WDFW reaches agreement with Wild Fish Conservancy Over Steelhead

If you weren’t aware the Wild Fish Conservancy and the WDFW have been battling for several years over the release of hatchery steelhead.

Is releasing hatchery steelhead detrimental to wild steehead runs? That is what is still being decided!

In its March 31 complaint, the Duvall-based non-profit group claimed the department’s Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs violate the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) by impairing the recovery of wild steelhead, salmon, and bull trout. All three species are listed as “threatened” under the ESA.

The theory being that hatchery steelhead harm the survival rates of wild steelhead.  For now the two have agreed to suspend the lawsuit while the WDFW has their steelhead Hatchery Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs) reviewed and approved.  Before this lawsuit, the WDFW was going to release about 900,000 juvenile steelhead into Puget Sound rivers.  Now they will release only 180,000 and only into the Skykomish river.

Other provisions of the federal court agreement include:

  • WDFW may release up to 180,000 hatchery steelhead in 2014 and again in 2015 into the Skykomish River, which flows into the Snohomish River near Monroe.
  • The Conservancy will not sue WDFW over its Puget Sound hatchery programs during the next 2 ½ years, or until NMFS approves those programs, whichever comes first.
  • WDFW will refrain from planting early winter (Chambers Creek) hatchery steelhead into most rivers in the Puget Sound region until NMFS completes its review.
  • A 12-year research program will be established in the Skagit River, during which no early winter steelhead will be released into the watershed. In cooperation with the Conservancy, WDFW will work with tribes to evaluate and potentially implement a steelhead hatchery program in the Skagit River using native steelhead.
  • The department may release hatchery steelhead into other rivers around Puget Sound when NMFS approves the department’s HGMPs. This provision will not apply to the Skagit River watershed, which will not receive early winter hatchery steelhead releases during the 12-year study period.
  • Early winter steelhead from WDFW hatcheries that cannot be released into Puget Sound-area rivers will be released into inland waters that have no connection to Puget Sound. The department will give the Conservancy 14 days’ advance notice of those releases.
  • WDFW will pay the Conservancy $45,000 for litigation expenses.

Is This Decision Good Or Bad?

Drop a comment below and let me know what you think?  Is it better to protect the biodiversity of the wild steelhead, or more important to keep good returns of catchable steelhead coming back?

Puget Sound cabezon fishing limits debated

Do you fish for cabezon in Puget Sound?

Puget Sound cabezonIf you fish for cabezon in Puget Sound, you may want to get in on this discussion about changing the limits on how many you can keep and when you can fish for them.

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will accept public comments through May 31 on a proposal that would reduce the length of the fishing season for cabezon in Puget Sound.

Cabezon are bottomfish that inhabit rocky areas of Puget Sound. The fish can measure up to 30-inches in length and weigh up to 25 pounds.

The proposed rule would limit the season in marine areas 4-11 and 13 to May 1 through June 15. Currently anglers can fish for cabezon in Marine Area 4 year-round and in marine areas 5-11 and 13 from May 1 through Nov. 30. Retention of cabezon is closed year-round in Hood Canal (Marine Area 12).

To review and comment on the proposed change, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/cabezon/.

Earlier this year, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to reduce the catch limit of cabezon to one fish a day in marine areas 4-11 and 13 and prohibit the retention of cabezon measuring less than 18 inches in length.

In addition, commission asked the department to seek additional public input on restricting the cabezon season to May 1 through June 15, with plans to conduct further review and discussion.

In recent years, WDFW has implemented restrictions on fishing that have provided greater protection for bottomfish.

The public also will have an opportunity to provide testimony on the proposed change during the commission’s June 7-8 meeting in Olympia. The commission may consider taking action at that meeting. Check the commission’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/) for the specific day and time.

The Fight to Ban Gillnetters on the Columbia River Rages On!

Which side of the gillnetting debate are you on?

Commercial fishermen continue their battle against a ban on gillnetting on the Columbia river.  This stems from a decision last year by Oregon’s Governor John Kitzhaber who put forward that recreational fishermen should get priority over the Salmon runs on the Columbia River instead of the commercial fishermen.  You can imagine how that went over, especially when the fish and wildlife commissions of both Oregon and Washington went along with it.

Commercial gillnetters have filed court action in both states to challenge implementation of the plan.

The plaintiffs say that the Washington commission exceeded its authority by adopting the rules because it conflicts with the commission’s mandate to “maintain a stable fishing industry in the state.” Plaintiffs say they will suffer irreparable economic harm if forced to move to the side channels.

Why I support  banning commercial fishing on the Columbia

The fact is that commercial fishing does provide jobs and income for those working the boats.  But, the revenue generated by recreational fishing, guiding salmon fishing trips, tackle sales, food sales and all the other things that go along with having lots of salmon to fish for far outweigh that created by commercial fishing.

gillnetting is non-selective
Gillnetting is completely non-selective catching wild and hatchery fish alike as well as significant amounts of by-catch.

Furthermore, gillnetting is a very destructive practice as it is completely non-selective.  Native and hatchery fish alike are caught and have a very high mortality rate.

To put the nail in the gillnetting coffin, many are lost each year adding to the number of ghost nets that drift the oceans sucking up fish, crustaceans and cetaceans they cross paths with.  They take decades to degrade and are an environmental nightmare!

With our Salmon stocks in danger already, I am completely for banning all commercial and native fishing not just on the Columbia River but in Puget Sound, until the salmon runs recover.  Once runs are strong again with significant numbers of native fish returning, then we can talk about having a commercial fishery on the Columbia River and in Puget Sound again!

Chief Joseph Hatchery Opens Up Shop on the Columbia

A new salmon hatchery on the Columbia river

“This fish hatchery being constructed at the Chief Joseph Dam and on the Colville Indian Reservation will re-introduce 2.9 million Chinook Salmon back to their native spawning grounds in Washington State. This project includes, among other things, a complex water supply system from three different water sources, 40 raceways, a fish ladder, four hatchery buildings, a housing complex, three fish-rearing ponds and two fish acclimation ponds.” – PCL Construction

In my book, more fish is always a good thing and if the Chief Joseph Hatchery lives up to its promises of putting more fish in the river while protecting the genetic diversity of the wild stock, I am all for it.  I am curious why no one is installing a fish ladder on the Chief Joseph Dam.  In this day and age of habitat restoration, you think that would be a project that was at least in the “we are talking about it” stage.

In any case the Chief Joseph salmon hatchery will add fish to the river and jobs to the local economy, both are good things. The $49 million hatchery is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and is expected to produce about 1.9 million spring and summer Chinook each year.

What do you think?  Is the addition of the Chief Joseph salmon hatchery to the Columbia river a good thing  or not?  I know there are some pretty divergent points on the issue of fish hatcheries out there.  Drop a comment down below and let me know what you think of this new fish producing facility!


‘Draconian’ chinook cuts loom for anglers in BC

Chinook Salmon Fishing BCLooks like the people that oversee fishing in BC are no more level headed than they are here in the states.  Instead of going after commercial or tribal fishing, they attack recreational fishermen when fish stocks start to drop.

Fishermen in Greater Victoria are reeling after being told the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is looking at “draconian” restrictions on the summer Chinook salmon fishery in Juan de Fuca Strait.

Members of the Victoria-South Island Sport Fishing Advisory Board and industry representatives, who took part in a conference call with DFO Friday, say plans to further restrict or even close the Chinook fishery in the peak season of June, July and August could cause the collapse of the southern Vancouver Island sports fishing industry.

“Our backs are against the wall. Any more cuts will be the death of our fishery,” said Martin Paish, general manager of Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina.

Via the Times Colonist

Snohomish County Completes North Creek Restoration

County Cleans Up North Creek

I am always glad to hear about streams like North Creek being fixed and put back to their natural state.  No one project like this is going to fix Puget Sound, but over time as we do more and more of these streams and rivers the water quality will improve and so will the fishing.

Snohomish County’s Surface Water Management Division recently completed a grant-funded creek restoration along North Creek at 196th and Bothell-Everett Highway in Mill Creek.

The project spans The Clearwater School and Clearwater Commons properties and encompasses 1,500 linear feet of creek and 4 acres of property. Side channels were created, log jams were built, and floodplains were lowered to allow floodwaters to disperse. These improvements were designed to create habitat for salmon.  Additionally, about 9,000 native trees and shrubs will be planted this fall and winter on the properties.

The project was made possible by grants from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration, and the National Fish and Wildlife Federation. Volunteer hours and some native plant donations came from the School and Commons, and matching funds made by Snohomish County Surface Water Management.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 1, visitors to The Clearwater School, located at 1510 SE 196th St, Mill Creek, can take a self-guided tour to view the creek restoration as well as efforts the school has made to install solar panels that are providing power to the school.

The Clearwater Commons property is the first low-impact development housing project in Snohomish County and utilizes many green building features.

For information on the project, contact Snohomish County’s Surface Water Management Division at 425-388-3464.

Property Acquisition Helps Secure Washington’s Wild Sky Wilderness

Ok, being a bit lazy in reposting a press release,  but I did want to pass along some of this good news.  Any time we can preserve forests and protect watersheds it is a good thing!  Better waters equate to better habitat for fish and more fish is always a good thing!

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash., Nov. 16 (AScribe Newswire) — The Wilderness Land Trust and The United States Forest Service announce the protection of a 113-acre property in the Wild Sky Wilderness in Snohomish County, Wash., with the transfer of the property from The Wilderness Land Trust to the United States for inclusion in the 106,000-acre Wild Sky Wilderness.

The property is located in the Bitter Creek drainage a few miles upstream of the North Fork Skykomish River. The Skykomish drains a vast watershed on the edge of the Cascades just outside of Seattle. The property contains a thick canopy of Douglas fir, silver fir, cedar, and mountain hemlock and expansive views of the surrounding mountain peaks.

The transfer completes a process that started in August of 2006 when The Wilderness Land Trust purchased the property from a private seller. The Trust’s acquisition of the property helped the Wild Sky designation move forward to a successful completion in 2008. The purchase also allowed the Forest Service to terminate an existing road right of way that had been used in the mid 1900s for timber harvests. The old road can now be used for a trail into the wilderness.

“This acquisition would not have been possible without the strong partnership of the Wilderness Land Trust and the support of the many within the environmental community. This is a wonderful legacy for the Wild Sky Wilderness,” said Rob Iwamoto, Forest Supervisor for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

“The Wilderness Land Trust is pleased to assist the Forest Service with this transaction. With the private property now becoming part of the wilderness and the road going away, the quick-growing Cascade forest will soon return the Wild Sky to its natural condition,” said David Kirk, Senior Lands Specialist for the Trust. “These transactions take a while, but the long-term result of secured wilderness makes it all worthwhile. I highly recommend a hike up into this area.”

You can reach the Wild Sky by following US Highway 2 toward Stevens Pass out of the Seattle area. A map is available; see contact info below.

The Wilderness Land Trust acquires unprotected private land within wilderness, returning it to public ownership to guarantee that future generations can enjoy the enduring resources of wilderness. The Trust is a small, highly specialized non-profit organization established to buy and protect wilderness land. Since it was founded in 1992, the organization has preserved more than 344 parcels comprising more than 31,000 acres of wilderness inholdings in 76 designated and proposed wilderness areas. Read more at http://www.wildernesslandtrust.org .

Canadian Golf Course Turned Salmon Nursery

Bear Mountain Golf Course to start stocking Coho SalmonIt seems the Canadians have found a place to plant more fish. The lakes and streams of the Bear Mountain Golf Resort on southern Vancouver Island. I have to give it to them, it looks like they have done their research and have found a place that most fishermen don’t want to try and drop a line.

I know from experience that it is not fun to fish when you are worried about being clipped in the back of the head by a golf ball. How you ask? Because I have been fishing on the South end of Lake Ballinger, when golf balls have bounced off trees and into the lake.

My hat is off to you resourceful Canadians for finding another place to raise Coho!

New 24,000 acre aquatic preserve off Protection Island

This is a good thing!

The the Washington State Department of Natural Resources has designated 24,000 acres of aquatic space as a preserve.  This area off Protection Island will help preserve and promote eelgrass beds and kelp  which are breeding grounds for small fish.

The Port Townsend paper has more info if you are interested, plus has the time and address for the dedication party!

WDFW to rebuilt wild stock of Chinook on the Cowlitz River

OLYMPIA – With a strong run of fall chinook salmon returning to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery, state fishery managers plan to transport up to 5,000 hatchery fish upriver and release them upriver above the last of three dams on the Cowlitz River.

Spawning Chinook Salmon
Can the WDFW reestablish the Chinook spawning grounds on the upper Cowlitz?

Starting this week, tanker trucks carrying adult chinook will make daily trips from the salmon hatchery to the release site above the dam, said Jim Scott, assistant director for WDFW’s Fish Program. The relocation effort, funded by Tacoma Power, is expected to continue into December.

“This is just the first step in restoring naturally spawning fall chinook salmon stocks upriver from the Cowlitz Falls Dam,” Scott said. “We’re already working to reintroduce spring chinook salmon, coho salmon and winter steelhead to the upper Cowlitz River. This is a good time to move ahead with fall chinook as well.”

WDFW is predicting a record return of 14,000 hatchery-reared fall chinook to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery this year, and actual returns are tracking closely with that forecast, said Pat Frazier, WDFW regional fish manager for southwest Washington. Continue reading WDFW to rebuilt wild stock of Chinook on the Cowlitz River