Tulalip Tribes turn “gulch” into Greenwood Creek

Tulalip biologist Brett Shattuck strolls along the recently restored, and named, Greenwood Creek.

Tulalip biologist Brett Shattuck strolls along the recently restored, and named, Greenwood Creek.

Source: Northwest Indian Fishieries Commission

The Tulalip Tribes recently improved rearing habitat in a small coastal stream popular with juvenile chinook.

Known to locals as “the gulch,” the unnamed stream had one of the highest densities of juvenile chinook of all the coastal streams sampled in the Whidbey basin by the Tulalip Tribes and Skagit River System Cooperative. During one electrofishing survey, natural resources staff found 280 chinook among a total of 600 juvenile salmon that also included coho and other species.

“They can live there for many weeks, so it’s more than just acclimating,” said Derek Marks, Timber Fish and Wildlife manager for Tulalip. “They’re actually rearing and growing in there.”

Despite those numbers, the tribes saw room for improvement. At the time, the gulch was little more than a ditch overgrown with invasive plants. Old county stormwater assessments referred to it as Greenwood Creek, probably named for a nearby grange.

A degraded culvert partially impeded fish passage upstream. “The culvert was rusting and on its way out,” said Tulalip biologist Brett Shattuck, project manager for what became the Greenwood Creek Stream Enhancement Project. “The stream was lined with rocks that created more of a flume than a channel.”

Greenwood Creek is county-owned and in a public right-of-way. The tribes and Snohomish County worked with Adopt-a-Stream to replace the culvert, clear the invasives and realign about 250 feet of habitat.

Interpretive signs are planned to help the public understand the importance of small coastal streams to migrating salmon. Before the restoration, people may not have realized that the small drainage ditch was being used by juvenile salmon.

“We want to show people how successful restoration can be in coastal streams, and to raise awareness that these streams have value for fish,” Shattuck said. “We monitored fish use for three years before the project and will continue to monitor it for several years after construction.”

Video: Going Home, Return of the Chinook

From John Gussman, Vimeo

Going Home from John Gussman on Vimeo.

With the lower Elwha Dam gone, and the Glines Canyon Dam scheduled to be gone in early 2014, the chinook salmon are coming back to their ancestral spawning grounds unreachable for the last 100 years. I spent a week in early September filming them in the Elwha River and one of it’s tributaries, Indian Creek. These are a few of the outtakes from that shoot, some of the final footage will be used in the film “Return of the River”, Learn more at elwhafilm.com/

Elwha River sees largest run of Chinook in decades

Source: The Seattle Times

The largest run of Chinook salmon in decades returned to the Elwha River this fall, according to officials with the Olympic National Park.

PORT ANGELES, Wash. — The largest run of Chinook salmon in decades returned to the Elwha River this fall, according to officials with the Olympic National Park.

Fish are streaming into stretches of the Elwha River and its tributaries that were formerly blocked by the Elwha Dam, park officials said Friday on its website.

The Elwha Dam, one of two dams on the river, stood for nearly a century before it came down in 2012.

Removal of the remaining 210-foot tall Glines Canyon Dam resumed last month after nearly a year hold to give officials time to fix problems at new water-treatment facilities built as part of the $325 million river restoration project.

During a one-day survey in September, biologists counted 1,741 adult Chinook and mapped 763 reds between the remnants of the Glines Canyon Dam and the river mouth. About 75 percent of those were spotted upstream of the former Elwha Dam site, park officials said.

The biologists navigated over 13 miles of the Elwha River and tributaries, walking and snorkeling to find living and dead salmon along the river from Glines Canyon Dam to the river mouth. They also surveyed lower portions of three river tributaries, including Indian Creek, Hughes Creek, and Little River.

Results from the survey indicate this year’s Chinook return is one of the strongest since 1992, according to park officials.

Dam removal is scheduled to be complete in 2014.

With the two dams removed, the glacier-fed Elwha River is expected to flow freely as it courses from the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Salmon and other fish that mature in the ocean and return to rivers to spawn will once again have access to more than 70 miles of spawning and rearing habitat, much of it within the protected boundaries of Olympic National Park.

Northwest Tribes Exult as Nearly One Million Chinook Return to Columbia River

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Northwest tribes are exultant to see nearly a million fall Chinook salmon returning to the Columbia River this year, nearly 400,000 more than have returned since the Bonneville Dam was built 75 years ago.

With a month still left in the run, said the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in a media release, more than 920,000 adult and jack fall Chinook had already come up the river. Among the record numbers cited: On September 9 alone, 63,780 fall Chinook were counted crossing the dam, the Fish Commission said. Chinook also returned to tributaries in the 140 miles of river downstream, adding to the huge run, the commission said.

The abundant, historic run is due to several factors, the commission said, some of which began between two and five years ago. River flows were high in spring, when the juvenile fish migrated to the ocean back then. In addition juvenile fish have spilled over dams, ocean conditions have been good, and numerous ongoing projects have been undertaken to improve the fishes’ ability to pass by dams and exist in their spawning habitat. Higher survival of hatchery-produced fish also contributes to the historic numbers, said the commission.

“The abundance of this year’s fall Chinook run is the perfect example of what this region needs to focus on and how we all benefit from strong returns,” said Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, in the statement. “Partnerships and collaboration are rebuilding this run. Focusing on rebuilding abundance allows the region to move beyond unproductive allocation fights and puts fish back on to the spawning grounds.”

In addition, an abundance of jacks, three-year-olds and four-year-olds are harbingers of a potentially big return next year as well, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission biologist Joe Hymer told The Columbian.

Salmon experts, including those at the commission, cautioned that the work was not over.

“You can’t lose sight of the fact that there are 13 distinct populations of salmon that remain at risk,” said Joseph Bogaard, executive director of the conservation group Save Our Wild Salmon, to the Los Angeles Times. Those species in the Columbia and Snake rivers are listed as either threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, he said.

Indeed, recent studies have shown that overall in the region, salmon habitat is deteriorating faster than it can be restored.

RELATED: Northwest Pacific Salmon Habitat Restoration Efforts Hampered by Development

And even as Chinook shattered records, the Technical Advisory Committee, made up of managers of state, tribal and federal fisheries, noted that returns of summer steelhead, fall Chinook and coho were down, The Seattle Times reported.

“Is this something to celebrate? Absolutely,” said commission spokeswoman Sara Thompson to the Los Angeles Times. “But this is one population of salmon. There is still more work to do.”

Below is footage of the record-shattering Chinook return, first at the Bonneville Dam and then at the mouth of Eagle Creek, a mile upstream from the dam.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/09/26/northwest-tribes-exult-nearly-one-million-fall-chinook-return-columbia-river-151454

Plenty of opportunities for local anglers

By Wayne Kruse, The Herald

If you’re a sport fisherman, these are the good ol’ days. A record number of fall chinook are wending their way up the Columbia, providing catches of one to two chinook per rod at the mouths of the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers the past several weeks. Some 900,000 coho are due in Puget Sound, and are taking up the slack left by a big pink run. So many razor clams are available on the ocean beaches that state officials have decided to start the fall digging season early.

And on and on. If you don’t want to get bit by a fish, stay away from the water.

State Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Joe Hymer, at the agency’s Vancouver office, said last week marked the largest fall chinook count (and still counting) since Bonneville Dam was built in 1938. The old record was a run of 611,000 fish in 2003, and this one is predicted to be somewhere in the 800,000-fish range.

Many of these big kings are “upriver brights,” headed for the Hanford Reach, and should be the basis for a gunnysack fall fishery in the area of the Vernita Bridge, upriver from the Tri-Cities.

Creel checks on the Reach last week showed 762 boat anglers with 244 adult and 132 jack chinook, but that success rate will improve rapidly.

Farther downriver, below the mouth of the Lewis, anglers made 5,654 trips on Sept. 6, 7 and 8, and nailed 5,351 kings for a success rate of 0.95 fish per rod. That’s unheard-of fishing on the lower Columbia.

On the local front, the annual derby for the blind was held Monday, and results bode well for this weekend’s big Everett Coho Derby. Jim Brauch, avid angler and an Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club member, hosted a derby participant Monday and limited out in Brown’s Bay on silvers of 5 to 8 pounds. He said 55 feet was the magic depth, and an Ace High fly the top lure.

“Other fish were caught throughout the system,” Brauch said. “The big fish contest was won by a nice 15-plus-pounder from the east side of Possession. (There’s) lots of fish from Mukilteo to the shipwreck and on the west side of Possession. I don’t know how many fish were caught, but all blind participants had at least one fish and most had more than one.”

Brauch said he also talked to anglers at Douglas Bar on the Snohomish River on Sunday. They reported coho as far up as the Highway 522 bridge.

Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood said there seems to be good numbers of silvers in the area, and that the derby should draw well. He said the fish are moving, not schooled up particularly, and that fishermen should cover a lot of water.

“Coho are where you find them, and hanging around all the rest of the boats can be counter-productive,” he said.

Chamberlain likes the Grand Slam Bucktail in green, and the Ace High fly in either chartreuse or green spatterback, or purple haze, behind a green or white glow flasher. The “Mountain Dew” series of Hot Spot flashers also are fish catchers, he said. Rig the flies 32 or 36 inches behind the flasher, and add a small herring strip.

There will be two free fishing seminars prior to the Everett Derby. The first is tonight — from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. — at the Tulalip Cabela’s Conference Center, where Ryan Bigley of Soundbite Sportfishing will share tips and tactics for advanced coho fishing in Puget Sound. Space is limited; RSVP by calling 360-474-4880.

The second seminar is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and features John Martinis of John’s Sporting Goods in Everett, with everything you need to know to fish the coho derby. The venue is Everett Bayside Marine. For more information, call Bayside at 425-252-3088.

In a first for this area, the Sportsman Channel and Comcast are teaming up with the Everett Derby to donate fish caught by participating anglers to help those less fortunate. The event is part of the Sportsman Channel’s Hunt.Fish.Feed. outreach program that taps an underutilized food source of game meat and fish donated by sportsmen to feed those struggling with hunger across the country.

Participating anglers from the Everett derby are expected to donate more than 1,000 pounds of fresh fish to the Volunteers of America food bank in north Everett.

Lots of clams

State shellfish managers are practically begging diggers to take razor clams off their hands, as the fall season arrives.

“We have a huge number of clams available for harvest this season, paricularly at Twin Harbors,” said Dan Ayres, the state’s coastal razor clam honcho. “There are only so many good clamming tides during the year, and we decided there was no time to waste in getting started.”

Ayres said that while the fall digging schedule is still being developed, managers saw no reason to delay a dig at Twin Harbors.

So Twin Harbors is open tonight through Monday. Tides are as follows: Today, minus 0.3 feet at 7:13 p.m.; Friday, minus 0.5 feet at 7:57 p.m.; Saturday, minus 0.5 feet at 8:39 p.m.; Sunday, minus 0.3 feet at 9:21 p.m.; and Monday, 0.0 feet at 10.04 p.m.

Ayres said estimates of coastal razor clam populations indicate some 800,000 more clams available for harvest this year than last. And last year saw 420,000 digger trips harvesting 6.1 million clams, for an average of just under the per-person limit of 15 per day.

And if 2013 is going to be better than that, it’ll likely get wild down there in the dunes.

For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.

Snohomish County waters still rich with salmon, trout

Dan Bates / The HeraldPhil Flick (left) and Tom Goggin, both of Lynnwood, show four of their seven pink salmon, one shy of their limit, to Jeff Lowery of the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department after pulling their boat out at Mukilteo last week.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Phil Flick (left) and Tom Goggin, both of Lynnwood, show four of their seven pink salmon, one shy of their limit, to Jeff Lowery of the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department after pulling their boat out at Mukilteo last week.

Bill Sheets, The Herald

EVERETT — Every odd-numbered year, visitors to local shorelines in late summer are often struck by the sight of an extraordinary number of small boats on the water.

They might also see people standing along the beach with fishing poles in their hands.

It’s pink salmon season.

“Everyone hears the word ‘pink’ and they just want to come out and join the rat race,” fisherman Nigel Anders of Arlington said as he launched his boat in Mukilteo recently.

While some species of salmon and trout are struggling to survive — Puget Sound chinook and steelhead are both listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act — pink salmon and other species are thriving or holding steady.

Every major species of Pacific salmon and trout can still be found in Snohomish County waters — chinook, coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon, along with rainbow and cutthroat trout. A species of char, called a bull trout, is found here as well.

There’s also a large sturgeon population that visits Port Susan, near Stanwood, according to state fish biologists.

These fish are all anadromous, meaning they travel into streams to spawn, and spend the bulk of their lives in saltwater. The salmon, trout and char are part of the salmonid family.

“We have a lot of fish here and a lot of water,” said Justin Spinelli, a biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Each river, stream and lake has its own unique, colorful mix of fish. The Snohomish River, for example, is home to one of the largest coho populations on the West Coast, generally exceeded only by the Skagit River and the Columbia, said Mike Crewson, fisheries enhancement biologist for the Tulalip Tribes.

Sockeye salmon — a small, tasty variety — are best known in this area for their large runs in Lake Washington and its tributaries, some of which reach into Snohomish County. Baker Lake in the North Cascades has a large population, as well. But sockeye also are found, at least in small numbers, in most other local rivers, biologists say. A large population of landlocked sockeye, or kokanee, swim in Lake Stevens.

Sockeye turn bright red before spawning, earning them the nickname “red salmon.” Coho salmon are known as “silvers” for their clean, shiny look. Rainbow trout are aptly named, with their scales reflecting a multi-colored hue. Cutthroat trout are named for a red strip that runs along the underside of their heads behind their mouths.

Pink salmon are named for the color of their flesh. The smallest of the Pacific salmon, they’re also called “humpies” because their backs develop a prominent hump before spawning.

What pinks lack in size or flavor compared to other salmon species, they make up in numbers. More than 6 million humpies are forecast to return to rivers in the Puget Sound region this year. That’s well shy of the record of 9.8 million pinks set in 2009, but this year’s run is still on the high side, state wildlife officials say. State records go back to 1959.

Of those expected back this year, nearly 1 million pinks are forecast to head for the Snohomish River to spawn and 400,000 more are forecast to return to the Stillaguamish River. About 1.2 million are expected in the Skagit River

Pinks can be caught both in saltwater and in the rivers. Saltwater and the Snohomish River are open to pink salmon fishing now. The season opens in the Stillaguamish and remaining areas on Sept. 1.

Humpies have a shorter life cycle than other salmon, returning to spawn after two years. While most return in odd-numbered years, some do return in even-numbered, “off” years, Crewson said.

Pinks currently have a combination of advantages working for them over other salmon species, biologists say.

They can spawn in more places, do it more quickly, head straight for saltwater after hatching and spend less time there once they arrive.

This makes them less susceptible to the habitat destruction and changing ocean conditions that can push down survival rates of other species.

Humpies can spawn in the tiniest of streams, Crewson said.

“Pinks can go up anything that’s flowing,” he said.

Juvenile chinook and coho stay in fresh water and grow for up to a year and a half after they’re hatched before heading to sea. Pinks head out in a matter of days, biologists say. That helps pinks avoid the ravages of urban runoff, which can scour and pollute salmon-bearing streams.

In saltwater, the issues are more complex, but survival rates there have been on the decline, biologists say.

Fish depend on upwelling of plankton from the lower reaches of inland waters and the ocean. These organisms form the base of the food chain for salmon and trout.

These upwelling patterns have become more erratic, especially in the Puget Sound basin, biologists say, creating more of a hit-and-miss proposition for the fish.

The causes haven’t been nailed down, but climate change is believed to play a part, Crewson said. More rain and less snow falls in the mountains, creating more flooding. This can affect upwelling along with habitat, he said.

“Changes in stream-flow patterns can alter when plankton blooms happen and when fish go out,” Crewson said

Pink salmon have been hitting the plankton blooms better lately than the other fish, he said.

“An early outmigrating salmon has got an advantage,” Crewson said.

El Nino conditions, in which warmer water moves northward from the central Pacific, also can throw food chains out of whack, he said.

Seals and sea lions also are suspects in falling survival rates for salmon. Populations of the fish-eating mammals have been increasing in the Puget Sound area in recent years.

Trout, like larger salmon, require longer rearing periods in fresh water. Puget Sound-area steelhead — rainbow trout that go to sea — have been having trouble getting there, biologists say.

Some have been planted with electronic tags and can be counted when they run across any of several electronic beams sent across the water along Admiralty Inlet and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Many are disappearing before they get to these points, biologists say. That means the steelhead aren’t heading out to the Pacific Ocean.

“There’s something drastically wrong when you lose that many fish,” Crewson said. “Our steelhead numbers (in the Snohomish basin) have been way down.”

The other primary trout species in the area, cutthroats, are holding steady, said Brett Barkdull, a state fish biologist based in La Conner.

Some of these trout stay in rivers, while those that venture into saltwater, known as sea-run cutthroat, don’t go as far afield as steelhead, Barkdull said. They tend to stay in bays and estuaries.

The sea-run cutthroats, while smaller than steelhead, are prized by many serious anglers for their fighting ability. They once were overfished, Barkdull said. In 1990, strict limits were placed on their harvest. Those regulations have helped the fish recover, but still in many areas now they are allowed to be caught but not kept, or may be kept only if they’re above a certain size.

Because of those rules, cutthroat trout tend to be overlooked by casual anglers, said John Martinis, owner of John’s Sporting Goods on Broadway in Everett.

“They’re a very, very popular fish among the fly fishermen,” he said.

Fish populations in the Skagit River are generally healthier than in the rivers in Snohomish County and others in urbanized Puget Sound, Barkdull said.

Many of the Skagit’s upstream waters are in North Cascades National Park or national forest land, he noted.

“I think part of that has to do with the fact that a lot of the rearing habitat is protected,” he said.

In general, numbers for all the fish in the Puget Sound region are down from historic levels, Crewson said. Some, like the pinks, are bouncing back, and that’s good news for people who like to fish.

“It’s one of those opportunities where novice anglers as well as experienced anglers can do really, really well,” Martinis said.

Learn more

For more information, visit the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s information page on salmon and trout at http://tinyurl.com/ozu787a.

Tribes Try Alternative Fishing Gear

Nisqually Tribe uses tangle nets, beach seines to reduce impact on chinook

E. O’ConnellBenji Kautz, Nisqually Tribe, unloads chinook during the tribe’s fishery last fall.

E. O’Connell
Benji Kautz, Nisqually Tribe, unloads chinook during the tribe’s fishery last fall.

E. O’Connell, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Treaty Indian tribes in western Washington are experimenting with fishing methods that help conserve depressed salmon

and steelhead stocks. The Nisqually Tribe began using alternative gear a few years ago, and this spring, the Lummi Nation and Upper Skagit Indian Tribe both held tangle net fisheries. Tangle nets are similar to gillnets, but have a smaller mesh size.

The Nisqually Indian Tribe will continue to lower impacts on returning chinook salmon this year.

“To make good on our recent gains in habitat restoration in the Nisqually, fishermen need to decrease how many natural origin chinook are caught,” said David Troutt, natural resources director for the tribe.

In recent years, the tribe has implemented drastic changes to its fishing regime, including a decrease of 15 fishing days since 2004; reducing the number of nets that can be used by a fisherman from three to two; and having just less than a month of mark-selective fishing with tangle nets and beach seines.

This year’s fishing plan will continue implementing mark-selective fishing, but only with beach seines.

“A historically large run of pink salmon is forecast to come in alongside chinook and coho this year,” Troutt said. Tangle

nets – which ensnare fish by their teeth – would catch an un- usually high number of pinks, which tribal fishermen aren’t targeting.

“Since 2004, Nisqually tribal fishermen have already cut hundreds of hours off their chinook season,” Troutt said. “Tribal fishermen are bearing the brunt of conservation for these fish so we can help them recover.”

In a mark-selective fishery, fishermen release natural origin fish that haven’t had their adipose fin removed in a hatchery. The adipose fin is a soft, fleshy fin found on the back behind the dorsal fin. Its removal does not affect the salmon.

“Mark-selective fisheries are a useful tool and the Nisqually is a unique place in western Washington where it could benefit salmon and tribal fisheries,” Troutt said.