Monthly Archives: December 2017

WDFW News – Westport Crabber Sentenced for Stealing Commercial Pots.

A Grays Harbor County judge has sentenced a commercial crab fisherman to 90 days of electronic home monitoring and fined him $5,000 for stealing crab pots offshore of Westport, concluding a case that began with an investigation last year by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Larrin Brietsprecher, 57, of Westport, was sentenced Dec. 1 by Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge Mark McCauley after a jury found him guilty of possessing stolen property and related charges. Beginning May 1, Brietsprecher will be required to remain at home for three months unless he requires medical attention.

WDFW Police Captain Dan Chadwick said the department began its investigation after a deckhand on Brietsprecher’s crab boat told officers that his boss directed him to steal crab pots while fishing near Westport.

After obtaining a search warrant, police officers from WDFW and the Quinault Indian Nation seized 32 commercial crab pots from Brietsprecher’s gear stack at the Port of Westport and determined that at least 24 of them belonged to other crabbers, Chadwick said.

“A commercial crab pot fully rigged can run $200 to $250, so the loss of multiple pots can really add up,” he said. “We appreciate that the Grays Harbor prosecutor’s office pursued this case, because it demonstrates that the law extends to ocean waters.” Chadwick said the department also appreciated the assistance of the Quinault tribal police.

WDFW currently licenses 223 coastal crab vessels, which landed 16.4 million pounds of Dungeness crab with a dockside value of $52 million during the 2016-17 season.

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California Recreational Abalone Fishery to be Closed in 2018.

The California Fish and Game Commission yesterday voted to close the 2018 northern California recreational abalone fishery due to ongoing environmental conditions that have significantly impacted the abalone resource. The closure affects next year’s recreational abalone season, which was scheduled to open on April 1, 2018.

The Commission’s 4-0 decision (Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was absent) upholds the policies of the Abalone Recovery and Management Plan, which was adopted by the Commission in December 2005. Over the past several years, the Commission has taken several actions to reduce take and shorten the season to protect abalone from the unprecedented environmental conditions.

The Commission directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to work with stakeholders to deliver a new fishery management plan that includes guidance on navigating these unprecedented conditions. The Commission also directed CDFW to consider how the new fishery management plan can inform the potential reopening of some fishing opportunity for the 2019 season.

More information about California’s recreational abalone fisheries can be found on the CDFW website.

California Red Abalone

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ODFW Adopts 2018 Recreational Bottomfish Limits.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission set regulations for recreational and commercial groundfish seasons today at their meeting in Salem.

The state’s regulations are based on federal quotas. After hearing public testimony, the Commission adopted a five fish bag limit (reduced from seven this year), in hopes of providing a year-round fishery in 2018. (The 2017 bag limit design was higher at seven fish, which was not sufficient to provide for year-round fishing, prompting an early closure that disrupted coastal charter businesses and anglers.) The Commission also approved an offshore longleader fishery with a 10-fish bag limit from January-March and October-December (though an April-September season may be added if federal regulations are adopted). Longleader gear can better target offshore rockfish species and lessen pressure on nearshore black rockfish. Further in-season adjustments to groundfish seasons could happen if needed to keep under allowed harvest levels and ODFW is committed to monitoring and reporting effort and catch at more frequent intervals. The cabezon fishery will remain the same (open July 1-Dec. 31 with bag limit of one cabezon). For more details on the 2018 recreational season visit https://myodfw.com/sport-groundfish-seasons-0

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WDFW to Test Drone to Aid in Wildlife Research.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is working with University of Montana wildlife researchers to test the use of a drone this month to document the presence of moose calves in northeast Washington.

A contractor for the university will fly an “unmanned aerial system” equipped with a video camera during the week of Dec. 11-15 over radio-collared cow moose on public and private lands in Stevens, Pend Oreille and Spokane counties. Researchers from the university’s cooperative wildlife research unit began the study in 2014 in cooperation with WDFW and other partners to learn more about moose populations, movement, reproduction, and survival.

Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife scientist, said the goal of the drone project is to document the presence of moose calves more safely, more efficiently, and less expensively than is possible with traditional wildlife surveying methods.

The craft will be flown over U.S. Forest Service lands and timberlands owned by Hancock Forest Management, Stimson Lumber Company, and Inland Empire Paper Company. All have given permission for the drone to fly over their lands.

By flying the drone over 35 collared moose cows, researchers expect to be able to document the presence of nearby calves. Harris said the only other ways to conduct such research – through close-up approaches on foot or from a helicopter – are less safe, require more time, and are more expensive than using a drone.

Harris said the drone would be flown only during daylight hours, at a maximum height of 400 feet. It will not be flown over people or buildings.

Harris said the flight schedule was chosen to avoid weekends and most major hunting seasons, which will minimize disturbance to recreationists.

The drone to be used in the test is white, slightly larger than one square foot, and looks like a four-legged helicopter with a rotor blade on each corner. It will be flown when a ground crew is within about 700 feet of a radio-collared cow moose and will record video only of wildlife and their habitat.

Harris said researchers expect the drone will be less stressful to moose than traditional ground monitoring, because moose have no overhead predation threats. If researchers conclude the moose are not substantially disturbed by the drone and calves are successfully documented, drones may be used for other wildlife research in Washington.

A 2016 update on the moose research is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01859/

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Oregon Delays Opening of Commercial Crab Season.

NEWPORT, Ore. – The opening of the commercial Dungeness crab season will be delayed until at least Dec. 31 along the entire Oregon coast as testing shows crabs are still too low in meat yield in some areas of the coast.

The ocean commercial Dungeness crab season in Oregon is targeted to open Dec. 1, but can be delayed to ensure a high-quality product to consumers and to avoid wastage of the resource. Crab quality testing in late November and early December showed that half of the areas still did not meet the criteria for an opening. The delayed opening will allow for crabs to fill with more meat.

Testing will continue to determine if the season should open Dec. 31, be further delayed, or be split into two areas with different opening dates. In conjunction with the delayed ocean commercial season, commercial harvest of Dungeness crab in Oregon bays is now closed for the remainder of the year.

The delay in the ocean commercial season at this time is not directly related to the recent recreational crabbing closures that have affected some areas of the coast (currently, south of the north jetty of the Coquille River to California). These closures are due to elevated levels of the biotoxin domoic acid detected in crab. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) continues to monitor domoic acid levels in crab, and recreational and commercial crabbing in affected areas will remain closed or harvest restrictions will be put in place until test results indicate that crab harvested from them are safe to consume.

Despite the commercial delay and some recreational closures, crab and shellfish products sold in retail markets and restaurants remain safe for consumers. For more information on ODA health closures, call ODA’s shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448-2474 or visit the ODA shellfish closures web page.

Commercial Dungeness crab is Oregon’s most valuable fishery. Last year’s season opening was also delayed but still brought in the record high ex-vessel value of $62.7 million, with 20.4 million pounds landed (about 22 percent above the 10-year average).

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WDFW News – Commercial Crab Fishing Delayed Again on Washington Coast.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is again delaying the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in the state’s coastal waters to allow time for crab along the West Coast to fill with more meat.

The decision was made in coordination with shellfish managers from Oregon and California, where commercial Dungeness fisheries will also remain closed.

While recent test results indicate that Washington’s coastal crab have met the minimum meat recovery level, crab in sections of the Oregon and northern California coasts have not. Washington shellfish managers agreed to extend the delay of the state’s coastal fishery until Dec. 31, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW.

Typically, Washington, Oregon and California coordinate commercial Dungeness fishery openings to prevent concentrating crabbers and ensure smoothly-run fisheries.

“If open, Washington’s coast would be the only area in Washington, Oregon or California open to non-tribal commercial crabbing,” Ayres said.

Washington’s commercial fishery includes the area from the Columbia River north to the U.S. border with Canada and includes Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay.

Ayres noted that the latest test results indicate Washington coastal crabs remain well below the public health action level for domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae. Domoic acid, which concentrates in crab viscera has disrupted West Coast fisheries over the last few years, can be harmful if consumed in sufficient quantities. Crab from some areas in Oregon and California do not yet meet health standards.

“Our Oregon and California counterparts will take another look at both crab meat and toxin levels to determine which areas can open on Dec. 31,” Ayres said.

One of the state’s most lucrative fisheries, Washington’s non-tribal commercial crab fishery was valued at $52 million during the 2016-17 season.

Recreational crabbing remains open in Washington’s coastal waters and in several areas of Puget Sound. Information about these fisheries can be found on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/

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Ocean Crabbing at Winchester Bay

Bryan Gill, of the Umpqua Angler, reports that ocean crabbing near the Umpqua River Bar has been very productive.

Recreational ocean crabbing is currently legal from the North Jetty of the Coquille River (Bandon) northward to Cape Foulweather and from Tahkenitch Creek northward to the Washington border.

Dave Guschusky holds up a typically large male dungeness crab.

Kathy Clemens took advantage of the $75.00 per person crabbing trips offerred by Bryan Gill of “The Umpqua Angler”.

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CDFW News – 39.7 Million Awarded For Ecosystem and Watershed Restoration and Protection Projects,

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 39 projects to receive funding from its Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) Restoration Grant Programs.

The awards, totaling $39.7 million, were made under CDFW’s 2017 Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs Solicitation (the third of 10 planned annual grant cycles). This includes approximately $31.7 million awarded through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program to projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and approximately $8 million awarded through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program to projects that directly benefit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The awarded projects represent priorities outlined in the 2017 Solicitation, as well as the California Water Action Plan.

“This round of grants expands the frontier of our Proposition 1 programs to critical watersheds, from as far north as Del Norte County to the Tijuana River watershed in San Diego County,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “This is an important milestone and another step forward in our strategic effort to ensure statewide priorties are addressed through this funding source.”

Projects approved for funding through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program include:

Implementation Projects:

Butte Creek Diversion 55 Fish Screen Project – Implementation ($209,633 to Family Water Alliance, Inc.);
Deer Creek Irrigation District Dam Fish Passage Improvement Project ($2,198,447 to Trout Unlimited);
Dennett Dam Removal ($509,520 to Tuolumne River Trust);
Fish Passage and Off-Channel Habitat Restoration at Roy’s Pools ($2,147,997 to Salmon Protection and Watershed Network);
Floodplain and Instream Habitat Restoration on San Geronimo Creek ($767,739 to Salmon Protection and Watershed Network);
GHMWC Fish Screen Project – Implementation ($1,159,183 to Family Water Alliance, Inc.);
Lagunita Diversion Dam Removal Project ($1,226,537 to Leland Stanford Jr. University);
Little Shasta Fish Passage Project ($474,114 to California Trout, Inc.);
Lower Arroyo Burro Open Space Restoration ($550,000 to City of Santa Barbara);
Mill-Shackleford Creek Fish Passage Restoration Project ($522,949 to California Trout, Inc.);
North San Diego County Multi-Watershed Enhancement & Restoration for Resiliency ($1,106,136 to San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy);
Planning Projects:

Advancing Meadow Restoration in the Truckee and American River Watersheds ($632,098 to Truckee River Watershed Council);
Atascadero Subwatershed Coho Habitat Assessment ($114,429 to Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District);
Bolsa Chica Lowlands Restoration Project: Sustainability Alternatives Planning Document ($282,492 to Bolsa Chica Land Trust);
Burdell Unit Tidal Restoration Feasibility Study ($394,452 to Ducks Unlimited, Inc.);
Cook and Butcher Fish Passage and Fish Screen Planning Project ($418,618 to Western Shasta Resource Conservation District);
Morrison Creek: Coho Salmon Passage and Habitat Enhancement Planning ($203,577 to Smith River Alliance);
Napa River Restoration Oakville to Oak Knoll Design-Group B and D ($750,000 to Napa County);
Paynes Creek BWU Fish Passage Assessment and Restoration Project ($345,885 to Trout Unlimited);
Restoring Tásmam Kojóm – Big Meadow ($95,130 to Maidu Summit Consortium and Conservancy);
Rose Valley Lakes System Alternatives Analysis and Feasibility Study ($194,708 to California Trout, Inc.);
Sentenac Cienega Ecosystem Restoration ($552,898 to California Department of Parks and Recreation);
TRVRP Brown Fill Restoration Project ($1,328,000 to County of San Diego);
Upper Sonoma Creek Habitat Restoration Plan and Demonstration Project Design ($335,738 to Sonoma Ecology Center);
Acquisition Projects:

Arcata Community Forest/Humboldt State University- Jacoby Creek Forest Expansion ($1,754,000 to City of Arcata);
Hornitos Ranch Conservation Easement Acquisition Project ($3,000,000 to Sierra Foothill Conservancy);
Mailliard Navarro and Garcia Rivers Headwaters Forest Project ($1,000,000 to Save the Redwoods League);
Mendonca Dairy Acquisition ($3,696,677 to River Partners);
Mt. Shasta Headwaters: Soda Springs Conservation Easement ($500,000 to Pacific Forest Trust);
Sierra Valley Wetlands/Wet Meadows Conservation Project ($1,723,560 to Feather River Land Trust);
Tijuana River Watershed Protection Project ($1,872,408 to The Trust for Public Land); and
Walker-Hearne Ranch Acquisition Project ($1,700,000 to Ventura Hillsides Conservancy).
Projects approved for funding through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program include:

Scientific Studies:

A next-generation model of juvenile salmon migration through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ($1,730,903 to University of California Santa Cruz, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology);
Application of cutting-edge tools to retrospectively evaluate habitat suitability and flow effects for Longfin Smelt ($604,792 to University of California Davis, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology);
Defining the fundamental niche of Longfin Smelt – Spirinchus thaleichthys ($1,597,446 to Regents of the University of California Davis, Office of Research Sponsored Programs);
Floodplains, Tidal Wetlands and the Dark Food web: determining heterotrophic carbon contribution to higher level consumers ($636,394 to University of California Davis Center for Watershed Sciences);
Impacts of climate change on pesticide bioavailability and sublethal effects on juvenile benefits of floodplain rearing ($963,408 to Regents of the University of California Riverside, Department of Environmental Sciences);
Interior Delta Export Effects Study ($1,349,309 to California Department of Water Resources); and
Juvenile salmon distribution, abundance, and growth in restored and relict Delta marsh habitats ($1,036,412 to California Department of Water Resources).
General information about CDFW’s Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs, as well as a schedule of locations and dates for workshops, once available, can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/grants.

Funding for these projects comes from the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act 2014 (Proposition 1) bond funds, a portion of which are allocated annually through the California State Budget Act. More information about Proposition 1 can be found here.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 12 / 06 / 2017

As of Dec. 1st, recreational crabbing in the ocean is now legal – subject to the existing closures along the Oregon coast. There is some confusion because the commercial crabbers have not started their season yet. The commercial crabbers voluntary delay is due to low meat content in ocean crabs. Their season should resume on or shortly after Dec. 15th – subject to closed to areas closed due to high levels of Domic acid. So right now recreational crabbers can crab in the ocean from the North Jetty on the Coquille River at Bandon northward to Tahkenitch Creek and from Cape Foulweather (south of Depoe Bay) northward to the Washington border.

Because of rough ocean and bar conditions, most recreational crabbing in southern Oregon is taking place in the first 1.5 miles of the Umpqua River above the ocean and in Coos Bay.

As of last weekend, all the crabbing docks in Winchester Bay were producing crabs, but the most dock last week was the old Coast Guard Pier – which happens to be the “dock-crabbing” option that is closest to the ocean and true saltwater.

People interested in crabbing from shore should watch the KATU video of Bill Lackner doing so at Netarts Bay (http://katu.com/afternoon-live/lifestyle-health/crabbing-101)

Looking for a really good “outdoors-related” job? The new Office of Outdoor Recreation will hire a director in the coming months – and the pay scale tops out at more than $97,000 per year. Check out the Parks and Recreation website for more information.

The hunting and fishing regulation booklets for 2018 are now out and 2018 licenses and tags can now be purchased. Changes from last year, of which there are relatively few, are highlighted in bright yellow. One ironic note regarding the 2018 regulations for Diamond Lake is that it is illegal to keep tiger trout or brown trout. When crafting a plan to control tui chubs, the ODFW steadfastedly refused to consider brown even though brown trout have rarely entered the lake via Lake Creek – the outlet stream that connects Diamond Lake with Lemolo Reservoir which has a well-established brown trout population. Brown trout would definitely been a cheaper, more effective option than tiger trout and would not have required protection from angler retention.

As for ocean regulations, as many as six bottomfish proposals are being considered. I’m hoping they pick the simplest version that will allow year-round fishing – and I hope they do it soon. I think essentially shutting off jetty fishing for the bankbound angler was a travesty that needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

My favorite Oregon bass and panfish lake became far less appealing and worthy of a nearly four hour drive when I learned of a recent fish kill on Lake Selmac. The die-off consisted almost entirely of largemouth bass of which nearly 100 were three to six pound lunkers. While the die-off numbers might not seem that much in a much larger lake, it almost certainly represented more than one-third of the jumbo bass in the 148 acre lake.

The die-off could possibly be due to a low oxygen level caused by dying vegetation in the shallow, very weedy lake. My belief is that there are bad aspects in everything good and good aspects in everything bad – and I’m thinking that Selmac will have less fishing pressure and more panfish along with better planted trout survival over the next few years – along with fewer lunker bass.

Salmon fishing is just about over. Siltcoos, Tahkenitch and Tenmile are still producing some cohos but most of the recent catches seem to be salmon that have been in the lakes awhile and the numbers of newly-arriving salmon has been disappointing. The same can be said for the late-run chinook salmon runs on the Elk and Sixes rivers. While the runs are definitely not over – it’s a case of steadily shrinking success. The Chetco River has produced several chinooks weighing at least 48 pounds in the last two weeks. As for the coastal coho lakes the number of bass incidentally caught by salmon anglers seems to have picked up over the last two weeks.

Winter steelhead fishing is going well on most streams and the portion of Tenmile Creek downstream of the Hilltop Drive Bridge in Lakeside became legal on Dec. 1st. However Eel Creek, the stream’s major tributary, does not open until January 1st.

For those of you traveling over the holidays, western Nevada’s Pyramid Lake is still producing at least one 18 to 24 pound cutthroat trout per week – some of them to fly anglers fishing near shore.

Pete Heley works parttime at the Stockade Market & Tackle, across from ‘A’ Dock, in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

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ODFW in Important Meeting in Salem n Dec. 8th.

SALEM, Ore.—The Fish and Wildlife will meet Friday, Dec. 8 in Salem at ODFW Headquarters, 4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE. The meeting starts at 8 a.m. and follows this agenda, http://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/17/12_dec/index.asp

The meeting will be livestreamed on ODFW’s Periscope and Twitter accounts.

During the Director’s report at the beginning of the meeting, ODFW staff will present a working copy of the Draft Updated Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. This copy shows the edits staff have made to the Plan since April 2017 as a result of comments from stakeholders, the public and Commissioners.
A panel of representatives from Wolf Program stakeholder groups has also been invited to testify at the meeting, but no other public testimony about wolves will be taken. After the Dec. 8 meeting, ODFW staff plans to complete any additional edits and present the Plan for final adoption and rule-making at the Jan. 19, 2018 Commission meeting in Salem.

The Commission will set 2018 regulations for nearshore recreational and commercial groundfish fisheries. These are based on federal regulations. Black rockfish are the primary driver of Oregon’s marine fish bag limits in 2018 and next year’s allowed harvest level will decrease slightly from 2017.

The 2017 recreational groundfish bag limit design did not provide year-round fishing, prompting an early closure due to quota attainment that disrupted coastal charter businesses and anglers. To try to avoid a similar disruption in 2018, ODFW staff have been meeting with stakeholders to determine the best management approach to provide sustainable harvest opportunities and maximize chances for a year-round season.

Based on feedback from stakeholders, staff are proposing seasonal bag limit changes while still allowing for a year-round fishery. Also under consideration are alternatives to shorten the season, in order to maintain a larger bag limit. The proposal recommended by ODFW staff calls for a daily bag limit of four marine fish from April-September (the busiest part of the season) and six marine fish from October-March, down from a year-round bag limit of seven fish in 2017.

The cabezon fishery will remain the same (open July 1-Dec. 31 or quota attainment, with a sub-bag limit of one). ODFW staff are also recommending to continue offering the offshore long-leader bag limit of ten fish. For more details including other options for groundfish bag limits and season dates, see Agenda Item F.

In other business, the Commission will be asked to:

Consider a petition to change fishing regulations and allow for wild spring Chinook retention one month earlier than currently allowed in the lower and middle Rogue River. Spring Chinook management and harvest is managed under the Rogue Spring Chinook Salmon Conservation Plan which is currently under review.
Approve a five-year culvert repair agreement between ODOT and ODFW that will allow ODOT to make critical repairs to aging culverts in a cost-effective manner without having to meet full fish passage criteria, which would be prohibitively expensive. As part of the agreement, ODOT would also fund high priority fish passage restoration projects off the state highway system to offset delayed passage at culvert repair locations.
Appoint a fishing representative and a Tribal representative to the Oregon Coordination Council for Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia plus two representatives to the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Commission.
Appoint new representatives to the Restoration and Enhancement Board and approve funding for several R&E projects, which improve fisheries or recreational fishing opportunities.
Per direction of the Oregon State Legislature, make a rule change to the Mentored Youth Hunter Program to extend the maximum age for youth to participate from 13 to 15. (This program is aimed at recruiting new hunters by allowing youth to hunt with a mentor without first passing a hunter education class.)
Adopt permanent rules to implement Ballot Measure 100/HB 2576 (the Wildlife Trafficking Prevention Act which made it illegal to purchase, sell or exchange elephant, rhinoceros, whale, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, pangolin, marine and leatherback turtles, sharks and rays).
Reasonable accommodations will be provided as needed for individuals requesting assistive hearing devices, sign language interpreters or large-print materials. Individuals needing these types of accommodations may call the ODFW Director’s Office at 800-720-6339 or 503-947-6044 at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.

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