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Snake River biologist updates spring chinook run

FISHING — After Idaho backed off making spring chinook salmon season predictions for lack of run information this week, Washington's Snake River fisheries biologist added his take today.

Glen Mendel of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife notes the spring chinook returns so far at Bonneville Dam and even at Snake River dams are above last year but well below the 10 year average.

Read on for his detailed update and predictions:

Idaho postpones spring chinook season setting

SALMON FISHING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has canceled its meeting set for today to set spring chinook salmon seasons because too few fish have made it over Bonneville Dam to predict the run into Idaho.

Here's the explanation, just received from Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commission was scheduled to meet today to set the spring Chinook Salmon season and limits.  Due to the low number of PIT-tagged fish that have passed over Bonneville Dam (as of April 21, 2013), we felt it was too early to project how many salmon would eventually make it to Idaho.  As a result, this commission meeting was cancelled, and we will likely announce later this week when the commission will reconvene to set the salmon season and limits. 

I have provided the table (above) so you all can view the data we are working with that the will be used to estimate the number of fish that are destined for Idaho and eventually be used to set the Chinook salmon season and limits.  I want you to focus on the last two columns of this table which summarizes how many fish would be available for harvest based on whether the run has an average timing or late timing. 

For a Idaho spring Chinook run that has an average timing, about 30% of the run should have passed over Bonneville Dam by now.  If this run has an average timing, you can see that it will be very weak and we won’t even have enough fish coming to Idaho to meet brood needs.  For an Idaho spring Chinook run that has a late timing, less than 15% of the run should have passed over Bonneville Dam by now which means there will be a lot more to come.  If the run is late, we are projecting there would be enough to have a fishery across the Clearwater Region.  So, as you can see, it didn’t make much sense for the Commission to meet when there is so much uncertainty with how many fish will actually make it to Idaho. 

Let’s all hope that the run is late and there will be enough coming to Idaho to have a fishery. 

Stay tuned for more info to come next week. 

An Idaho Fish and Game Commission teleconference to set 2013 salmon fishing seasons has been rescheduled for April 30.

Alaska sport sport fishers serve seafood teaser at Seattle restaurant on Saturday

FISHING/EATING — You don't have to fly to Alaska to sample a bit of the Hook It, Cook It action I wrote about a few weeks ago. Visit Szmania's Restaurant in Seattle on Saturday (April 20) and taste for yourself.

Hook It, Cook It is a unique event that combines saltwater salmon and halibut fishing out of Sitka followed by a meal each day at the fishing lodge with one of the anglers — a world-class chef. After being on the water fishing with the group each day, Ludger Szmania returns to the lodge in the late afternoon to share his cooking techniques and generous fresh-fish samples while the group watches and sips wine or beer.

This is great event for any angler who relishes eating a fresh catch, but it's a premier activity for couples who share that love.

This weekend, the captain from Angling Unlimited is joining this top Seattle restaurant to give locals a taste of what they're missing if they don't book a spot in the annual May 17-21 Hook It, Cook It event. 

Read on for details.

2013 Washington salmon fishing seasons set

FISHING — Washington’s 2013 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers, were finalized yesterday during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) meeting in Portland.

The regulations cover salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, Washington’s ocean and coastal areas and the Columbia River.

In developing salmon seasons, the first priority for state and tribal fishery managers is to meet conservation goals for wild salmon, said Phil Anderson, WDFW director.

As in past years, recreational salmon fisheries in 2013 will vary by area. Click continue reading for details on the seasons and limits for each of the four areas.

Salmon fishing seminar tonight at Mark’s Marine

FISHING — Mike Cordon of the Adventure Guide Service and Benita Galland will present a free salmon fishing program tonight, 6:30 p.m. for the latest in this year's seminar series at Mark’s Marine, 14355 N. Government Way in Hayden.

The seminar will focus on techniques and their favorite fishing spots and seasons on Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Columbia River system.

The last scheduled seminar at Mark's Marine is April 11, the annual Electronics Seminar presented by Mike Pentony, the Lowrance west coast pro staffer.

They’re back! Sea lions, salmon converge at Bonneville Dam

PREDATORS — It's become an annual spring event. Hungry sea lions follow endangered salmon runs up the Columbia River and feast on them at the bottom of the Bonneville Dam.

If the sea lions are caught in the act, they can be killed by state workers under a court judgment that gives priority to endangered salmon stocks.

 A campaign to stop the killing is becoming an annual tradition as well.

Spring chinook forecast causing Idaho to be conservative

FISHING — Jacks, the overly eager salmon that return from the ocean before they have grown to full size, could be the saving grace of spring chinook fishing on the Clearwater River.

This year’s return of spring chinook to the Clearwater and its tributaries is predicted to be just over the threshold needed to hold a fishing season, write's Eric Barker in the Lewiston Tribune. 

Fisheries managers are expecting the state’s harvest share could be as low as 300 adults. For context, last year the state had a harvest share of about 5,000 adults on the Clearwater.

Because of the low return, biologists are proposing to start with conservative regulations and expand fishing opportunities if the run comes in as strong or stronger than forecasted.

Idaho Fish and Game fishery personnel have set up meetings to present the latest information on this year’s chinook salmon runs and discuss stratgies for managing the runs in the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers.

The meetings begin at 6 a.m. as follows:

  • Lewiston: Monday (March 4) at Idaho Fish and Game Office, 3316 16th St.
  • Orofino: Tuesday (March 5), IDFG Clearwater Hatchery, 118 Hatchery Roe Dr., located northwest of Ahsahka Bridge.
  • Riggins: Wednesday (March 6 at 6 p.m. Mountain Time), Best Western Salmon Rapids Lodge, 1010 S. Main St.

Comments also can be emailed to Joe DuPont, fisheries manager in Lewiston, joe.dupont@idfg.idaho.gov.

Read on for more spring chinook details and proposals from the Lewistown Tribune story.

Idaho meeting focuses managing chinook rules

FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game fishery personnel has set up meetings to present the latest information on this year’s chinook salmon runs and discuss stratgies for managing the runs in the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers.

The meetings begin at 6 a.m. as follows:

  • Lewiston: Monday (March 4) at Idaho Fish and Game Office, 3316 16th St.
  • Orofino: Tuesday (March 5), IDFG Clearwater Hatchery, 118 Hatchery Roe Dr., located northwest of Ahsahka Bridge.
  • Riggins:  Wednesday (March 6 at 6 p.m. Mountain Time), Best Western Salmon Rapids Lodge, 1010 S. Main St.

Comments also can be emailed to Joe DuPont, fisheries manager in Lewiston, joe.dupont@idfg.idaho.gov.

Judge rules sea lions can be targeted in Columbia River

FISHERIES – A federal judge in Oregon last week ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service did not err when it reauthorized a program targeting sea lions for death in the Pacific Northwest.

The program intended to preserve endangered salmon by killing sea lions is within the bounds of the fisheries service and states as they try to balance the proection of sea lions with the protection of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, the court ruled, according to a story in the Oregonian.

The program was reauthorized last year, through June 2016.

The Humane Society of the United States sued, saying the program targeting sea lions is arbitrary. They say the animals consume, at most, 4 percent of the salmon coming through the Bonneville Dam. Commercial and sport fishers, by contrast, take nearly 17 percent, The Oregonian reported ( ).

However, the judge pointed out that fishery managers can scale back fishing when runs are low but can’t do the same for sea lions.

The states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho backed the plan, part of an effort to keep alive five runs of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act that pass Bonneville, the first dam they encounter on the Columbia River.

Record run up upriver brights forecast for Columbia River

FISHING — Plan now for plenty of free time this fall to get on board with a potential record run of fall chinook salmon forecast for the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River.

The preliminary forecast released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  last week predicts the largest run of of the BIG upriver brights bound for the Hanford Reach since records have been kept.

The forecast is for 432,500 upriver brights, which would top the record of 420,700 that actually came up the river in 1987.

Last year, 353,500 upriver brights were forecast in February, but the actual return were 298,000.

Snake River wild chinook are forecast for a big increase this year.  Last year 15,100 were forecast and 16,700 showed up.  This year, however, the forecast calls for 31,600 wild chinook.

The total forecast of 677,900 Columbia River fall chinook to lower and upper river fisheries is greater than the 10-year average actual return (547,900) and would be the highest return since 2004 if the forecast  holds.

Wind River salmon-steelhead fishing changes detailed

FISHING — Rule changes for salmon and steelhead fishing, including a two-week late-March closure, will take effect next month on the Wind River, a popular Columbia River fishery. 

Click “continue reading” for the details posted today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Gillnetting to end in Columbia by 2017

FISHING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted to phase out gillnet fishing on the main stem of the Columbia River, relegating the primary commercial fishing tool to tributaries and bays.

Under the new policy adopted Saturday, the use of gillnets will be phased out by 2017 in nontribal fisheries on the Columbia Basin below Bonneville Dam. The policy also includes commitments to increase the number of stocked fish in areas off the main Columbia River channel to offset reductions to commercial fishing opportunities.

Oregon adopted similar rules in December.

Recreational fishers say gillnets are harmful to the recovery of endangered salmon. But commercial fishers say it’ll be impossible for them to earn a living by fishing only in the limited areas where they’ll be allowed to use gillnets.

Downsized salmon runs predicted for Wind River, Drano Lake

Weak returns of spring chinook salmon are predicted for the Wind River and Drano Lake in Skamania County, a not-surprising forecast given the low return expected to the Columbia River upstream of Bonneville Dam, reports Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is forecasting a return of 3,000 spring chinook to the Wind River, 4,500 to Drano Lake and 2,200 to the Klickitat River.

Those numbers compare to 5,400 in the Wind, 8,800 at Drano and 2,100 in the Klickitat in 2012.

Given that Carson National Fish Hatchery needs about 1,500 spring chinook for spawning, it is possible there will be angling restrictions at Wind River in 2013, Thomas writes.

Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, said the two-pole rule, allowed during part of the 2012 fishery, is almost certainly gone. The angling area, expanded in 2012, might return to its former size, certain days of the week might be closed or the daily bag limit reduced.

Read on for more details from the Columbian's report.

Shorter Idaho chinook fishing season in the forecast

SALMON FISHING — Chances for a long chinook salmon fishing season with liberal limits next spring are looking slim in the Snake and Clearwater rivers, reports Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Fisheries managers from state, tribal and federal agencies are predicting 141,400 spring chinook bound for tributaries above Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River will return at least as far as the mouth of the Columbia. That includes 58,200 chinook bound for the Snake River and its tributaries like the Salmon and Clearwater rivers.

If the forecast proves accurate, it would be the lowest return since 2007 when only 86,000 upriver spring chinook returned to the Columbia and similar to 2006 when the mouth of the Columbia saw a return of 132,600 spring and summer chinook. The Snake River component of the 2006 run was 53,200. Fishing in Idaho was limited to four days a week that year and the harvest quota was about 800 fish for the Clearwater River and around 1,330 on the lower Salmon River.

Read on for more details from Barker's report.

Lower expectations for 2013 spring chinook returns

FISHING —  A spring chinook run of 141,400 — the poorest in six years — is forecast to enter the Columbia River destined for upstream of Bonneville Dam,  according to figures released by Washington and Oregon fish managers this week.

“The forecast is down from what we're used to seeing in recent years, but it's still not one of the worst ever and could be an average-size return,” said Kathryn Kostow, Oregon Fish and Wildlife and Columbia River Technical Advisory Committee chairman, comparing data back to the 1980s.

“This is awful,’’ said Larry Snyder, president of the Vancouver Wildlife League and an avid spring chinook angler in a Vancouver Columbian story by Allen Thomas. “I don’t see a very long season this year.’’

Preliminary numbers for summer and fall chinook heading up the Columbia look to be in good shape, but the early forecast for sockeye is about half of the record returns that prompted a huge turnout of boats this summer.

Predictions on spring chinook returns vary wildly and can be inaccurate. Last year's forecast of 314,200, which would have been the fourth-largest since 1980, fell far short at 203,100.

The largest spring chinook return on record was 416,500 (364,600 was the forecast) in 2001, and the worst was 9,800 (12,000) in 1995.

The forecast in tributaries above Bonneville Dam such as Wind River, White Salmon River and Drano Lake usually come out in late January.

Fishing seasons will be decided Jan. 30 by state, federal and tribal fishery managers in Portland. 

Public can comment on getting nets out of lower Columbia

SALMON FISHING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take public comment on a proposed plan to restructure salmon and sturgeon fisheries on the lower Columbia River at a meeting Dec. 14-15 in Olympia.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-2 Friday to approve the plan, which forces commercial gillnets out of the rive rand into the tributaries.

  • Here's another report on the Oregon Commission's vote from the Vancouver Columbian.

In mid-November, a work group made up of representatives from Washington and Oregon developed a set of recommendations to restructure salmon and sturgeon fisheries in the lower Columbia River.

Members of the Tri-State Steelheaders are trying to get the commission to looking into aspects of spring chinook management that, in their opinion, short-change Eastern Washington sport fishermen.

For example, they say in the letter document attached below, “37 percent of the Columbia River Salmon & Steelhead Endorsements are purchased by anglers in communities located in Eastern Washington, while only 12 percent of the  harvest for spring chinook has been allowed to occur above Bonneville Dam.”

Click “continue reading” below for a list of key provisions in the proposed plan as cited by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Also on the commission's Dec. 14-15 meeting agenda are proposed rules for compensating livestock operators for losses to bears, cougars and wolves.


Alaska plans 5-year, $30 million study of ailing king salmon stocks

FISHING — Following dismal returns that forced closure of some king salmon fishing seasons this year, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has announced that his Fiscal Year 2014 budget will contain $10 million for the first component of a five-year, $30 million comprehensive Chinook Salmon Research Initiative.

See details in this story by the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Lower Columbia gillnet plan could affect anglers on East Side, Idaho

FISHING — As Oregon and Washington consider banning gill nets from the lower Columbia River, some worry the move could have unintended and negative consequences on salmon fisheries in Idaho and Eastern Washington.

Check out this report by the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Limits on lower Columbia commercial fishing proposed; comments sought

FISHING — A proposed plan to restructure salmon and sturgeon fisheries on the lower Columbia River is available for review on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.

The recommendations, posted today, were developed by a work group of representatives from Washington and Oregon assembled in September at the request of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. The proposals have been forwarded the the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions.

Key provisions of the proposed plan, “Management Strategies for Columbia River Recreational and Commercial Fisheries: 2013 and Beyond,” listed by the WDFW include:

  • Prioritizing the recreational fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River and commercial fisheries in off-channel areas.
  • Transitioning commercial fisheries remaining in the mainstem to alternative gear, such as beach and purse seines.
  • Phasing out the use of gillnets by non-tribal fishers in the mainstem by 2017, while maintaining the economic viability of the commercial fishery during and after the transition.
  • Shifting a greater portion of current hatchery salmon releases to off-channel areas, and exploring options for expanding those areas for commercial fisheries.
  • Gradually increasing the catch share of salmon for sport fisheries in the mainstem by 2017, including 80 percent for spring chinook and 100 percent for summer chinook.
  • Requiring sport anglers fishing for salmon and steelhead in the mainstem Columbia River and its tributaries to use barbless hooks beginning 2013.
  • Considering catch-and-release only recreational fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower river, Washington’s coast and Puget Sound, to protect lower Columbia River-origin white sturgeon. Closing non-tribal commercial fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower river and coast also would be considered as part of this effort.
  • Reviewing the plan during the transition to ensure objectives are being met. If necessary, changes will be made to meet the established objectives.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to accept public comments on the recommendations at its Dec. 14-15 meeting in Olympia. An agenda for that meeting, when established, will be posted here.

Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to consider the proposal Dec. 7. 

Commisions consider eliminating gillnets on lower Columbia

FISHERIES — A work group comprised of Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissioners on Thursday agreed on recommendations that would change state management of lower Columbia River fisheries by eliminating the use commercial gill nets by non-tribal fishers on the mainstem lower Columbia River.

A report in the Columbia Basin Bulletin says commercial fishing advocates testifying during a meeting of the work group in Seaside, Ore., said such a decision would be the death knell for the industry and the businesses it supports. They said it would pull salmon from the mouths of non-anglers who buy their salmon in the market or order it at restaurants.

Sport fishing interests said the move is necessary to buoy conservation efforts aimed at reviving wild, protected steelhead and salmon caught indiscriminately in fish-choking nets.

Fisheries reform may not boost upper Columbia angling

FISHING — Our recent report on the reaction to drastic changes proposed for Columbia River commercial and recreational fisheries has prompted a heads up for anglers in the upper Columbia River.

The comment on lower Columbia River fisheries reform being debated by Washington and Oregon comes from Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission:

A recent story in The Spokesman-Review paints the Columbia River’s Lower River Fisheries Reform process as a potential boon for fishermen in the upper Columbia. Certainly a boon for fishermen in the lower Columbia, the proposal has yet to pass the sniff test.

At this point, the “boon” for Eastern Washington fishermen is little more than wishful thinking. The states have not provided any credible harvest impacts analysis to their peers in federal and tribal governments, nor to the public.

If the region wants to increase recreational fishing opportunities we need to be working together to rebuild abundance. The region has demonstrated that cooperation can rebuild abundant naturally spawning fall chinook in Hanford Reach, which now support fisheries from Kennewick to Ketchikan. 

By all indications, the proposal is not about conservation, it is about providing even more to an already voracious lower river recreational fishery. Real conservation will come from us working together and restoring salmon passage in the upper Columbia Basin. This, along with other actions, will rebuild abundance. Abundance allows everyone to go fishing, not just fishermen in the lower Columbia 

Steelhead still running over dams in good numbers

FISHING — Steelhead continue their parade up the Snake River and over the dams. They're moving over Lower Granite Dam, the last before they hit Idaho waters, at the rate of about 2,200 a day.

Salmon fishing to close on Wenatchee, mainstem Columbia rivers

FISHING — Salmon fishing will close on the Wenatchee River and portions of the Columbia River after sunset on Sunday, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department announced today.

Locations:  Wenatchee River from the mouth (confluence with the Columbia River) to the Icicle Road bridge near the west end of Leavenworth, and mainstem Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to Chief Joseph Dam.

Species affected:  Chinook and sockeye salmon.

Reason for action:The salmon fishery is approaching allowable limits of incidental impacts to ESA-listed steelhead under the Permit 1554, which covers the summer chinook and sockeye fisheries. 

Other information:  The fall chinook fisheries below Rock Island Dam and the summer chinook fishery in the Chelan River are not affected by this closure.  Please check WDFW's “Fishing in Washington” rules pamphlet and emergency regulations on the department's website for details on all permanent fishing seasons and regulations for those waters.

Steelhead, salmon spreading from Columbia up to Salmon River

FISHING — Good catches of steelhead and chinook salmon have been reported this week from the Lyons Ferry area of the Snake, the Lewiston area, the Grande Ronde River and all the way up to the Salmon River at Riggins.

Water conditions are getting prime and fish are spreading their wealth to anglers, even though the runs aren't up to average.

Here's the upstream report on the Salmon River from Amy Sinclair of Exodus River Adventures in Riggins:

Salmon River flow this morning is 3640 CFS, water temperature is 57 degrees and the river is crystal clear.

Colder night-time temperatures should be ideal for cooling the water temperature down and getting more steelhead into the area.

The prime steelhead fly fishing is late September to mid October while water temperatures are warm and have the fish aggressive. Standard or typical steelhead fishing with spin or bait rods/reels is best in the fall from mid October until early December. Best spring steelheading is from early February to mid March.

Snake steelheaders giddy with success this week

FISHING — Yes, the run is way below average, but as I've been pointing out, some fishermen are having a heyday catching steelhead on the Snake River, as fish movements picked up this week.

Here's a report (and photo above)  from Jeff Holmes, a writer/angler who lives in the Tri-Cities:

The Snake River is supposed to be extraordinarily slow right now but looky lookie at what my friend Teddy and I caught out there on 1 trip. That's 7 hatchery steelhead, an adult chinook, and a jack.

We also released a big wild steelhead and a much larger salmon and had many other savage rips.  I am headed out again to rip and slay.

Holmes said his was night-fishing in one of the middle impoundments. He was using lighted plugs, and pointed out that he crimped the barbs on his Brad's Wigglers.


Chelan tailrace opening to salmon fishing

FISHING — Starting Saturday, fishing for chinook salmon will be allowed at the Lake Chelan Project Tailrace to target fish returning to a net pen release area.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced the season will run Sept. 1-Oct. 15 from the railroad bridge to the Chelan PUD safety barrier below the powerhouse.

 Read on for details posted by the agency.

Lake Wenatchee sockeye on Labor Day agenda

 SALMON FISHING — Although the the season still could be closed on short notice, it appears as though Lake Wenatchee will be open to sockeye fishing through Labor Day, thanks to a record-busting run to the upper Columbia River.

About 50,000 sockeye have turned into the Wenatchee River of the 63,000 predicted to make this year's run to Lake Wenatchee. Going into the past weekend, anglers had caught only about 7,000 of their 23,000 quota.

The daily limit hs been bumped from three to five sockeye 12 inches in length or greater.

Fish counters have tallied a whopping record of 515,666 sockeye over Bonneville Dam, the first hydro project the fish encounter on their run from the Pacific into the Columbia River. That shatters the previous  record of 386,505 in 2010.

The count at Rock Island Dam on the mid-Columbia is 410,498 sockeye. Rock Island is the seventh and final dam the sockeye climb before a portion of the run turns into the Wenatchee River.

Most Columbia sockeye continues upstream over Rocky Reach and Wells dams before heading up the Okanogan River. More than 363,200 sockeye had been counted at Rocky Reach last week. That’s more than triple the 10-year average count.

The Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery could be closed on short notice depending on how many fish anglers catch this week.

Anglers are advised to check daily the Fishing Hotline at 360-902-2500 or the Fishing Update Web page.

Idaho salmon-crab poachers tell truth, eventually

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Washington Fish and Wildlife police must feel like parents dealing with kids sometimes. I'd like to hear the author of this poaching enforcement report tell the story over a couple of beers.

Sgt. Chadwick contacted a recreational boat returning to the dock in Westport late Sunday evening. The four Idaho men on board the craft were happy to show Sgt. Chadwick their limit of four Chinook. The open bow of their boat was already covered with canvas, however Sgt. Chadwick noticed there were bits of wet grass up underneath, as well as a crab caliper, which indicated they may have been crab fishing. When questioned, they denied having any crab on board and claimed their pots had been stolen.

Despite their denials, Sgt. Chadwick conducted an inspection and found 11 crab in a live well up front. Looking at the live well on the opposite side, he found it was full of rain gear and a life jacket with a couple of fresh scales. Digging a little deeper, Sgt. Chadwick found two extra Chinook hidden under the rain gear.

Officer Do arrived to assist and asked the foursome where they were staying. At that point, the men had already been advised of their rights, and decided to confess to having three more over their limit back at camp. The Officers followed the four men back to camp and found they had a total of five Chinook over the limit. The fish were seized and various citations issued.