For those who've never watched the Chehalis Fling  FLING LINK  video and witnessed selective fishing (catch and release) with a net, I've been provided a remarkable report created by unknown WDFW staff on the behavior of the commercial fishers during a "tangle net" fishery installed in Willapa Bay in 2004. Lists problems with gillnetters by name and details how they are avoiding WDFW observers, not using the recovery boxes when out of sight of observers, offensive verbal commentaries, seals are hammering the fish in the nets and on and on and on. YOU GOTTA READ THIS THING!  TANGLE NET LINK


2004 Willapa Bay Tangle-net Fishery

This is a brief narrative of a portion of the 2004 Willapa Bay Tangle net fishery from observations @ Tokeland, WA. Started narrative the second day of the fishery, to record what appeared to be fishery that would be discussed at length sometime in the future, wanting to set down actual occurrences while fresh in my memory. Statements below can be corroborated by Steve Larsson, Steve Wargo, or Suzan Neari ng, Tokeland observers during this fishery. Allan Hollingsworth did not go out (called me the night before and said not worth it, he caught too few fish that day-Thursday@2 l coho and 4 or 5 Chinook vs. 60+ coho and 6 Chinook on Wednesday. Arthor Swanson in South Bend also contacted me after I left a message, saying he was also not going out. Didn 't want to tear up his Col. River net. I had called him because he was the only fishermen going out from South Bend, and I was going to place Steve Wargo on his vessel. Early Friday morning, Larry Christiansen (vessel Kristina) pulled out and headed north, towards Grays Harbor , his net real covered with a tight fitting wrap or tarp.

Friday, Oct 151-Andy Mitby and Eric were the only boats to go out and fish. They left the docks during midmorning. When first observed after launching the support boat, they were all the way west to near the deadline at the rock jetty and fished fairly far apart for the most part. Neither could get most fish in prior to getting robbed by a seal, which started to show up at both boat locations after the first drift. They both caught a few fish (approx 8 and 6 coho and a few chum, respectively) before giving up in disgust. While observing the fishery Steve Larsson and I were impressed with the number of chinook and coho that were imaged on the fish finder offshore at the 65 foot (10 fathom ) line-they were thick from top to bottom of water column at this depth, and many coho were evident in the areas closer to shore (15 to 25 feet of depth) Of all the boats signed up for the fishery in Tokeland, only Andy or Eric Mitby ever fished the first day. In Nahcotta, only Gary Walters and one other boat went out for a brief time. Only a few salmon caught, Gary Walters shocked the observer by systematically whacking every spiny dogfish in the net against the side of the boat prior to their release (information I past onto Dan Klump when I contacted him that evening). Other than these general recollections, I do not want to try to record further occurrences during first day of fishery from memory, but it was similar to what I observed that occurred on Saturday, the next day of the fishery (at least at my location in Tokeland).

On Saturday, Oct 2, 2004 I was supervising the observer crew assigned to sample the tangle net fishery. Steve Larsson and I arrived at Tokeland Launch at approx 5:15 AM. Suzan Nearing already there, Steve Wargo pulled in right behind us. Talked for a few moments, then settled back and waited for fishermen to show up, as we have since the first day of the fishery. At least twice before full daylight, vehicles drove close enough to observe that we were in fact there waiting, and then turned around and left the area. During the day, checked on several people going to and from their vessels, but were told they were not going out, but would pull out later in the day, getting ready for the Grays Harbor fishery. Viking(?) did pull out later in the day. The Kimberley pulled out, then was re-launched in the afternoon

At approximately mid morning, Andy Mitby came by and asked if he went out, would he have to take an observer. I told him yes, and he informed me it "then was not worth it to go". He told me that " you know that without an observer, he would do much better, but with an observer, it was just not worth it to go out. ...you understand ." He then left. He came back a short time later, with his crewman, and said he was going out. And he then requested that Steve Wargo was who he wanted on his boat. As he was making preparations to go out, I sent Steve to the dock and he got aboard. The Brothers Three then left the dock. I waited approximately 25 minutes, then Steve Larson and I launched the support boat, and went out to observe the Brothers Three in action. As we got within sight of the boat, they were finishing a drift. In the last 100 feet of net, I observed a large Chinook in the net, tail up. Andy Mitby expertly extricated the fish from the net, which was still very vigorous, and slipped it back into the water. A nice job . When I came around to view the other side of the boat , I could see that the fish box was flowing with water, ready to receive any distressed Chinook (none were in the box) . They shut the pump down and motored back northwest along the beach for another set. They were just above marker 15. However, during the next 2 full sets (both fairly short duration soaks) and a short partial set (also short soak), the pump was NOT on at any time. The box had no water flowing through it while the net was set out or retrieved during any subsequent sets. This was while Andy knew I was observing him from Jess than 200 meters, with binoculars.

During one set, Andy untied from the net, and motored along its length to the midway point, trying to beat a seal to several fish in the web. Later he came back towards the seaward end and retied , after also losing a race to at least one fish at that end . Steve Wargo motioned me over at this time. We cruised up to within a short distance of the fish and Steve asked me what should be done with a CHINOOK that had it's head bitten of by a seal that was in the boat. I told him that it must be put back into the water. At this Andy became somewhat agitated, and said that he thought that was wastage . I told him that the WAC stated all Chinook must be released . He obviously did not like the answer I gave him . I asked him what he wanted me to do. He said that he thought he should be able to keep the fish, that it was wastage (which was against the law) to put it back . I told him he might consider it wastage, but others would not. We then motored some distance away, and Andy reset. I observed Andy to then put into the water two fish that appeared to be partial fish, as he was getting ready to pull his set. After finishing with this brief set (losing some more coho to seals), he motored out to me on his way back in and continued the discussion of the "wasted" salmon. When he again commented that he thought it was wastage, that he thought he should be allowed to keep the fish. He said since he had a State observer on board, and that I also saw the fish, it was obvious that he was not trying to "work the system" and was being completely honest. He just thought it was wrong to put the fish back. I told him that a seal started on it, and if put back, a seal would finish it, that the fish would not go to waste . He was not impressed by my logic. Shortly thereafter, he returned to the dock, done for the day. He told me over his shoulder while motoring away that he would be out tomorrow. Andy was the only one to fish the second day of the fishery. Eric Mitby had a ballgame practice with his son, or some other conflict, so he did not go out.

Although this second day is the day I started this narrative (the Oct 1st events in top paragraphs were drawn from memory) upon Dan Klump's strong suggestion , it was obvious to myself, and the other observers, throughout the preceding discussions with Andy, Eric Mitby and others at the parking lot that they believed the tangle net is a failure, as far a fishing in Tokeland anyway. Andy told me the day before, that it is too rough usually to fish a tangle net in the area he was fishing, that fish drop out too easily, and that there were too many seals around to allow any sort of reasonable fishing effort (my wording for his thoughts) . Several times they admitted to their observers that there "were a lot of fish out here", and that they could have done great without an observer onboard and use of a tangle net. It was very obvious that fishermen were waiting to see if we would leave, and then they would go out, without observers . Andy Mitby admitted as much several times to Steve Wargo,. He could not believe we would wait around for the full 12 hours, just to observe one boat (he and/or Eric or anyone else) for the full period of the fishery. When he asked Steve if Enforcement would also be around , and was told yes, he was incredulous. "You mean they would come out just to check on only one (my) boat out there?" Steve told him yes, and Steve said he seemed disappointed at that prospect.

Additionally, while talking with Suzan Nearing about her observations the day before , she told me that although Andy had set the live box up, checked its operation and primed the pump before taking of from the dock, at no time was the pump and live box operating while he had made his sets the day before. I told her that was a violation of the WAC for this fishery, and she was very sorry that she had not read through all the information I had supplied her with the night before. She said that Andy told her he "didn't need his pump on, because he was not getting any fish in the boat." Andy and Eric lost numerous fish to seals the first day of the fishery (and Andy lost "a lot"today-Saturday-as well), and coho were observed to also drop out of the net prior to coming on board. Andy also had a seal almost take a nice chinook out of his hands as he was carefully releasing it out of the net. This infuriated Andy. Eric and Andy said they could not understand why they were not allowed to use gear like in Grays Harbor fishery, with a damn observer. That these tangle nets just didn't work here, and there were way to many seals to effectively fish this gear. When I asked if a larger number of boats out fishing would have helped keep the seals off the nets somewhat, they would not answer me. This is an important point. The fishermen DID successfully do this during the regular season fishery. During the regular season, after morning checks of fish at Nelson Crab, I observed boats from the area near the western boundary, and near "Pamper Beach" (Buoy 15) near Nelson Crab using the "multiple boat tactics" during the regular season. Boats would be taking turns lining up for a drift. With others waiting their tum, there was enough traffic and movement that the seals stayed way from the nets to a large extent. So why didn't they use the same tactics now? Similarly, many of the comments from observers stationed in Nahcotta showed that many did not want to participate in the fishery, because "that would prove that the State was right, so were not going to do it, they are just screwing with us again, they don't give us anything." Also, that these net were very expensive, and they were not going to rip them up for only a few fish. Speaking to a sampler prior to finding out who they were, one fishermen said they would have gone out, damn the regulations, but the damn State had observers at the Harbor, and they could get out without being observed. Mnay fishermen at both ports were unhappy with this fishery even being set up, and didn't appreciate Bob Lake or whomever it was that pushed it through.

Contacted Dan Klump and explained situation, asked if Enforcement would be available Sunday, but he said no. However, that they would try to get someone to patrol fishery at Tokeland (my suggestion) for Monday, when samplers would probably be gone. I expressed my desire to have Enforcement make this a top priority, due to the likelihood of illegal activity in the absence of observers. I asked him to launch at Tokeland, and make their presence very obvious. He said he would work to get someone out there for Monday. Sunday Oct 3rd. The same pattern of the last few days-slow vehicle prowls in early AM to check on our presence, and then no netters going near the docks, except to work on
their boats for Grays Harbor, (or the next Willapa Bay opener), or to check on equipment repairs. Discussions with several fishermen-not worth it to go out, too many seals, net rules B.S., etc. etc. etc. Stayed until 5:45 PM. Everyone asked us at every opportunity if we would be there Monday. I said yes. It was obvious to myself (and the observers) that at least some portion of the fleet was waiting for us to leave early, and they would then go out. When questioned about Enforcement, I told them that Enforcement did not clear their plans with me, but I assumed they could be around at any time the fishery was open.

Upon returning to the office, I left messages with Dan Klump, & Sgt. Rhoden about the need to patrol Tokeland on Monday, due to possible absence of observers (into overtime pay due to 3 days at +12 hour days). Called Ron Warren, explained situation, and got verbal authority authorizing overtime for observers IF they felt comfortable doing this without my presence for backup. But he did not want people to feel they were putting themselves at risk, or for undue verbal abuse Contacted Steve Wargo, who said he would sample Tokeland on MOnday. Left messages for Suzie Nearing to also have her repeat tomorrow, but had received no answer as of 9:15 PM. Contacted Rannele Reber, but she and Freider Mack were schedules to work for Wendy Beegley tomorrow. Contacted alternate observer Kim Andersen, but she also was to work for Wendy on Monday. However, she was willing to go, and would contact Wendy to ask permission to go to Tokeland. Kim called back at AM, said she could (not) go. I then contacted Ron Warren again to tell him of my efforts, and that Steve Wargo was willing to sample alone if needed. I left for home at 10:15 PM.

Monday Oct 4th, I received a cell phone call from Suzan Nearing at 7:20 AM while on my way to the Montesano office. She apologized for not getting back to me sooner. She had turned off her cell phone the night before, thinking we were done with the observer project. She said she was willing to go out to Tokeland to sample boats, even though it was after 5 AM . I said that I thought it might be helpful if she did that, she might catch a late entry.

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.

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