OUTDOORS: New head of Department of Fish and Wildlife appointed; Puget Sound Anglers meet Thursday in Sequim; Kokanees on the move

MEET THE NEW boss, hopefully a change for the better from the old boss.

Olympia’s Kelly Susewind, who has worked for the state Department of Ecology since 1990, was unanimously appointed as the new director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife at last Friday’s meeting of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Susewind accepted the appointment as permanent director following the commission’s vote. He will oversee an agency of 1,800 employees and an operating budget of $437 million for the current two-year budget period.

And there is a potential $30 million budget shortfall in 2019-21 that must be handled and which threatens to close hatcheries and further cut into recreational fishing and hunting opportunities.

With Ecology, Susewind most recently served as the director of administrative services and environmental policy. He also worked several years during the 1980s as a private-sector environmental consultant.

Susewind received a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from Washington State University and an associate’s degree in engineering from Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen. He grew up in the Grays Harbor area.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Washington at an agency whose effectiveness is critical to our ability to conserve fish and wildlife resources while providing outdoor recreation and commercial opportunities throughout the state,” Susewind said in a press release. “The public has high expectations for WDFW, and I’m excited about being in a position to deliver the results they deserve.”

Lifelong hunter

Comments from recreational fishing interests, state Wildlife Commission members and state Rep. Brian Smith were positive in a Northwest Sportsman article at tinyurl.com/PDN-NewDirector.

Susewind was variously described as “a lifelong hunter,” “a good manager, [with] great people skills and a real CEO type,” who knows he’ll need to establish (or re-establish) relationships with “the public, legislature, tribes and other management authorities.”

Culvert fixes loom

Helping the state meet its burden to continue to replace hundreds of culverts statewide will be another task on Susewind’s desk when he takes over the job, which pays $165,000, on Aug. 1.

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the state’s appeal in a 17-year battle over who pays to install or replace stream culverts where salmon runs are blocked from reaching habitat.

In effect, the culvert case affirms that habitat protection — implied in earlier federal fishing cases — is an extension of the treaty right to harvest fish. The case rests in part on the notion that if salmon runs go extinct, the tribal right to half is literally nothing.

Fixing culverts to fully comply with the lower court orders could cost the state $3.7 billion, according a news report by the Seattle Times, which quoted an estimate from the state Department of Transportation.

The Times reported that about $2.4 billion, could be needed to replace culverts for 90 percent of the fish habitat by 2030.

Hopefully, Susewind’s background with Ecology will be a boon in moving forward on these culvert replacement/habitat renewal projects.

Fishing the Strait

Longtime North Olympic Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers member Russ Mellon will present Fishing the Strait 101 at tonight’s club meeting in Sequim.

The event will be held at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., with fish stories and a chance to view raffle prizes at 6:30 p.m. and Mellon’s presentation beginning at 7 p.m.

Mellon started fishing the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 1968 and has learned many tricks on being successful fishing the area.

He will cover visualizing the Strait as a river and fishing it with that in mind, weather and water conditions to watch for, predicting when the bite will occur especially for chinook and other species of salmon, what direction to fish, where to fish and techniques for fishing with bait, mooching and jigging.

Those new to fishing should come away with plenty of practical information to improve catch rates.

A club business meeting will follow Mellon’s talk.

Refreshments will be served and a raffle for items will be held.

The public is invited to attend.

For more information, visit www.psanopc.org and www.facebook.com/psanopc.

Sutherland in transition

Avid angler and lure designer Pete Rosko spends his summers fishing in the Port Angeles area and recently returned for his 38th year of kokanee fishing on Lake Sutherland last week.

“Several days prior, the tackle department employees at Swain’s shared their concerns with me regarding the poor fishing they experienced at Lake Sutherland,” Rosko said.

“Their concerns about lack of fish in the lake did not fully impact me until after fishing with my neighbor, Al Brown.”

The pair dealt with poor weather and strong northwest winds in their trip out, making fishing difficult.

“However, it was the lack of fish marks on my electronic fish finder that caused serious concerns about the fish population in Lake Sutherland,” Rosko said. “I could not locate fish in areas of the lake that previously had produced fish for me, every season, for almost four decades.

“We caught kokanee, but all were unusually small and were high in the water column primarily 30 feet below the surface in 70 feet of water.”

Rosko said all fish were caught jigging with the only productive lure a 1/2 ounce glow chartreuse Sonic BaitFish.

“It is my hope that Lake Sutherland is in a state of transition in that there is a migration of kokanee out to sea via their new-found route through the Elwha River system,” Rosko said. “Only time will tell if this will result in a sockeye fishery for the Elwha River watershed and adjoining Lake Sutherland.”

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