WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR SALMON SEASON

WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR SALMON SEASON

Hi all,

 

Well the other shoe dropped and salmon fishing is done for the year. I am sure in the coming days many different views will be around but the reality is the Coho run did not materialize as the preseason forecast projected, in fact it tanked. So WDF&W shut things down and it is put forward the QIN will do the same. A win for conservation? Maybe yes maybe no it just depends on ones view or perspective. From my perspective it was absolutely necessary for the state to shut things down or I have little doubt the QIN would have not done so.

 

All that said I will urge all to stay off the personal attacks on WDF&W or QIN staff as frankly what we have experienced was the old adage " the fish will screw ya " which they did and we had a major harvest management failure by both WDF&W & the QIN POLICY staff not the technical folks which I will get to shortly. Also guys the QIN fishers fish when the people they pay to manage the harvest say to just like we Recs do. Do not blame the fishers for something they do not control.

 

So what happened? What about the GH Policy? Wasn't it supposed to prevent this type of thing. Again yes / no as any policy cannot cover every circumstance. So in the beginning as NOF rolled Steve Thiesfeld put forth a really good effort to insure all had the opportunities allowed by the GHMP based off the preseason forecast. The place that the bump in the road showed was around the NT Nets and the QIN unwilling to make time for them. This issue faded a bit but never really went away.

 

So let us do this. The Springers came in on time but peaked late which is different. The run peaked at the end of July and numbers were showing in tide water up to mid August. Summerrun Steelhead came late period but once they came the numbers ramped up very rapidly with descent numbers. In mid August with the drought things all over media many folks were worried about the Chehalis being at risk with reports of dead Chinook. So I and another GH Adviser surveyed the river from South Monte to Fuller Hill and the state went upstream from Fuller Hill. In our effort Joe and I found Coho & Chinook, Jacks, several Coho adults, trout just lots of fish and no dead fish. State same on their survey.  One should also remember we are still in a drought that for our basin it is continuing to get worse as we near spawning time without rain.

 

After the Springers faded we had a thee week period of time just plain not much moved. Sure some Chinook were present but just not many. Then the Chinook came and the numbers ramped up quick followed by Olympic side streams getting a shot of rain and off they went.  Immediately the minute the flows dropped the movement slowed and numbers of Chinook built up but folks the Coho just did not. So I and several others who are retired and fish constantly started comparing notes of where & how many fish we were seeing daily.

 

So in week 38 when the QIN went in it was immediately clear something was really wrong. Chinook in substantial numbers but FEW Coho. I took it upon myself to go to the fish house to verify it and what we were seeing was proofed by the QIN landings. Then this, with over 3000 Chinook in the bag the QIN pulled to get back in line with the model. Right here is where the wheels started coming off the cart. The Chinook back filled in tidewater but not many Coho. A QIN fisher brought it to my attention that not only were the Coho numbers bad but the fish were behaving strangely. How so? Well they were coming right through the bay both Coho & Chinook and not staging. Coho were being caught clear to South Monte with full ocean color. Blue back & silver white sides and until yesterday I had not caught a Coho or Chinook with scales set and that is just plain weird. I might add here that it must have been a miserable time for those pursuing Coho in the bay as they were just plain moving right through and a lot of water for so few fish but Chinook numbers appeared up.  I did not fish on days the nets were in but rather both on foot and by boat stayed right with the QIN fishers.

 

Though the remaining QIN schedule this pattern stayed true. Yes Coho numbers ramped up early but it appears they were just peaking early not in larger numbers. In week 42 the state put in the NT nets for short fisheries in front of & following the QIN fishers. ( yes this complied with the GHMP )  Remember the wheels falling off the cart? Well the numbers were way short on Coho. Right here is where WDF&W made a very bad situation into a horrific one. They followed up with another three days then cancelled the last day for conservation. In those three days they destroyed any hope of the inland communities inriver fisheries right along with Chehalis tribal. There is no way that fishery should have taken place. Albert Einstein  once said “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Well evidently WDF&W at the policy level have not figured it out. Add to the mix this. In the GHMP in the guiding principles is this. 7. In a manner consistent with conservation objectives, fishing opportunities will be fairly distributed across fishing areas and reflect the diverse interests of WDFW- managed fishers.  Item 7 in the guiding principles and 4/3 are the part of the GHMP that is intended to insure GEOGRAPHIC distribution of harvest and not harvest everything out at the mouth of the river. So for those of you from the inland communities the GHMP did not fail you WDF&W policy level staff did, big time.

 

The management of salmon harvest prior to the new GHMP was discriminatory based on where you live plain and simple. It was a not talked just plain ignored by those who had the authority to stop it. I had hoped with GHMP that it was in the past.  I was wrong! 

 

Harsh words you say? Nope because what WDF&W did was exactly what they have done for 30 years, they mowed them down at Aberdeen. Despite a good solid management policy they still found a way to screw it up.  I remember the Commission meeting where a lady flatly said it bluntly that a commercial fisher is a commercial fisher that the upper basin communities cares nothing about the color of a commercial fishers skin or ethnicity.  A commercial fisher is a commercial fisher. WDF&W to this day struggles to shed the Indian vs white thing. It is just ingrained in their DNA and those NT Commercials are THEIR commercials. They cannot turn it loose and that is sad.

 

So here we set and what have we learned? Well WDF&W has reverted to the old verbiage of calling the Rec season Freshwater. Now the Rec at South Monte got into the fish a couple of times as they pulled up and paused. Guys to say that the geographic distribution was achieved 10 minutes from Aberdeen is ridiculous. The Chehalis is second largest watershed in the state with hundreds of miles of inriver fisheries and WDF&W appears to be trying to claim that they met geographic distribution of harvest 10 miles from Aberdeen. You can put lip stick and a dress on that pig but it is still a pig!  That discrimination is what brought about my and many others from the inland communities to full revolt demanding change and working together we made our case to the Commission resulting in the GHMP. I think some folks in the concrete palace in Olympia did not just miss the boat they did not bother buying a ticket.

 

As to Region 6 performance? Well Mr. Thiesfeld & did well in the beginning. They really tried to do right. Then came the crunch on Coho and NT harvest and they just went South sound asleep at the wheel. Auto pilot is what it is called. Myself and many others tried to make the case for modification of the season. I took everything I could get and supplied it to the Advocacy who toiled away trying to get numbers and assumptions to staff with graphs everything to no avail.  Heavens three days before the closure WDF&W opened the Newaukum for fishing. Why because in a normal year it was time for the fish to get there. When it hit the fan though Mr. Thiesfeld went all out with his staff to undo their screw up, got information and using QIN history of harvest and down sized the preseason forecast for Coho. That folks has not been done in many years.

 

The QIN? Well after week 38 and the much larger than expected harvest of Chinook they pulled and moved the Johns River boundary back to protect the Chinook. This is good, now the bad. Every week QIN harvest showed Coho in the dumpster and they kept right on fishing. ( remember folks the fishers fish when the staff they pay says fish ) Additionally they did not provide WDF&W catch information  ( or so we are told ) to WDF&W.

 

So now they pull and we give them kudos for conservation? I think not as the hole created by the lack of harvestable Coho was created by massively overharvesting by tribal fisheries on a diminished Coho run. Not to be out done WDF&W finished it off with the NT nets.

 

So what next? No idea but for my part Monday I will put in play a Public Document Request to try and get as much information as possible to match up with the harvest timeline and make it public as always.  All the Rec fishers have a right to know how this happened and most certainly the inland communities.   

 

Dave