OUTDOORS: Are baleen whales and salmon competing for resources off Pacific Coast?

BLACKMOUTH ANGLING OPENS Sunday in Marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), so salmon anglers take note.

Sunday also is the opener of the Canadian halibut season, so saltwater anglers have options.

For now.

Fishing opportunities, especially for salmon, could be severely constrained.

Quilcene’s Ward Norden, a former fisheries biologist and owner of Snapper Tackle Co., has a theory on a deepwater fight for resources that may be impacting salmon returning to Pacific Northwest rivers and streams.

“This will be an interesting summer fishing season coming up,” Norden said. “There will be plenty of resident chinook and coho around, but farther out in the Strait and offshore is still another story.

“My theory to be tested is that competition between the plankton-eating young salmon with the great plankton-feeding whales (humpback, fin and even rumors of blue whales) over the last couple years and especially last year will take a serious toll on our coastal coho, Columbia River chinook and Frasier River sockeye.”

More and more of these baleen whales have been spotted in the Pacific Ocean off the coast and even in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, so the potential for competition as Norden described, exists.

“Time will tell and the restriction on springers in the Columbia announced last week may be the first of many,” Norden said. “The real first test will be chinook counts this spring at Bonneville Dam as water over the dam reaches a temperature of 49 to 50 degrees. Currently it is 40 to 41 degrees.”

Salmon meeting

The public portion of the salmon-setting process begins Friday in Olympia with a statewide forecast meeting.

State fishery managers will present initial 2020 salmon return forecasts at the meeting scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the Department of Social and Health Services Office Building 2 Auditorium, located at 1115 Washington St. SE.

Beginning in mid-March, fishery proposals will be posted at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/north-falcon, where the public can submit comments electronically.

The forecasts will be discussed at a Puget Sound recreational fisheries discussion in Sequim on March 19.

That meeting, which serves as the March meeting of the North Olympic Peninsula chapter of Puget Sound Anglers, will be held at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., in Sequim from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Foundering for flounder

Norden’s been on the waters of Hood Canal recently, catching more rays of sunshine than flatfish.

“I did a little flounder fishing from my kayak in Dabob Bay last weekend but didn’t find much activity,” Norden said. “There is still a lot of freshwater in the bay near the surface which moves the flounder and baitfish out [from shore] or deeper, so the inactivity I had was not surprising.

“Sitting in the kayak in the warm sun was delightful, so it was worth the trip. The scuba divers in the same area told me they hadn’t seen many flounder either.”

Lake Leland chilly

And signs of spring are slowly popping up everywhere you look.

“I have started checking the Lake Leland water temperature regularly now that spring is approaching,” Norden said. “The water temperature is 38 degrees, so fishing is still in winter mode, of course,” Norden said. “The trout are nice sized for the people fishing, but if you get more than a couple bites a day, you are doing well.

“As soon as the lakes water temperature approaches 43 to 44 degrees, action will pick up and a lot of the trout will approach 2 pounds.”

Fly Fishers meet

Marc Williamson will teach the art and science of reading still water at Monday’s meeting of the Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers.

The group meets the first Monday of most months at the Campfire USA Clubhouse, 619 E. Fourth St., at 6 p.m.

Williamson will demonstrate how to examine lakes and other still water and discuss why trout’s needs are met in various segments of the water column.

He also will demonstrate the tying of some of his favorite still water flies.

Sea lion goes hungry

Couldn’t help but pass along the tale of a wayward sea lion in Cowlitz County.

The female Steller sea lion, weighing around 600 pounds, was discovered in a wooded area near Garlock Road outside of Castle Rock.

The animal was about 2 miles from a viable water source, according to OregonLive.

Cowlitz County Sheriff’s deputies, Fish and Wildlife officers and representatives from the Cowlitz County Humane Society had to wait several hours for a trailer to arrive to transport the animal back to the water.

In the meantime, wildlife officers kept track of the sea lion as it moved around the neighborhood overnight.

It was a significant distance from water, according to deputies, and was blocking the road at times. At one point, the animal popped up on a homeowner’s driveway.

Fish and Wildlife believes the female sea lion was hunting smelt.

Sea lions are common in the Cowlitz River this time of year, but it’s rare for them to make their way up small tributaries. Officials believe this animal swam up Delameter Creek, which is only about 3 feet deep.

The animal eventually was captured without the use of tranquilizers and released back in the Columbia River — its voracious appetite for seafood surely still in place.

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected].

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