WA Cougar Hunting Liberalized; WDFW Worker Dies; No Wenatchee Sockeye

A spate of news releases from WDFW out this afternoon, one following up on a story in The Columbian on the death of fish surveyor Mark Snepp yesterday:

A fisheries worker for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) died yesterday (Aug. 18) while participating in a steelhead survey on the Wind River.

Mark Snepp, 47, apparently died while walking the bank of the river and recording fish data reported by his diving partner, said Pat Frazier, southwest regional fish program manager for WDFW.

Team members called 911 and notified the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the cause of Snepp’s death. An autopsy will be conducted within the next few days.

“This is a sad day for the department,” Frazier said. “Mark joined the department just last year and showed a real dedication to fish and wildlife stewardship.”

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The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved amendments to cougar hunting regulations during a conference call today.

The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), amended cougar hunting regulations in six counties in eastern Washington, where a pilot project authorizing cougar hunting with the aid of dogs was not extended by the Legislature this year.

That amendment increases cougar hunting opportunities without the aid of dogs in Klickitat, Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties to continue to meet management objectives in those areas.

In addition, the commission modified the criteria for determining when cougars are removed to address public concerns about pet and livestock depredation and personal safety. The change allows for cougar removals when complaints confirmed by WDFW staff in a given game management unit exceed the five-year average.

WDFW game managers recommended the amendments to cougar hunting regulations as an interim measure until the 2012-14 hunting season package is developed. Public discussion of the 2012-14 hunting seasons is scheduled to begin this month. More information on those public meetings is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/release.php?id=aug1511a .

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

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The return of sockeye salmon to Lake Wenatchee is not strong enough to allow a recreational fishery in the lake this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.

Although more than 185,000 sockeye have passed Bonneville Dam this year, only about 14,000 of them are expected to enter Lake Wenatchee, said Jeff Korth, WDFW regional fish manager in Ephrata.

That is well short of the 23,000-fish goal for spawning escapement in the lake, Korth said.

“We know this is disappointing news for anglers, especially since the lake has opened for sockeye fishing for the past three years,” Korth said. “But the number of sockeye counted between Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams is low, and very few are entering the Wenatchee River.”

While the overall run of sockeye to the Columbia River has been relatively high, most of these fish appear to be headed for the Okanogan River and on into Canada, Korth said.

“The four- and five-year old sockeye that make up the bulk of this year’s run to Lake Wenatchee were spawned in years with very low sockeye abundance,” Korth said. “So there’s good reason to believe returns will improve in the years ahead.”

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