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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Posted on Sat, October 24, 2015
by Dave Hamilton