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Diverse Coalition Negotiating Historic Venture to Reintroduce Salmon to Sierra

Spring-run chinook salmon could return to their historic spawning habitat on the North Yuba River under a still-developing agreement involving three agencies and three conservation groups. Working together as the “Yuba Salmon Partnership Initiative,” the coalition released a framework for such an agreement.

When completed, the agreement would create a first-ever “collect and transport” program in California, like those successfully used for decades in Oregon and Washington to move salmon around dams too tall for fish ladders. The program would return spring-run chinook salmon, and possibly steelhead, to more than 30 miles of the North Yuba River. Deep, cool pools on this stretch of the river provide ideal habitat for the species that summers in mountain streams before spawning in the fall. In addition, the agreement would create a program to enhance salmon and steelhead habitat in the lower Yuba River downstream of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Englebright Dam.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, Yuba County Water Agency, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance released a “Term Sheet” that will guide negotiations on a binding settlement agreement that would form the basis of salmon reintroduction and restoration programs. The non-binding Term Sheet defines principles for funding and fiscal responsibility, agrees to some limits on potential actions, and anticipates how the partners will seek to address numerous legal and regulatory requirements essential for the reintroduction to happen. In signing the Term Sheet, the partners commit to negotiating a more detailed and binding settlement agreement that they hope to complete by next year. They also commit to the use of a transparent, science-based process that offers opportunities for public input and response in developing the specifics of the anticipated programs.

“This initiative is an ambitious undertaking to restore spring-run chinook and steelhead to miles of historic pristine habitat in the Sierra Nevada Mountains,” said Charlton H. Bonham, CDFW Director. “This long-term experiment has been successful in several Pacific Northwest states and we hope for a similar outcome in California. A project of this importance wouldn’t be possible without a robust partnership, and considering the state’s unprecedented drought, it couldn’t be happening at a more crucial time for these fish.”

The Yuba Salmon Partnership Initiative seeks to accomplish a major goal set forth in Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s California Water Action Plan. This five-year plan, released in January 2014, spells out actions needed to restore California’s key ecosystems, and bring greater resiliency and reliability to its water resources. Directives in the plan include establishing fish passage around “rim” dams in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada that block historic salmon and steelhead habitat.

Director Bonham added, “Collaboration with Sierra County and other stakeholders will be important for us to ensure this program recognizes their needs.”

The salmon reintroduction program, if implemented as envisioned in the Term Sheet, would return salmon to spawning habitat in the North Yuba River using specially designed collection facilities and trucks. This would allow adult fish to bypass two dams northeast of Marysville: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Englebright Dam, built in 1941 to trap debris generated by hydraulic mining, and YCWA’s New Bullards Bar Dam, built further upstream in 1970 to provide flood protection, water supply and power generation. The program would move juvenile salmon downstream in the winter and spring by gathering them in collection facilities above New Bullards Bar Dam and trucking them downstream past the dams to resume their journey to the Pacific Ocean. The reintroduction effort would focus first on spring-run Chinook salmon. If successful, a steelhead reintroduction could follow. Providing fish access to historical habitat is also a climate-change adaptation strategy.

“Reintroducing spring-run chinook to their historic habitat above dams on the Yuba River has been discussed for decades,” said Will Stelle, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Regional Administrator. “Now this diverse coalition has reached agreement on the key terms to launch a successful program. We have a lot of work still ahead of us, and we will need to stay focused, given the urgency of getting these imperiled salmon back into their native habitat. The YSPI represents a major step forward, and we’re excited to help make it happen.”

The Term Sheet also envisions a program to analyze, prioritize and implement habitat actions in the Lower Yuba River downstream of Englebright Dam. These actions are likely to include improvement of riparian vegetation, measures to restore salmon spawning habitat and measures to improve rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids, including the expansion of side channel and floodplain areas to promote rapid growth of young salmon before they migrate to the ocean.

“Reuniting salmon with their historic habitat into the North Yuba River through a collaborative, voluntary initiative is a worthwhile endeavor that we believe will ultimately benefit our environment, the people of Yuba County and all of California,” said John Nicoletti, Chairman of the YCWA Board of Directors.

YCWA has agreed to pay up to $100 million of total project costs, which are estimated at $400-$500 million, over the 50-year life of the program. The Term Sheet defines additional commitments by the partners. These include support for various regulatory approvals that the project will require; evaluation of North Yuba River habitat suitability; evaluating collection and transport facilities; development of biological and habitat goals and objectives; and development of an adaptive management plan so that the program can be adjusted based on monitoring results.

The project promises to yield a wealth of scientific information that may aid other reintroduction efforts, other ecosystems and fisheries science overall. Once implemented, it would test whether “collect and transport” programs can contribute to the recovery of Central Valley salmon populations as they have contributed to the recovery of salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest.

JD: It’s so encouraging to see a collaborative effort made to enhance the spring chinook numbers in Northern California. These fish have been through a lot and a little help from local groups is a huge step in the right direction.

Steller Sea Lion Dies in Freak Accident

A Steller sea lion died when it became entangled between two traps at Bonneville Dam.
There were no witnesses to the incident, which occurred sometime Monday night. Biologists believe the animal crawled out between the two cage traps onto a narrow area where the wooden floors of each trap extended beyond the cages, coming together to create a makeshift platform. It appears that as the animal tried to back out of the narrow area, it became entangled in the tethering cables holding the traps together. Once entangled, it appears the sea lion flipped over to reach the water, but couldn’t break free of the cables. A veterinarian on site determined the animal drowned and complete a necropsy on the animal will be performed.

“This is a very unfortunate incident, no one would have predicted this could happen,” said Rick Hargrave, ODFW spokesman. “Our focus now is to prevent this from happening again.”

Trapping operations at Bonneville Dam have been suspended while ODFW consults with NOAA. In the meantime, cage trap doors will be closed and locked, and a temporary barricade will be installed between the two cage traps to prevent access.

JD: There’s so many sea lions where they shouldn’t be they’ve actually started killing themselves! Forgive me for not giving a crap about a dead sea lion that should have been killed anyway.

Nonlead Ammunition Requirement Approaches

Starting July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition will be required when hunting on all California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands and for all Nelson bighorn sheep hunts anywhere in the state.

CDFW reminds hunters who plan to hunt bighorn sheep or at any CDFW wildlife areas or ecological reserves where hunting is allowed on or after July 1, 2015 to acquire nonlead ammunition well ahead of their hunt.  Hunters are also encouraged to practice shooting nonlead ammunition to make sure firearms are sighted-in properly and shoot accurately with nonlead ammunition. Please note nonlead ammunition for some firearm calibers may be in short supply and hunters should plan accordingly.

CDFW held 14 public meetings in 12 cities from Eureka to San Diego to gain comments from hunters on how best to implement AB 711, the legislation that requires nonlead ammunition for all hunting statewide by July 1, 2019. The department listened to feedback from hunters and proposed an implementation plan that would be least disruptive to the hunting community while adhering to the requirements of the law. The California Fish and Game Commission recently adopted the implementation plan.

Further phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California will occur on July 1, 2016, when hunters must use nonlead ammunition when hunting with shotguns for upland game birds (except for dove, quail and snipe), small game mammals, fur-bearing mammals, and non-game birds except for when hunting at licensed game-bird clubs. Nonlead ammunition will also be required when taking wildlife for depredation purposes anywhere in the state. Starting on July 1, 2019 hunters must use nonlead ammunition when taking any animal anywhere in the state for any purpose.

Lead ammunition may still be used for all non-hunting purposes, including target shooting. The implementation of AB 711 does not affect the laws regarding the existing nonlead “Condor Zone” where it remains illegal to hunt using lead ammunition.

Hunting is not allowed at all CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves. For those areas where hunting is allowed, nonlead ammunition will be required starting July 1, 2015. Hunters are reminded to be familiar with all hunting regulations before going into the field.

JD: It doesn’t take much foresight to see how this ban on lead for hunting can and will set a precedence for more bans on lead for fishing in the very near future. If you haven’t looked into alternative fishing weights like Stoney River Sinkers or Dave’s Tangle Free weights you’re not prepared.

Without the help of fishery agents and volunteers, Northern California trout would literally be fish outta water this summer. 

Hot Creek Hatchery Tests Positive for Whirling Disease

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently learned Hot Creek Hatchery near Mammoth Lakes has tested positive for the parasite that causes whirling disease. Whirling disease was detected in wild trout populations in Inyo and Mono counties more than 30 years ago. Therefore, continued fish stocking in these and other waters already known to have the whirling disease parasite should have little or no effect on those trout populations. Hot Creek, Lake Crowley and the Owens River provide blue-ribbon trout fishing despite the presence of whirling disease in these waters.

“We will continue to operate Hot Creek Hatchery with no negative effects on wild fish in Inyo and Mono counties, where Hot Creek Hatchery normally stocks its fish,” said CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief Stafford Lehr.

Two Northern California hatcheries, Darrah Springs and Mt. Shasta, also tested positive for this parasite. Of the 22 hatcheries operated by CDFW throughout the state, only these three have tested positive. The disease was discovered as a result of routine annual checks for fish diseases which are conducted at all CDFW hatcheries.

Whirling disease is caused by Myxobolus cerebralis, a protozoan parasite that destroys cartilage in the vertebral column of trout and salmon. It is fatal or disfiguring to infected trout and salmon but does not affect humans. Fish infected with whirling disease are safe for human consumption.

At this time it is not known how the parasite entered Hot Creek Hatchery waters. The possibility the parasite was transferred to the hatchery from local nearby waters known to have whirling disease is likely, due to current drought conditions that cause wildlife to move to available waters sources. Some species of fish-eating birds can transmit the parasite.

JD: It’s parasites like this that give wild fish advocates a great argument as to why hatcheries should be shut down. It’s the same reason fish farms along the Canadian coast have to go.

A tiger trout is a rare jewel like nothing else.

Drought Prompts Fish Evacuation at American River and Nimbus Hatcheries

With a fourth year of extreme drought conditions reducing the cold-water supply available, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is moving fish out of the American River and Nimbus hatcheries for the second year in a row.

Bureau of Reclamation models suggest water temperatures at the hatcheries could be at lethal levels for cold-water fish by August. CDFW has already begun to stock American River Hatchery rainbow and brown trout into state waters earlier than normal. These fish range from small fingerlings to the larger catchable size. The accelerated planting schedule will continue through mid-July when all the fish in the raceways are expected to be evacuated. This includes all the fingerling-size rainbow trout that would normally be held in the hatchery to grow to catchable size for next year.

A new, state-of-the-art building at American River Hatchery, completed in early June using emergency drought funds, will enable CDFW to raise Lahontan cutthroat trout through the summer for planting into eastern sierra lakes and streams. The new building will also enable CDFW to hold a small group of rainbow trout fingerlings that are scheduled to be stocked in west-side sierra put-and-grow fisheries by airplane in July. The new hatchery building utilizes water filters, ultraviolet sterilization techniques and large water chillers to keep water quality and temperatures at ideal levels for trout rearing. However, the new technology is limited to the hatchery building and not the raceways, which will limit capacity to include only the Lahontan cutthroat trout once the fish start to grow to larger sizes.

Nimbus Hatchery has already begun relocating some 330,000 steelhead to the Feather River Hatchery Annex to be held through the summer. When the water temperature at the Nimbus Hatchery returns to suitable levels in the fall, the steelhead will be brought back to Nimbus to finish growing and imprinting then will be released into the lower American River. The Feather River Hatchery Annex is supplied by a series of groundwater wells that maintain cool water temperatures throughout the year.

The fall-run chinook salmon from Nimbus Hatchery have all been released into state waterways. If necessary, the chilled American River Hatchery building will be used this fall to incubate and hatch chinook salmon from Nimbus Hatchery.

“Unfortunately, the situation is similar to last year,” said Jay Rowan, Acting Senior Hatchery Supervisor for CDFW’s North Central Region. “We have begun to implement contingency plans to avoid major fish losses in the two hatcheries. We want to do the best job we can to provide California anglers with good fishing experiences and communicate when there will be deviations from normal practices. With that in mind, we want to let anglers in the area know that a lot more fish than normal will be going out into area waters served by American River Hatchery.”

Rowan said that the number of fish planted at various waterbodies will increase as the planting timeframe decreases, so the fishing should be very good through the summer at foothill and mountain-elevation put-and-take waters. Early fish plants now mean there won’t be as many fish available to plant in the lower-elevation fall and winter fisheries, so the fishing may drop off later in the season if the fish don’t hold over well.

American River Hatchery operations focus on rearing rainbow and Lahontan cutthroat trout and kokanee salmon for recreational angling, predominantly in waters within the North Central Region. Nimbus Hatchery takes salmon and steelhead eggs from the American River and rears them to fish for six months to a year, until they are ready to be put back in the system.

To the south, San Joaquin Hatchery near Fresno expects to experience high water temperatures this summer. Transferring and stocking fish in advance of high water temperatures is planned. CDFW hopes to maintain some trout at low densities at the hatchery for the winter stocking season.

Annually, CDFW works with the Bureau of Reclamation to ensure its operations provide suitable conditions for fish at hatcheries and in the river. This year, conditions are forecasted to be dire with little flexibility in operations. Similar to last year, low reservoir storage and minimal snow pack will result in high water temperatures over summer and very low river flows by fall.

Fall and winter rains, if received in sufficient amounts, will cool water temperatures enough to allow both hatcheries to come back online and resume operations.

JD: JD: This drought is going to take a toll on the fish no matter what. Hopefully taking actions to help the fish will reduce the impact.

Ethanol Gasoline Percentage Displayed?

The Renewable Fuel Standard is the 2005 federal law that requires the blending of biofuels such as corn-ethanol into our gasoline. When it was written, it assumed that America’s use of gasoline would continue to rise and mandated escalating amounts of biofuels to be blended with our fuel. Since 2005, however, gasoline usage has actually declined steadily, which today forces more ethanol into less gasoline.

To keep up with this RFS mandate, in 2010 the EPA permitted E15 (fuel containing up to 15% ethanol) into the marketplace. Even though E15 is prohibited from being used in marine engines, snowmobiles, motorcycles, small engines like lawnmowers and leaf blowers, as well as any vehicle made before 2001, this fuel can now be found in 24 states at the very same pumps as E10 (10% ethanol).

Millions of recreational boaters fill their boat’s fuel tanks at roadside gas stations where the higher-blend ethanol fuels are often the cheapest fuel at the pump. The only warning you may have is one sticker mixed in with all the other warning labels on the pump. This creates a huge potential for misfueling and puts boaters at risk of using fuel that will damage their engines.

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking for comments on a proposal to increase the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply for 2015 and 2016. If adopted, these proposed levels will require the use of a record amount of ethanol, forcing higher-level fuel blends (including E15) into more gas stations.

Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) urges recreational boaters to send a message to the EPA now by going to http://goo.gl/CkfOtK and demanding that the agency lower the ethanol mandate to ensure an adequate supply of safe fuel.

JD: JD: It’s a cold hard fact that untreated corn gas is rough on outboards. Especially older 2-strokes. I don’t see the harm in knowing how much ethanol goes into the fuel you’re putting in your expensive pieces of equipment.

Idaho Angler Shatters Washington
Tiger Trout Sport Fish Record

Kelly Flaherty of Priest River, Idaho, has set a new state record for the largest tiger trout caught in Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced.

The 53-year-old angler caught the 18.49-pound fish measuring 32.5 inches on Cinco de Mayo, May 5, while bait-fishing with a worm and egg at Bonaparte Lake, near Tonasket in Okanogan County.

“The fish skyrocketed out of the water,” said Flaherty, who was fishing from a boat launch. “As soon as I hooked it, I was whooping it up, while a crowd gathered around the whole time.”

Flaherty estimates it took him 15 minutes to land the fish from the time he set the hook until he pulled his prize onto the boat launch without a landing net.

According to WDFW, the new record exceeded the previous record tiger trout record by 3.45 pounds. The previous record was held by Kirk Herrin on a fish caught in Roses Lake, Chelan County in 2012.

JD: JD: One of the biggest reasons I love fishing so much is that every time you drop your line in the water, you really have no idea what might end up on the other end. Congratulations Kelly!

Brandon Glass helped this family of anglers into a pile of coho and this chrome chinook last summer in Astoria. This summer promises a lot more of the same with so many days available to fish.

Columbia River 2015 Salmon Seasons Set

Oregon and Washington fishery managers have announced the 2015 summer and fall salmon seasons for the Columbia River. The 2015 fall salmon seasons are based on strong projected returns of 925,000 fall chinook and 540,000 coho salmon, and include a Buoy 10 fishery projected through Labor Day and increased bag limits in some upriver areas.

Highlights of the upcoming seasons include: • Buoy 10: Retention of adult chinook (fin-clipped or not) is expected to remain open Aug. 1 through Sept. 7 (Labor Day objective).

• Warrior Rock upstream to Steamboat Landing Park/Marker #50: The daily bag limit may include two fall chinook (fin-clipped or not).

• Steamboat Landing Park/Marker #50 upstream to the OR/WA border (above McNary Dam): the daily bag limit may include three fall chinook (fin-clipped or not).

As in 2014, the “boat limit” rule will be in place from Buoy 10 upstream to the OR/WA border. Anglers fishing from the same boat may continue fishing for salmon until all licensed anglers have reached their daily limits.

According to Chris Kern, ODFW deputy administrator for Columbia and Marine programs, the major constraint for fall lower Columbia River fisheries is still the allowable harvest rate of ESA-listed wild tule chinook.

“This year, we had a little more room on allowable impact for wild tules,” Kern said. “As a result, we estimate there will be six additional days of chinook fishing at Buoy 10 compared to 2014, extending the season through Labor Day. We also expect to meet all of our policy objectives and have chinook retention on the middle river through September 14.”

Kern also noted that given continued strong runs of upriver stocks, the three-chinook bag limit in upriver areas first implemented in 2014 will continue for the 2015 season.

“This will allow anglers to take advantage of the large chinook returns with little impact on wild tules,” he said.

Anglers should be alert for potential in-season modifications to chinook retention rules, especially in the Buoy 10 and middle river areas.

Here are the details of the 2015 Columbia River summer and fall salmon and steelhead seasons:

Summer Seasons*
Summer Chinook and Sockeye

Retention of sockeye and adipose fin-clipped adult summer chinook will be allowed:

• June 16 – July 6 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam. Staff will monitor the fishery in-season and potentially modify the July portion of the fishery (which may include extending the season or allowing retention of any adult chinook).

• June 16 – July 31 from Bonneville Dam upstream to the OR/WA border.

• Retention of adipose fin-clipped jack summer chinook (between 12 and 24 inches long) and adipose-fin-clipped steelhead allowed June 16 – July 31 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the OR/WA border.

The daily bag limit is two adult salmonids and five jacks. All sockeye are considered adults in the daily limit and must be recorded as adults on the combined angling tag.

All other permanent rules apply.

Fall Seasons*
Buoy 10

Area definition: From the Buoy 10 line upstream to a line projected from Rocky Point on the Washington shore through red buoy #44 to red marker #2 at Tongue Point on the Oregon shore.

• August 1 – December 31: Retention of adipose-fin-clipped coho (16-inches or longer) and adipose-fin-clipped steelhead allowed.

• August 1 – September 7: Retention of chinook (24 inches or longer, fin-clipped or not) is allowed. The daily bag limit is two salmonids, only one of which may be a chinook.

• September 8 – 30: Retention of all chinook is prohibited. The daily bag limit is two salmonids (adipose-fin-clipped coho/steelhead only).

• October 1 – December 31: Retention of chinook (fin-clipped or not) is allowed. The daily bag limit is two adult salmonids.

Chinook jacks (fin-clipped or not) and adipose-fin-clipped coho jacks may only be retained October 1 – December 31 under permanent rules. The daily bag limit for jack salmon in Oregon is five fish.

All other permanent rules apply.

Lower Columbia: Tongue Point/Rocky Point upstream to Warrior Rock/Bachelor Island

Area definition: From a line projected from Rocky Point on the Washington shore through red buoy #44 to the red marker #2 at Tongue Point on the Oregon shore upstream to a line projected from the Warrior Rock Lighthouse on the Oregon shore through red buoy #4 to a marker on the lower end of Bachelor Island.

• August 1 – December 31: Retention of adipose-fin-clipped adult coho and adipose-fin-clipped steelhead allowed.

• August 1 – September 7: Retention of adult chinook (fin-clipped or not) is allowed. The daily bag limit is two adult salmonids, only one of which may be a chinook. The daily bag limit for jack salmon in Oregon is five fish. • September 8 – 14: Retention of adipose fin-clipped adult chinook is allowed. The daily adult bag limit is two salmonids, only one of which may be a chinook. The daily bag limit for jack salmon in Oregon is five fish.

• September 15 – 30: Retention of all chinook is prohibited. The daily bag limit is two adult salmonids (adipose-fin-clipped coho/steelhead only).

• October 1 – December 31: Retention of adult chinook (fin-clipped or not) is allowed. The daily bag limit is two adult salmonids. The daily bag limit for jack salmon in Oregon is five fish.

Each legal angler aboard a vessel may continue to deploy angling gear until the daily adult salmonid bag limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

All other permanent rules apply.

Lower Columbia: Warrior Rock/Bachelor Isl. upstream to Steamboat Landing Park/Marker #50

Area definition: From a line projected from the Warrior Rock Lighthouse on the Oregon shore through red buoy #4 to a marker on the lower end of Bachelor Island upstream to a line projected from the most downstream point on the Steamboat Landing Park (100 S. Washougal River Road) dock on the Washington shore through navigation light #50 to the Oregon shore. Angling from the Steamboat Landing Park dock is not included in this fishing area.

• August 1 – December 31: Retention of adult chinook (fin-clipped or not), adipose-fin-clipped adult coho, and adipose-fin-clipped steelhead allowed. The daily bag limit is two adult salmonids. The daily bag limit for jack salmon in Oregon is five fish.

Each legal angler aboard a vessel may continue to deploy angling gear until the daily adult salmonid bag limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

All other permanent rules apply.

Lower Columbia: Steamboat Landing Park/Marker #50 upstream to Bonneville Dam

Area definition: From a line projected from the most downstream point on the Steamboat Landing Park (100 S. Washougal River Road) dock on the Washington shore through navigation light #50 to the Oregon shore upstream to Bonneville Dam. Angling from the Steamboat Landing Park dock is included in this fishing area.

• August 1 – December 31: Retention of adult chinook (fin-clipped or not), adipose-fin-clipped adult coho, and adipose-fin-clipped steelhead allowed. The daily bag limit is three adult salmonids, of which no more than two may be adipose-fin-clipped coho or adipose-fin-clipped steelhead (in any combination). The daily bag limit for jack salmon in Oregon is five fish.

Each legal angler aboard a vessel may continue to deploy angling gear until the daily adult salmonid bag limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

All other permanent rules apply.

Bonneville Dam upstream to the OR/WA border (upstream of McNary Dam)

• August 1 – December 31: Retention of adult chinook (fin-clipped or not), adult coho, and adipose-fin-clipped steelhead allowed. The daily bag limit is three adult salmonids, of which no more than two may be coho or adipose-fin-clipped steelhead (in any combination). The daily bag limit for jack salmon in Oregon is five fish.

All coho (adults and jacks) retained downstream of the Hood River Bridge must be adipose-fin-clipped.

Each legal angler aboard a vessel may continue to deploy angling gear until the daily adult salmonid bag limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

All other permanent rules apply.

* Seasons may be subject to in-season modification.

JD: For those that love harvesting big Columbia River chinook, whether they have an adipose fin or not, this is great news! We get to keep them finned or finless for more days than I imagined and there’s plenty of opportunity available for fin-clipped fish. If the Columbia chinook and coho runs are on par with what’s predicted, it’s going to be an awesome summer to be fishing on the Columbia. And that doesn’t even count all the summer steelhead and sockeye. I am fully pumped!

Northern Pike Numbers Diminishing

State and tribal fish managers are winning the battle against invasive northern pike on a section of the Pend Oreille River in northeast Washington, but they don’t expect to declare victory anytime soon.

For the fourth straight year, crews from the Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Department (KNRD) will use gill nets to remove non-native pike from Box Canyon Reservoir and work with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to monitor the results.

As in previous years, the netting operation will run five days per week through March and April, even though fish managers estimate they have already removed more than 90 percent of the northern pike from the reservoir.

“Northern pike are voracious predators that pose a significant threat to native and game fish species,” said Bruce Bolding, WDFW warmwater fish program manager. “We can’t stop these fish from moving into Washington waters from Idaho, but we’re going to do everything we can to keep their numbers as low as possible.”

A key goal is to keep northern pike from moving downstream from the Pend Oreille River into the Columbia River, where they could affect salmon and steelhead populations, Bolding said.

Surveys conducted by WDFW and KNRD between 2004 and 2011 documented a rapid increase in the number of pike in Box Canyon Reservoir and a significant decline in abundance of other fish species.

Bolding said gillnetting during early spring has proven to be the most effective method of reducing northern pike. Between 2012 and 2014, more than 16,000 fish (38,000 pounds) were removed by netting.

In addition, anglers harvested a total of 334 northern pike during “PikePalooza” fishing derbies sponsored by KNRD, which offered more than $20,000 in cash and prizes over the past three years.

Jason Olson, KNRD Fisheries Conservation Program Manager, said the tribe will not conduct similar fishing derbies this year, because the numbers of northern pike have been reduced so far.

“We expect sport angler catch rates for northern pike in Box Canyon Reservoir to remain low,” Olson said. “However, bass fishing can be exceptional, and populations of brown trout and panfish are showing signs of rebounding.”

State and tribal fishery managers encourage anglers to harvest as many northern pike as they can from both Box Canyon and Boundary reservoirs. Under state law, any northern pike that is caught must be killed before it is removed from the area in which it was taken.

While Box Canyon Reservoir has the state’s largest population of northern pike, anglers have also reported catching them in the Columbia River just north of the Canada border, near Northport and Kettle Falls, and in the Spokane River from Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho to Long Lake in Spokane County.

Bolding said problems with northern pike started with illegal releases of the fish into the Flathead, Bitterroot and Clark Fork river systems in Montana, where they migrated downstream into Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille and into Washington.

For more information about northern pike in Washington and annual summaries of the project see http://wdfw.wa.gov/ais/esox_lucius/.

JD: Glad to see a major salmon and steelhead predator being managed, although catching pike is an absolute blast.

Mike and Perry enjoying some of Lane County’s finest while Sadie seems to be uninterested.

 Northwest Scores Huge Win to Remove Gillnets from Columbia River

In a landmark ruling in March, the Oregon Court of Appeals cleared the way for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to continue implementing a bi-state plan to remove non-tribal gillnets from the mainstem of the Columbia River, providing decisive step forward in a long-running battle waged by conservationists to ban the destructive commercial fishing gear.

The Court dismissed outright all but one of the many challenges brought by gillnetters against the rules and ultimately found that none of the arguments were compelling enough to overturn the state agency’s decision to implement a phased-in removal of the nets. CCA Oregon, which has been fully engaged in the current gillnet ban effort since inception and was the only outside group to formally enter as a party to the lawsuit, was instrumental in achieving this ruling. CCA Oregon Chairman Dave Schamp hailed the Court’s decision.

“This is a tremendous win for Oregonians, anglers and, most importantly, the fish we cherish,” said Dave Schamp, CCA Oregon Chairman of the Board. “It has been a long, expensive endeavor but one that CCA was committed to every step of the way. I could not be more proud of the way our members have stepped up, from raising funds to defend against the lawsuits to providing testimony in Salem and everything in between. As expected, we finally prevailed and now we look forward to navigating the transition period to remove those non-tribal nets.”

In 2012-2013, both the Washington and Oregon Fish and Wildlife commissions adopted a plan proposed by then-Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber that prioritizes recreational fisheries in the mainstem of the Columbia River and eliminates the use of non-tribal gillnets in the lower Columbia’s mainstem after a transition period ends in 2017. The Governor’s plan was offered in the wake of CCA’s successful efforts to put a gillnet ban initiative on the Oregon ballot. However, unlike the ballot initiative, the bi-state reform plan resulted in both states adopting a plan that eliminates the use of non-selective gillnets. The plan has also provided increased recreational fishing opportunities on the Columbia River, which will continue to increase as the plan is fully implemented.

Commercial gillnet interests have repeatedly sought to overturn the policy, but have been denied every time. Last month, the Washington Court of Appeals dismissed a similar lawsuit from commercial gillnet interests challenging the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s adoption of the same plan. CCA also formally intervened as a party to that lawsuit.

“When the gillnetters and processors sued to stop these reforms, we were there to oppose them in court and we will have to be prepared to do that again in the future,” said Bruce Polley, CCA Oregon Vice President. “Today is a good time for CCA members to reflect on everything that was done to build an organization capable of engaging meaningfully in every level of the administrative, legislative and legal systems to see this through to the end. Tomorrow, we get back to work making sure that the plan is properly implemented and tackling the other threats to the health of our fisheries.”

JD: This is great news for Columbia River sport fishermen! I want to personally extend a huge thanks to the CCA and all the groups fighting for our fisheries! Things are looking up the last few years for the Columbia River and its historic runs.

Regardless of hook and bait restrictions, incredible days are to be had. Justin, Phil and Darren had no problem filling a fish box with single, barbless hooks last summer on the Kitimat. 

 Anglers Get New Rules for Susitna River and Little Susitna River Drainages

Anglers are advised that in an effort to meet king salmon escapement goals in the Susitna River and Little Susitna River drainages, the following sportfishing restrictions are in effect beginning Friday, May 1, 2015 in the Susitna River drainage (Units 1-6) and Little Susitna River (please refer to the 2015 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet for a complete description of Susitna River waters)

• Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure is allowed. Single-hook means a fish hook with only one point. Treble hooks and more than one single-hook are prohibited. The use of bait is also prohibited.

• Harvest is allowed on the Deshka River, and on specific days within the Yentna River drainage, except for the Talachulitna River. Harvest within Unit 4 (except for the Talachulitna River) will be restricted to Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays only; fishing, but not harvest of king salmon is allowed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. 

• King salmon harvest (of any size) is prohibited within Unit 1 (except on Deshka River), on the Parks Highway streams within Unit 2, the upper Susitna, Talachulitna River, Talkeetna River, and Chulitna River. Fishing, but not harvest of king salmon will be allowed during days and times normally open to king salmon fishing within these management units. Specifically within Unit 2, these days correspond to January 1 through the third Monday in June, and for the next two consecutive three-day weekends (Saturday through Monday, June 20–22 and Saturday through Monday, June 27–29. King salmon may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately. In the waters of Unit 2 open to fishing, but not harvest of king salmon, fishing for trout and other species will not be affected by these emergency regulations for king salmon and will continue as written in current regulation. 

• King salmon harvest in the Little Susitna River is restricted to Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays only. King salmon harvest (of any size) is prohibited on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; fishing, but not harvest of king salmon is allowed on these days. King salmon that are intended to be released may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

• Annual limit of two (2) king salmon 20 inches or longer. The total annual limit of king salmon 20 inches or longer taken from fresh waters of Cook Inlet remains at five (5), but no more than two may be taken in combination from the Susitna River and Little Susitna River drainages.

• Upon harvesting a king salmon over 20 inches in length, a person may not fish for any species of fish on the same day in flowing waters open to king salmon in the Susitna River drainage and the Knik Arm drainages.

• The Eklutna Tailrace is excluded from all restrictions.

Northern Cook Inlet king salmon runs have been well below average since 2007, and this trend is expected to continue to 2015. Below-average runs during previous years, past performance of fisheries within the Susitna and Little Susitna drainages under previous years’ management strategies, and uncertainty over how returns may recover in the future justify starting the 2015 season with these restrictions. Data gathered from weirs, boat surveys, and aerial surveys will be used to gauge run strength during the season. This management strategy, in combination with reducing Northern District commercial king salmon fishing periods from five to four periods, and reducing each period from 12 hours to 6 hours, is designed to provide fishing opportunity throughout the season and reduce the potential for midseason closures, yet achieve the escapement goals in Northern Cook Inlet.

JD: It’s a shame that sporties are paying the price for diminished runs they aren’t entirely responsible for, but at this point we should be pretty used it to. Ugh…  Anglers in Lane County Have a New Guide to More Fishing Spots

In a partnership between the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Travel Lane County, the guide “65 Places to go Fishing in Lane County” offers key details to help novice to expert anglers navigate their way to the region’s lakes, rivers and streams.

“We are excited to offer local and visiting anglers a piece that shows the diversity and extent of fishing in our area,” said Samara Phelps, Director of Visitor Services, at the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Adventure Center. “Whether it’s fishing on the Oregon Coast or on the McKenzie River, we hope to inspire new and experienced anglers to explore locations across the county.”

The guide outlines the types of fish found or stocked in each locale, as well as key amenities such as boat launches, picnic areas, camping facilities, disabled access and restrooms. Listings also include whether parking, day-use or other fees apply.

A map inside pinpoints the 65 fishing spots located in and around Eugene, Springfield, Cottage Grove, Dexter, Leaburg, Blue River, Oakridge, Florence, Veneta, Junction City and Cheshire. A QR code can be scanned for easy mobile map access.

“We know there are many popular fisheries here, but realize that we have some locations that don’t get the attention they merit,” said Shannon Richardson, Fisheries Biologist, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Partnering with Travel Lane County allows us to get the word out about the angling opportunities in Lane County and empower people to get outdoors and get fishing.”

The guide features full-color illustrations of common fish found in Lane County waters to help anglers identify everything from Chinook salmon and largemouth bass to rainbow trout and crappie. Tips for embarking on a fishing trip via drift boat, pontoon or kayak provide helpful hints for successful, safe trips.

A total of 10,000 guides have been printed and will be distributed at key locations through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and information centers. Travel Lane County will distribute them at the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Downtown Visitor Center and the Adventure Center in Springfield, as well as at key partner venues from hotels to trade shows. Guides are also available for download at ODFW and Eugene, Cascades & Coast websites.

For more details about the new guide and other fishing information on Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations, licenses, recreation reports and stocking schedules, contact the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

JD: As someone who has spent quite a bit of time fishing Lane County in Oregon, I’ll be the first to tell you it’s a bit of a sleeper as far as good fishing is concerned.

The broodstock programs that have been implemented so far have produced excellent results like this dandy fish for Dan, Justin and Ed. 

 Steelhead Collection for Mad River Fish Hatchery
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) trained 21 anglers at Mad River Fish Hatchery to aid in the collection of wild-origin steelhead from the Mad River. These anglers, called Mad River Steelhead Stewards, have volunteered their time to help the hatchery meet its annual production goals.

CDFW’s Hatchery and Genetic Management Plan (HGMP) for the Mad River Fish Hatchery requires more wild steelhead be used during spawning operations so that the genetic makeup of hatchery steelhead is closer to that of the Mad River wild steelhead. The hatchery’s genetic management goal is to utilize 50-67 percent wild-origin steelhead in breeding program. Last year, the number of wild-origin fish available was insufficient and resulted in the rearing of only 40,000 steelhead smolts. Historically, the hatchery has released approximately 150,000 steelhead smolts annually.

“We are looking for new and innovative ways to increase the wild-origin segment of our hatchery steelhead spawning population,” said Philip Bairrington, a senior environmental scientist with CDFW’s Anadromous Fisheries Resource Assessment and Monitoring Program, and one of the lead scientists involved in development of the Mad River Fish Hatchery’s HGMP. “Last year we tried seining, but that effort didn’t produce enough wild-origin steelhead broodstock for the hatchery’s needs. Our hope is that the participation of trained volunteer anglers—many of whom have been fishing this river for years, and are extremely successful—will greatly increase our chances of meeting our goals.”

Hatchery staff taught the volunteers how to distinguish between wild-origin and hatchery steelhead and how to keep the handling of the fish to a minimum. Upon the capture of a wild adult steelhead, the Stewards will call hatchery personnel or CDFW fisheries staff, who will determine if the fish will be released or processed.

Though a volunteer angling program of this scope has never been implemented in California, similar programs have been in place in Oregon for some time.

Each volunteer Steward signed a three-month agreement. Stewards are expected to follow all sportfishing regulations and will carry their CDFW authorization at all times while fishing. If the program is successful, CDFW may recruit additional volunteers in the future.

JD: As someone who’s participated in broodstock programs and seen how successful they are with angler participation, I’m excited for the Mad River’s future. It’s going to be bright.

The Owens River isn’t big to begin with and can use as much water as it’s allowed. What it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in beauty.

 Permanent Flows Ordered to Restore Owens River Gorge



After decades of court proceedings, the Owens River Gorge has begun to receive additional water to help restore historic fish populations and increase fishing opportunities.

The Mono County Superior Court recently approved an agreement between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mono County and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power that will govern Owens River flows in the 19-mile reach between Crowley Lake and Pleasant Valley Reservoir. The agreement will not affect Crowley Lake for recreation and water storage. The new flows have already begun and will be fully phased in over a three-year period.

The Owens River Gorge was once known as one of the best brown trout fisheries in California. The fishery was eliminated by a system of hydroelectric power plants which did not provide bypass fish flows. Under the court order, restoration of higher flows and seasonal flow variation will breathe new life into the lower 10 miles of the gorge by expanding habitat for brown trout, scouring sediments that currently choke the pools and gravels, and promoting the establishment of riparian forest. Flows in the upper gorge below Crowley Dam will remain unchanged in the foreseeable future to protect Owens’ tui chubs, a native endangered fish.

Implementation of these new flows is a culmination of decades of scientific studies and negotiations. The settlement was influenced by and reflects recent developments in public trust law, especially deriving from the historic Mono Lake decision. In a time when fishing access is at a premium, this is great news for California anglers and anyone who enjoys the outdoors.


JD: Who would have thought fish need water to survive?! Good to see flow returning to the Owens River. Hopefully the fish will flourish now that they have a little more water to live in.

Hopefully under Melcher, Oregon will remain one of the most wild and senic places in America and the fishing opportunities will only get better.

 ODFW Gets Melcher as New Director
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has chosen Curt Melcher to be the next director for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The decision was announced during the Commission’s regular meeting in Salem. Melcher has served as ODFW Interim Director since September 2014.

Commission Chair Mike Finley and Melcher will meet to discuss the terms of his employment later this month.

Melcher was among three finalists being considered for the position following a national search for candidates. The other finalists were Edward Bowles, Fish Division Administrator, ODFW; and Krystyna Wolniakowski, former Director, Western Partnership Office, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“We are very pleased at the prospect of having Curt as the new director and are confident he is the right person to lead this premiere fish and wildlife agency,” said Mike Finley.

The public was invited to attend a question and answer session with the finalists. A representative sampling of the questions were selected by the Department of Administrative Services, and the same questions were then asked of each of the candidates.

As director, Melcher would report to the Commission and manage a department with more than 1,100 employees, and a biennial operating budget of $345 million.

Melcher is a native Oregonian, who graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. degree in Biology. He has devoted 28 years of his career to the protection and management of Oregon’s fish and wildlife. Melcher has served as the Deputy Director for ODFW, accountable for all Fish and Wildlife programs leading over 1,100 employees. He was appointed the Interim Director in September 2014.

“I’m excited and humbled at the thought of this opportunity,” Melcher said. “It would be a great honor to lead the dedicated, professional staff at an agency that has so much to offer the State of Oregon.”

Additional background on Melcher can be found on the ODFW website at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/docs/ODFW_Director_Candidates.pdf.

Melcher would replace Roy Elicker, who retired in September 2014 after serving seven years on the job.

JD: I don’t know much about Melcher, but I’m surprised they didn’t go with Ed Bowles. Hopefully they made the right call. We’ll have to see what happens.

WDFW’s new director has his work cut out for him. Hopefully Washington will continue to have excellent wild fishing opportunities as well as harvestable hatchery fish like this chunky coho displayed by guide Jared Cady. 

 Commission Selects Unsworth as New Director of WDFW
 
Dr. Jim Unsworth, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, was chosen as the new head of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to select Unsworth after interviewing eight candidates for the director’s position in December and narrowing the field to four finalists. The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW, announced its decision at a public meeting Jan. 9-10 in Tumwater.

Unsworth, who will replace Phil Anderson, formally accepted the job.

Commissioners said they sought a visionary leader with a strong conservation ethic, sound fiscal-management skills and the expertise to work collaboratively with the commission and the department’s constituents.

“After a thorough nationwide search, we’re confident Jim is the right person to guide the department through the many challenges that lie ahead,” said Miranda Wecker, chair of the commission. “His solid understanding of natural resource issues and strong leadership skills will be invaluable in the department’s effort to manage and protect the fish and wildlife resources that are so important to the people of this state.”

As director, Unsworth will report to the commission and manage a department with more than 1,600 employees, and a biennial operating budget of $376 million. His annual salary will be $146,500.

Unsworth, age 57, has spent more than 30 years in wildlife management with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and has served as deputy director for the agency since 2008. He previously held several management positions for the department, including wildlife bureau chief and state big-game manager.

Unsworth holds a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from the University of Idaho, a master’s degree in fish and wildlife management from Montana State University and a doctorate in forestry, wildlife and range sciences from the University of Idaho.

“I’m thrilled at this opportunity,” Unsworth said. “I look forward to taking on the many exciting challenges that come with managing fish and wildlife in the State of Washington.”

Unsworth and his wife Michele have four adult children. He is an avid hunter and fisher.

Unsworth will replace Anderson, who announced in August he was resigning from his position at the end of 2014. At the commission’s request, he has since agreed to stay on as the head of the agency until a new director is in place.

“Phil’s enormous dedication to managing Washington’s fish and wildlife will truly be missed,” Wecker said. “As director, he was a tireless worker who successfully guided the department through one of the most difficult times in the history of this state. Under his leadership and with his support, the department made important progress in meeting some very challenging issues. We are extremely grateful for his service and all the contributions he made during his career at WDFW.”

Wecker said a statement of appreciation for Anderson will be posted on the commission’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/.

JD: Let’s just hope someone that went to Montana State hundreds of miles from the ocean and has his education in forestry will figure out what it’s going to take to keep Washington’s wild salmon and steelhead populations healthy while keeping sport and commercial fishermen in the money. Good luck Mr. Unsworth. We’re rooting for you.

 Warm Ocean Temps Impact Salmon Runs
“Right now it’s super warm all the way across the Pacific to Japan,” said Bill Peterson, an oceanographer with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Oregon, who has linked certain ocean indicators to salmon returns. “For a scientist it’s a very interesting time because when you see something like this that’s totally new you have opportunities to learn things you were never expecting.”

Not since records began has the region of the North Pacific Ocean been so warm for so long. The warm expanse has been characterized by sea surface temperatures as much as 3°C (about 5.4°F) higher than average, lasting for months, and appears on large-scale temperature maps as a red-orange mass of warm water many hundreds of miles across. Nick Bond of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington earlier this summer nicknamed it “the blob.”

Indeed, there are three warm zones, said Nate Mantua, leader of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center Landscape Ecology Team: The big blob dominating the Gulf of Alaska, a more recent expanse of exceptionally warm water in the Bering Sea and one that emerged off Southern California earlier this year. One exception to the warmth is a narrow strip of cold water along the Pacific Northwest Coast fed by upwelling from the deep ocean.

The situation does not match recognized patterns in ocean conditions such as El Niño Southern Oscillation or Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which are known to affect marine food webs.

One possibility is that the PDO, a long-lived El Niño-like pattern, is shifting from an extended cold period dating to the late 1990s to a warm phase, said Toby Garfield, director of the SWFSC Environmental Research Division. Mantua said the PDO may have tipped into a warm state as early as January of this year.

But both scientists noted that the observed warm temperatures are higher and cover more of the northern Pacific than the PDO typically affects. For all but the Gulf of Alaska, the warm waters appear to lie in a relatively shallow layer near the surface. The cold near-shore conditions in the Pacific Northwest also don’t match the typical PDO pattern.

Warm ocean temperatures favor some species but not others. For instance, sardines and albacore tuna often thrive in warmer conditions. Pacific Coast salmon and steelhead rely on cold-water nutrients, which they may have found recently in the narrow margin of cold water along the Northwest coast. But if the warmth continues or expands, Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead could suffer in coming years.

“If the warming persists for the whole summer and fall, some of the critters that do well in a colder, more productive ocean could suffer reduced growth, poor reproductive success and population declines,” Mantua said. “This has happened to marine mammals, sea birds and Pacific salmon in the past. At the same time, species that do well in warmer conditions may experience increased growth, survival and abundance.”

Peterson recently advised the Northwest Power and Conservation Council that juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating from the Columbia River to the ocean this year and next may experience poor survival.

“The signs for salmon aren’t good based on our experience in the past,” Peterson said, “but we won’t really see the signal from this until those fish return in a few years.”

The warm expanse in the Gulf of Alaska is a kind of climatic “hangover” from the same persistent atmospheric ridge of high pressure believed to have contributed to California’s extreme drought, Bond and Mantua said. The ridge suppressed storms and winds that commonly stir and cool the sea surface.

Other factors created the patch of warm water hugging the Central California Coast south to Baja California. A low-pressure trough between California and Hawaii weakened the winds that typically drive upwelling of deep, cold water along the California Coast. Without those winds, waters off Southern California’s beaches have stayed unusually warm.

NOAA surveys off California in July found jellyfish called “sea nettles” and ocean sunfish, which the warmer waters likely carried closer to shore, Mantua said. Anglers have reported excellent fishing for warm-water species including yellowfin tuna, yellowtail and dorado, also known as mahi-mahi.

Research surveys in the Gulf of Alaska this summer came across species such as pomfret, ocean sunfish, blue shark and thresher shark often associated with warmer water, said Joe Orsi of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Auke Bay Laboratories in Juneau. He said temperatures in the upper 20 meters of water up to 65 kilometers offshore were 0.8° C (about 1.4° F) above normal in both June and July.

The potential arrival of El Niño later this year would likely reinforce the warming and its effects on marine ecosystems, Bond said. NOAA’s National Weather Service estimates a 65 percent chance El Niño will emerge in fall or early winter.

Mantua noted that fall in California generally brings even weaker winds and weaker upwelling, making it likely that the warm waters off Central California will persist and even expand northward regardless of a tropical El Niño.

JD: I’m certainly not smart enough to understand everything that impacts salmon and steelhead survival while they’re in the ocean, but I hope whatever has impacted the coho and winter steelhead runs last season happens again, because fishing was nothing short of spectacular.

 Commission Adopts New Sportfishing Rules
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted several new sportfishing rules for the mainstem Columbia River, its tributaries and lakes within the basin at a public meeting in Tumwater.

The commission, a citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), also voted to select Jim Unsworth as the department’s director. That action was announced in a previous news release, available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/jan1015a/ .

Thirty-one rules—which cover fishing seasons, daily catch limits and other regulations—were adopted by the commission. The changes include:

Implementing additional conservation measures in the Columbia River Basin, such as fishing closures at numerous small natal streams and selective gear rules in some waters, to provide greater protection for wild salmon and steelhead.

Requiring catch-and-release fishing for trout from the first Saturday in June through Oct. 31 on the Naches River from Rattlesnake Creek upstream.

Prohibiting the retention of sturgeon on the Snake River and its tributaries. Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing would be maintained.

Adjusting size and daily catch limits for kokanee in Cle Elum Lake, while removing daily limits for eastern brook, brown, and lake trout.

JD: Just a few updates for Washington anglers. Take a look at the WDFW website for other new regulations.

Figuring out where our fish are being harvested in the ocean could easily influence commercial allocations which hopefully will put more chinook in sport fishermen’s hands. 

 WDFW Works with Upper Columbia River Communities to Highlight Recreation Opportunities in the Okanogan  Recreational opportunities abound through the fall and winter in the Okanogan region, and leaders from Brewster, Bridgeport and Pateros are promoting them in partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In the aftermath of last summer’s Carlton Complex wildfire, leaders from WDFW and the three neighboring towns—located along the upper Columbia River north of Wenatchee—agreed to work together to counter the tourism slowdown that followed news reports of the fire.

“Outdoor recreation is a vital part of the north central Washington economy,” said Jim Brown, WDFW’s regional director. “We are very pleased to support these communities’ efforts to bring tourists back to the area.”

The initiative complements a marketing campaign to promote tourism throughout Okanogan County that began in mid-September. That effort, funded by a $150,000 grant from Gov. Jay Inslee’s strategic reserve account, is being coordinated by the Economic Alliance of Okanogan County.

Brown said WDFW and the three cities are reinforcing the tourism messages through news releases, social media posts, and other online content. Efforts will include promotions and advertising designed to complement the “Open for Adventure” theme used in the state-funded marketing initiative.

The campaign is also receiving support from Dave Graybill, the “Fishin’ Magician,” whose radio and newspaper reports highlight fishing opportunities throughout central Washington, and from John Kruse, whose “Northwestern Outdoors Radio” show is carried on more than 50 stations in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana.

Sabrina O’Connell, treasurer of the Brewster Chamber of Commerce, said people who visit Okanogan Country only in the summer are missing some memorable experiences.

“Brewster is famous for our summer sockeye run, but fishing and hunting are great family activities throughout the fall and winter,” she said. “Our family often fishes for steelhead right through the winter.”

North central Washington is a huge area, and most of it was untouched by fire, said Virgil Yancey of Yancey’s Pateros Hardware, who sells fishing and hunting licenses and provides visitors with wide-ranging information about recreation opportunities. “Fall and winter offer a great variety of hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing,” he said. “There’s something for everyone in this part of the state.”

Judy Brown, Bridgeport city clerk/treasurer, said her Douglas County community, just downstream from Chief Joseph Dam, draws visitors from throughout the Northwest. “This is a great time to visit us,” she said, adding that the city-owned RV campground is ideal for those who want to be close to the Columbia River.

Jim Brown of WDFW said the department promotes recreation-related tourism throughout the state and works closely with the Washington Tourism Alliance and local visitor information centers. The department’s recent efforts have focused on recreational razor clamming on the Washington coast and seasonal statewide promotions, such as the Fall Into Fishing campaign. Last year, the department launched the “Great Getaways” website http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/vacation/ to promote family-oriented fishing vacations throughout the state.

“Promoting outdoor recreation is an important part of WDFW’s mission, so focusing on opportunities in north central Washington made especially good sense in the wake of last summer’s wildfires,” he said.

Extensive information about fall and winter recreation opportunities in the region is available from the Okanogan County Tourism Council at http://www.okanogancountry.com requirements and regulations is available from the WDFW at http://wdfw.wa.gov. JD: If you haven’t experienced what the upper Columbia River and the Okanogan region has to offer, do your best to spend some time there as soon as you can. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth and the fishing can be downright spectacular.  Some of the Largest Fish Anglers Will See All Year Have Been Released Into Two Popular Willamette Valley Fishing Holes  ODFW’s Roaring River hatchery released 90 steelhead-sized rainbow trout into both Junction City Pond and St. Louis Pond #6. In addition to the brood stock, Junction City Pond will also receive 50 hatchery steelhead.

Weighing in at 8-15 pounds apiece, “brooders” are 3- and 4-year-old trout used to produce the eggs necessary to sustain the hatchery trout program. At age four they reach what hatchery managers consider the point of diminishing returns. So they are removed from the hatchery system and taken to local fishing holes to make room for the next generation of brood stock.

This year brood stock will be released at several locations across the Willamette Valley. In addition to Junction City and St. Louis ponds, brood trout releases are planned at Canby Pond, EE Wilson Pond, Henry Hagg Lake, Mt. Hood Pond, Sheridan Pond, Timber Linn Lake, Waverly Lake, Walling Pond, and Walter Wirth Lake.

These are big, beautiful fish that are going to generate a lot of smiles,” said Elise Kelley, ODFW fish biologist in Corvallis. “Our brood-stock stocking program is the highlight of the year for a lot of our anglers.”

The exact dates of the releases are difficult to pinpoint in advance because it depends on when the fish have finished spawning at the hatchery. After they’ve spawned, the fish are distributed to provide opportunity to anglers in as many communities as possible throughout the Willamette Valley.

The releases will be announced in ODFW’s Willamette Zone weekly recreation report, published on Wednesdays, to give everybody an equal chance to get out and catch one of these large fish. The Willamette Zone Recreation Report is available at ODFW’s website at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/RR/willamette/index.asp.

ODFW releases more than 6 million legal-size or larger trout every year in more than 300 locations around the state. JD: What could be more fun for fishermen with a youngster getting into fishing than lakes full of fat trout and big steelhead? What a great opportunity for fishermen in the Willamette Valley!  Scientists Up Their Ability to Track Salmon Through DNA “Fin-Printing”   A partnership between the University of Washington and Alaska Department of Fish and Game has yielded a major breakthrough in DNA “fin-printing” last spring, improving the ability to conserve diminishing stocks of chinook salmon. Implementing the new technique will allow scientists and managers to track specific stocks, helping to ensure that no specific stock is overharvested. The results have been published in the journals Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences and Evolutionary Applications.

This discovery is timely in that some stocks of chinook from California to Washington are listed as threatened or endangered, and chinook salmon in western Alaska have experienced precipitous declines during the past decade. The declines in western Alaska triggered painful restrictions to commercial and subsistence fisheries producing social and economic hardship throughout the region. Increasing the tools available to better manage stocks may help avoid some of these hardships in the future.

Prior to this study, chinook salmon from western Alaska had been difficult to distinguish from one another using DNA because they are closely related. “Sometimes you just have to swing a bigger hammer to solve a problem like this,” said Dr. James Seeb, who led the University of Washington team that solved this problem. They employed innovative genetic techniques that were previously unavailable to screen billions of DNA sequences to discover better markers to help distinguish the various stocks. Scientists have tested these new markers and found they can now distinguish three major groups of fish from western Alaska, a huge improvement that will aid efforts to understand declines in some populations.

Alaska has used DNA markers to track specific salmon stocks and estimate harvests with great success. “This is CSI on steroids,” said Bill Templin, director of the Alaska program, referring to the popular television drama. “Each year we analyze 10,000s of fish, using DNA markers, to identify the origins of migrating salmon.” These data provide managers with the ability to manage fisheries that harvest multiple stocks while ensuring that no stock is harvested too heavily. These same techniques are also used to identify international harvest of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska stocks as a part of the Pacific Salmon Treaty process.

In response to the recent declines in Alaska, Alaska Department of Fish and Game developed the Chinook Salmon Research Initiative, a program developed to address the decline in salmon. Its aim is to better understand productivity and abundance trends of specific stocks. A major tool of the research plan involves ADF&G Commercial Fisheries Press Release: Scientists up their ability to track salmon using DNA to track indicator stocks of chinook salmon across their various life history stages. The results reported here provide a huge improvement in DNA technology that will help the Initiative efforts to understand declines in some populations.

The team is building on this success and continuing efforts to increase resolution of stock structure. Scientists from Russia and Japan are collaborating as well, providing samples of chinook salmon collected from the eastern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Through these efforts, Alaska will be better able to trace and monitor salmon stocks through their oceanic migrations and determine the contribution of stocks caught unintentionally in distant fisheries.

This work was initiated by a $4.1 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Substantial additional funds were provided by the State of Alaska, Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, and NOAA Sea Grant. JD: If fin-printing is someday used to show how many of the lower 48’s chinook get killed off the Gulf of Alaska, it might give the lobbyists a foothold to finally get the harvest reduced on our fish before they have a chance to make it home.

 Fish are the most vulnerable when rivers are at their lowest and clearest.

  WDFW Updates Hydraulic Codes to Protect Fish

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has adopted a comprehensive update to the state’s Hydraulic Code rules, which regulate construction projects and other work in or near state waters to protect fish life.

The commission, a citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved dozens of changes in the statewide rules during a public meeting Nov. 7-8 in Olympia. The revised rules were developed by WDFW over the past three years with extensive public review.

Common projects requiring approval under the state’s hydraulic rules include work on bulkheads, culverts, piers and docks.

Miranda Wecker, who chairs the commission, said the revised hydraulic code rules reflect developments in environmental science, technology, and state law since the last comprehensive update in 1994.

“Much has changed over the past 20 years in the field of fish and shellfish conservation,” Wecker said. “The rules approved today will protect those important resources and reflect the department’s efforts to streamline the application process for permits required to conduct work in and around state waters.”

Some of the rules proposed by WDFW set new standards for projects ranging from culvert design to decking materials that allow light to penetrate to the water below. Others clarify existing policies, including a statewide ban on the use of creosote in aquatic areas.

Before the commission took action on the new rules, Wecker expressed appreciation to the hundreds of people who provided suggestions on earlier drafts.

“These rules are better—and more clearly stated—thanks to the comments the department received during the public comment process,” she said.

In other business, the commission approved two land transactions, including the purchase of 2,005 acres of riparian and high meadow lands in Asotin County. WDFW’s plan to acquire that land is part of a multi-phased plan to expand the department’s Chief Joseph Wildlife Area and preserve critical habitat for threatened salmon, steelhead and trout, as well as deer, bighorn sheep and elk.

The property, currently owned by 4-O Land & Livestock, LLC, includes a mile-long section of the Grande Ronde River and stretches 1.5 miles on either side of Wenatchee Creek. WDFW has secured state and federal funds to purchase the property, which has been appraised at $3.6 million.

The commission also approved the transfer of 54 acres of land west of Darrington to the Stillaguamish Tribe, which conducts a monitoring program for coho salmon at the site. WDFW has not actively managed the land, known as Fortson Ponds, in the last 10 years. The tribe will assume obligations under the original state grant funding to continue the coho program and maintain public access.

JD: It’s easy to overlook small riverside projects, but if enough small projects are done without proper guidelines enforced, it would lead to much bigger problems for rivers and their fish.

Trees and bushes lining riverbanks are a lot healthier than gravel roads.

  600 Trees Planted to Help Repair Habitat

In October, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, and the Mid Coast Watersheds Council will place nearly 600 large plantation trees via helicopter in 9 miles of stream and in 46 acres of tidal channels and marshes in order to provide better habitat for salmon, trout, marine/forage fish and wildlife species, said Stacy Polkowske, ODFW habitat restoration biologist.

In addition, 3,000 willows stakes and 400 native trees and shrubs will be planted along the streams and in wetlands later this winter. As these trees and shrubs mature they will provide shade and, eventually, additional woody material in the stream channel.

According to Polkowske, past land-use practices have altered the natural processes that would have contributed wood material to the streams and estuaries. As a result, there is little woody material and the other in-stream complexities that would provide fish and wildlife with essential habitat for rearing, spawning and feeding.

This comprehensive, multi-location large-wood placement project includes Wright Creek, Poole Slough, Mill Creek sub-basins (Lower Yaquina), and North Fork Beaver and Peterson sub-basins in the Beaver Creek Watershed. Planting and invasive species control of riparian vegetation is also planned in the Wright Creek sub-basin.

“By taking a multi-watershed approach and working with many partners, we can accomplish an on-the-ground habitat restoration project that is ecologically significant and financially efficient,” Polkowske said.

The project is a cooperative effort funded and supported by: Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, U.S. Forest Service, The Wetland Conservancy, Oregon Department of Transportation, Eric Weiss, Joe Hitselberger, Fred van Eck Forest Trust (managed by Pacific Forest Trust and Trout Mountain Forestry), Plum Creek Timberlands, Oregon Department of State Lands, City of Toledo, Mid Coast Watersheds Council, multiple local contractors, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This cooperation is a hallmark of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, Coastal Coho Conservation Plan, and the Oregon Conservation Strategy, which bring together a wide range of public and private partners to promote the recovery of vulnerable fish and wildlife populations.

JD: Projects to repair or restore habitat are paramount if we have any hopes of sustaining healthy wild-fish populations. Removing hatchery fish isn’t going to do the trick. Healthy habitat might.

  ODFW Rescues Trapped Deschutes Trout  

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will conduct a fish rescue and relocation operation on the Upper Deschutes River at Lava Island Falls the week of October 20. Fishery biologists from ODFW, along with staff and volunteers from several governmental, conservation and fishing organizations, will try to save stranded fish by moving them from shallow, isolated pools near the falls to the main channel of the Deschutes River.

Redband trout, brown trout, mountain whitefish and sculpin will be captured and relocated to the upstream main channel. ODFW will have several biologists and technicians onsite as well as volunteers during the one- or two-day operation.

“The extent of the one-mile Lava Island side channel fish rescue and relocation is daunting,” said Brett Hodgson, ODFW District Fish Biologist. “We will capture as many fish as we can with nets, seines and electrofishing units, if necessary, but it is impossible to rescue all of them.”

Some of the areas where fish may be stranded are up to a half mile from where they can be safely released back into the Deschutes River channel. The captured fish will be placed in five-gallon buckets of water equipped with small battery-operated aerators to help provide the fish oxygen until they are released. The buckets will be hand carried up or down the Deschutes River trail to the point of release by the cadre of volunteers.

“The personal safety of all those involved in the rescue and relocation effort (community volunteers and agency staff) is paramount,” Hodgson said. “Our goal is to save as many fish as possible; however, hauling five-gallons buckets filled with water and fish over rough terrain poses a certain amount of risk for all those involved.”

What may help to reduce the numbers of stranded fish is an experimental plan developed by local irrigation districts and the Bureau of Reclamation. The plan calls for a slower draw down of water levels in the river—over 12 days rather than the usual 2-3 days—in hopes more fish may be able to find refuge in the main channel before getting stranded in isolated pools.

“While hopeful this experiment will minimize the fish stranding issue, ODFW stresses the need for a long-term solution to the water-management issues on the upper Deschutes River,” Hodgson said. “We view this as a water-management issue, not a fish-management issue.”

Of concern for ODFW is that current water-management results in much higher summer flows and lower winter flows than were historically present. Natural flow at the Lava Island site was stable at approximately 1,000 cfs per second; under current water management, flows fluctuate between 2,000 cfs per second in summer and 300 cfs in winter. This limits the river’s ability to support a healthy trout population. While fish stranded in the side channel are the most visible symptom of low winter flows, the reduced winter flows impacts the trout population in the entire 55-mile reach of the Deschutes River from Wickiup downstream to Bend.

“Until there is a long-term water-management strategy that ensures sufficient winter river flows, the fish face more die-offs into the future,” Hodgson said.

The operation is aimed at avoiding a repeat of the 2013 water draw-down event that killed hundreds of fish stranded in a side channel of the Deschutes River near south of Bend. ODFW staff also will collect data on the species, size and number of fish that are rescued.

“We hope to safely move as many fish as possible to the river’s main channel and keep mortality to a minimum,” said Hodgson. “That being said, there will be fish that won’t survive these efforts.”

Last year, approximately 450 redband and brown trout, and hundreds of whitefish and sculpin, died when falling water levels left them stranded in the natural lava side channel, which normally has water only during higher flows. ODFW staff and volunteers were able to rescue about 750 trout.

This year’s effort will come just as water levels reach minimum levels. Helping ODFW with the rescue and relocation operation will be staff and volunteers from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local fishing clubs.

“We greatly appreciate the number of people and organizations that are offering to put boots on the ground to help protect fish populations in the Deschutes River,” Hodgson said.

Editor’s note: About 50 agency staff and voluteers were able to save thousands of trout, white fish and sculpin. The fish were first electroshocked and then transported in 5-gallon buckets to the main Deschutes River from the cut-off side channel. This information was provided by Lisa Hansen and the Flyfisher’s Club of Oregon.

JD: It’s nice to see people being reactive and helping get these fish back in the water, but this problem needs a proactive solution which includes not drawing so much water so fast in the first place.

Apparently there’s an unwritten rule on the Siuslaw that when a compromise can’t be reached, it’s time to start shooting Minn Kotas.

Illegal Gill Net Captain Caught in Astoria
Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife troopers cited an Astoria man on several commercial-fish-related charges after seizing 748 pounds of illegally caught chinook salmon on the Columbia River near the Willamette River. Troopers also seized an illegal 1,200-foot gillnet used to catch the fish.

On August 28, 2014, two OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers on nighttime boat patrol were conducting compliance checks on commercial gillnet fishermen on the Columbia River near the Willamette River. During the boat patrol the troopers were checking fishermen for proper licensing, gear and caught fish, and many commercial fishermen were found in compliance.

At approximately 10:30 p.m., the troopers checked a boat belonging to Duffy Duncan, age 66, from Astoria. While checking to ensure he was gillnetting in compliance with rules and regulations, the troopers determined his net mesh size was illegal and he was in possession of 44 chinook salmon caught in the unlawful net.

The troopers seized the 1,200-foot illegal net and all of the salmon that weighed 748 pounds. Duncan was issued citations for Commercial Fishing Prohibited Method (Mesh Size) and Unlawful Take/Possession of Commercially Caught Salmon (44 counts)

The seized salmon was delivered to a wholesale fish dealer and sold at the going rate of $2 per pound. The proceeds will go to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.

   WDFW, RMEF and CCC Secure 2,893 Acres of Critical Habitat
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has partnered with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, and Washington Department of Ecology to secure 2,893 acres of critical wildlife habitat 15 miles northwest of Yakima.

“Conservation of key fish and wildlife habitat and securing public access are top priorities for the Department, and working with our partners is essential to achieving those goals,” said Mike Livingston, WDFW south central regional director.

The two land parcels serve as habitat to a variety of wildlife and as an important connection between summer and winter range for the Yakima elk herd and have been used historically for grazing. The properties will be managed as part of WDFW’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation negotiated the deal with the landowner and paid for half of the cost of the land appraisal.

“We need to recognize and thank the private owners, the Tieton Cattle Association, which kept the native grasses and forbs in great condition while grazing their cattle on this same land during the summer,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of lands and conservation.

The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy paid the other half of the appraisal and will manage the grazing on the property through a grazing easement.

“It’s not often you get to protect nearly 3,000 acres of habitat and also protect a sustainable historic grazing operation that produces locally sourced grass-fed beef,” says Betsy Bloomfield, executive director of the conservancy. “The combination of habitat and recreation protection with a cultural legacy makes this a wonderful project, secured by the collaboration among great partners.”

The cost of the acquisition was $1.55 million. DOE and the Kennewick Irrigation District provided the funding to acquire the land to mitigate for the loss of shrub-steppe habitat that was converted to agricultural land. Funds also came from the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan through DOE.

“It’s gratifying that the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan partners are so focused on implementing the Plan and are bringing outside resources to achieve our goals,” said Derek Sandison, DOE’s director of the Office of Columbia River. “This project is a great example of implementing what we said we would do in the plan and working closely with community values and partners regarding how the plan is implemented.”

JD: I feel like money used to purchase land is a hell of a lot better than money spent years down the road to restore the same habitat.

  Man Arrested After Shooting Boat Motor on Siuslaw River
Oregon State Police are seeking additional witnesses following the arrest of an 81-year-old man who fired a shotgun at a boat in the 6000 block of Highway 126 east of Florence along the Siuslaw River.

On September 8, 2014 at approximately 1:32 p.m., two OSP troopers, a Lane County Sheriff’s Office deputy, and an officer from Confederate Tribes of Coos Lower Umpqua Siuslaw Indians Police Department responded to a reported menacing at 67500 Highway 126 near Milepost 3. Initial investigation indicated that two men had boat trouble as they were in the Siuslaw River and rowed to a dock where they secured their aluminum drift boat. One of the men remained with the boat as the other walked to get a new battery.

After returning with their vehicle and trailer, the men loaded the boat and were getting ready to leave when the property owner, Eldon Nordahl, age 81, arrived on his boat and approached the men. After telling them not to leave, Nordhal went into his home and came out with a shotgun, firing one shot that penetrated the boat’s hull. As he was reloading, the men got in their vehicle and began driving away when a second round was fired, hitting the boat’s engine.

Subsequent to the investigation, OSP arrested Nordhal for Menacing, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Unlawful Use of a Weapon, and Pointing a Firearm at a Person. A shotgun, rifle and ammunition were seized for evidence.

OSP troopers reported seeing several people in the river near the incident site that may have been witnesses. Any witnesses are asked to call OSP Northern Command Center dispatch at 800-452-7888 to leave a message for contact from lead investigator, Recruit Trooper Candyce Fiddy.

JD: I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry! I’m telling you, salmon fishing brings out the worst in people, including landowners that don’t even fish. Sometimes people should look at the big picture and not worry about the small things like a few guys tying up to your dock because they’re in trouble. Other times you have to shoot their motor. The hard part is knowing when to do what.

Small pull-cord-style life jackets are a lot better than nothing, because no matter how beautiful they are, no fish is worth someone’s life.

   Life-Jacket Code Scheme to Change to Eliminate Confusion
In a move that’s expected to benefit recreational boaters, on Oct. 22 the US Coast Guard will drop the current life jacket type code scheme—Type I, II, III, IV and V—that has been used for years to label and differentiate the types of life jackets and their specific use. Chris Edmonston, BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety President and Chairman of the National Safe Boating Council, said, “The boating safety community believes this move by the Coast Guard will help lead the way toward more comfortable and innovative life-jacket designs, help boaters stay on the right side of the law, lower costs, and save lives.”

Explains Edmonston, “This is positive news in that we will no longer see a Type I, II, III, IV or V label on a new life-jacket label after Oct. 22. This type coding was unique to the United States, tended to confuse boaters, limited choice and increased the cost of life jackets.” He says removing the type coding is a first step towards the adoption of new standards that will eventually simplify life-jacket requirements for recreational boaters.

“This move is expected to lead to the introduction of new life-jacket designs, especially those made in other countries as US standards will be more ‘harmonized,’ initially with Canada and eventually the European Union,” said Edmonston. “Along with a wider variety, aligning our standards with those of our neighbor to the north and across the Atlantic will help reduce prices as manufacturers won’t have to make products unique to the US market.”

However, Edmonston cautions, boaters must still abide by the current standards when using older life jackets marked with the Type I-V labeling, as they will remain legal for use. “We must continue to have a properly fitted life jacket for all aboard, and as always, you’ll need to follow the label’s instructions regardless of when it was made. Simply put, if you follow the label, you’re following the law.” A full list of the current life-jacket types and descriptions can be found at BoatUS.org/life-jackets, and any updates on new life-jacket types and styles will be posted there when available.

In additional effort to help change the mindset of what a life jacket must look like, The BoatUS Foundation, the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturers Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, recently kicked off an “Innovations in Life Jacket Design Competition” to seek out the newest technologies and design ideas. Running through April 15, 2015, the contest seeks entries from groups or individuals, including collegiate design programs, armchair inventors or even boat and fishing clubs. Entries may be as simple as hand-drawn theoretical designs to working prototypes and will be judged based on four criteria: wearability, reliability, cost and innovation. For more, go to BoatUS.org/design.

JD: It’s good to see some forward thinking in life-jacket design. Let’s face it, if it’s cumbersome or uncomfortable, fishermen and boaters won’t wear them. If we can find something that is easier to wear, at least it will be worn and offer some protection instead of sitting in the hull of the boat.

This giant hatchery winter steelhead was caught in mid April and is a perfect example of why broodstock programs work and we should be looking to change environmental barriers to wild fish as opposed to looking to abolish hatcheries. 

Hatchery Reduced Fitness Causes Undetermined
Hatcheries are commonly used throughout the Pacific Northwest to help provide salmon for harvest, mitigate for lost and degraded habitat, and to conserve endangered and threatened wild salmon populations. Over 5 billion juvenile hatchery salmon are released into the North Pacific Ocean each year and a large number of the returning adults spawn in the wild, often with wild fish.

Scientists know that hatchery fish that interact with wild fish can pose genetic and ecological risks to wild salmon recovery, such as increased competition and reduced fitness—the ability of a fish to survive and reproduce.

It is already well established that hatchery fish that have been more “domesticated” (i.e., adapted to captivity over multiple generations) or that are bred from non-local broodstock (i.e., parents) have a much lower spawning success in natural streams compared to their wild counterparts. Both genetic and environmental factors play a role in why this occurs, although their relative contribution isn’t always clear.

In response, many hatcheries have moved toward breeding fish from local- and wild-origin parents. What is still controversial, however, is whether such hatcheries can do a better job of producing offspring that match the reproductive success of wild fish.

In a new study published last summer, scientists from Oregon State University and the NWFSC collaborated to conduct a review of the recent literature to determine just that.

After looking at over 50 estimates of reproductive success from 6 case studies on 4 species of salmon, the researchers found that even hatcheries using local or predominantly wild-origin parents produced fish with only half the reproductive success, on average, of their wild counterparts when both types of fish return to spawn in the wild environment.

Of those hatchery fish, the effect was more severe for males than females, perhaps due to those males returning to spawn at younger ages than wild males or to greater competition for mates among males than females. Some reduced fitness due to hatchery rearing was also evident across all study species, locations, hatchery practices, and geographic locations.

“One important finding of this study is how consistent the results were across different systems. There has been a tendency to view each study’s results in isolation, but when you combine them all together the pattern of reduced reproductive success across all the studies is pretty clear,” said Michael Ford, co-author of the study and director the NWFSC’s Conservation Biology Division.

One key uncertainty which remains is what exactly is causing reduced fitness of hatchery fish. The study found that in some systems, such as Hood River steelhead, there is clear evidence for genetic effects. Other studies however, such as Wenatchee River chinook and Umpqua River coho, could not find evidence of genetic effects, and in some cases found that environmental factors such as differences in spawning location were largely responsible for reduced hatchery fish fitness. Different causes of reduced fitness could have very different implications for the degree of risk posed by hatchery supplementation.

“In the near future, it will be important to conduct more detailed studies focusing on the genetic, epigenetic, and environmental determinants of individual fish fitness,” said Ford.

JD: The study doesn’t show why there’s a reduced fitness in hatchery fish versus wild fish, but it does show that it’s not strictly genetics and in a few cases can be proven it’s NOT genetics. It would be nice if these groups trying to abolish hatchery salmon and steelhead would concentrate their efforts on other factors that limit hatchery AND wild fish instead of this ongoing hatchery witch hunt.

 California Releases Joint Restoration Program
NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) jointly released two plans to restore populations of salmon and steelhead in California’s Central Valley: NOAA Fisheries’ Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan and CDFW’s Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) Conservation Strategy.

The two plans are complementary in that CDFW’s conservation strategy presents a broader framework for restoring aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems throughout the Central Valley, while the federal recovery plan focuses on the recovery of endangered Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley spring-run chinook salmon, and threatened Central Valley steelhead.

A shared goal of both plans is to remove these species from federal and state lists of endangered and threatened species. The recovery plan provides a detailed road map for how to reach that goal. It lays out a science-based strategy for recovery and identifies the actions necessary to restore healthy salmon and steelhead populations to the Central Valley.

“Establishing clear priority watersheds, fish populations and actions is essential to achieve recovery,” said Maria Rea, NOAA Fisheries Assistant Regional Administrator for California’s Central Valley Office. “Implementation of this plan will depend on many parties working collaboratively to pool resources, expertise and programs to recover Chinook salmon and steelhead populations that are part of California’s natural heritage.”

Recovery plans required by the Endangered Species Act are guidance documents, not regulatory requirements, and their implementation depends on the voluntary cooperation of multiple stakeholders at the local, regional, state and national levels.

“The Sacramento Valley joins together a world-renowned mosaic of natural abundance: productive farmlands, meandering rivers that provide habitat and feed salmon and steelhead, wildlife refuges and managed wetlands, and cities and rural communities,” said David Guy, President of the Northern California Water Association. “The recovery plan is a positive step forward, through efficient management of the region’s water resources, water suppliers throughout the Sacramento Valley will continue to work with our conservation partners to help implement the recovery plan and improve ecological conditions in the Sacramento River for multiple species and habitat values.”

The ERP conservation strategy was developed by CDFW collaboratively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to help guide environmental restoration and establish adaptive management to improve restoration success in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watershed. The approach of conservation strategy is to restore or mimic ecological processes and to improve aquatic and terrestrial habitats to support stable, self-sustaining populations of diverse and valuable species.

“It is critical we make strategic investments in our natural resources,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The funding of these high-priority restoration projects is not only an example of the coordinated effort between state and federal governments, but an example of California’s continued efforts to minimize the effects of drought on fish and wildlife. Central Valley salmon and steelhead deserve nothing less.”

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s 2014-15 budget provided CDFW with $38 million to implement enhanced salmon monitoring, restore sensitive habitat, improve water infrastructure for wildlife refuges, expand the fisheries restoration grant program, and remove barriers for fish passage. Some of that money will be used on projects recommended by the federal recovery plan.

Dick Pool of the Golden Gate Salmon Association said, “We thank and congratulate the scientists of NOAA Fisheries for their outstanding work in developing the Central Valley Recovery Plan. GGSA and the salmon industry particularly appreciate the fact that the plan includes both short-range and long-range actions that can reverse the serious salmon and steelhead population declines. GGSA has identified a number of the same projects as needing priority action. We also commend the agency for its diligent efforts to engage the other fishery agencies, the water agencies and the salmon stakeholders in the process. We look forward to assisting in finding ways to get the critical projects implemented.”

The federal recovery plan and state conservation strategy work together as a blueprint of how at-risk species can be restored to sustainable levels. Restoring healthy, viable salmon and steelhead runs will preserve and enhance the commercial, recreational and cultural opportunities for future generations. As the fish populations grow and recover, so too will the economic benefits and long-term fishing opportunities for everyone.

“The Recovery Plan provides a clear framework to better coordinate and align restoration projects in the Delta, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries to achieve greater conservation outcomes,” said Jay Ziegler, Director of External Affairs and Policy for The Nature Conservancy. “We are pleased to see the integration of multiple habitat values in the Plan including the importance of expanding lateral river movements to enhance floodplain habitat and recognition of the importance of variable flow regimes to benefit multiple species.”

The development of a recovery plan is an important part in the successful rebuilding of a species because it incorporates information from a multitude of interested parties including scientific researchers, stakeholders and the general public. Since 2007, NOAA Fisheries has held 14 public workshops, produced a draft for public comment, and met with strategic stakeholders to guide the plan’s development and ensure a comprehensive and useful document.

CDFW will be investing considerable resources in improving water conservation on public wildlife refuges in the Central Valley and protecting important salmon stocks that contribute to the state’s fishery.

JD: “Establishing clear priority watersheds, fish populations and actions is essential to achieve recovery” Really? Clear Priority? How about giving the fish the water they need to survive so they don’t have to swim in 80-degree bathtubs?

 Stiff Punishment for Selling Urchin
A Southern California man was given a stiff fine this week for a series of commercial fishing violations in Los Angeles County.

Adam Crawford James, 32, of Winnetka was sentenced to three years probation and revocation of all California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) licenses for the duration of his sentence. In addition, he was ordered to pay $7,000 to the Fish and Game Preservation Fund and an additional $3,000 to the city of Santa Monica in fines and penalty assessments.

James pleaded no contest to four Fish and Game Code misdemeanor counts, including the illegal take of fish and invertebrates, the take of sea urchin without a permit, failure to obtain a receiver’s license, selling fish to a person not licensed as a fish receiver and failure to pay landing taxes.

In 2013, CDFW wildlife officers received information from the CalTIP hotline that James was attempting to sell commercially caught fish to restaurants without a receiver’s license. In California, commercial fishermen are permitted to sell their catch directly to restaurants provided they have a receiver’s license.

JD: $10,000 in fines selling sea urchins! Better think twice next time you have grandiose dreams you’re going to make money selling starfish and sand dollars you pick up at low tide.

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