the fall salmon seasons have continued many have questions on, well about
everything. So what gives? The simple answer is business as usual but that
would be correct and incorrect. In Willapa the agency has been in a all out
effort to attempt to begin to truly quantify Commercial impacts rather than
just run on auto pilot but in Grays Harbor not so. As things unfolded I have
tried to get information out as best I can but the agency has struggled. Sure
up on WDF&W's website harvest numbers are being posted along with other
information but as to processes underway. but not much else. In Willapa much
has been going on behind the scenes with just about zip put out to the public
as to what is going on. It is conference call time thing with Advisers &
not much else. I have suggested, asked, nearly demanded that this practice stop
but with little success. I even urged to use the contact list from the GH &
Willapa policy processes to just E mail simple updates out but this is such a
departure from how Fish Program works that it does not appear to have gained
much traction. Ah that is wrong, it went nowhere so far maybe ( hope hope )
later. So here is what I have gathered up from other observation & folks.
GH from the start the QIN schedule appeared a bit aggressive, in particular
with Chinook. Then from the beginning
the Chinook numbers went well past what we should see. Week 38 the QIN hit
nearly double what was expected and
pulled for week 39. Coho started slow and do not appear to be catching up. In
fact it appears to well short of the 158K forecast. That immediately begs the
question why not pull back as they did in week 39? Because the seasons are set
on preseason forecast of the 158K and all harvest to it. All folks Rec, Tribal,
NT Nets. It is more or less auto pilot time in Grays Harbor. So at this minute
it appears Chinook came early, in large numbers, and continued through the
modeled weeks so far. Then this folks, we only have week 38 reports of QIN
harvest and Rec observation as there is apparently some problem with getting
QIN harvest numbers. So it appears Chinook doing OK but again it depends how
many were taken in the QIN fisheries. Remember last year the Chinook looked
normal then just dropped of the map resulting in a failure to make escapement
AGAIN and there was no way WDF&W or the QIN could have caught it until too
late which is why auto pilot management really really stinks up the place. It appears
Coho are in the dumpster big time but again it is Rec observation & only
week 38 ( which is early for Coho ) reports. Now Chum have been encountered
since early September which is strange. Too early to make any call on Chum.
Willapa is different. With the state managing the show ( no tribal ) it is much
different, in fact a total departure from the past. With one exception and that
is it is being done with little information provided to the general public
which is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL for Fish Program which has just used any public
participation or dispersing of information as a " dog & pony show
". So what's up?
the agency has made a all out effort to get the harvest & escapement
numbers right. This includes DNA testing, intense observer monitoring of
harvest, and stream surveys of some sort. The DNA testing resulted in some
changes for the Chinook harvest but has helped staff truly know just what fish
was being caught by who where. Right out the door the Commercial impacts on
NOR's ( wild ) went due South in a New York minute. Test fisheries showed them continuing
to bump up against the NOR cap endangering the Commercial Coho fishery in the
first two weeks of November. Then comes Chum which are limited to 10% impacts due
to past years failure to make escapement. I mean then comes the Chum EARLY
resulting in the Commercials blowing through numbers again so now by advocating
the Chinook harvest thus far the Commercials have put their Coho season at risk
restrained by Chinook & Chum.
to the mix in the Naselle we had a die off of Chinook of substantial numbers.
It was a natural thing and unfortunate but nature does that. The key to this?
It is not in the model so now how do you manage around it for both Rec &
Commercial? No idea but it will challenge R-6 to be sure.
the final shoe to drop. Just as in GH the Coho run is not materializing as forecast.
So how do you have a Commercial Coho fishery constrained by Chinook at the
front end of the run timing and Chum at the back end? Coupled with the Naselle
Chinook die off ? No idea again but we
will see after the next Willapa test fishery.
odds and ends that are out and about. As to R-6 management being gone on
vacation in the middle of fall salmon season. Yup Fish Program's Manager Steve
Thiesfeld was gone and it is a 100% load of something to unload on him for that.
He won a hunting trip that was a chance of a lifetime and took it and Mr. Scott
stepped in to deal with Willapa to insure continuity. Yes I know in the past
this was not the case but that was then and this is now. Mr. Thiesfeld is back
hobbling around ( he was injured on his trip ) doing his best to catch up so
you folks might want to cut him some slack on this issue.
to the question as to why the Willapa numbers are taking such a drastic
departure from the past? Accountability plain and simple. Prior to the Willapa
Policy the effort to insure correct selective fishery harvest information was little more than a
token effort. Think of it this way. With the 2T Commercial exclusion many of
the dead Chinook not counted in the past or even recognized went right into the
bay and staged. Then we start the Commercial season and from the get go the
hatchery / NOR ( wild ) mix was way wrong with the NOR limitations growing
fast. Then it appears the Chinook run came back larger than expected adding
more NOR to the mix. But you say more hatchery also so it should be a wash. Yup
except it rained early the hatchery fish headed instream. This is the rub proportionally
a far greater percentage of the hatchery Chinook come early with the NOR
peaking later. You now have the perfect storm as Chinook harvest modeled will not track true. For Mr. Thiesfeld
this is a no win thing if ever there was one so we wait. I could be wrong but doubt
if we will know until the end so as always more to come here also.
last but not least this harvest accountability thing. For many years the
Chehalis inriver fishers noticed a pattern of runsize that did not fit the
model. Model says not nets XXX number of adults would come through in that time
frame but way more showed than modeled. Did not seem to matter if it was QIN or
NT Commercial but it was most dramatic with the NT's to be sure. Now this accountability
thing applies to the Rec fisheries also as the preseason modeling does not
reflect effort only similar harvest impacts from previous years.
this year being retired I and others started tracking this thing and folks no
way no how did we this coming. So let's do it fishery by fishery. The Rec bay
fishery has been OK but few Coho. This resulted in a disproportionate mix of
Coho / Chinook made worse by the apparently larger return of Chinook than
anticipated and less Coho resulting the likelihood of more mortalities than
modeled. Which means our anticipated C&R numbers are not going to be
correct. The accountability thing is important as this fact as the agency has
zero ability to get a true picture of how much as they were focused on Willapa.
up the drift net fisheries both QIN and NT Commercial with the NT's yet to hit
the water. I think right here is the issue and it is Pinnipeds! I watched three
tribal drift boats working above and below the 101 bridge and the Pinnipeds
wailed on them. It was not that this happened but rather how bloody many fish
they got that surprised me. The drifts started a little below Lakeside and
pulled prior to the bridge. Each time the boats pulled and went up to start
over the Sea Lions went right with them and drifted down with them. I would
watch 5 to 10 fish come up over the bow but here is the rub. The Sea Lions got
one or more for every two the boat did. You easily count as they come up
flipping the fish around feeding and the Gulls are right there also. Here is
the thing while all fisheries have a dropout rate or C&R a release mortality it does
not cover this. After faithfully watching this for most of the season so far I
can safely say without a doubt that the drift net impacts both QIN & NT unseen & unaccounted for are far greater than
anyone has admitted to. Folks we have a real problem here. In a Public Document
Request one document was comments from a WDF&W Observer on a Willapa drift
netter in which he identified that for every fish that was brought into the
boat a Seal or Sea Lion got one. This is a problem in both GH & Willapa.
set nets. Again I was surprised by the difference between reality and
perception. The set nets loose fish the same as nets to Pinnipeds but way less.
Unattended the Seals get less than I thought as they do not seem to like dead
fish that much. Lots of fish the fisher stays with the net and picks them
rapidly to avoid being robbed by Seals. So where I always had assigned blame
for the unseen mortality to the set nets I was not just wrong but not even
close. The QIN fishers do need to quit leaving the nets unattended for such
long periods of time though.
inriver tide water we have issues also. I have lost three Coho & three Chinook
so far to seals with thirteen Coho punched. That is a 23% rate for Coho and it
is not accounted for in the modeling. Sure we have a mortality rate but it is
not near that. Additionally the three Chinook I released before they got fifty
feet from my boat a Seal got one and was in hot pursuit of the others. The
thing that impressed me is the way that the Recs have really tried to do
Chinook releases properly. Little of the photo op thing ( mostly ) dragging the
fish around in the boat to get that photo of catch of the day. Not bad guys.
Upstream some issues but it revolved around a few fishers and no enforcement
around as they are stretched pretty thin. That said one officer found the time
to hassle the low income folks behind Wal-Mart which frankly is the LEAST
abusive fishery. Could have made better use of his time I think.
Posted on Thu, October 8, 2015
by Dave Hamilton