Monthly Archives: March 2018

CDFW News – Anglers Urged to Return Overdue 2017 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding sturgeon anglers to return their 2017 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards as required by law. Although the deadline to report their catch was Jan. 31, 2018, so far about 13,754 – or 31 percent – of the 44,374 report cards have been returned. Sport fishing regulations require that all sturgeon anglers return their report cards, even those who did not encounter sturgeon and who did not fish for white sturgeon.

“Anglers who return their report cards are providing very good data, helping to protect the white sturgeon fishery, and helping to rebuild the populations of white sturgeon and threatened green sturgeon,” said Marty Gingras, CDFW Sturgeon Program Manager. “This is especially important given the years of drought that harmed recent sturgeon reproduction.”

California’s white sturgeon and green sturgeon are anadromous, meaning they move from the ocean or brackish water to spawn in freshwater. Because their populations were reduced by commercial fishing in the 19th century, sturgeon fisheries were mostly closed from 1901 through 1953. Since 1954, recreational fishing for white sturgeon has been allowed, and the fishery continues to be restricted in an effort to rebuild it. Green sturgeon is a federally listed threatened species and may not be fished for or harvested.

Anglers can return their overdue report cards by mail to the address printed on the card or – until April 1, 2018 — they can report online at the CDFW website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing#44521416-harvest-reporting.

If the pathetic rate of tag returns does not improve, California may have to address the problem the way Oregon did for some hunts – by imposing a $25 non-reporting fee when a license is purchased the following year.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 3 / 14 / 2018

Both commercial and recreational crabbing are now open along the entire Oregon coast – finally – and commercial crabbers no longer are required to have their crabs eviscerated prior to selling them. The bad news is that crabbing success has dropped off markedly over the last month.

As for an evaluation on upcoming ocean salmon seasons, the Medford Mail Tribune stated that preliminary stock assessments estimate that there are 229,400 Sacramento River fall chinook in the ocean – slightly less than last year when fishing was restricted along the southern Oregon coast. As this is being written there is no final word on on whether the ocean chinook season will open oon March 15th – as usual. At the very least, the lack of northern California salmon off the southern Oregon coast will have a negative effect on ocean salmon fishing success. Salmon managers heading into the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s March 8-14 meeting say they think the council will be able to propose at least possible sport and commercial seasons with as little impact to Sacramento stocks as possible. The Pacific Fishery Management Council will set its final season recommendations when it meets April 5-11 in Portland. The federal Department of Commerce has the final say in setting ocean-fishing seasons.

No spring chinook catches reported on the Umpqua yet, but since they started catching springers on the Rogue three weeks ago, there are certainly a few in the Umpqua River waiting to be caught.

Lingcod fishing off Winchester Bay’s South Jetty has been good and red hot near Tenmile Reef which is reachable by boat anglers from Winchester Bay and Charleston and very popular during the six months it is open each year. During the calm conditions of last week, pipe jigs weighing around two pounds “ruled the day”.

Visiting bottomfish anglers from the northern Oregon tried some handmade pipe jigs filled with concrete and discoovered the lingcod bite them, but they sank much slower than their “store bought” pipe jigs that were filled with lead – and when fishing water slightly over 300 feet deep, sink time is an important factor in fishing success.

By the way, the aforementioned Tenmile Reef along with all other Oregon marine waters deeper than 30 fathoms will close to conventional bottomfishing from April 1st through September.

This week is a big week for trout plants along the Oregon coast. The ODFW trout planting schedule has changed “sizewise” as now the planting sizes are legal, trophy and broodstock.

Florence-area lakes that were planted this week include Alder Lake (500 legals and 461 trophies); Buck Lake (850 legals and 136 trophies); Carter Lake (750 trophies); Cleawox Lake (2,250 trophies); Dune Lake (850 legals and 136 trophies); Georgia Lake(North) (450 legals and 75 trophies); Lost Lake (400 trophies); Mercer Lake (1,500 trophies); Munsel Lake (2,400 trophies); Siltcoos Lagoon (981 trophies); (Siltcoos Lake (1,000 trophies).

Closer to home, Lake Marie is getting 2,000 legal trout and Loon Lake is getting 1,500. Other Douglas County waters planted this week include Cooper Creek Reservoir (1,500 legals); Galesville Reservoir (1,666 trophies); Plat “I” Reservoir (1,000 legals).

Newport-area waters planted this week include: Big Creek Reservoir 1(Lower) (1,000 legals); Big Creek Reservoir 2(Upper) (1,800 legals and 2,000 trophies) and Olalla Reservoir (2,000 legals and 1,450 trophies).

A very large trout plant of 4,850 legal rainbows was made in Garrison Lake near Port Orford.

Simply knowing the numbers of trout stocked doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. The waters receiving the trout plants vary greatly in size. The surface areas of the waters stocked this week range from one acre Noorth Georgia to Siltcoos Lake’s 3,100+ acres. If you want to do the math involving dividing the surface area of a lake into the size of the trout plant – here is a list of the approximite lake sizes.

Alder Lake (3 acres); Buck Lake (3 acres); Carter Lake (28 acres); Cleawox Lake (82 acres); Dune Lake (3 acres); Lost Lake (6 acres); Mercer Lake (341 acres); Munsel Lake (110 acres); North Georgia Lake (1 acre): Siltcoooos Lagoon (2 acres); Siltcoos Lake (3,116 acres); Lake Marie (6 acres); Loon Lake (280 acres); Cooper Creek Reservoir (160 acres); Galesville Reservoir (600 acres); Plat “I” Reservoir (140 acres); Big Creek Reservoir (Lower) (20 acres); Big Creek Reservoir (Upper) (30 acres) and Olalla Reservoir (110 acres).

And a few spots deserve additional finetuning when it comes to figuring trout stocking density because something as simple as water depth, more exactly shallw water may, keep the recently stocked trout from inhabiting or even entering certain sections of some lakes. A good example of such a lake would be Cleawox in which the main lake of about 50 acres is separated from its north arm by extremely shallow water.

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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Fish Evacuees Leave Leaburg, Other Hatcheries.

Many of the 1.75 million juvenile fish evacuated from Cascade Hatchery in Cascade Locks after last year’s Eagle Creek Fire in the Gorge are now on their way from the Pacific Northwest’s rivers to the Columbia River and eventually, the Pacific Ocean.

The evacuation was due to the threat of debris flow when storms passed over areas hit by the Eagle Creek Fire. A debris flow could overwhelm water intake areas and harm water quality, which could have killed fish at the hatchery.

One million juvenile (< 1 year old) coho bound for the Lostine and Umatilla Rivers were evacuated to Leaburg Hatchery last September. Half of those fish were released in the Lostine River in northeast Oregon last week, a project in cooperation with the Nez Perce Tribe. The remaining 500,000 coho, destined for release in the Umatilla River in a few weeks, are now at acclimation ponds at the Pendleton acclimation site under the care of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Another 650,000 coho went to Leavenworth and Willard National Fish Hatcheries for release into the upper tributaries of the Columbia River including the Methow and Wenatchee Rivers.

An additional 132,000 spring Chinook that were evacuated last September went to Sandy Hatchery are set for a spring release into the Bull Run River, a tributary of the Sandy River.

Once released, the coho and spring Chinook begin their downstream migration into the Columba River, reaching the Pacific Ocean weeks later. Coho will spend the next year and a half growing and maturing to adulthood in the ocean before returning to the Columbia River and its upper tributaries. Spring Chinook spend one to four years in the ocean before returning.

Operations at Cascade Hatchery are slowly getting back to normal. The hatchery did experience some high water and runoff last fall and some sudden muddy and turbid water flows this year, but water supply has been good overall. Some fish fry are now being raised there and next year, some older fish will return to the hatchery. However, it will be some time before Cascade Hatchery is back to full production due to concerns about the stability of the Eagle Creek drainage.

ODFW intends to use Leaburg Hatchery again this summer to raise 500K juvenile coho that will be released into the Umatilla River in 2019—fish that normally would have been raised at Cascade Hatchery.

“Our ability to move these fish to Leaburg Hatchery was critical to salvaging production after the fires, and we will need to use the hatchery again while the watershed recovers from the Eagle Creek Fire,” explained Andrew Gibbs, ODFW acting east region hatchery manager.

Leaburg Hatchery had been scheduled to close on June 30, 2018 after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opted to shift its fish production to a private facility. The Oregon State Legislature recently passed a bill to fund the hatchery for one year (July 1, 2018- June 30, 2019) through a combination of General Fund dollars and Columbia River Basin Endorsement funds.

ODFW is currently working on strategies to provide funding for Leaburg Hatchery for the 2019-2021 biennium and beyond. Continued operation of Leaburg will provide additional capacity within the hatchery system to accommodate emergency fish transfers like occurred after the Eagle Creek Fire. ODFW also hopes that long term funding for Leaburg will allow the hatchery to raise spring Chinook and trophy trout, creating more fishing opportunities in the Willamette Valley.

Photo captions: Coho evacuated from Cascade to Leaburg Hatchery after the Eagle Creek Fire last September were released into the Lostine River in northeast Oregon last week.

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ODFW and Partners Building Fishing Dock at Cape Meares Lake.

The Tillamook Anglers, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), and Tillamook County have partnered to place a new fishing dock on Cape Meares Lake, a very shallow 70 acre lake, for public use.

Construction will begin March 15 and is expected to last through April 16. The new dock will be located on the southwest corner of the lake near the intersection of the Bayocean Dike Road and Bayocean Road.

The new dock replaces one that had served the public from 1991-2004 but was removed after it was damaged during a storm.

The main objective of this project is to provide anglers a safe place to fish, according to Ron Rehn, Salmon Trout Enhancement Program (STEP) biologist for ODFW’s North Coast Watershed District.

“Currently most bank angling takes place along the shoulder of Bayocean Road, which can create safety issues,” Rehn explained. “The new dock will provide access away from the road and put anglers over deeper water, improving the chances for catching fish and having a positive experience.”

ODFW stocks approximately 13,000 rainbow trout in addition to surplus adult hatchery winter steelhead in Cape Meares Lake and the lake also contains largemouth bass, bluegills and crappies.

Funding for this project was provided by a donation from Loren Parks and the Tillamook Anglers, with major portion funded through a grant from the ODFW Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program. Remaining assistance was provided by Tillamook County and the ODFW North Coast STEP Program

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CDFW News – California’s Drought, Poor Ocean Conditions Impact Salmon Forecast for 2018.

Commercial and sport anglers received mixed news today regarding the status of Sacramento River fall Chinook and Klamath River fall Chinook – California’s two largest Chinook salmon populations. While adult returns of both stocks were well below minimum escapement goals in 2017, and projected abundance for both stocks is modest compared to historic averages, state and federal fishery scientists reported an increase in the number of jacks (two-year-old Chinook) that returned to spawn in 2017. Higher jack returns, as seen in 2017, can indicate the potential for increased abundance of adult (three years old or older) Chinook for 2018 fisheries.

Forecasts presented at today’s annual Salmon Information Meeting suggest there are 229,400 Sacramento River fall Chinook adults in the ocean this year, along with 359,200 Klamath River fall Chinook adults. While the Sacramento River fall Chinook forecast is comparable to last year, there are greater numbers of Klamath River fall Chinook projected to be in the ocean in 2018. Fall Chinook from these runs typically comprise the majority of salmon taken in California’s ocean and inland fisheries.

The effects of the recent drought are still impacting California’s salmon populations. Outbound juvenile Chinook suffered unusually high mortality because of low flows and high water temperatures in both the Sacramento and Klamath watersheds in 2014 and 2015. Unsuitable river conditions, coupled with persistently poor ocean conditions during the same period, resulted in very low numbers of adult Chinook returning to spawn in both the Klamath and Sacramento River basins in 2017.

Over the next two months, the Pacific Fishery Management Council will use the 2018 fall Chinook ocean abundance forecasts, in addition to information on the status of endangered Sacramento River winter Chinook, to set ocean sport and commercial fishing season dates, commercial quotas and size and bag limits.

At the same time, fishery managers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will be working to develop a suite of recommendations for the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) to consider on 2018 fishing seasons, size limits and bag limits for Chinook salmon river fishing in the Klamath/Trinity and Sacramento River basins. For more information, please visit the FGC Sport Fishing Regulations website.

For more information on the process for setting the California ocean salmon season or for general information about ocean salmon fishing, please visit the Ocean Salmon Project website. For the latest ocean salmon season regulations, please call the CDFW ocean salmon hotline at (707) 576-3429 or the National Marine Fisheries Service salmon fishing hotline at (800) 662-9825.

For the latest inland salmon season regulations in the Klamath/Trinity basin, call (800) 564-6479, and in the Central Valley, please visit the CDFW Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations website.

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CDFW News – Lassen County Man Arrested for Illegal Mass Killing of Raptors.

California wildlife officers have uncovered what is likely the largest raptor poaching case in known California history, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced.

Wildlife officers assigned to Lassen County received an anonymous tip from someone who reportedly witnessed a man killing a hawk near the town of Standish. The local wildlife officer conducted surveillance, then visited the private property and discovered nine dead raptors, which was enough evidence to obtain a search warrant. He returned on March 11 with additional officers and a CDFW K-9. A search of the 80-acre property led to the discovery of an extraordinary number of raptor carcasses, other dead birds and wildlife and spent rifle casings indicating more than 140 potential state and/or federal violations.

Processing evidence
Processing evidence: Wildlife officers collected over 140 carcasses of mostly raptors, but other birds and mammals as well.
In addition to the original nine birds, they found 126 dead raptors, all in various states of decay. Most of the birds were red tail hawks, but at least one dead owl was found, as well as an uncommon migratory ferruginous hawk. Officers also located two dead bobcats, one taxidermied mountain lion and other nongame birds, all suspected to be unlawfully taken.

Property owner Richard Parker, 67, was booked into Lassen County jail on multiple charges including take of birds of prey, take of migratory nongame birds as designated by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, take of other nongame birds, and possession of wildlife unlawfully taken. Additional charges may be added as the investigation proceeds.

wildlife officers conducting investigation
Wildlife officers conducting investigation: Most of the dead birds were located at the bottom of roosting trees or manmade objects such as telephone poles.
Staff at CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory in Rancho Cordova are working to positively identify the species of all of the birds.

As the top bird predators in the food chain, raptors serve an important role in the ecosystem by controlling rodent and small mammal populations. However, they are also particularly susceptible to environmental stressors such as drought and habitat loss. For these reasons, biologists refer to them as an indicator species.

Standish is located near Honey Lake and the Honey Lake Wildlife Area, with habitat that supports a rich diversity and quantity of wildlife. The sheer number of birds poached on the 80-acre property will undoubtedly affect the raptor population in the immediate area.

“Poaching crimes of this egregious nature against raptors is unprecedented in California,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The local raptor population may take years to recover from these killings.”

Each potential violation is a misdemeanor poaching crime at the state level, with maximum penalties of six months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine per each raptor. An unlawfully taken mountain lion could result in up to a $10,000 penalty. Each potential federal crime could result in additional penalties.

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WDFW News – Federal Council Announces Options for Ocean Salmon Fisheries.

Calif. – Salmon managers have developed options for ocean salmon fisheries that reflect concerns over poor projected returns of coho and chinook salmon this year.

Three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries were approved Wednesday for public review by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters 3 to 200 miles off the Pacific coast. A public hearing on the three alternatives is scheduled for March 26 in Westport. More details are available online at https://www.pcouncil.org/2017/12/51357/salmon-hearings/.

The three options are designed to protect the low numbers of wild coho and chinook expected to return to the Columbia River and other Washington rivers this year while still providing some fishing opportunities, said Kyle Adicks, salmon fisheries policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“We’ll use this range of options to work with stakeholders to develop a final fishing package for 2018 that meets our conservation objectives for wild salmon,” Adicks said. “We know that ocean salmon quotas for chinook will be the lowest in several years and that coho quotas will be limited again this year due to weak forecasted returns to several rivers.”

This year’s forecast of Columbia River fall chinook is down more than 50 percent from the 10-year average. About 112,500 hatchery chinook are expected to return to the lower Columbia River. Those fish, known as “tules” are the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

Meanwhile, fishery managers expect 286,200 Columbia River hatchery coho to return to the Washington coast, down about 100,000 fish from last year’s forecast. Only 279,300 coho actually returned last year to the Columbia River, where some coho stocks are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Unfavorable environmental conditions, such as warm ocean water and flooding in rivers, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington’s waters, Adicks said.

The alternatives include the following quotas for recreational fisheries off the Washington coast:

Alternative 1: 32,500 chinook and 42,000 coho. Marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) would open June 23, while Marine Area 2 (Westport) would open July 1. All four areas would be open daily through Sept. 3. This option would have a fishery scheduled from Sept. 29-Oct. 14 in the La Push late-season area.
Alternative 2: 27,500 chinook and 29,400 coho. Marine areas 1, 3 and 4 would be open daily June 30-Sept. 3, while Marine Area 2 would be open five days per week (Sunday through Thursday) June 24-Sept. 3. This option would also have a fishery scheduled from Sept. 29-Oct. 14 in the La Push late-season area.
Alternative 3: 22,500 chinook and 16,800 coho. All four marine areas would be open July 1-Sept. 3. Marine Area 2 would be open Sundays through Thursdays while the other areas would be open daily. This option does not include a late fishery in the La Push area.
Each of the alternatives allows for varying levels of chinook and hatchery coho retention. Fisheries may close early if quotas have been met. For more details about the options, visit PFMC’s webpage at https://www.pcouncil.org/blog/.

The first alternative most closely resembles ocean fisheries last summer, when PFMC adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 45,000 chinook and 42,000 coho salmon.

Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2018 salmon-fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those other fisheries.

State and tribal co-managers will complete the final 2018 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with PFMC during its April meeting in Portland, Ore.

Meanwhile, several public meetings are scheduled in March and April to discuss regional fisheries issues. The public can comment on the proposed ocean alternatives and provide their thoughts on other salmon fisheries through WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/. A schedule of public meetings, as well as salmon run-size forecasts and more information about the salmon-season setting process can also be found on the webpage.

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Winchester Bay Bottomfish

As Winchester Bay’s offshore bottomfish season approaches its seasonal closure (the last day is March 31st), the fishing continues to be almost unbelievable. Below are a few photos from Brian Gill of “The Umpqua Angler”.

By the time the offshore season closes, lingcod fishing off the South Jetty should be at its season’s peak – giving bankbound anglers a chance at decent-sized lingcod

30# lingcod are a definite possibility.

Assorted incidentally-taken bottomfish are a tasty bonus.

Joseph Lake caught this 32# lingcod in 35 fow near the South Jetty.

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Initial Ocean Salmon Seasons Set

3/13/18 RECREATIONAL OCEAN SALMON ACTION NOTICE: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in consultation with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), the State of Oregon, and the State of California met this morning in Rohnert Park, California and have taken the following in-season management action to the scheduled March and April recreational ocean Chinook salmon openings off Oregon:

ACTION TAKEN: The planned ocean Chinook salmon (all-salmon-except coho) season will open as scheduled from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. from March 15 through April 30, 2018. The bag limit will be two salmon, except closed to retention of coho, with a minimum size of 24” for Chinook and a minimum size of 20” for steelhead. Within 15 fathoms of depth off Tillamook between Twin Rocks and Pyramid Rock all retained Chinook must have a healed fin clip.

RATIONALE: The recreational ocean fishery off Oregon in March and April has very low effort and Chinook catch. Fishery managers and industry representatives agreed that this opening would not create any difficulty in developing the remainder of the ocean seasons for the 2018 fishing year. Seasons from May 1, 2018 through April 30, 2019 are currently being developed. Season alternatives will be reviewed and a final season recommendation made at the Pacific Fishery Management Council public meeting April 5-11 in Portland, Oregon.

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WDFW News – Two-Day Razor Clam Dig OK’d Beginning March 16.

Razor clam diggers can return to various ocean beaches for a two-day opening beginning March 16.

State shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the dig on evening low tides after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat.

“Last weekend, we had a great turnout for the dig at Mocrocks,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW. “We’ll have more beaches open for this upcoming dig and expect to draw some crowds, especially with the Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival on Saturday.”

With daylight savings coming up, Ayres noted the best digging will take place before sunset each night of the opening. Typically, Ayres encourages people to dig an hour or two before low tide for optimal results. Digging is not allowed at any beach before noon.

The upcoming dig is approved on the following beaches, dates and evening low tides:

March 16, Friday, 7:03 p.m.; +0.2 feet; Copalis, Mocrocks
March 17, Saturday, 7:36 p.m.; +0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2017-18 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

Another dig is tentatively scheduled on various ocean beaches April 19-22. State shellfish managers typically announce whether a dig will go forward about a week before the opening. For updates on upcoming digs, see WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.

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