Pete Heley Outdoors 3 / 22 /2017

Outside of continued cool, often rainy weather, most of the news this week has been good.

The ODFW Commission reversed their earlier vote regarding Columbia River gillnetting by a unanimous 7 – 0 vote and may now be considered “back on the reservation”. Kudos to the Washington Fish Commission for refusing to agree with the earlier vote of the Oregon Commission. Even better, the portion of salmon allotted to sport anglers was increased. Newspapers and various online fishing forums are giving this subject the in-depth coverage it deserves.

It was decided that the first of Oregon’s “free fishing weekends” this year will be April 22nd and 23rd – a weekend when there should be multiple fishing options. The regular “free fishing weekend”, before Oregon added additional such weekends will be June 3rd and 4th this year – also a good time to fish and that date should offer better crabbing.

Also, it appears that Soda Springs Reservoir, a 25 acre reservoir on the North Umpqua River will reopen to fishing next year. The reservoir has been closed the last few years following work on the dam that opened up several miles of the North Umpqua above the reservoir for salmon and steelhead spawning. The proposed regulation change was made after fisheries personnel actually observed large trout, mostly brown trout, feeding on smolts. Sometimes common sense does prevail.

The ocean Chinook salmon season opened as usual on March 15th. However, the season is “locked in” only through April at which time there will be an evaluation and the season may not last until its usual Oct. 31st closure.

A number of Coos County waters will be stocked with trout this week. Bradley Lake, Butterfield Lake and Saunders Lake as well as Johnson Mill Pond and Powers Pond will each receive 3,000 legal rainbows. Trophy rainbows of 15-inches or slightly longer will also be stocked, with 200 going into Bradley, 150 into Powers Pond and 50 into Johnson Mill Pond.

Also being stocked this week are Eel Lake with 2,500 legal rainbows. Both Upper and Lower Empire Lakes are each slated to receive 1,000 14-inch rainbows and 250 trophy rainbows.

Anglers visiting the northern Oregon coast should be aware that virtually all the area waters that receive trout plants between Tillamook and the Washington border will be stocked this week.

Bottomfishing in Marine waters deeper than 180 feet will close at the end of March.

Warmwater angling has been very disappointing with unusually cool water temperatures and inconsistent, often miserable weather. As of last week, many of the walkways to docks adjacent to coastal boat ramps have been under water. Horsfall Lake, which almost dries up every fall is now full to the point where it is blocking access to Horsfall Beach.

At least the days are getting longer.

Pete Heley works weekends at the Stockade Market & Tackle in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

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Jason Saunders Catches Huge Skate

Noted Reedsport luremaker, Jason Saunders, recently expanded his fishing horizons by catching this impressive skate.

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Valuable Tagged Trout Swimming Around In Empire Lakes.

The pot of gold isn’t at the end of the rainbow; it’s swimming in Empire Lakes. A $50 VISA gift card goes home with anglers who catch a specially tagged rainbow trout here.

Anglers who harvest trout with a specially marked four-digit tag number will receive a $50 VISA gift card when the tag is brought to the Charleston ODFW Field Office. All other tags can be reported by calling the field office or using this online form.

Empire Lakes is a popular coastal rainbow trout fishery, and ODFW biologists need anglers to help them keep it that way by reporting tagged fish they catch.

ODFW is tagging 500 legal-plus (12 to 13 inches) hatchery rainbow trout through June. Fisheries biologist Gary Vonderohe asks anglers to report tags on fish they catch even if they don’t harvest them.

“We stock a lot of trout here, and we want to make sure we’re giving anglers a quality fishery to enjoy. Tag reporting helps us know how many fish are being caught and what size of fish provides the best fishery for the anglers,” Vonderohe said.

The Empire Lakes tag reward project costs about half of a traditional angler creel survey, saving ODFW $5,000 in this case. Vonderohe said he will get generally the same information with the exception of angler effort.

ODFW stocks 40,000 rainbow trout each year in Empire Lakes. This year, 500 legal-plus trout are being tagged, with about 46 of those specially marked for gift cards.

Anglers who harvest a trout with a specially marked tag can visit the Charleston Field Office at 63538 Boat Basin Drive daily between 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. to collect their gift card. All other tags can be reported to ODFW at 541-888-5515.

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ODFW Commission Backs Down

The Commission voted unanimously to further adjust Columbia River salmon fisheries rules today along the following lines:

Spring Chinook 80/20 sport/commercial allocation of allowable ESA impacts. Commercial priority to off-channel large-mesh gillnet fisheries not constrained by run-size buffer. Mainstem commercial fisheries only occurring with tangle net gear after the run update if remaining impact balances allow.
Summer Chinook 80/20 sport/commercial allocation of harvestable surplus; large-mesh gillnets not allowed for mainstem commercial fisheries.
Fall Chinook 70/30 sport/commercial allocation of allowable ESA impacts of the limiting fall Chinook stock (tule or Snake River wild), and 30 for the non-constraining stock. Large-mesh gillnets allowed in mainstem commercial Zones 4-5; assign up to 2 percent of the commercial fishery impacts for use with alternative gears in the lower river; commercial Coho fisheries restricted to tangle nets in Zones 1-3.
Youngs Bay sport closure remains in effect.
More details will be available next week, when the new rules are posted online.
In other business, the Commission:

Changed the formula to allocate Landowner Preference (LOP) tags for mule deer in wildlife management units below the population objective as proposed by Staff. Commissioners did ask that ODFW staff add an amendment indicating that any emergency public tag reductions (due to weather or disease) would also apply to LOP tags. Finally, staff were asked to return in September with a proposal to limit LOP tags for any late season special hunt opportunities with a very limited number of tags.
Approved project funding recommended by the Restoration and Enhancement Board, and the 2017-19 R&E and Salmon Trout Enhancement Program budgets.
Approved the acquisition of the property adjacent to the existing Buena Vista Boat Ramp on the Willamette River so the increasingly popular boat ramp can be improved to improve boater safety, increase ADA accessibility at the site, and enhance recreational opportunities.
Renamed the River Ranch Parcel of the Lower Deschutes Wildlife Area the Woosley Tract to recognize the lifelong contributions that Chuck and Gail Woosley of Corvallis have made to the project by contributing to it financially, testifying at Commission meetings and for their countless hours of volunteer service at multiple wildlife areas.
Received an informational briefing on the upcoming ocean salmon seasons where record low forecasted returns of Chinook to the Klamath Basin, a primary driver for ocean fisheries on the southern and central Oregon coast, will have a significant impact on Oregon ocean salmon fisheries for 2017.
The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in the state and it usually meets monthly. Its next meeting is April 21 in Klamath Falls.

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WDFW News – Sturgeon Retention By Sport Fishery to Close In Bonneville, The Dalles pools.

Action: Closes retention of sturgeon in Bonneville and The Dalles pools.

Effective date: March 25, 2017, until further notice.

Species affected: White sturgeon.

Locations: The Columbia River and tributaries from Bonneville Dam upstream to John Day Dam.

Reason for action: The harvest guidelines for both pools are expected to be reached by the effective date of this rule.

Other information: Catch-and-release fishing remains open in both the Bonneville and The Dalles pools.

Information contact: (360) 696-6211. For latest information press *1010.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 3 / 15 / 2017

It seems that there are increasing reports of spotted bass being caught in Cottage Grove and Dorena reservoirs. However, it seems that the only spotted bass population acknowledged by the ODFW resides in Lost Creek Reservoir. Lost Creeh has has spotted bass for about ten years, but the population hasn’t taken over even though the reservoir’s drastic water level changes would seem to favor the spotted bass. So far no big spots have been reported taken at Lost Creek, but a few spots to at least four pounds have been reported taken from Cottage Grove and Dorena reservoirs – as well as smallmouth bass to at least five pounds. Since none of these waters contain kokanee, the common factor when it comes to producing truly outsized spots and smallies, don’t expect any record breakers.

After a brief respite, trout stocking along the Oregon coast resumes on a very strong note. Trout plants for the Big Creek Reservoirs in Newport last month were delayed due to dam construction and if those trout are added to the trout scheduled to be planted this week, there are going to be a lot of trout swimming around in those small reservoirs.

In Coos County, both Lower and Upper Empire Lakes are each slated to receive 1,500 12-inch rainbows this week. Although the plants are seldom announced, both Saunders and Butterfield Lakes have each received plants of adult winter steelhead from the STEP fishtrap in Tugman Park at Eel Lake.

Even closer to home, this week Lake Marie is slated to receive its first trout plant of this year consisting of 2,000 legal rainbows. Also this week, Loon Lake will receive its second trout plant – this one consisting of 1,500 legal rainbows. Roseburg-area waters being planted this week include Cooper Creek Reservoir (1,500 legals); Galesville Reservoir (2,000 legals) and Plat “I” Reservoir (1,000 legals).

The Roseburg-area waters being planted will be muddy, as will Loon Lake, but the small amount of water on Loon Lake above where the Lake Creek inlet enters the lake will be less muddy. Lake Marie will be clear and fishing off the trail that surrounds the lake should be easier this year due to a major clean-up project courtesy of the quite active fishing club, the Oregon Coast Anglers.

The first Umpqua River spring chinook was caught about two weeks ago in the Scottsburg area and last week the Rogue River gave up its first springer this year. Very muddy water should keep fishing pressure light for the next few weeks. Although not many springers are hooked at Half Moon Bay and off the South Jetty, the influx of seawater during high tides should allow the lowermost Umpqua River to be clear enough to fish long before the river clears farther upstream clears.

Bottomfishing in waters deeper than 180 feet deep (30 fathoms) will end at midnight on March 31st. More shallow marine waters will remain open all year, but cabezon of 16-inches in length or longer won’t be legal to keep until July 1st.

A friend of mine fishing for yellow perch off the fishing dock at the county park on South Tenmile Lake last week reported that a fellow angler told him that a state record perch had been caught there a couple of weeks ago. But the state record yellow perch remains a two pound two ounce fish caught 46 years ago – so the fish in quesion was either a figment of the dock angler’s imagination or not turned in for state record consideration.

The timing is right to catch a record perch. Although some perch in western Oregon have already spawned, many are at their maxinimum weight for the year. However an angler will never receive credit for catching a state record fish without first getting it officially weighed on an accurate scale such as those used by supermarkets. Then he needs to get the names and addresses or phone numbers of any witnesses to the weighing, take a good color photo and then send the info to the Oregon Bass and Panfish Club which is currently in charge of keeping records for Oregon’s warmwater fish.

The 4-3 decision by the ODFW Commission to continue allowing gill netting in the Columbia River has resulted in very heated responses in the community thread of ifish.net. It seems that the commissioners voted to ignore the very purpose of Columbia River Enhancement Plan, then when directed by the governor to move to compliance with the state of Washington which remained closer to the intended purpose of the Columbia River enhancement Plan, did not. Instead, the Oregon Commission wrote a letter to the Washingon Commission urging them to move toward’s their position.

While Oregon’s governor finally seems to be on the right side of this controversy, she remains complicit because of her ODFW Commission appointments. Please follow the online thread on ifish.net for more detailed information and don’t blame the ODFW in general. Most ODFW employees do not agree with the commissioners vote, yet are taking much of the heat for it.

As for me, I find it reprensible that the commissioners have not only reneged on the CRE Plan, but are attempting to convince the WDFW commissioners to do likewise. It seems that the entire amount of money collected on Columbia River Enhancement fishing license surcharges is at risk of being refunded via a class action suit.

There is a ODFW Commission meeting in Salem this week that will address the controversy – and hopefully do something about it.

Pete Heley works weekends at the Stockade Market & Tackle in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

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ODFW Salmon Update

ACTION NOTICE: Commercial Troll Salmon
03/12/2017
3/12/17 COMMERCIAL TROLL SALMON ACTION NOTICE: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in consultation with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), the State of Oregon, the State of California, and fishery representatives met this morning in Vancouver, Washington and have taken the following in-season management action to the scheduled March and April commercial troll Chinook salmon openings off Oregon:

ACTIONS TAKEN:
(1) The commercial troll salmon fishery scheduled to open on March 15 in the area from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. will remain closed to commercial troll salmon fishing for the period of March 15 through at least April 14.

(2) The commercial troll salmon fishery scheduled to open on March 15 in the area from Humbug Mt. to the Oregon/California Border will remain closed to commercial troll salmon fishing until further notice.

RATIONALE: Fishery managers and industry representatives agreed that this closure was needed to reduce impacts on Klamath River fall Chinook in order to provide more flexibility in other season options that are currently under development. The forecast abundance of Klamath River fall Chinook is extremely low, and most other Chinook salmon populations that contribute to fisheries South of Cape Falcon are forecast at poor to fair abundances.

Within the commercial troll salmon season alternatives which are still in development, there are two potential April 15 openings: (1) Cape Falcon to the Florence South Jetty, and (2) Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. These two early season alternatives are anticipated to be included with the season alternatives that will be considered early in the April PFMC meeting in Sacramento, California.

Seasons from May 1, 2017 through April 30, 2018 are currently being developed. Season alternatives will be reviewed and a final season recommendation made at the Pacific Fishery Management Council public meeting in Sacramento, California on April 6 through April 10.

UPDATE: Ocean Recreational Salmon
03/12/2017
3/12/17 RECREATIONAL OCEAN SALMON UPDATE: The season for Chinook salmon in ocean waters from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. will open as scheduled for the period of March 15, 2017 through April 30, 2017. This season is open for all salmon except Coho Salmon, with a bag limit of two salmon per day, and minimum sizes of 24 inches total length for Chinook Salmon, and 20 inches total length for steelhead.

Anglers are restricted to no more than two single point barbless hooks when fishing for salmon, and when fishing for any other species if a salmon is on board the vessel.

Anglers fishing in ocean waters adjacent to Tillamook Bay between Twin Rocks and Pyramid Rock and within the 15 fathom depth contour are reminded that only adipose fin-clipped Chinook Salmon may be retained or on board while fishing prior to August 1.

Seasons from May 1, 2017 through April 30, 2018 are currently being developed. Season alternatives will be reviewed and a final season recommendation made at the Pacific Fishery Management Council public meeting in Sacramento, California from April 6 through April 10.

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Important ODFW Commission Meeting March 17th In Salem

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet Friday, March 17 at the Benton County Fairgrounds (Guerber Hall, 110 SE 53rd Street, Corvallis) to reconsider their rules on Columbia River Fisheries Reform adopted Jan. 20.

Friday’s meeting starts at 8 a.m. and follows this agenda http://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/17/03_march/index.asp

On Thursday March 16, Commissioners will tour several projects in the area including Bald Hill Farms, EE Wilson Wildlife Area, Smithfield Oaks and the Buena Vista Ramp Boat Project. Members of the public are welcome to join the tour but must provide their own transportation and lunch. Meet at the Holiday Inn Express, 781 NE 2nd Ave, Corvallis by 8:30 a.m. on Thursday to join the tour.

On Friday, the Commission will revisit the rules it adopted in January for the long-term management of lower Columbia River salmon fisheries. On Jan. 20, the Commission adopted fisheries reform rules designed to improve the economic returns commercial fisheries relative to both an economic baseline and to pre-policy allocation and gear shifts. Rules enacted eliminated gillnets from spring fisheries but not in other seasons, and differed substantively from the policy adopted by the State of Washington.

At next week’s meeting the Commission will act on a request from Governor Kate Brown to reconsider its January decision. The Governor’s letter to Commission chair Michael Finley stressed the importance of concurrence with Washington regulations, and of adopting policies that better align with the guiding principles of Senate Bill 830. ODFW staff will update analyses and provide a recommendation for Commission action, which can be found on the ODFW website.

The Commission will also:

Receive an informational briefing on the upcoming ocean salmon seasons where record low forecasted returns of Chinook to the Klamath Basin, a primary driver for ocean fisheries on the southern and central Oregon coast, will have a significant impact on Oregon ocean salmon fisheries for 2017.
Be asked to approve project funding recommended by the Restoration and Enhancement Board, and the 2017-19 R and E and Salmon Trout Enhancement Program budgets. The Commission also will hear a briefing on the 2015-17 R and E Report and the 2016 STEP annual report.
Consider the acquisition of the property adjacent to the existing Buena Vista Boat Ramp on the Willamette River so the increasingly popular boat ramp can be improved to improve boater safety, increase ADA accessibility at the site, and enhance recreational opportunities.
Consider changing the formula used to allocate Landowner Preference (LOP) tags for mule deer in wildlife management units below the population management objective.
Be asked to rename the River Ranch Parcel of the Lower Deschutes Wildlife Area the Woosley Tract to recognize the lifelong contributions that Chuck and Gail Woosley of Corvallis have made to the project by contributing to it financially, testifying at Commission meetings and for their countless hours of volunteer service at multiple wildlife areas.
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.

The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in the state and it usually meets monthly.

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CDFW News – Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Streamflow Enhancement Projects.

At its March 9 Streamflow Enhancement meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $20 million of Proposition 1 Funds in grants through the Streamflow Enhancement Program. The program awards grant funding on a competitive basis to projects that represent the mission of the WCB and address the three goals of the California Water Action Plan: reliability, restoration and resilience.

Of the 24 funded projects, 10 are implementation projects, 13 are planning projects and one is an acquisition. All are predicted to result in significant enhancement to the amount, timing and/or quality of water available for anadromous fish and special status, threatened, endangered or at risk species, or bolster resilience to climate change. Some of the funded projects are:

A $2.2 million grant to California Trout (CalTrout) for a cooperative project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences to dedicate, through a California Water Code section 1707 transfer, 1.5 cubic feet per second (cfs) of cold water to the Little Shasta River through a combination of on-farm efficiency savings and voluntary flow contributions, located on privately owned land six miles east of Montague in Siskiyou County.
An $800,000 grant to the Plumas Corporation for a cooperative project with the California Department of Water Resources, California State University, Sacramento and the U.S. Forest Service to implement a long term monitoring program that accurately quantifies the flow of water from mountain meadow landscapes, to document the effectiveness of restoration efforts within Tulare, Fresno, Calaveras, El Dorado, Sierra, Plumas and Lassen counties.
A $4.5 million grant to Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California State Coastal Conservancy, California Natural Resources Agency, Trust for Public Land and California American Water Company, to acquire approximately 185 acres of private land and its associated water rights along the Carmel River, approximately one mile east of Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County.
A $3.4 million grant to the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians for a cooperative project with the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, USFWS and Bureau of Indian Affairs to implement 16 restoration actions. These actions, designed to enhance flows and improve ecological conditions and geomorphic processes, span a project area of approximately 91 acres within the Dry Creek Rancheria, and will improve and restore habitat for endangered steelhead and Coho salmon in Rancheria Creek.
A $132,000 grant to TNC for a cooperative planning project between Trout Unlimited and CalTrout. The objectives of this project are to develop an efficient process and model for water rights holders to dedicate water for instream flows in the Shasta River watershed, to provide information to practitioners via outreach and to develop straightforward processes for analyzing consumptive use.
A $941,000 grant to the Immaculate Heart Community/La Casa de Maria (LCDM) Retreat and Conference Center for a cooperative project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, American Tanks & Loomis Tanks and the California Conservation Corps to offset existing agricultural irrigation, landscaping and non-potable domestic water use. The capture and reuse of up to 800,000 gallons of water through onsite rainwater reuse, storm water management and irrigation conservation will allow LCDM to abstain from seasonal diversion and use of a riparian water right, and dedicate approximately 7 million gallons of water annually to instream flow, thereby enhancing creek base flows and steelhead trout habitat on San Ysidro Creek.
A $2.3 million grant to the Mission Resource Conservation District for a cooperative project with the La Pata Mitigation Project, Integrated Regional Water Management, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local agencies to control 98 acres of the invasive plant, Arundo donax on 17.8 river miles in the San Juan, Santa Margarita, San Luis Rey and San Diego watersheds in Orange and San Diego Counties. This WCB project will fund activities that are part of existing watershed programs, so will have benefits in terms of long-term success/follow-up, outreach and a large-scale watershed-based approach.
For more information about the WCB please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

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WDFW News – Commission Will Take Public Comment On Proposed Hunting Rules.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take public comments on proposed changes to state hunting rules for deer, elk, waterfowl and other game species during a public meeting March 17-18 in Olympia.

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

A complete agenda for the meeting is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/

Prior to the regular meeting, the commission will have its annual meeting with Gov. Jay Inslee on March 16 at 3 p.m. in the Governor’s Office.

During the March 17-18 meeting, the commission will hold public hearings on changes to state hunting regulations. The proposed changes are available for review at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting

Most of the proposals address changes in special permit levels and hunting-area descriptions proposed since the commission approved the state’s last three-year hunting plan in 2015.

However, one change proposed by WDFW would significantly increase the daily limit for white-fronted geese and white geese throughout the state in response to the growing abundance of those species. Another would allow the department to restore points to hunters who draw a permit for a damage hunt but are not called to participate in a hunt.

Final action by the commission on the proposed recommendations is scheduled at a public meeting April 14-15 in Spokane.

The commission also will be briefed on a few of other topics, including Cowlitz River fisheries, in-season management of recreational salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, Willapa Bay salmon management, and bird dog training at two units of the Snoqualmie Valley Wildlife Area. Wildlife managers also will provide an update on the status of wolves in Washington and actions the department took in 2016 to implement the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

In addition, the commission will be briefed on a petition the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received calling for a protection zone for southern resident killer whales off the coast of San Juan Island.

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