JUNE’S MEETING OF the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will be held June 14-15 in Port Angeles and the testimony arising out of the “open public input” portion of the agenda should be interesting in the wake of the recreational salmon seasons released earlier this week.
The salmon fisheries, developed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and treaty tribal co-managers, were finalized during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif.
In the biggest cut to recreational chinook fishing here on the North Olympic Peninsula, anglers along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound will lose three month’s worth of time on the water during the winter blackmouth season.
January blackmouth fishing is now off the schedule in Marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (East Strait of Juan de Fuca) and Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) anglers won’t be able to fish for hatchery chinook in February.
Marine Area 9 anglers also will see a vastly reduced quota for summer hatchery chinook and a later opening date, July 25.
More coho will be returning later this summer and in the fall, but there will be no expansion of coho seasons — no October coho off of Sekiu or Port Angeles again this season and no real mitigation for that lost opportunity for recreational anglers.
Hood Canal won’t see a hatchery chinook fishery for the more than 30,000-strong recreational share of kings returning to the taxpayer-funded George Adams Salmon Hatchery on the Skokomish River. This helps protect the whopping 285 mid-Hood Canal wild chinook listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Optimists can point to Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) which lost all of August’s hatchery chinook season and January blackmouth this time around in addition to previously lost time on the water for September kings and December blackmouth and say, “Things could be worse.”
Here’s the reality: Recreational anglers will continue to die the death of 1,000 cuts against a deck stacked against them.
Recreational fishing’s representatives, Fish and Wildlife staffers, are negotiating with one hand tied behind their back alongside of 22 sovereign tribes that each have their own separate fishing agendas.
Valid concerns over non-tribal commercial netting of chum in Puget Sound spurred an early impasse between the tribes and Fish and Wildlife at a North of Falcon meeting earlier this month.
There are rumors that tribal interests left the negotiating table to hammer home the importance of lessening impacts on the chum fishery and maybe to also send a message on which group really runs the show when it comes to season setting and approval.
Tribal sovereignty also is used by the state and tribes to explain why the North of Falcon meetings are not open to public view, including the media.
There’s also little incentive for Fish and Wildlife to take the Fleetwood Mac route and go its own way in submitting seasons for federal approval as the wait could take years, not weeks.
If no North of Falcon agreement is in place, sport fishers are no longer considered “interrelated and interdependent with the tribal fisheries.”
Problems with the very structure of season setting are just one aspect of the whole sad situation.
Tonight’s second presentation in the 2018 Wild Steelhead Review will be led by Trout Unlimited’s Wild Steelhead Initiative’s science director, John McMillan of Port Angeles and his father Bill McMillan.
The free talk will be held at the Olympic Natural Resource Center, 1455 S. Forks Ave. in Forks at 7 p.m.
Bill McMillian, a steelhead angler since the mid-1950s, will briefly provide his perspective of visits to the Olympic Peninsula in the 1950s-1970s, and discuss his work with volunteer spawning and snorkel surveys in Southwest Washington and the Skagit River.
The elder McMillian has written dozens of articles over the years on steelhead fly fishing and wild fish conservation.
John McMillian will follow with a short talk about why steelhead are so unique among salmonids and the types of behaviors they have evolved that allow the species to pack so much diversity into a single population.
Much of his professional scientific study has focused on the biology, behavior and ecology of steelhead and rainbow trout, with a particular interest in the mechanisms influencing why individual fish adopt particular life history strategies — such as anadromous migration and residency.
McMillian moved to Forks in 1997 as an intern with the USFS, and once the internship ended, he didn’t want to leave. He’s worked for the Hoh Indian Tribe and also worked as a biologist and fishery research scientist for the Wild Salmon Center and NOAA on the Elwha Dam removal project.
The younger McMillian also has snorkeled more than 1,500 river miles and spent thousands of hours observing steelhead.
An avid steelheader, he has been featured in various movies, including Shane Anderson’s film Wild Reverence. His latest publication is the book May the Rivers Never Sleep, a collaboration with his father that pays homage to the strong conservation influence of Roderick Haig-Brown.
Razor dig slated
A three-day razor clam dig is slated at various ocean beaches beginning Saturday and running through Monday.
State shellfish managers with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife approved the dig on morning low tides after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat.
The upcoming dig is approved on the following beaches, dates, and low tides:
• Saturday: 7:58 a.m.; -1.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis;
• Sunday: 8:42 a.m.; -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Monday: 9:25 a.m.; -1.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
“This is a weekend opening that should not be missed,” said Dan Ayres, state coastal shellfish manager.
“The Long Beach Razor Clam festival on Saturday features clam digging and chowder contests, clam digging lessons, and live music — even pirates and mermaids making an occasional appearance.”