Eastern WA Steelhead Closures

Upper Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam
and tributaries close to steelhead fishing April 1

Action: Close the Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to Chief Joseph Dam and the Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat, Methow, Okanogan, and Similkameen Rivers to steelhead fishing.

Species affected: Steelhead.

Locations:

Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
Wenatchee River from mouth to Icicle River Road Bridge.
Icicle River from mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery barrier dam.
Entiat River upstream from the Alternate Highway 97 Bridge near the mouth to 800 feet downstream of the Entiat National Fish Hatchery outfall.
Methow River from the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop.
Okanogan River from the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville.
Similkameen River from the mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.
Effective Date: 12:01 a.m. April 1, 2011.

Reason for action: The steelhead sport fishery that opened by emergency rule on September 8, 2010, will close effective April 1, 2011. This action is necessary to protect spawning steelhead listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Information contacts: Jeff Korth, Region 2 Fish Program manager, (509) 754-4624 or Bob Jateff, District 6 fish biologist, (509) 997-0316.

UP’s and down’s of our fishing world…

There is a ton going on in the angling community and while some of it is very vivid and in our face here, others may not be so much so I thought I would share some of the struggles and silver linings of yesterday.

First, here at home in Washington:

Some wildlife lands and boat launches face closure under state budget shortfall
The statewide revenue shortfall is threatening a host of important state services, including state wildlife lands and water-access sites.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Department of Natural Resources and State Parks and Recreation Commission are collaborating to support proposed legislation that would create a recreation land user fee to supplant lost state General Fund support and maintain public access to state recreation lands.

The proposed measures, Senate Bill 5622 (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5622&year=2011 ), introduced by Sen. Kevin Ranker, and House Bill 1796 (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=1796&year=2011 ), introduced by Representative Kevin Van De Wege, are still under consideration in the Legislature.

The proposed bills would create an access pass-known as the Discover Pass-for use of all state recreation lands managed by WDFW, State Parks and DNR. The Discover Pass would cost $30 per year or $10 for a single day pass. Those purchasing certain fishing or hunting licenses could purchase a $7 annual pass for use solely on WDFW lands and water-access sites. Campers who pay for a State Parks campsite would not be required to purchase the Discover Pass and volunteers who provide 24 hours of service to any of the state agencies could receive a complimentary pass.

The Discover Pass is vitally needed to avert steep reductions in wildlife land operations and recreational access. It would provide an estimated $5.5 million for WDFW recreation lands in the coming biennium, an identical amount of support for DNR recreation lands, and $60 million for State Parks. The proposed Discover Pass revenue allocation reflects what is needed simply to maintain current operations.

The reduction proposed in the Governor’s budget comes on the heels of other budget reductions. Since 2009, WDFW lands operation and maintenance has lost one fifth of its state funding. As General Fund support has declined, WDFW has been forced to turn to hunting and fishing license revenue to maintain recreational access. In essence, hunters and fishers are subsidizing other, non-paying users of WDFW lands.

The Discover Pass proposal is consistent with the Governor’s suggestion that agencies adopt a user-pay model to maintain services that can no longer be supported through the state General Fund. The Discover Pass would allow all users-hikers, campers, equestrians, wildlife watchers, boaters and others-to share the cost of maintaining and operating state recreation lands.

Since the final outcome of the Discover Pass proposal is uncertain, lawmakers have asked WDFW what recreation land and boat launch service reductions would be necessary if the proposal is not successful.

In response, WDFW has developed criteria to guide the determination of permanent or seasonal closures on wildlife areas and water access sites that may become necessary if funding solutions are not found. Closure means that land management-such as toilet pumping, garbage removal and weed management-would not occur and that the areas would be closed to public access.

Final wildlife area and boat launch closure decisions would depend on the state budget that is adopted by the Legislature, and would be subject to a public process and consideration by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The criteria for assessing wildlife areas and water-access sites for potential closure follows the Governor’s “user pays” direction, and is aimed at maximizing fishing and hunting use, since recreational licenses revenues currently provide the majority of WDFW’s land operating funds.

The criteria to evaluate wildlife areas for possible closure are:

Level of weed management required, based on current conditions and the presence of agriculture or ranching activity
Percentage of critical wildlife habitat
Cost of maintaining recreational access
Amount of annual use for licensed activities such as fishing, hunting and trapping
Amount of other types of recreation
Access control (number of roads adjacent to or passing through the wildlife area)
Annual maintenance cost per acre
Restrictions associated with grant funding or contract obligations
The criteria to evaluate boat launches/water-access sites for potential closure are:

Maintenance costs (grading, toilet pumping, ramp upkeep, vandalism clean up, enforcement)
Amount of annual use for licensed activities such as fishing, hunting and trapping
Amount of use for non-licensed recreation
Presence of access-control points (gates)
Availability of alternate, nearby public access sites
Restrictions associated with grant funding or contract obligations
Contemplating possible closure of public recreation lands is a difficult and troubling prospect. We are working closely with our sister agencies and state leaders to try to avert such closures.

Back east some good news:

Stripers Forever NC – CCA NC and the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group recently introduced HB 353 into the NC legislature. HB 353 would make red drum, speckeled trout, and striped bass game fish in NC. These three species could be taken only by rod and reel and the sale of the fish would not be permitted. Additionally the bill would compensate commercial fishermen for three years of lost revenue on these species. The bill has passed its first reading in the House and has been assigned to “ Committee On Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Business and Labor”. Stripers Forever strongly supports this bill and applauds the CCA and CFRG for getting this action underway.

The bill will be discussed in committee this Wednesday, and will be voted on at that time. If passed, it will then be sent to the House floor for discussion and a vote. Our next hurdle is to win the vote in this committee, and therefore we need to email and call every one of these committee members encouraging them to vote for the bill. Here are the members, their email link, and their phone numbers. Please forward this to your email list and encourage them to do the same. It does not matter if these folks are your personal representatives or not. They are now responsible for considering this bill, and they ALL need to hear from ALL of us tonight or tomorrow at the lastest!

Lastly from Trout Unlimited in AK, this is AWESOME!!

Fellow Bristol Bay Supporter,

Thanks to you, over the past three weeks the Environmental Protection Agency heard from more than 60,000 sportsmen and women, salmon-lovers, commercial fishermen, Alaskan natives, and other outdoor enthusiasts asking them to protect Bristol Bay. Your hard work is paying off. The EPA recently took a great first step by initiating a comprehensive scientific review of the issue. We commend them for initiating this process. But the work to protect Bristol Bay is not done. The foreign mining companies proposing the Pebble mine are applying constant pressure with their high-powered lobbyists to push this mine through. We need your continued support to protect Bristol Bay’s fish, wildlife and people from Pebble and the roughly 10.8 billion tons of mine waste it would create.

I like ending on good notes, fine casts and hearty laughs.

EWA Featured Photographer — Quinton Dowling

It has been a bit busy around here so posts have been down a bit unfortunately. Today, finally getting around to showing off some of the photographic talents of another of our staff, Quinton Dowling. Quinton grew up in Seattle, went to college in Idaho and has guided in Alaska for several years and fished extensively all over the western U.S. Enjoy his take on our world! Read more about him here: Quinton Dowling
Classic Alaskan Rainbow, not large but beautiful.


Sun rising through marabou, another road trip begins.


Float plane on Lake Illiamna.


Sara Davison on one of our precious Cascade Mountain streams.


Salmon airing it out for the camera, thank you!


Deschutes River, Ted McDermott throws the perfect D.


An Alaskan caddis, not spoken of much but definitely around.


Grizzly staying cool in the water during snack time.


Teeth of a chum salmon, CLOSE.


Morning mist on a cobweb.


Thank you and goodbye!

It is About the Fish

It is about catching fish. That’s why we take flies with us.

Fly fishermen tend to say, “oh, it’s not about catching fish”. Baloney it isn’t. I didn’t spend countless hours standing in freezing water before I started to fly fish. That’s just what we say when we get skunked to massage our ego.

The ice is off the river now and only the nine inch thick jagged remnants of ice jumbled along the shore remind me how cold my home water really gets in winter. Winter fishing is hard as the fish hunker down to avoid getting frozen into the ice. They settle into small, obscure holding water in the quiet, black river as it trickles under the plate of ice. Winter fishing around here is about finding open sections with a pool or riffle deep enough for fish to hide. The river is very low in winter and the trout know the blue herons and eagles are hungry too. When it is bitterly cold streamers are the only thing that seem to raise a fish. Maybe they have their eyes half closed and don’t notice a nymph bouncing by. Or perhaps they are too cold to bother with something as small as a nymph, only moving for the bigger meal. Some days I catch nothing. The trees are highlighted with snow, the sound of gurgling water hasn’t failed to be music, the glint of late winter sun on the river is still beautiful. But I wanted to meet a fish.

Yesterday the ice was off my river, runoff is just beginning to swell the river. Not so much that you couldn’t wade everywhere, because in reality, my river is a creek all but during high irrigation season. This river has been made to exist for the needs of the alfalfa fields downstream. Cattle rule around here and fish suffer for the needs of cow and alfalfa .

Yesterday the wind was screaming thru the pines, dead branches flying and last summer’s dried leaves swirling around. Nobody else was around. No other car parked along the highway. A 3 weight rod, a Prince nymph with a bead head pheasant tail dropper. The fish are hungry and have moved into feeding channels. It is a long distance between the riffles, troughs and pools. Slow wading along the bank but impossible to walk on the tilted ice plates littering the banks. And I stay out of the woods in winter because cougar tracks in the snow tell me I am not truly alone. Slowly I wade, listening to the water sing it’s song, the wind in the pines, reading the river, looking for trout homes. I am keenly aware of the blissful solitude, the smells of the woods, a high pitched whistle coming from an eagle stating his situation as he circles above me. I do love the river.

But where would a trout hold in this particular flow, where is his food coming from today and what is it? Unraveling the mystery. And then it happens. Feeling the fish through the rod as the fish jumps wildly into the air showing off his strong silver body, it zigs and zags all over the little river. The entire reason I am in the river comes whole with the sudden connection to this sturdy little fish that just made it through another winter and I am awed by the bright pink color along his sides, the fragile yellow fins, his sleek shape. As the fish slides back into it’s watery world and once again becomes nearly invisible from above, I know all over again that it is about the fish. Just to see one, to know where it lives today, to feel him slide off my hand. One is plenty to make my day perfect. I fish to catch fish.

Skagit River and Seattle City Light

I just received this letter from Seattle City Light and am pleased with the actions they have chosen to take along these lines, it shows a concern I didn’t think the company was capable of, very nice!

VIA ELECTRONIC EMAIL

March 14, 2011

Dave McCoy
Emerald Waters Anglers
dave@emeraldwaterangles.com

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Denise Krownbell and I am the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Land Program Manager for Seattle City Light. Under this ESA Land Program, City Light provides funding for salmon habitat acquisition and restoration projects in an effort to aid in the recovery of ESA-listed fish stocks. In the case of the Skagit River, those species are Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout.

Gilligan Creek, a tributary of the Skagit River, is used by steelhead, chum and coho salmon for spawning and rearing habitat. Recognizing Gilligan Creek’s importance as high-quality fish habitat, City Light purchased a property located near West Gilligan Creek Road that runs along the lower portion of Gilligan Creek in 2002 with the intention of protecting and restoring the habitat on site. Currently, we are working with the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group (SFEG) to secure grant funding to begin restoration of salmonid habitat on the property. The surveys done by SFEG indicate the need for restoration work on the property, including closing the property to vehicle access, treating and removing invasive plant species on site, and replanting treated areas with native species as well as augmenting the current habitat with additional plantings.

To prevent further damage and effectively restore salmonid habitat at the property, beginning April 4, 2011 vehicle access to the site will be prohibited. Vehicles have damaged the riparian (bank) area portions of the property, creating erosion issues, compacting the soil so native species cannot take hold and spreading invasive plant species. Off Road Vehicle (ORV) traffic in and across the Gilligan Creek channel also has been reported, and has the potential to damage salmonid egg sites and/or injure and kill juvenile fish. City Light is aware that the site has been used as an informal boat launch area and we will be posting signs and initially providing information directing the public to nearby alternative official boat launch areas. We will continue to allow access by foot for recreational activities like walking, birdwatching, and fishing during fishing seasons and will provide a small area for a few vehicles to park.

SFEG also has recommended the removal of a large area of an invasive species called knotweed. Knotweed grows very rapidly and chokes out native plants and does not provide any habitat benefit to fish, particularly salmon. Knotweed can spread easily with the breaking off of fragments of the plant and by rooted portions washing downstream. Vehicle traffic is particularly effective at spreading knotweed and also damages native plants – another important reason for prohibiting vehicular access to this site. We have hired SFEG to treat the knotweed on site and replant the areas infested with knotweed with native species.

There are areas of the property that have native plant species growing which benefit salmon but not in densities that fully benefit salmon. Native plants provide shade and cover along the river for the salmon to hide and also provide a food source from the insects falling from the native plants. SFEG will be hosting planting events at the site to enhance native vegetation throughout the property to fully restore the habitat with the additional benefit of educating volunteers on the value of restored salmonid habitat. If you are interested in participating in the replanting, please let me know.

Seattle City Light is contacting recreation-oriented groups and businesses as well as fishing enthusiasts to notify your organization of the upcoming changes so that your organization may incorporate this information into your work or plans for future fishing seasons. I welcome any thoughts or questions you have about the property and the planned restoration actions. I can be reached at (206) 615-1127 or denise.krownbell@seattle.gov.

Sincerely,

Denise Krownbell
Sr. Environmental Affairs