Poachers, 462,000 ‘Bows, Kings, Clams And 14 Percent Declines

UPDATED: 12:07 P.M., MAY 12, 2011 A wee bit busy today with the June issue, so I’m letting others do the Northwest hunt/fish news roundup work for me.

In his Spokesman-Review column today, outdoor writer Rich Landers names six accused and convicted deer and elk poachers from the greater Spokane area, and details a case involving a Cheney-area hunting club that WDFW wardens infiltrated and busted 10 people for allegedly exceeding deer limits and other violations.

A few years back, WDFW’s chief complained about getting poaching cases through the Spokane County court system, but it appears that prosecutors there now may be working more with wildlife enforcement. Writes Landers:

“A lot of cooperation is needed to make these cases,” said Capt. Mike Whorton, who supervises the Spokane Region officers.

Poaching cases would get bogged down in the overcrowded court dockets without the help of Spokane County prosecutor’s District Court Supervisor, Brian O’Brien, Whorton said. “His leadership has really ramped it up for us.”

You may have noticed that another major cooperator often is involved in major poaching busts.

Indeed, the eyes of the public are the front lines of wildlife enforcement. Tipsters, too, work largely under our radar, for the benefit of all.

So how exactly does the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife know that they are over 400,000 rainbows finning around in Diamond Lake? A Medford Mail-Tribune reader named Jim B. of Central Point also wondered that, and today the paper answers the question.

.. take the number of fish the lake started with, add the number of stocked fingerlings, adjust the fingerling numbers to account for mortality, then subtract the number of fish taken out of the lake by anglers as well as those that died after being caught and released.

Go here for the rest of the calculus.

Bad news for Jeff Main and Jeff Holmes: Good catches on the Snake River means it will be shut down for spring Chinook a couple weeks earlier than planned. WDFW announced rule changes in a press release yesterday afternoon.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today that spring chinook fishing on the Snake River will close as of Saturday, May 14, below Ice Harbor Dam, and as of Monday, May 16, in the Little Goose and Clarkston areas.

All three areas were originally scheduled to remain open through the month, but a review of the harvest to date indicates the allowable catch will be reached sooner than expected, said John Whalen, WDFW eastern regional fish program manager.

“The fish were slow in getting to the Snake, but when they did arrive they came in large numbers,” Whalen said. “Fishing has been extremely good over the past week.”

The catch limit for the Snake River fishery is governed by a federal permit, because the wild portion of the run is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Whalen said there is a chance the fishery could reopen, noting that the forecast for this year’s spring chinook run was increased today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.

It earned the agency a “dislike” on their Facebook page.

But at least there will be one more clam dig this spring. WDFW says:

The last dig of the season will begin at Twin Harbors Beach, where morning clam digging will be open May 18-22. Mocrocks Beach will be open for digging May 20-22, and Long Beach will be open May 21-22.

No digging will be allowed at any beach after noon.

Under state rules, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s limit must be kept in a separate container.

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said the upcoming dig is possible because turnout was lower than expected during the six-day opening earlier this month.

“Most diggers got their limits during the last opening, but we also had some competition from shrimp and other fisheries opening in the region,” Ayres said. “Whatever the case, we have enough clams available for another dig at three beaches.”

That said, it’s also becoming more clear that fewer folks are heading afield this spring.

Stats that I received from WDFW earlier this week show that fishing license sales for April 2011 were off by more than $1 million compared to April 2010 and April 2009 — $6.57 million vs. $7.65 million and $7.60 million.

Those are base license figures and do not include the 10 percent surcharge or dealer or transaction fees, according to spokesman Craig Bartlett.

April 1 is the beginning of the Washington license year, though they can be purchased well beforehand — annually WDFW sends out an early-December press release pitching them as holiday gifts — but the numbers do show a 14 percent decline between last April and the previous two.

While Washington’s figures are for last month alone, those I just received from ODFW also show a 14 percent decline in Oregon resident fishing license sales versus the past four years.

According to the agency’s David Lane, 70,743 were sold between Dec. 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011 while an average of 81,996 were sold in those same five months in 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007.

The difference between this year’s sales and last year’s to this same point is even bigger — a 20 percent dropoff. A total of 87,660 were in anglers’ back pockets by the end of April 2010.

While Oregon resident combination and hunter licenses are also down, Sports Pac sales are above 2010’s figures and holding their own over the four-year average, and are up by 750 or so for juveniles, according to Lane’s numbers.

So, go figure.

So what’s going on?

Maybe it’s the weather keeping us all indoors longer than usual. April was among the coldest in Seattle and wettest in the Willamette Valley, and March wasn’t that much more amusing.

Maybe it’s the economy. Would be nice if more jobs were being created like, say, a part-timer to read through all this Northwest Sportsman copy so I can blog/blather more often.

Maybe it’s gas prices.They’ve spiked to a dollar or so more than at this same point last year.

Ask yourself or your friends why they didn’t get their license yet. If you’ve got some other ideas, email me at andy@nwsportsmanmag.com.


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