As we go down the road I thought I would share the recommendations that I and two others, commonly know as " the old geezer bunch "  have submitted for the Willapa Fall Salmon seasons.  Frankly our thoughts are that it is time to take a fresh look at how Willapa Salmon harvest are allocated.

2014 Willapa NOF Recommendations


Dave Hamilton, Bill Osborn, Joe Durham


In this year's North of Falcon (NOF) process Bill Osborne, Joe Durham and I have attended and participated as citizens as best one could.  After a review of the 2014 Willapa  NOF we must express our dismay at first the lack of any real progress by WDF&W, commercial fishers and some recreational fishers to address the conservation first and harvest second issue. It appears to the average citizen that the attitude of “kill them all and worry about it later” is dominating the process and that the entire process is void of any conservation standard.

In addition with the commercial fisheries accounting for approximately 83% to 87% of the harvest many citizens feel, and some went on the record stating so, that equitable sharing of harvest is addressed but without any intention of achieving equity. Our comments will be directed toward addressing these issues.

1. Willapa Model:

After review of the model as it currently is constructed, we found it impossible use for developing 2014 fall Salmon seasons.  After consulting with the Twin Harbors Fish & Wildlife Advocacy and confirming our concerns on the failure of the Willapa Harvest Model to achieve accuracy we suggest mathematicians conduct an in-depth review as was done with the Grays Harbor Harvest Model.

Lacking a properly functioning harvest model we have chosen to address specific failures in the setting of the 2014 Fall Salmon Harvest.

2. North River Closure:

North River Chinook are on a downward trend with roughly 30% on natural escapement compared to 2002 when the stock status was determined depressed for SASI. Continued failure to  address the issue could and likely will result in restrictions in 2T that result in the loss of substantial opportunity for both commercial and recreational fishers in future years in the 2T zone.

From SASI:

SPAWNING DISTRIBUTION: Most spawning takes place in the mainstem North River near the confluence with the Fall River, in the lower Fall River and in Smith and Ramie creeks. Some spawning also occurs in Lower Salmon River, left and right fork of Ramie creeks and Clearwater Creek.

SPAWNING TIMING: Spawning generally occurs from late September through November, a little earlier than other Willapa Bay fall Chinook stocks.

 This is a native stock with wild production. Three releases of fall Chinook have occurred in Fall River in the 1960s. The releases originated from Willapa Bay hatcheries and were normal-timed fall Chinook stock. There is no history of early-timed Chinook released into Fall River. While some potential for hybridization did exist, Fall River early-timed Chinook are not thought to have been significantly impacted and are considered native in origin.

It is our belief that additional restrictions are required to protect the North River native Chinook population. We urge the creation of a closure zone for both commercial and recreational fishers until September 15th.  The boundaries to be defined as from Tokeland Buoy 3 North from to shore ( utilizing the existing marker 3 line ) Buoy 3 to RM B Buoy, from the RM B Buoy North to the shore utilizing the existing 2 U boundary. This closure is the minimum necessary for the protection of the native natural origin Chinook population. Further, the area should not open to net fisheries until test fisheries document Chinook clearance.

3. Willapa Fall Coho Seasons:

In the review of the options proposed thus far the vast majority of reductions appear to be directed toward fall recreational Coho fishers by creating false seasons and  opportunities that will not exist or come to pass other than in paper fish in the model.  Required reductions in fall salmon harvest need to be proportional for EACH species and as the NT Nets take 83% to 87% of the harvest most recreational fishers feel the commercial fishers must take the reduction equal to the impacts they have historically had on harvest. 

This assessment is based upon the utilization of a “continuous commercial harvest " fishery being utilized in the options developed by WDF&W and the Willapa Advisers. The utilization of " continuous commercial harvest "  methodology resulted in proposals for commercial Coho harvest of  24 / 7 from Sept 16 to Oct. 7 gillnet harvest followed by 4 days in the week of Oct. 8 with 4 days 24 hours a day, which we regard as simply unacceptable.  Regardless of how it is modeled it will result in the fall recreational fishery being little more than a boat ride or hike to the river bank to enjoy nature as few fish will be available to catch.  As current Willapa harvest model appears to not calculate the reduced number of Coho available from commercial harvest but rather the forecasted run size, it is not possible to gauge the true and accurate rate of harvest attributed to recreational fishers in the model. WDFW needs to demonstrate a management process that produces meaningful achievement of escapement and provision for meaningful in-river recreational fisheries.  “Meaningful fishery” will need to be quantitatively defined and agreed-to by the in-river anglers. 

Another option does exist and frankly is preferable to the “continuous commercial harvest “options presented thus far.  A better option is limiting commercial harvest from September 15th to October 31 to 4/3 (three continuous net free days in a calendar week) as in Grays Harbor.  While this may sound extreme in reality it is not as what it does is move the commercial fishers from a “continuous commercial harvest” fishery to what is commonly identified as a “build up fishery ".  In a three day net free period it is probable that some portion of the returning Coho from day one will clear the commercial harvest zones but not salmon entering the harbor on day two or three.

This results in the recreational fishers have a far greater access to harvest as the Coho numbers build in the harbor and the commercial harvesters will be able to still have access to harvesting nearly the same number of Coho but in four days of a build up fishery rather over seven day in a continuous fishery. The results of the closures will, to some degree, depend on stream flows/rain.  Low flows, no rain will keep fish in the bay and harvested. Good flows will have fish move through.  WDFW will need to be responsive.

From our perspective these measures are the minimum required to address the 2014 Willapa Fall Salmon harvest with permanent steps taken to reverse the continuing decline of natural origin and native stocks of Willapa Salmon in the development of a new Willapa Bay Salmon Management Plan in 2015. I would emphasize that your goals, in PRIORITY ORDER, are significant and continuous increases in escapement over brood year and provision for significant and meaningful in-river fisheries. 

 I urge all who visit D's Rants to do the contact bit and I will add your name to the contact list so whenever we have something interesting posted you can be notified




1 comment (Add your own)

1. michael jones wrote:
now you think of how low the runs are it really doesn't help with the sporty's going out with 3-4 people a couple times a week it takes a toll on both the commercial and the sport fishing industry now did they think about how many family's in the coastal community are going to be affected by this and how much business is going to be lost where are the local shops going to get there fresh salmon .

Wed, October 28, 2015 @ 9:20 AM

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