tax apportionments that come back to the states through the Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration program can be used for range development and hunter education.

A couple weeks ago he pitched a 10-point plan that he says would help WDFW “better able to sustain itself,” and in part that means “rolling back” the hunting regulations several decades to when the agency had far more customers than it currently does.

The hearing will be held before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Marine Waters in Room 2 of the John Cherberg Building at 1:30 PM.

More Water, Shorter Season Vs. Less Water, Longer Season

February 8, 2011

Would you rather have more water to fish, including from the bank up around Bonneville, but a shorter season, or have more days and angler trips but not the blazingly-good-at-times Interstate stretch?

That’s the nut of two options that Washington and Oregon fishery managers will vote on today as they set spring Chinook fisheries on the mainstem Columbia.

With only 7,600 upriver-bound spring Chinook available for the sport catch before the early-May run update, a fact sheet released late yesterday afternoon outlines the two options for sport fisheries below Bonneville Dam.

They are:

Option 1:
Buoy 10 upstream to Rooster Rock (boat and bank) plus bank angling only from Rooster Rock upstream to Bonneville Dam, 7 days per week, March 1 – April 4, 2011.
Legal upstream boundary would be defined as “A true North/South line projected from Rooster Rock on the Oregon shore to the Washington shoreline.”

Total angler trips = 85,300

Note: If the upstream boat angling boundary was extended to Beacon Rock, the expected duration of the fishery would be reduced to April 3. Legal upstream boundary would be defined as “A deadline marker on the Oregon bank (approximately four miles downstream from Bonneville Dam Powerhouse 1) in a straight line through the western tip of Pierce Island, to a deadline marker on the Washington bank at Beacon Rock.”

Option 2:
Buoy 10 upstream to I-5 Bridge, 7 days per week, March 1 – April 6, 2011. (No angling upstream of I-5 Bridge)

Total angler trips = 94,900

Catch limit below Bonneville Dam (35 retention days):

Expected kept catch = 10,100 fish (all stocks)

(37 retention days)

Expected kept catch = 11,000 fish (all stocks)

In both the limit would be one adipose-fin-clipped Chinook per day.

While the forecast is for 198,000 above-Bonneville-bound springers, managers are running nontreaty seasons as if 30 percent fewer (or 139,000) fish actually show up. That provides sports and comms a total of 11,527 Chinook to harvest.

The fact sheet allocates the harvest thusly:

a. 7,750 fish for the recreational fishery below Bonneville Dam

b. 1,050 fish for the recreational fishery from Bonneville Dam to the OR/WA state line

c. 600 fish for recreational fisheries in the Snake River

d. 1,900 fish for the mainstem commercial fishery

e. 200 fish for Select Area commercial fisheries

A final decision is expected at a meeting that begins at 10 a.m. at the Museum of the Oregon Territory, 211 Tumwater Drive in Oregon City.

Feds To Study Bristol Bay In Face Of Giant Mine

February 7, 2011

(EPA PRESS RELEASE)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will conduct a scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed to better understand how future large-scale development projects may affect water quality and Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery, an extraordinary salmon resource for the United States. EPA initiated this assessment in response to concerns from federally-recognized tribes and others who petitioned the agency in 2010 to assess any potential risks to the watershed.

“The Bristol Bay watershed is essential to the health, environment and economy of Alaska,” said EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran. “Gathering data and getting public input now, before development occurs, just makes sense. Doing this we can be assured that our future decisions are grounded in the best science and information and in touch with the needs of these communities. We look forward to working with Alaskans to protect and preserve this valuable resource.”

In 2010, nine federally-recognized Bristol Bay tribes petitioned EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay. Their concerns focused on the potential Pebble Mine project. Two other tribes asked EPA to wait for mining projects to submit permit applications before taking action.

This action today does not represent any regulatory decision by the agency; instead it represents EPA’s proactive steps to better understand the watershed and gather important scientific information. This information gathered will inform any future guidelines or actions about how to protect the waters and promote sustainable development.

Bristol Bay is an important source of wild Pacific salmon for commercial, recreational, and subsistence users. It produces hundreds of millions of dollars in annual fisheries revenues. The area may be the last major watershed in North America that produces historic numbers of wild salmon. Most of the Bristol Bay watershed is wildlife refuge or park where large development is restricted. EPA’s efforts will focus on those areas that are not protected.

EPA’s assessment is not limited to examining the effects of hard-rock mining projects, but will consider the effects of large-scale development in general.

The assessment, which will focus primarily on the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds, will be informed by scientific peer review, tribal consultation, federal and state agency participation, as well as public and industry input.

EPA will accept and consider public input during development of the watershed assessment and will continue to work closely with tribal governments, state and federal agencies as we undertake this analysis.

(TROUT UNLIMITED PRESS RELEASE)

Alaska Natives, the commercial fishing industry and sportsmen applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement today to conduct a scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed.

“Today’s announcement from the EPA is a great first step toward protecting Bristol Bay from the dangers of Pebble Mine,” said Tim Bristol, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “We are pleased the EPA is doing the right thing by starting a public process and gathering scientific data about how mining would have an impact on the health and environment of Bristol Bay.”

The proposed Pebble Mine could mean the devastation of a 40,000-square-mile wetland – about the same size as Kentucky. Mining in Bristol Bay also puts at risk the world’s largest sockeye salmon run, as well as the thousands of jobs associated with this $450 million-a-year fishery.

In 2010, nine federally-recognized Bristol Bay tribes petitioned the EPA to use its authority under the section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay. On Monday, the EPA responded to this request, and noted that Bristol Bay “may be the last major watershed in North America that produces historic numbers of wild salmon.”  The full EPA press release is here: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/8c1e5dd5d170ad99852578300067d3b3?OpenDocument

“We look forward to working with the EPA during the next several months,” said Brian Kraft, the owner of the Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge and Alaska Sportsmen’s Bear Trail Lodge. “This is just the sort of science-based process we’re looking for in Alaska, to understand how we can protect Bristol Bay, the salmon population, its fishing industry and the thousands of American jobs it supports.”

Today’s announcement begins a public process to determine the effects of large-scale development in Bristol Bay, primarily in the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds.

The process initiates scientific review, tribal consultation, federal and state agency participation, as well as public and industry input.

“As an Alaska Native, a commercial fisherman and a resident of the Bristol Bay region, I commend the EPA for taking this important step in a process that will protect my family’s livelihood and our way of life,” said Everett Thompson, a Bristol Bay fisherman. “Today’s response is a victory for Alaskans.”

Trout Unlimited, a non-profit dedicated to the conservation of freshwater streams, rivers, and habitat for trout, salmon and other aquatic species, is working with an unprecedented coalition to protect Bristol Bay from the dangers of mining. This diverse effort brings together Native Alaskans, the commercial fishing industry, the sports fishing industry and tourism-related businesses.

Bristol Bay is:

•       A 40,000-square mile wetland with nine major rivers

•       Home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run

•       Host to one of North America’s leading king salmon populations

•       The center of a $450 million-a-year fishing industry

•       One of the last untouched areas on the planet

 

Pebble Mine would:

•        Create an open-pit mine up to two miles wide and 1,700 feet deep

•        Dig an underground mine of a similar scale

•        Dump up to 10 billion tons of perpetually toxic mine waste in the heart of the Bristol Bay watershed

•        Be operated by and profit two foreign companies with a poor environmental record

•        Potentially destroy salmon runs, other fishes, habitat, wildlife and the overall beauty of this productive and wild area

FWC Expands Sound Crabbing, Keeps Sutherland Open

February 7, 2011

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved fishing closures in the Elwha River Basin linked to the impending removal of two major dams and adopted new Puget Sound crab-fishing seasons for 2011 during a meeting here Feb. 4-5.

The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), also approved new restrictions on recreational and commercial fisheries in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca to protect bottomfish.

The Elwha fishing moratorium, set to begin in March of 2012, is designed to protect native salmon and trout during demolition of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams and encourage their expansion into 70 miles of new spawning and rearing habitat.

The fishing moratorium, which will remain in effect until further notice, was previously endorsed by the National Park Service and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe for the fisheries they manage in the watershed.

The commission’s action will not, however, close all fishing in Lake Sutherland, which is linked to the Elwha River by Indian Creek. Fishery managers had previously proposed closing fishing in the lake, currently open year-round, as part of a strategy to rebuild salmon runs in the watershed.

“The public made a strong case that we should allow fishing in Lake Sutherland at least part of the year,” said Miranda Wecker, commission chair. “We agreed on an approach that will support salmon recovery without closing fishing year-round.”

Effective May 1 of this year, only kokanee and trout measuring 6-18 inches can be retained at Lake Sutherland, which will close for the year Nov. 1, 2011. Starting next year, the new rules adopted by the commission also will limit fishing for kokanee and other game fish in Lake Sutherland from the third Saturday in April through the end of October.

In other action, the commission approved new regulations for the 2011 recreational crab season that reflect a new policy adopted last October to expand sport fishing opportunities for Puget Sound crabbers.

Those new regulations allow sport crabbers to fish for Dungeness crab in Puget Sound five days a week – Thursday through Monday – with a five-crab daily limit. Most of Puget Sound will be open from July through Labor Day.

The exception is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where crab seasons will open later in the season to protect soft-shell crab. Sport crab fisheries in the southern portion of Marine Area 7 will run from July 15 through Sept. 30. In the northern and eastern portions of Marine Area 7 the sport crab fishery will be open from Aug. 15 through Sept. 30.

Winter crab-fishing opportunities in marine areas of Puget Sound will vary depending on the number of crab still available for harvest after summer catch numbers are tallied.

Also during the February meeting, the commission reduced the daily bottomfish limit from 15 to 10 for recreational anglers and closed several commercial marine fish fisheries in Catch Area 4B (western Strait of Juan de Fuca). The changes provide additional protection for bottomfish in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The commission also approved:

* Changes in state fishing rules on a variety of issues, including closing fishing for Columbia River smelt (eulachon) statewide. Summaries of the rule changes, as adopted, will be available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/ by mid-February.
* An updated management policy for Columbia River summer chinook salmon, which retains the 50/50 allocation between recreational and commercial fishers downstream from Priest Rapids Dam.
* Amendments to commercial bottomfish, forage fish and shellfish fisheries in Puget Sound designed to protect rockfish populations.
* Updates to the North of Falcon policy, which provides direction to fishery managers in defining annual salmon fishing seasons in Washington’s waters.

In addition, the commission held public hearings on amendments to rules for buying or selling of game and changes to recreational clam and oyster seasons on Puget Sound beaches.

For more information about future commission meetings, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/ .

28+pounder Wins Roche Harbor Derby

February 7, 2011

The biggest blackmouth ever landed at the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic was more than enough to win last weekend’s derby.

Derek Floyd of Stanwood weighed in a 28.10-pound Chinook — we’re not calling that an immature king, the colloquial phrase for a blackmouth — and took home a cool $10,000 for that.

And with the tournament’s top boat weight of a skosh over 108 pounds, good for another $2K, plus he won the side bet, bringing his weekend haul out of the Juans to $21,000.

DEREK FLOYD AND HIS $21,000 CHINOOK. (ROCHE HARBOR CLASSIC)

“This fish beats the all-time record blackmouth from this tournament by 2 pounds,” says Tony Floor of the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

This is the eighth year of the event; it is also the kickoff of NMTA’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series.

“The winning slab was caught south of Point Lawrence off Orcas Island on the second day of the derby,” reports Kevin Klein of Friday Harbor, Puget Sound Anglers San Juans Chapter and CCA. “Floyd’s total boat weight was an incredible 50 lbs higher than the standing record for most pounds caught. Floyd has fished the Roche for the last five years. This is his first win.”

A total of 100 boats and 337 anglers participated, according to organizers.

Thirty-eight of the 100 boats brought in Chinook, 43 on Friday, 25 on Saturday.

The final standings are:

$10,000     1st Place     Derek Floyd     Stanwood, WA     28.10
$5,000     2nd Place     Richard Sakuma     Bellingham, WA     22.04
$3,000     3rd Place     David Arnold     Bellingham, WA     20.16
$2,000     4th Place     Kirk Hawley     Bellingham, WA     19.15
$1,000     5th Place     Tony Petosa     Bothell, WA     19.0
$2,000     Mystery Fish     Neal Kamrin     Bellevue, WA     9.0

“Richard Sakuma and mystery weight winner Neal Kamrin both caught their fish in the last minutes of the derby to make this an exciting event until the final bell,” reports Klein.

$2,000     Best Boat Total Weight
Derek Floyd, Stanwood, WA
Julie Floyd, Stanwood, WA
Scott Bumstead, Everett, WA
Shannon Bumstead, Everett, WA     108.04 lbs

Jager Boyd     Youngest (only) Angler     9 yrs old     Monroe, WA

Geoff Christensen, Bow, WA     2012 Boat Entry winner, sponsored by Roche Harbor Resort

1

THE FLOYD-BUMSTAD CATCH,108.4 POUNDS OF SAN JUANS CHINOOK. (ROCHE HARBOR SALMON CLASSIC)

A Peek At Puget Pink Phorecast

February 4, 2011

The numbers are unofficial, they’re preliminary, they have yet to be agreed to by the comanagers, but, ummm, summer 2011 is looking kinda pinkish in Pugetropolis.

State sources tell us that somewhere around 5.7 million of the odd-year salmon are forecast back to rivers from the Canadian border down to the City of Destiny.

That’s about a half-million above the 2009 prediction, though well below what actually came back, a record return of 9.8 mil.

SNOHOMISH RIVER HUMPY ANGLERS WILL SEE ANOTHER GOOD RETURN THIS SUMMER. PROBABLY. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

The previous high mark was 1963’s 7.4 million.

It was followed up in 1965 by a run of, err, just over 1 million.

“The gangbuster return of ’09 does not mean a gangbuster return in 2011,” cautions Val Tribble, WDFW’s humpy bio (and apparently, the agency’s designated crazed-hopes batter-awayer).

Again, these are early numbers that may change after consultations with tribal biologists, they may be different when WDFW does the official unveiling early next month, but the Green is expected to lead all comers this summer with 2 million, followed closely by the Snohomish and Stilly where 1.9 million are forecast, then the Puyallup with 900,000, the Skagit with 800,000 and the Nooksack with, ahem, pick it up a bit, will ya’, 68,000.

However, if you’re a Bellingham humpy assassin, do not despair. A report out of Victoria indicates that the Fraser’s pink run is expected to exceed the average escapement of 12.3 million.

Official advice from the yee olde Times-Colonist:

Take your kids and neighbours who seldom fish out into Juan de Fuca on those rising-tide afternoons in August. Last summer triple the number of fry, an astonishing 1.06 billion, went to sea so the Strait should be stuffed this year.

Official advice from yee crazee Northwest Sportsman: Stock up on the Dick Nites, pink Buzz Bombs, pink hoochies, small pink jigs, pink spoons, pink spinners — heck, anything pink and hooked — now.

WDFW-Parks Merger Bill Introduced

February 4, 2011

A 376-page bill that would merge WDFW and State Parks has been introduced in Olympia.

SB 5669, sponsored by Senators Ranker, Swecker, Regala, Rockefeller, Nelson, White, and Pflug at the request of Governor Christine Gregoire, would create a Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Gregoire proposed the merger back in mid-December.

A cabinet-level department, DCR’s overall director would be appointed by the governor, and the Fish & Wildlife Commission would be renamed the Fish & Wildlife Advisory Commission, under the bill.

It defines DCR’s mission as:

(a) Preserve, protect, and perpetuate the fish and wildlife resources for the benefit of the state’s citizens;

(b) Wisely manage our state parks and trail systems, promote outdoor recreation education and safety, and protect our cultural, historical, and natural sites; and

(c) Be good stewards of public funds that perpetuate healthy ecosystems and open spaces, restore habitat important to our fish and wildlife, and support outdoor recreation and recreational places and facilities.

It would structure the department so as to “maintain at least two distinct areas of focus: One for fish and wildlife management and one for parks and recreation management.”

The full text is available online and as a PDF.

The bill was referred to the Natural Resources & Marine Waters where a public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 10 at 1 p.m.

RMEF Again Calls For Wolf Delisting; WDFW Supportive Of Resolution Pressing For Same

February 3, 2011

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is using recently released herd-count numbers to renew the call for Congress to delist wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

A pair of bills introduced in the House and Senate, HR 509 and S 249, hold the “best promise,” the Missoula-based group says.

“Both bills would end the ridiculous lawsuits that are preventing a fully recovered species from being managed by conservation professionals,” said RMEF president David Allen in a press release today.

He pointed to the recently completed Northern Yellowstone elk herd count. It dipped by 24 percent over the last year, from roughly 6,000 animals to 4,635, and is down 70 percent since wolves were reintroduced there in 1995, according to the state and national Northern Yellowstone Cooperative Wildlife Working Group.

The group blamed “increased predation, ongoing drought, and hunting pressure” for the 15-year decline.

RMEF says that moose herds are way down too.

Wolf numbers have also dropped precipitously in the area since 2007, the working group reported as well.

Wolves are listed as threatened throughout Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and eastern sections of Washington and Oregon, though their overall population is well above federal recovery goals, and have been since 2002, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Final 2010 wolf counts won’t be out until early to mid-March, according to the USFWS’s wolf recovery coordinator Ed Bangs, but preliminary indications are that Wyoming’s population rose while Montana’s appears to have decreased.

Oregon’s has risen, but it’s unclear where Washington’s stands.

After being delisted for a year and a quarter, a federal court decision last summer put management of the packs back in the fed’s hands, and that’s led to discontent amongst members of the Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies.

At a conference in Tucson last month, member states stood shoulder to shoulder in passing a resolution that “supports and endorses immediate delisting of gray wolves in the WAFWA member states from the ESA, either through legislative or administrative means, and that this species be managed by the respective State wildlife agencies.”

The vote was 17-0 with Montana abstaining.

WDFW was among those agencies voting to approve the resolution, though not until it was amended to support delisting the entire region’s wolf population, not just Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, according to Bob Everitt, who represented WDFW Director Phil Anderson at the meeting.

He termed a partial delisting “a recipe for big problems in border states,” and indeed, U.S. District Court Judge Molloy’s ruling last August was basically that wolves couldn’t be managed by Montana and Idaho but by USFWS in Wyoming, and which kick-started the latest moves by legislators to circumvent ESA.

“Our management plan fits our position on this resolution,” Everitt says. “What we’d like to see is the far eastern part of the state managed as its own population. That’s something we’ve wanted anyway. It’s not a departure from where we were headed.”

The western border of the Northern Rockies distinct population in Washington is roughly Highway 97.

ODFW’s rep voted in favor of the resolution as well.

Everitt calls it a “blunt tool,” but, sitting next to Idaho Fish & Game’s director at the meeting, says it reflects how the core states feel about wolf management.

Although his agency abstained, in a Jan. 21 letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, WAFWA president Joe Maurier wrote:

Given the Association’s long history and stellar conservation record, the resolution – in sum – reflects the all too common and unacceptable level of frustration that directors are currently experiencing when it comes to the status of the gray wolf in the West. It is the sincere hope of our member agencies that a way forward can be found, and found very soon – one that removes ESA protection for the gray wolf and returns management to the respective States.

Everitt cautioned about reading too much into WDFW’s vote.

While Washington is a “peripheral player … the intent is to signal to the Feds that this is a big deal in the West and we want to move.”

In response to HR 509, Rodger Schlickeisen of Defenders of Wildlife said in a press release it would “set a terrible precedent that will open the floodgates to legislation to strip protections for any other species that a politician finds inconvenient to protect.”

The full text of the resolution is:

WESTERN ASSOCIATION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE AGENCIES DELIST THE GRAY WOLF AND RESTORE MANAGEMENT TO THE STATES WHEREAS, the northern Rocky Mountain distinct population segment of gray wolves exceeded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovery level of thirty or more breeding pairs in 2002; and

WHEREAS, population estimates as of 2009 include at least 1,700 animals well distributed among Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming; and

WHEREAS, the remarkable increase in gray wolf populations was only possible because of the historic management and stewardship of ungulates by state fish and wildlife agencies; and

WHEREAS, a primary purpose of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is to “provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species, and to take such steps as may be appropriate to achieve the purposes of the treaties and conventions set forth in subsection (a) of this section.”; and

WHEREAS, the primary purpose of the ESA has clearly been achieved for the gray wolf, and gray wolves have recovered in the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming; and

WHEREAS, a lack of delisting, given the species has met recovery goals, can result in an erosion of public acceptance of wolves and the ESA; and

WHEREAS, State wildlife agencies are the competent authorities to manage resident species for their sustained use and enjoyment; and

WHEREAS, the overall aim of the ESA is to recover species such that the species can be managed by the appropriate entity. State wildlife agencies are the appropriate entities to assume management of the gray wolf as a resident species; and

WHEREAS, delays in federal decision-making, induced partly by citizen-suit litigation over virtually all aspects of Mexican gray wolf recovery, have, after 34 years of protection under the ESA, including 12 years of reintroduction efforts, resulted in failure to recover the Mexican gray wolf; and

WHEREAS, the States of Arizona and New Mexico, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, various local governments and local stakeholders are willing and able to use incentives and interdiction measures without being encumbered by the gridlock resulting from federal listing, to increase the Mexican gray wolf population to levels in both states that, coupled with conservation efforts in Mexico, would establish and maintain a rangewide population of Mexican gray wolves that is self-sustaining and managed at levels sufficient to meet scientifically-valid population objectives.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies supports and endorses immediate delisting of gray wolves in the WAFWA member states from the ESA, either through legislative or administrative means, and that this species be managed by the respective State wildlife agencies.

Adopted in Convention
Tucson, Arizona
January 9, 2011

Currently, Washington wolf monitoring is being paid for through federal State Wildlife Grants, which come from offshore oil lease royalties, and revenues from some vanity plates.

Editor Pouts About Fish Reports

February 3, 2011

Will you guys be OK if I cry right now?

Would you be cool with that?

It’s your fault, after all — and I’m pointing this keyboard-stubbed finger straight at you, Terry Wiest, Garrett Grubbs, Jeff Main, Nick Pranzetti, Joel Shangle, Troy Rodakowski, Dennis Dodson and Swanny.

Your pics and reports have me wanting to be anywhere but strapped to the March issue, which is at T-minus six working days from blast off.

And I’m light on copy.

And your messages of bad-ass steelhead are NOT helping me focus on editing what I do have, or calling up sources for more stuff, or begging writers to go looooooooong.

So, waaah, waaaah, blubber, blubber, sniff, sniff, boo-hoo.

Wiest, it was your email yesterday that set it all off.

Cowlitz Article

Inbox
Reply

Terry Wiest
to andy

show details Feb 2 (1 day ago)

End of this week OK?

Went to Forks yesterday – got some really nice fish.  I’ll send some pics from home tonight.

17 was the biggest.  13 total and 5 were in the teens.

TW

BIG MEAN JERK #1 WITH A WILD STEELHEAD FROM A FORKS AREA RIVER. (TERRY WIEST, STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

And then came your message this morning, Grubbs:

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Reply
Garrett Grubbs
to andy

show details 7:02 PM (17 hours ago)

subject    Hey Andy, just got this awesome steelhead on the Clearwater River today!!! 20 + fish all from 12-18 lbs!!!!!! Day two tomorrow.

BIG MEAN JERK #2 WITH A STEELHEAD. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

And then Main sent me an email:

(no subject)
Inbox
Reply
wintrsteelhead
to andy

show details 10:42 AM (1 hour ago)

Hi Andy,

How are things going over there ?  Getting all jazzed up for another Grande ronde season, Nephew went last sun/mon  hooked 15 landed 7.

Then Pranzetti got back to me with more information on the pic of his awesome late-January buck from the Wilson:

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Reply
Nick Pranzetti
to andy

show details 12:14 PM (15 minutes ago)

My buddy Mitch and I were side drifting like evryone else even the guides.
So we decides to throw on some plugs and that bad boy chomped it at the top of the hole. I was hoping to see it in an artical or cover page for a lifetime Steelhead like that. let me know if u need me to write an artical of our epic day.

Thanks!
Nick pranzeti

BIG MEAN JERK #3 WITH HIS MONSTER. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

And then I came across Shangle’s Facebook post this morning:

Back on the road from the upper Bogachiel River. Beautiful day, 10-12 fish out of 16-17 hookups, zero other human beings.
17 hours ago via iPhone · Like Unlike ·

Yeah, I’ll like that post — only to then unlike it.

Take that, you big mean jerk.

And then there’s Rodakowski.

Weekend Steel on the Slaw

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Troy Rodakowski
to andy
show details Jan 31 (3 days ago)

Hope you are doing well and you had a great weekend!  Here’s a report from the central valley:  It was the last weekend of zone 1 duck season down here and we had plans on hitting some coastal lakes for cans and bluebill.  However, reports were far short from promising on that front.

About 9 am we found a really nice hole in a spot where the river narrows.  After pulling up I decided to try a new rig.  My cousin had been using it earlier in the morning and we had some very good success with it during the summer runs.  On my second cast there it was………a sharp hit from a silver torpedo from beneath the surface.  I set the hook, yelled at my cousin to adjust my drag I strapped in for the 10 minute journey this fish had in store.  Ten minutes later after multiple runs, aerobatic jumps and shakes we landed her a beautiful 33 inch 12 lb hen.  My adrenaline rush was fulfilled!  What a day!

Best Wishes My Friend!,
Troy Rodakowski

BIG MEAN JERK #4 AND HIS 'SLAW STEELIE. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

And then, trying to clear all these files off this cluttered-as-hell desktop, I came across Dodson’s pic, which (wonder of wonders) I’d misfiled. And it started the weeping all over again.

photo contest entry

Dennis Dodson
to    andy@nwsportsmanmag.com
date    Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 4:16 PM

January 25th on the Wynoochee. The larger one is 38.5 inches. Didn’t have a scale. They are my second and third steelhead ever. I might as well quit now because in all likelihood I’ll never have a day like that one again.  I also lost one while the boat was beached, that one never stopped and took every bit of line off the spool. I was so surprised that I didn’t think of jumping out of the boat and chasing it down the bank but probably would not have made a difference. We were sidedrifting cured prawns.

I am from Edmonds, WA.  Moved to the Northwest 30 years ago and never fished until 4 years ago and now I’ve got the bug bad. Still trying to figure out the river thing. I also work in downtown Edmonds and spend a good deal of the summer at the pier.  Managed a 26# king this year but that’s a whole different thing than the river.

 

BIG MEAN JERK #5 WITH THE RESULTS OF A HELLA GOOD DAY ON THE 'NOOCH. (WRIGHT & MCGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

And that reminded me of another big ol’ steelie, which — imagine that! — the guide sent me a photo of knowing I’d be tied down at the Sportsman’s Show!

Big steel

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Bill “SWANNY” Swann
to Andy
show details Jan 28 (6 days ago)

Andy

25.9 steelhead caught 2 days ago.

 

BIG MEAN JERK #6 AND HIS FISH. (SWANNY'S GUIDED FISHING)

Blubber, boo.

Sniff.

OK, I think I’m going to be better now.

I think I can get back to work now that this is off my chest.

Wait, no, here comes a fresh round of tears. Just got a springer report:

how soon before ODFW gets off their …

Inbox
Andy Walgamott
to Hymer, Joe A (DFW)

… err, bum, and updates the Tues-Weds commercial sturgeon fishery…
12:12 PM (46 minutes ago)

Reply
Hymer, Joe A (DFW)
to andy
show details 12:56 PM (2 minutes ago)

Buyers get 24 hours from the end of the fishery (last night at 6 pm) to report their landings.  Updated landing information can be found at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/comm_fishery_updates.asp.

I did hear ODFW sampled at least 5 fish yesterday, 3 uprivers and 2 lower river based upon Visual Stock Identification.

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dennis Dodson <dennis_dodson@hotmail.com>
to andy@nwsportsmanmag.com
date Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 4:16 PM
subject RE: photo contest entry
mailed-by bounce.secureserver.net
hide details Jan 31 (3 days ago)
January 25th on the Wynoochee. The larger one is 38.5 inches. Didn’t have a scale. They are my second and third steelhead ever. I might as well quit now because in all likelihood I’ll never have a day like that one again.  I also lost one while the boat was beached, that one never stopped and took every bit of line off the spool. I was so surprised that I didn’t think of jumping out of the boat and chasing it down the bank but probably would not have made a difference. We were sidedrifting cured prawns.I am from Edmonds, WA.  Moved to the Northwest 30 years ago and never fished until 4 years ago and now I’ve got the bug bad. Still trying to figure out the river thing. I also work in downtown Edmonds and spend a good deal of the summer at the pier.  Managed a 26# king this year but that’s a whole different thing than the river.

WDFW Warden Named WA Officer Of The Year

February 3, 2011

Chad McGary was in a very bad spot.

A young man was allegedly pointing a .45-caliber handgun at the 28-year-old Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife enforcement officer and demanding he give up his sidearm.

The gun had come from the man’s back pocket just a moment before.

McGary had heard clanking and thought the noise was a marijuana pipe, but when he asked to see the source, the man had shoved him and pulled the gun out.

Thinking quickly, McGary reminded the man there was another officer nearby.

“I think this is what saved his life,” says WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci.

The other officer was Capt. Chris Anderson. The duo had been on their way to check on after-hours sturgeon anglers elsewhere that July evening when they saw cars gathered at the mouth of Crab Creek along Highway 243 and decided to run routine license checks on anglers fishing there. For years, fishermen have complained about poaching in this area of western Grant County.

The man had told Anderson that he’d left his fishing license in his wallet at home, and as the captain went to check other anglers, McGary escorted him to his Ford F-150 patrol truck to run his name through WDFW’s database, and that’s when the gun was allegedly drawn.

Cenci says that the man, 18-year-old Jose J. Garcia-Meraze, then called his father, named as Nicholas Garcia-Godinez, age 60, who allegedly came running up with a 5-inch fillet knife.

“‘Are you going to kill me?’” McGary asked the young man, Cenci says.

He instead demanded his .40-caliber Glock, twice, which McGary refused to give up.

Then the man held the firearm to the officer’s head, Cenci alleges.

“So (McGary) removed his service gun and threw it in the bush,” Cenci says.

WDFW also says McGary also told Garcia-Meraze to leave the area, which he did in a car.

Meanwhile, weaponless, McGary backed away from the father, who allegedly was holding the knife in the “thrusting position,” says Cenci, and retrieved his Glock from the brush. He then took the father down and placed him under arrest.

For his quick wits and bravery, McGary was named “Officer of the Year” by the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs.

He received the award yesterday at a ceremony attended by Gov. Chris Gregoire, WDFW Director Phil Anderson, and other law enforcement officers.

(WDFW)

“I just had a feeling that it would be all over if I gave up my gun,” said McGary in a press release sent out late this morning.

After a long car chase that included shots exchanged, Garcia-Meraz was arrested. He was charged with attempted murder, and is scheduled to appear in Grant County Superior Court next week, according to WDFW.

His father. Garcia-Godinez, pleaded no contest to a charge of second-degree assault, and was sentenced to five months in jail, according to WDFW.

Both men were in the country illegally. Garcia-Godinez has since been deported.

“Officer McGary kept his wits about him and succeeded in turning a bad situation around,” said Bruce Bjork, WDFW Chief of Enforcement, who nominated him for the award. “Intelligence and courage are qualities we look for in all of our officers.”

The Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs is a statewide organization that represents 5,000 law enforcement professionals.

WDFW officers are general authority police, who regularly enforce all state laws while protecting Washington natural resources.

McGary lives in Othello with his wife, Jande, and their three children.

WDFW OFFICER CHAD McGARY INSPECTS A BULLET HOLE IN CAPT. ANDERSON'S RIG FOLLOWING A LICENSE CHECK LAST JULY. (WDFW)

This is just the third year WACOPS has given out the award. The 2009 officer of the year was Clallam County Sheriff’s deputy Bill Cortani; in 2008 it was Yakima officer Sam Masters.

Lingcod Ocean Opener Moved Up

February 2, 2011

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Most of the Washington coast will open to recreational lingcod fishing March 12, a week earlier than the date listed in the state’s 2010/2011 sport fishing rules pamphlet.

Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the opening date for the lingcod fishery in Marine Areas 1-3 south of Cape Alava was changed to conform to federal rules.

The fishing season in those areas will run through Oct. 15 as previously planned.

The season dates will remain unchanged in Marine Area 4, which will be open for lingcod fishing from April 16 through Oct. 15.

There is a 22-inch minimum size limit and a two-fish daily catch limit for lingcod in Marine Areas 1-3. In Marine Area 4, there is a 24-inch minimum size limit and a two-fish daily limit for lingcod.

Ack! Island-eating Chinook!

February 2, 2011

Bad news for property owners in Washington’s San Juans: The islands are under attack and likely will sink into Rosario Strait unless salmon anglers can save the day.

“Reports at this writing suggest the Chinook salmon are eating away at the foundation of the San Juan Islands,” reports geologist Tony Floor of, err, the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

At this very moment, he’s hooking up the boat and will be on his way north to save the likes of Lopez, Shaw and Orcas shortly.

His campaign begins this weekend at the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic, the first stop on the Northwest Salmon Derby Series.

All right, so perhaps reports of the imminent demise of the islands are slightly exaggerated, but give Floor a break: His blackmouth obsession has been known to get the best of him this month.

It was only a few years ago, when February rolled around, that I swore I could sense the smell of fresh chinook salmon in the morning, as it was the beginning of the Puget Sound late winter/early spring blackmouth season.

Neighbors complained about me barking at the moon, revving up my Suzuki 250 h.p. outboard like Kyle Petty Jr., ready to peel out around the race track. Yeah, I confess that was me, and for the most-part, continues to be me, when someone talks about winter blackmouth fishing in Puget Sound.
Today, I am a little bit more tempered when exposed to those backbone-shaking words thanks to a much longer fall/winter/spring blackmouth season that begins in many Puget Sound areas in November and December. Regardless, February remains very special to me as I sense the conclusion of shorter daylight days and early spring is in the air.

This year, not unlike many other Februaries, the San Juan Islands continues to be the big daddy of quality blackmouth fishing featuring big blackmouth since that season opened on December 1st. Strong abundances of hatchery produced chinook salmon, adipose fin clipped, running at a rate of two or three hatchery chinook to one wild chinook throughout the winter. Seeing a 12-15 pound hatchery chinook next to my boat, ready for the net, feels like winning the lottery over and over and over.

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