Alex Desseau, right, caught this 67-pound halibut while fishing out of Sekiu last week. Glenn Desseau is at left. The Desseau’s also limited out on coho during their trip. (Mason’s Resort)

Alex Desseau, right, caught this 67-pound halibut while fishing out of Sekiu last week. Glenn Desseau is at left. The Desseau’s also limited out on coho during their trip. (Mason’s Resort)

OUTDOORS: Cull operations for mountain goats set to begin

Over 20K pounds of halibut remaining

LETHAL REMOVAL OF the remaining mountain goat population in Olympic National Park will begin next week, with three cull operations planned Wednesday through Oct. 17.

Less than half of the 2018 estimate of 725 mountain goats remain in Olympic National Park after three rounds of translocation efforts conducted from 2018-20.

Sixteen Clallam County residents were selected to participate in the operations.

Olympic National Park Wildlife Branch Chief Patti Happe was inundated with applications, the result of stories announcing the search for qualified groups that appeared in the Peninsula Daily News and state and national media outlets back in April and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife passing along the notice to its list of game permit holders.

Happe said she received so many qualified queries, she was forced to use a draft lottery to trim the roster down to 40 teams of three to six individuals.

“The call for volunteers came during the shutdown when I was working at home with my laptop and was not ideal,” Happe said. “So many applications came in that, for a couple of days, the emails were coming faster than I could respond.

“I had over 1,200 groups apply, and I was hoping to get about 30 groups.”

Happe said she and some helpers read all of the applications.

“To honor all the time and energy,” Happe said. “The application itself was not easy, it was an 18-page application. We scored them like a job application, putting them in bins of qualified and highly qualified and even we had 100 highly qualified groups. So we had to go to a lottery because, in all of those groups, everybody was capable.”

A random number generator helped select the final 40 groups.

“I do feel confident in who has been selected,” Happe said. “Those selected have experience hunting in the backcountry, several groups have members with highly skilled, technical climbing experience. There are EMTs and paramedics, and several teams have biologists to help collect biological data.”

And many of them have experience in the Olympic Mountain backcountry.

“Experience in ONP was a big factor,” Happe said. “Some folks have done the Bailey Range traverse, so they know what they are getting into when they get into this terrain.”

Range qualification will begin next week before the cull groups head out into the field.

“Everybody who wants to be a shooter has to qualify on the range with the rifle and ammunition they will use during the cull operation,” Happe said.

Happe said media access would be limited due to concerns over participants’ safety.

“It’s going to be a private operation,” Happe said.

“Of the 116 people participating, 80 are from Washington and 16 from Clallam County.”

Happe said no Jefferson County residents were picked, but residents of Grays Harbor and Mason counties were selected along with people from Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon.

“A lot of the teams are put together with local folks who have associates who are highly skilled and trained from out of area,” Happe said.

The cull operations will focus on areas where mountain goat population density remains highest — on or near high-elevation Mount Olympus, Mount Anderson and Chimney Peak.

Happe said no areas of Olympic National Park will be closed for the cull operations, and backcountry hikers will be notified.

“Nothing will be closed, but not everybody is up on the news, especially if you are not from here, so everybody who will receive a backcountry permit will be notified.”

Halibut remaining

It was slow-going for halibut anglers in Puget Sound and the strait of Juan de Fuca last week. Department of Fish and Wildlife creel catch estimates show 2,220 anglers caught just 27 halibut at an average weight of 10.15 pounds. Those catch numbers knocked just 274 pounds off the 56,701-pound halibut quota, leaving 20,849 pounds remaining as of last Saturday.

“It’s a little challenging to project what catch will look like for the rest of this year given we don’t have historical catch to look at, just what is happening this year,” state Department of Fish and Wildlife intergovernmental ocean policy coordinator Heather Hall said.

Halibut fishing was much better off the coast of Neah Bay and La Push. A total of 540 anglers caught 320 halibut at an average weight of 20.26 pounds, for a weekly total of 6,484 pounds.

The North Coast subarea had 81,018 pounds of quota remaining as of last Saturday, having caught 47,169 pounds through that date.

Final crab weekend

The summer crab season will close at the end of the day Monday.

Catch record card information is crucial to managing the Dungeness crab resource in Puget Sound, and completed summer catch record cards are due to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife by Oct. 1.

________

Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or at [email protected].

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