Invasive Northern Pick may threaten Columbia River salmon species


 

Northern pike are some of the most troubling aquatic invasive species in the Northwest. So far, they haven’t made it past Washington’s Lake Roosevelt. Two dams stand in their way. And lots of people trying to stop them.

If the fish make it past Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River, they could greatly harm imperiled salmon downstream.

“In a lot of ways, the fight to save the Columbia River as we know it is going to be won and lost on Lake Roosevelt,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington Invasive Species Council.

American Indian tribes are joining with the state and public utility districts in what’s being billed as the largest coordinated event of its kind in the state. The groups are working for a week to catch northern pike on the lake.

“We are at a critical moment in time where northern pike have not spread into salmon habitat,” said Kelly Susewind, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a statement. “If northern pike move downstream, the State of Washington will consider this an environmental emergency.”

Northern pike are non-native to the Northwest. They were illegally introduced here in the 1990s and have made their way down the Pend Oreille River into Lake Roosevelt.

They are extremely aggressive and can wipe out fish populations in waters where they aren’t native. In Alaska and California, northern pike have reduced some fish runs so much it’s effectively crashed fisheries, Bush said.

“Northern pike prey on fish that we value, such as trout, salmon and steelhead,” Bush said.

One problem is that Lake Roosevelt is so big (151 miles long) that it makes it hard for biologists to find and kill the invasive fish. Right now, the fish have been spotted about 12 miles from Grand Coulee Dam. That’s 90 miles from where anadromous fish are in the Columbia River, Bush said.

“There have been some new areas found to be colonized within Lake Roosevelt. I think we’re near seeing some really devastating effects within Lake Roosevelt,” Bush said.

In other areas that have faced northern pike problems, fishery communities have “totally flipped in terms of what was present,” Bush said.

Before the fish made it to Lake Roosevelt, they’d invaded the Pend Oreille River. Using gill nets placed in northern pike spawning grounds, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians was able to suppress the northern pike population in that river’s Box Canyon Reservoir.

Officials are asking anglers to report any northern pike they catch and turn them in for a bounty of $10 a head. Reports help biologists know where the fish are in Lake Roosevelt.

Keeping northern pike from reaching salmon habitat could risk billions of dollars that’s been invested in salmon and steelhead recovery, officials said.

“We have been cooperatively working to slow or stop the spread of northern pike, but realize they are poised to continue downstream,” said Dr. Brent Nichols, division director of the Spokane Tribe’s Fisheries and Water Resource Division. “One of the tools in our toolbox is this all-hands-on-deck approach, working with other partners who care about the Columbia River ecosystem.”

 


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Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement no longer required beginning July 1st


 

OLYMPIA – Anglers who fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River basin will no longer be required to purchase an endorsement to do so beginning July 1.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has collected an $8.75 annual fee – known as the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement – from anglers to fish for salmon and steelhead in the region since 2010. The department has used revenue from the endorsement to monitor and enforce fisheries in the Columbia River Basin.

WDFW’s legislative authority to implement the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement ends June 30. Anglers are still required under state law to obtain an endorsement to fish for salmon or steelhead in the Columbia River until July 1. The department will not be issuing refunds as anglers have had opportunity to use the endorsement and it remains a state requirement through June 30.

A valid fishing license – a freshwater, combination, or Fish Washington license – is required at all times to fish the Columbia River. The agency is also working on modifying the Fish Washington license package, which includes the endorsement.

In order to have fisheries in waters such as the Columbia River where there are fish protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, WDFW is required to closely monitor those fisheries and enforce regulations.

The department is assessing how the loss of revenue from the endorsement will affect salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Columbia basin once the endorsement expires, said Kelly Susewind, WDFW Director. That could mean changes to salmon and steelhead fisheries this fall and next spring.

“The endorsement provided needed funding for monitoring and enforcement activities,” Susewind said. “We’re evaluating our path forward with these fisheries, which not only provide good opportunities for anglers but also significant economic benefits to communities in the Columbia River Basin.”

WDFW had requested that the Legislature extend the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement through June 2023. However, the Legislature did not reauthorize the endorsement, allowing it to expire at the end of June.

WDFW is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities.

 

 


 

Third weekend opening planned for Columbia River spring chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam


 

OLYMPIA – For the third weekend in a row, a section of the lower Columbia River will reopen for two days of recreational spring chinook salmon fishing beginning Saturday, state fishery managers announced today.

The initial spring chinook fishing period from Bonneville Dam downriver to Warrior Rock closed at midnight Wednesday, April 10, then reopened for the weekends beginning April 13 and 20, based on catch and run estimates at that time.

High, turbid waters have created challenging fishing conditions for anglers, with difficult conditions likely to continue into early May. Fishery managers estimate that recreational harvest remains well below pre-season expectations. Fish counts at Bonneville Dam to date have also been below expectations.

“Water conditions have made fishing difficult in April, but we want to provide opportunity when we can,” said Bill Tweit, special assistant with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “These weekend openings offer that opportunity while allowing us to maintain a conservative approach to this important fishery.”

The fishery will reopen for spring chinook on April 27 and 28 on the Columbia River upstream from the Warrior Rock boundary line to Bonneville Dam. The lower river downstream from Warrior Rock remains closed to fishing for salmon, steelhead, and shad.

Anglers may retain two adult salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook. Only hatchery fish may be retained.

Waters above Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington state line above McNary Dam remain open to salmon fishing through May 5.

Anglers are reminded that the use of barbless hooks is required when fishing for salmon and steelhead in these areas.

 


 

Another brief opening planned for Columbia River spring chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam

Photo courtesy of Portland Fishing Guide Buddy Dupell


 

OLYMPIA – A section of the lower Columbia River will again reopen for two days of recreational spring chinook salmon fishing beginning Saturday, April 20, state fishery managers announced today.

The initial spring chinook fishing period from Bonneville Dam downriver to Warrior Rock closed at midnight Wednesday, April 10, then reopened for two days on April 13 and 14 based on catch and run estimates at that time.

This weekend’s opening comes after fishery managers from Washington and Oregon evaluated additional information collected from the recreational fishery, said Bill Tweit, a special assistant with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Staff will continue to closely monitor the run as it progresses.

“With updated catch estimates still well below the expected harvest numbers, we feel comfortable reopening this section of river for another round of weekend fishing,” Tweit said. “Water levels are still high but are starting to stabilize, which may provide improved fishing opportunity.”

The fishery will reopen for spring chinook on April 20thand 21st on the Columbia River upstream from the Warrior Rock boundary line to Bonneville Dam. The lower river downstream from Warrior Rock remains closed to fishing for salmon, steelhead, and shad.

Anglers may retain one adult chinook and one adult steelhead, or two adult steelhead, per day. Only hatchery fish may be retained.

Waters above Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington state line above McNary Dam remain open to salmon fishing through May 5th.

Anglers are reminded that the use of barbless hooks is required when fishing for salmon and steelhead in these areas.

 


 

Dam “Spill” Expected to Boost Columbia River Salmon and Benefit Orcas


 

More spring Chinook may return as adult salmon in a few years thanks to a new agreement negotiated by federal agencies, states, and tribes to test an innovative dam operation plan. Some estimates indicate that the new operation may produce an additional 10,000–60,000 adult spring Chinook per year.

While adult salmon returns will also be influenced by ocean conditions and river flows, the new “flexible spill” agreement just going into effect promises to be a “win-win” for fish, hydropower production, and orca.

Hydropower is the largest source of clean, low carbon energy in the Northwest. The new agreement aims to preserve the value of this clean energy resource while improving the status of Columbia basin salmon.

Washington entered into the “Flexible Spill Agreement” in December. The agreement will be in effect for the next two or three years (depending federal progress toward a longer-term Columbia-Snake River Biological Opinion). It increases spill (the amount of water going over a dam as opposed to through dam turbines) during the times of day when regional energy demand is lower, and ramps down spill to allow for more hydropower generation when demand is higher.

Taking advantage of this daily swing in demand — which is created in large part by the recent deployment of new clean energy sources like solar and wind — involves spilling at higher levels with higher Total Dissolved Gas (TDG) caps for up to 16 hours/day and lower 2014 BiOp levels for eight hours a day, when there is higher energy demand. The new levels of spill are intended to allow for higher survival for juvenile fish as they move through the dams and enter the ocean while keeping TDG levels low enough not to harm salmon or other aquatic species — an area of a recent study. The dams will spill up to 120% TDG in 2019 and up to 125% in 2020.

Washington (including WDFW) helped negotiate this agreement, which was signed by Washington, Oregon, three federal agencies (Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation) and the Nez Perce Tribe. The agreement is also supported by Idaho, Montana, and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

The agreement should help salmon, protect Bonneville Power Administration revenues, and simplify river management for the Army Corps of Engineers. This strategy may set the stage for a longer-term dam operation strategy as well.

If they perform as expected, this change should provide meaningful near-term benefits for adult spring Chinook salmon numbers, and thereby increase food for southern resident killer whales.

 


 

Washington’s salmon fisheries set for 2019-2020

Photo courtesy of Columbia River Fishing Guide Buddy Dupell of Columbia River Fishing  Adventures


 

ROHNERT PARK, Calif. – Washington anglers can expect a mixed bag of salmon fisheries this year with increased coho opportunities in the ocean and the Columbia River, but additional necessary restrictions to protect chinook in Puget Sound.

The state’s 2019 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers, were finalized today during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif.

This year’s fisheries were designed to take advantage of a higher number of coho salmon forecast to return to Washington’s waters as compared to recent years, said Kyle Adicks, salmon policy lead for WDFW. However, projected low returns of key chinook stocks in Puget Sound prompted fishery managers to restrict fisheries in Puget Sound.

“We’re able to provide more opportunities to fish for coho in some areas, particularly in the ocean and Columbia River, than we have been able to do for several years,” Adicks said. “But continued poor returns of some chinook stocks forced us to make difficult decisions for fisheries in Puget Sound this year.”

Puget Sound

Again in 2019, fishery managers projected another low return of Stillaguamish, Nooksack and mid-Hood Canal chinook and took steps to protect those stocks. Notable closures of popular fisheries include: the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7) in August; Deception Pass and Port Gardner (areas 8-1 and 8-2) in December and January; and Admiralty Inlet (Marine Area 9) in January.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind acknowledged the reductions in Puget Sound salmon fisheries are difficult for both anglers and the local communities that depend on those fisheries.

“Reducing fisheries is not a long-term solution to the declining number of chinook salmon,” Susewind said. “The department will continue working with the co-managers, our constituents, and others to address habitat loss. Without improved habitat, our chinook populations will likely continue to decline.”

Limiting fisheries to meet conservation objectives for wild salmon indirectly benefits southern resident killer whales. The fishery adjustments will aid in minimizing boat presence and noise, and decrease competition for chinook and other salmon in these areas critical to the declining whales.

Anglers will also have limited opportunities to fish for pink salmon in Puget Sound due to projected low returns this year. There are no “bonus bag” limits for pink salmon in 2019.

Columbia River

The summer salmon fishery will be closed to summer chinook (including jacks) and sockeye retention due to low expected returns this year.

Fall salmon fisheries will be open under various regulations. Waters from Buoy 10 upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco will open to fall salmon fishing beginning Aug. 1.

“While we anticipate a robust coho fishery in the Columbia River this year, we’re taking steps to protect depleted runs of chinook and steelhead,” Adicks said.

Steelhead fisheries in the Columbia and Snake rivers this season will be similar to those in 2017, when a similarly low run was projected, he said.

Washington’s ocean waters

“We expect some good opportunities for fishing in the ocean this summer,” Adicks said.

For 2019, PFMC adopted a significantly higher quota for coho, and a similar quota for chinook compared to last year. All four of Washington’s marine areas will open daily beginning June 22.

More information

Notable changes to this year’s Puget Sound sport salmon fisheries can be found on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/north-falcon, where information on recreational salmon fisheries in ocean waters and the Columbia River also is available.

 

 


 

Short reopening scheduled for Columbia River spring chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam

Photo courtesy of Columbia River Fishing Guide Buddy Dupell of Columbia River Fishing Adventures


 

OLYMPIA – A section of the lower Columbia River will reopen for recreational spring chinook fishing for two days beginning Saturday, April 13, state fishery managers announced.

The initial spring chinook fishing period from Bonneville Dam downriver to Warrior Rock ended at midnight Wednesday, April 10. But with less than half of the expected harvest of 3,689 upriver spring chinook salmon reeled in so far, additional opportunity remains available to anglers, and fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed to reopen the area to fishing for one more weekend from April 13th-14th.

“Given the low forecast, we’re closely monitoring this run,” said Bill Tweit, special assistant for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We’re going to meet our conservation objectives and work within our means to provide harvest opportunities.”

Tweit noted that cold spring temperatures and recent heavy rains may have also contributed to slow fishing in recent weeks.

The fishery will reopen for spring chinook over the weekend on the Columbia River upstream from the Warrior Rock boundary line to Bonneville Dam. The lower river downstream from Warrior Rock remains closed to fishing for salmon, steelhead, and shad.

Anglers may retain two adult salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook. Only hatchery fish may be retained.

Waters above Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington state line above McNary Dam remain open to salmon fishing through May 5tht.

Anglers are reminded that the use of barbless hooks is required when fishing for salmon and steelhead in these areas.

 

 


 

John Day Pool closes for sturgeon retention


 

WDFW FISHING RULE CHANGE

 

Action: Anglers must release all sturgeon.

Effective dates: 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Species affected: White sturgeon

Locations: The Columbia River from John Day Dam to McNary Dam.

Reason for action: Fishing effort picked up over this past weekend resulting in catches much higher than expected. Harvest estimates indicate the quota of 105 white sturgeon has been reached. This measure is necessary to prevent further over-harvest of the population.

Additional information: Catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon will continue to be allowed.

Please see the 2018-2019 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for additional angling rules specific to the Columbia River.

Information contact: Region 5 office; 360-696-6211

 

 


 

Latest Projections of low spring chinook returns constrain Columbia River fishing seasons


 

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon today approved a sports fishery, for spring chinook salmon on the Columbia River that reflects a significant reduction in the number of fish available for harvest this year.

According to preseason projections, about 99,300 upriver spring chinook will reach the Columbia this year, down 14 percent from last year and 50 percent below the 10-year average. Those fish return to hatcheries and spawning areas upriver from Bonneville Dam.

In addition, fishery managers are also expecting much lower returns than last year to several major lower Columbia River tributaries, particularly the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers. On the Cowlitz, this year’s spring chinook run is projected to reach just 11 percent of the 10-year average and fall short of meeting hatchery production goals.

Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said those projections are largely the result of poor ocean conditions, which have complicated fisheries management in recent years.

“Anglers will still find some good fishing opportunities in the Columbia River Basin this spring, but conservation has to be our first concern,” Lothrop said. “We have a responsibility to protect salmon runs listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and get enough fish back to the spawning grounds and hatcheries to support future runs.”

Although salmon fishing is currently open from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Interstate-5 bridge, spring chinook usually don’t arrive in large numbers until mid-to-late March. The new fishing regulations approved today will take effect in the following areas:

  • Columbia River below Bonneville Dam: Salmon fishing will open March 1 through April 10 on the Columbia River upstream from Warrior Rock boundary line to Bonneville Dam. Anglers may retain two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook. The lower river downstream from Warrior Rock will be closed to fishing from March 1 through April 10 to conserve spring chinook returning to the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers.
  • Tributaries: The Cowlitz and Lewis rivers will also close to salmon fishing March 1 to conserve spring chinook for hatchery escapement needs, but will remain open for hatchery steelhead retention. The Kalama River will remain open to fishing for salmon and steelhead, but the daily limit of adult salmon will be reduced to one fish on March 1.
  • Columbia River above Bonneville Dam: Waters above Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington state line above McNary Dam will open to salmon fishing April 1 through May 5. Anglers may retain two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each per day, but only one salmon may be a chinook.

In all open waters, only hatchery salmon and steelhead identified by a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained.

Along with new area restrictions in the lower Columbia, fishery managers also reduced initial harvest limits for upriver spring chinook returning to the upper Columbia and Snake rivers. If those fish return as projected, anglers in the Columbia and Snake rivers will be limited to a total of 4,548 fish, compared to 9,052 last year, prior to a run size updated in May.

Lothrop noted that this year’s projected return of 99,300 upriver spring chinook is the lowest since 2007, but still well above the record-low return of just 12,800 fish in 1995.

“Experience has shown that warm-water ocean conditions present a challenge to salmon survival,” he said. “As in the 1990s, we have observed that cyclical warming effect during the past few years with similar results. During these times, we have to be especially cautious in how we manage the fishery.”

Anglers are strongly advised to review the rules for the waters they plan to fish, available on the department’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/

WDFW is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish and wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.

 


 

WDFW Commission to take public input on hatchery reform and salmon management policies


 

OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take public input on various topics – including hatchery reform, salmon management in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay, and several land transactions – during an upcoming meeting in Olympia.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will meet Feb. 8-9 in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. SE, Olympia. The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. both days.

A full agenda is available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.

WDFW staff will provide an update on a review of the state’s hatchery and fishery reform policy, which is intended to improve hatchery effectiveness, ensure compatibility between hatchery production and salmon recovery plans, and support sustainable fisheries. Staff will discuss the process they will use to review the policy and the science behind it. The public will have the opportunity to comment during the Friday meeting.

WDFW fish managers will also provide an update on the progress of the Willapa Bay Salmon Management Policy comprehensive review. That policy, approved by the commission in 2015, prioritizes recreational chinook fisheries in Willapa Bay while focusing commercial fishery opportunities on coho and chum salmon. 

To meet conservation objectives, WDFW requires the release of any wild chinook salmon in these fisheries and manages fishing seasons to hold mortality rates for those fish within a prescribed limit. WDFW staff will seek guidance from the commission on priorities for the 2019-20 season.

Also at the meeting, state fishery managers will provide an overview of last year’s salmon fisheries in Grays Harbor, including an assessment of harvest levels and conformance with conservation objectives.

After staff presentations, the commission will take public input on both the Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor policies.

In other business, commissioners will consider three transactions, including the acquisition of 1,100 acres to protect waterfowl habitat in Grays Harbor County, an 80-acre conservation easement to protect Mazama pocket gopher habitat in Thurston County, and an easement to Ferry County for wellhead protection.

Additionally, the commission is scheduled to take action on proposed wildlife-rehabilitation rules and will hear a briefing on the Lower Columbia River sturgeon population and proposed 2019 fisheries.