: WDFW In-house rules proposals
06-21-2001, 02:04 PM
Here is a list of a list of "in-house" proposals that the State has talked about regarding the North Sound spring steelhead fisheries. These were discussed at the public meeting the WDFW held at Mt. Vernon last night. There is a similar meeting at the Mill Creek office tonight from 7:00 to 9:00. I know this is late notice but if anyone is interested, we could always use more pro-fish anglers there.
The proposals are listed below. I have bolded the last one as it is the one that concerns me the most.
--Change steelhead annual and daily catch limit from 2 fish per day and 30
fish annually to 2 fish per day only one of which can be of wild origin. OR
maintain current daily and annual limits and require all wild fish to be
--On the Green River, Snohomish River system, Stilliquamish system, and the
Skagit River system, during the months of December, January, and February,
eliminate wording in the pamphlet allowing the retention of wild steelhead.
--Eliminate steelhead catch and release wording and seasons from the
pamphlet for the Skykomish River in March and April and in the North Fork
Stilliquamish River for the period March, April, and May. (Not sure if this is designed to allow hatchery retention during these months or to close the fishery all together -- DH)
06-21-2001, 10:15 PM
I spoke with Curt Kraemer this afternoon about this issue. According to him, these are just ideas that WDFW is throwing around in-house. It appears though that they are pretty serious about ending any March-April fishery on the Skykomish and possibly Stilly. Kraemer says that their projected returns are so low for the next 3-5 years that they don't forsee allowing even a C and R fishery. Their thinking is they would rather close it down then have emergency closures every year.
As for the Skagit and Sauk, the early data suggests stronger returns to this system. As it stands now, there is a chance at a spring fishery in 2002. This determination will be made after examination of the final data.
Kraemer also spoke about the high number of redds being reported on the Sky since the June opener. He cited data that recent river conditions have allowed the redds to remain visable longer than in normal years. He stressed that he does not believe these increased redd reports equate to a strong return.
Sorry to bring such gloomy news.
Gloomy buy important. I downloaded the pdf version of the regs (here - it's big! (http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/fish/regs/2001/2001sportregs.pdf))
Elimination of the wording would definitely mean elimination of the C&R season.
If the state of the returns is as abysmal as they say then sure, give the natives the break they deserve - but I just don't have a sense of confidence that they really know the score. Looking back, they never really did and so we are in the mess we have today.
One suggestion I would make is to establish or obtain a redds per mile metric, taking care to identify key river stretches where spawning occurrence is prominent. Then use this metric as another factor in the evaluatation of health of the returns. It is an after-the-fact census, which is not ideal, but it would provide important data to serve some useful purposes like:
- validate / invalidate current open sea census
- study inferences between drought, El Nino, catastrophic, etc and the corresponding spawn activity for the year class
- provide an important additional litmus test for the health of the run
Just like it's easier to find steelhead in their destination than on their journey, it should be easier to quantify things by this method and the data is valuable.
They might already be doing redd census as a regular part of their approach - in which case I am preaching to the choir and we should then move on to validating their predictive process through the corresponding redd activity to see if they can actually make an accurate call.
If so, and the call indicates a gloomy return then laying low is a good thing. If they are pulling this out of their ass as usual... well then there are probably many things that an organization like WSC can do to ensure accuracy of the predictive process that controls our ability to celebrate the return of native steelhead to the Cascades.
06-22-2001, 10:47 AM
Good well thought out input. According to Curt, they are conducting repeated redd counts in both the main stems and the tribs. I certainly agree with you that if the situation is as bed as it appears, give the fish a break. There is of course the paradox of does the incidental mortality form a C and R season exceed the illegal take from poaching on a closed river? I don't know the answer but I suspect that it does not.
I guess to my way of thinking, despite the numbers that WDFW is releasing, they are still making decisions based on antiquated predictive models. Remember these are the same people that allowed catch and kill fisheries as recently as Spring 2000 on the same rivers that are now in such bad shape they need to be closed. What really gets me pissed off is they are now saying the OP runs are in good shape so lets continue to kill those fish. So were the north sound runs 5 years ago. Today?
Why must we fish something to the brink before it dawns on us that the runs are in trouble. Oh excuse me, I just remembered that bonking fish has nothing to do with it, it is all ocean conditions.
Getting down off my soapbox now. (Perhaps I should have had a scotch this morning instead of that latte.) On a much brighter note. Heard from a reliable source that a fish was turned on the Sky this morning with a floating line!!! River was at 54 degrees yesterday so it is about time.
06-22-2001, 01:38 PM
I attended last night's WDFW rules meeting, and here are a few thoughts on what I heard.
WDFW thinks it makes sense
to "turn the tables" on the current regs by closing March-April fishing on the Snohomish and Stilly because they expect the recent low escapements to continue for the next few years. Their thinking is that calling for emergency closures is a hassle for them, and given their expectations for poor returns they are almost certain to close the season next spring. I asked Kraemer about 2001 escapements and he said the Snohomish numbers haven't been finalized, but he expects them to be around 70% the escapement goal (about 4000 fish total). On the Sauk/Skagit, returns were a little better and they MIGHT have a fishery next spring (I guess they are still working up the redd count numbers). According to guidelines in the Wild Salmonid Policy, a CnR fishery requires escapements of at least 80% of the goal.
I have some philosophical problems with this proposal. First, it would require an "emergency opener" to get the seasons
back. They do not do in-season assessments on winter steelhead returns, so there will never be an emergency steelhead opener in a season where escapements are adequate. Instead, they'd likely have to be lobbied to open seasons for the year after escapements met or exceeded spawning goals. This isn't a bad thing, since it surely errs on the side of conservation and allows a good return to do their thing. Second, and most problematic to me, is that it's effectively saying that the "normal state" of North Sound winter steelhead fisheries are so depressed that they're EXPECTED to miss escapement goals, and the ONLY agency response is closing seasons (March -April CnR plus the Dec-Feb wild steelhead harvest). "Emergency Openers", to me, is aiming awfully low in our expectations and these would tend to diminish public recognition of the crisis that's at hand.
They are selling this as a fish first policy. Maybe so, but going with this rule change would make life easier for WDFW by moving the low returns out of the public eye. Why should we agree to make life easier for an agency who's mismanagement has contributed to a statewide decline in the health of our fisheries? Either way, we will not get a spring fishery until the year after we see escapements exceed that 80%-of-goal mark. In the end, I think Emergency Closures make a heck of a lot more sense than "emergency openers".
So, what to do? Join the WDFW and pray for help from Mother Nature? Definitely. But we need to get active, to keep sending letters, attending meetings, and letting the agency know that we're concerned and we may have other perspectives and values than those that brought us to this point.