I thought I would get this Letter To The Editor out that was published in the Chinook Observer May 27th. It is a interesting read and I think relevant to the Willapa Management Policy that is soon to be adopted. So read on and a big hand to Marlisa Williams Dugan for speaking out!
Sport fishing great in bay in 2015
Past commercial over-harvesting of our naturally spawning Chinook has placed natural-origin spawners at critically low levels. Protecting this population today is urgent to avoid possible Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing in the not so distant future. Our best science tells us that even with a reduced 14 percent commercial impact on Chinook we can only hope to make our projected escapement goals in 16 to 21 years. Good grief, some of us might not live long enough to see that happen.
We can’t control global warming and changing ocean temperatures, which will likely contribute to a decline in future salmon returns. But we can begin to control how many Chinook salmon get to the spawning grounds. It’s high time we began managing for a self-sustaining wild population in meaningful numbers along side the abundant hatchery productions we all need to have a decent fishing day.
ADHOC committee members like myself strongly advocate for more recreational fishing opportunity. The gillnetters have been consuming around 93 percent of the returning salmon population, with the recreational fishing community getting approximately 3 percent. It’s like running a handicapped race, with no legs.
1. Selective fishing gear is required for recreational users: barbless hooks, no nets, release all wild Chinook, fish the bay after the commercial fleet has cleaned it out, and freshwater opportunity is the trickle down left over theory.
2. The commercial fleet has been allowed to use a non-selective gillnet and kill nearly the entire projected run of the wild Chinook population in 2014. They’ve had inadequate monitoring by the Department of Fisheries and have never fished within the projected impacts given. If the Willapa gets ESA listed it will be the fault of every gillnetter and Fisheries Department personnel who assisted in creating the commercial gillnet seasons on Chinook.
I want to believe there are good administrators within Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Fish and Wildlife Commission today who are willing to make a stand with conservation and to allocate our salmon evenly between the user groups — 50 percent of the returning Chinook salmon should belong to the commercial fleet and 50 percent should belong to the marine and freshwater fishers. The commercial fleet should be held to fishing within the impacts allowed on troubled species, end of story, no dispute!
The quicker we can jumpstart these declining Chinook and chum populations, the quicker commercial impacts will increase to more acceptable numbers. Alternative, selective commercial fishing methods are needed to allow targeting the abundant hatchery Chinook populations.
Sadly, throughout the advisory meeting process only one single gillnetter continued to attend the meetings and work the process, discussing the dreaded tangle net, and that was Allan Hollingsworth. Through adversity and disappointment he conducted himself like a gentleman. The political fallout from being on the opposing side of this struggle between the commercial gillnetters and the conservation supporters has recreational fishers and conservation supporters being attacked by gillnet propaganda.
First, let me state my support of Miranda Wecker from Naselle. Miranda has conducted herself with political decorum we can all learn from. The citizens of the state of Washington are fortunate to have an individual of this caliber appointed to the commission. Amidst underhanded political maneuvering to remove her from her influential position as the chairperson on the Fish and Wildlife committee she stands tall and resolute, trying to do the right thing for your fishing future. She has seen the scientific data and listened to the information presented by biologists, the Department of Fisheries and the ADHOC committee members. She understands the importance of taking preservational steps today, the importance of getting our head out of the sand and beginning the process of rebuilding our naturally spawning Chinook salmon before we get ESA listed on Willapa Bay Chinook.
For the record, I support commercial fishing to feed those who don’t fish for themselves. Commercial ocean fishing and inland bay commercial fisheries are facing changing times. Willapa Bay had more Coho than the commercial fleet could catch in 2014, fishing seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Good for them! I’m glad for these extravagant returns and hopefully a silver lining in their pocket books. As long as they can fish on a targeted species without deprecating another, have at it. There is room to share our salmon populations with more equal distribution among conservation, commercial and recreation.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission, after much resistance, has been able to implement an interim policy for 2015 that guides the Washington Department of Fisheries to manage the wild Chinook fisheries with greater conservation. This policy opens the door for the selective sports fisherman to scoop up thousands of abundant hatchery fish this year:
1. No commercial fishing until after Labor Day in 2015.
2. The commercial fleet is reduced to a 14 percent impact on wild Chinook. This means once they have killed 14 percent of the naturally spawning Chinook they cannot fish again until the Chinook run is out of the bay. This new policy has re-directed the commercial fishermen to using their impacts after Labor Day, focusing on the Coho season in September — placing the commercial focus on Coho.
3. Recreational marine bag limits will be six fish, four adults, release all wild Chinook.
Willapa Bay is considered a build up fishery. The Chinook start migrating into the bay in late July and early August in meaningful numbers. They begin staging for the different rivers moving into separate areas of the bay as the season progresses. The Coho and the Chinook start to be a mixed bag in mid-August. In 2015, the bay should be piled with abundant hatchery Chinook and Coho with the absence of all commercial fishing until Sept. 8 this year
Freshwater fishing promises to be excellent also, with a four adult bag limit — all freshwater areas — release all wild Chinook at the start of the fishing season.
Recreational advisors have been advocating the re-opening of closed freshwater areas on the Naselle, Nemah and Willapa for 2015 to increase recreational opportunity … legal issues are being addressed regarding the ability of the Department of Fisheries to keep rivers closed where and when no conservation limitations apply. All Willapa tributaries should see Chinook entering the rivers in larger numbers prior to Sept. 8 this year due to gill net restrictions. The next four years promise a freshwater recreational opportunity on Chinook prior to Labor Day on the Willapa and the Nemah unlike anything we’ve seen. Abundant hatchery Chinook could flood these rivers with a little rain at the right time. It’s time to dust off the fishing gear and pursue your share.
Please remember to respect private property. Property owners who post their land expect you to stay off. Scoping out permission in advance this year could give you an advantage. Ask permission prior to entering or get guidance to publicly available areas. Trespassing violations can be prosecuted. Williams Park on the North Nemah is stepping up to provide additional recreational opportunity by sponsoring a day of fishing in August for the Wounded Warrior Program — disabled veterans can make contact at email@example.com for details. I am coordinating the event. A non-disabled companion must accompany each disabled fisherman. Day parking and restrooms are available. Golf carts can assist with transportation to and from the river for those that need it. The event honors our wounded military men and women.
If I were the South Bend Chamber of Commerce I would be busy facilitating extended parking for the Ron Craig Boat Launch. Some type of overflow parking and shuttle service will be needed or boaters will go elsewhere. Unparalleled Chinook and Coho fishing opportunities will continue in 2015 through 2019 regardless of budget cuts or hatchery productions to come in the future. These salmon are already out there, growing and on their way back to the Willapa. This, combined with the ESA listing of Puget Sound Chinook, has thousands of boaters looking for somewhere else to fish. The protected water of Willapa Bay offers an attractive alternative for those unwilling to brave ocean fishing or the Columbia. South Bend and Raymond are woefully unequipped to facilitate camping and housing to keep these recreational dollars from escaping. Picturesque South Bend could become the new Tillamook of the west coast if they can keep the salmon supply steady. Opportunity is knocking, it will be interesting to see if the business community can rise to the bait.
I would love to see South Bend and Raymond overflow with a fishing tourist trade this summer … someone should address the boat parking issue.
Marlisa Williams Dugan
Posted on Thu, June 4, 2015
by Dave Hamilton