Ruling on tidal turbines delayed; sparring continues

By Bill Sheets, The Herald

EVERETT — While a decision on whether tidal power turbines may be installed in Admiralty Inlet has been delayed in part by the federal government shutdown, sparring between the proponent and opponents has continued.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had planned to decide whether to approve the Snohomish County Public Utility District’s $20 million tidal power pilot project as early as this past summer, but now it will likely wait at least until December, according to the utility.

The federal energy agency has been awaiting a report on the project from the National Marine Fisheries Service. Completion of that report came later than expected and has been further delayed by the government shutdown, PUD officials said.

The tidal power plan has faced stiff opposition from Pacific Crossing of Danville, Calif., which owns two transoceanic cables that run through the inlet between Whidbey Island and Port Townsend.

Four Indian tribes, including the Tulalips, also say the project could affect salmon migration and fishing.

Officials with the PUD say the concerns either are unfounded or have been addressed. A 215-page environmental study issued last year by the FERC concluded that the turbines pose no threat to the cables, wildlife habitat or fishing.

Under the plan, two 65-foot-tall turbines, each resembling a giant fan sitting on a tubular platform, would be placed 200 feet underwater to capture the current. The turbines are made by OpenHydro of Ireland.

At peak output, the turbines are expected to generate 600 kilowatts between them, enough to power 450 homes. Most of the time, the output will be less, PUD officials say. This would be a demonstration project intended to determine whether more turbines could be effective in the future, officials say.

The cables, only a couple of inches in diameter, contain fiber-optic lines that transmit data through the Internet and social media, said Kurt Johnson, chief financial officer for Pacific Crossing. The lines are encased in steel and polypropylene.

The cable network extends a total of more than 13,000 miles in a loop from Harbour Pointe in Mukilteo to Ajigaura and Shima, Japan, and Grover Beach, Calif.

The turbines would be placed about 575 feet and 770 feet from the cables. Pacific Crossing and its trade group, the New Jersey-based North American Submarine Cable Association, say the standard should be around 1,600 feet.

Pacific Crossing has submitted several more sets of comments to FERC since last winter.

The cable interests believe the lines could be damaged by placement of the turbines or by boats dropping anchors in the area.

“Our ultimate concern is the adequate and safe separation of the turbines from our cables,” Johnson said. “We’re kind of concerned this project will become a precedent for authorizing projects such as this at an unsafe distance from submarine cables.”

The company pointed out that an agreement between utilities and cable companies in the United Kingdom established 500 meters — about 1,600 feet — as the minimum distance between offshore wind farm turbines and undersea cables.

On its website, the cable association says that although the agreement pertains to wind projects, the agreement could be applied equally to tidal and wave energy projects.

Officials with the PUD disagree.

“The bottom line is it’s an apples and oranges kind of thing,” said Craig Collar, assistant to PUD general manager Steve Klein.

The PUD earlier submitted to the federal agency a list of precautions that crews would take when operating near the turbines. For example, boats would stay running when in the area to eliminate the need for dropping an anchor, Collar said.

On the issue of turbine placement, OpenHydro officials have told those at the PUD that they can get the turbines within 10 feet of their target locations, Collar said.

In response to the environmental study, the Tulalip Tribes, the Suquamish Tribe and the Point No Point Treaty Council, representing the Port Gamble and Jamestown S’Klallam tribes, each sent letters disputing its conclusions.

Fishing gear could get hung up in the turbines, and the structures could potentially harm migrating salmon, said Daryl Williams, environmental liaison for the Tulalip Tribes.

Tribes fish for halibut, crab and shrimp in the area, he said.

“We’ve already lost most of our fishing area due to shipping traffic and piers and anchor buoys and the other things that get in the way of drift gillnets,” Williams said.

The turbines take up but a tiny part of the large inlet, Collar said.

“This project is so small, it doesn’t in any material way impede the tribes’ fishing rights,” he said.

Williams said the very conditions that determined the placement of the turbines — strong currents — could steer migrating salmon into the turbines. Chinook salmon and sturgeon travel as deep as 150 feet below the surface, he said.

“When the fish are migrating, they travel with the current so they don’t burn much energy while swimming,” Collar said. “We don’t think the studies are going to identify what the impacts are to migrating fish.”

The PUD is working with the University of Washington on state-of-the-art sonar equipment and underwater cameras that will be deployed to monitor fish passage near the turbines.

The tribes are skeptical, Williams said.

“Our fish are already in bad shape in the Puget Sound area and we’re throwing in one more obstacle to recovery.”

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

Eat Insanely Fresh Native Salmon: Four Tribes Open Fishery On Columbia River

Courtesy Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish CommissionA tribal fisher loads fall chinook into their boat on the Columbia River near Hood River, Oregon.

Courtesy Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
A tribal fisher loads fall chinook into their boat on the Columbia River near Hood River, Oregon.

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Starting August 19, fishers from the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama tribes will drop their gill nets in the Columbia River.

During the 2013 fall commercial season, this first gill net fishery can harvest up to 200,000 fish or an estimated 2.5 million pounds of salmon. The fresh catch of salmon, steelhead and coho will be sold commercially directly from Indian fishers to the public. Sales to the public should last into October with peak abundance from just before Labor Day through mid-September. Much of the harvest is sold to wholesale fish dealers and can be found in stores and restaurants around the Northwest and beyond.

Fisheries biologists estimate that the 2013 fall chinook return will be well above average with 677,900 fall chinook entering the Columbia and over 575,000 destined for areas upstream of the Bonneville Dam. Fishery managers also predict a record return of wild Snake River fall chinook and over 130,000 coho.

“Many of the salmon returning to the Columbia River are the direct result of tribal restoration efforts, joint state and tribal programs and several tribal and federal partnerships that are increasing the abundance of salmon in upriver areas,” said Paul Lumley, executive director for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

During the harvest, managers actively monitor the returns so they can adjust the harvest levels as needed to keep the fisheries within strict harvest limits established under the US v. Oregon fisheries management agreement.

The tribal fishery offers an ample supply of fish for the public through over-the-bank sales. Common sales locations include: Marine Park in Cascade Locks, Lone Pine in The Dalles, North Bonneville—one mile east of Bonneville Dam, and Columbia Point in Washington’s Tri-Cities area.

Individuals interested in purchasing tribally caught fish should keep the following tips in mind:
•    Sales from tribal fishers generally run from 10 a.m. to dusk.
•    Price is determined at the point of sale.
•    Most sales are cash only.
•    Buyers should request a receipt.
•    Tribal fishers can advise on topics including fish freshness and preparation.

The public is urged to call the salmon marketing program at (888) 289-1855 before heading up the river to find out where the day’s catch is being sold. More information is available on the salmon marketing website Follow @ColumbiaSalmon on Twitter for updates.



Sockeye fishing at Baker Lake tougher this year

Baker Lake SockeyeSource;

Baker Lake Sockeye

By Wayne Kruse, Special to The Herald

July 25, 2013


Baker Lake sockeye anglers are scratching a little harder for fish so far this season than in 2012, and that probably means predictions for a somewhat smaller run are proving accurate.

“Historically, about half the run has been counted at the (Baker Dam) trap by July 19,” said Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington. “The count at that point this year was a little over 9,000 fish, and if you double that, you’re getting close to the prediction of 21,000 fish.”

That would be down from last season’s total trap count of 28,410 sockeye, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t fish to be taken.

“It has actually been fairly good,” John said. “The numbers seem to be holding true, so it’s going to be a little tougher, but that only means moving around, watching for ‘showing’ fish, using a sounder, spending a little more time on the water.”

John said salmon are scattered, mostly above the bend, and at different water depths as well. Heavy morning fog recently delayed the morning bite, he said, and fishing didn’t really pick up until more light was on the water.

He recommends starting early in the day and dropping your gear to 20 or perhaps 30 feet to start, going down later to as deep as 55 feet or so. Rig with a big ring “0” dodger, eight to 18 inches of leader, bare red or black hooks, or a 11/2-inch pink hoochie. Add a small piece of raw or cured shrimp or a sand shrimp tail, and douse the works with shrimp oil.

The hoochie can be UV pink, John said, maybe dressed up with a smile blade or a red or pink size 8 or 10 Spin N Glo. John likes dodgers in UV white, UV purple haze, or 50-50.

The dam counts as of July 19 were 9,032 trappoed, and 4,620 transported to the lake. Check out the current trap counts at


The big run of odd-year humpies continues to work its way down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but it’s not here in any numbers yet. State creel checks at the Washington Park public ramp west of Anacortes on Saturday showed 59 anglers with 11 chinook, one coho and 38 pinks. On Sunday, it was 38 anglers with 21 pinks. Those are Fraser and/or Skagit fish which tend to be a little earlier than those headed for Puget Sound tributaries in this area.

Sunday’s count at the Port of Everett ramp was 10 pinks for 390 anglers, most of which were caught incidentally to the ongoing chinook fishery. Weekend checks at Olson’s Resort in Sekiu showed outstanding salmon fishing: 206 anglers with 130 chinook, 10 coho, and 61 pinks.

Local chinook

Gary Krein, owner of All Star Charters in Everett, said that after a very hot couple of opening days, fishing for clipped-fin kings in the Port Townsend area dropped off precipitously, and that Possession Bar remained fairly slow. He said a few fish are being picked up a lot of places — Pilot Point, Point No Point, Possession, Kingston, and Richmond Beach among several others — but that there has been no local hot spot.

State check numbers, however, indicate at least decent local fishing. On July 16, opening day, some 212 anglers at the Port of Everett ramp had 96 kings, 11 coho and three pinks. And last Sunday, it was 390 fishermen with 39 chinook, 10 coho and 10 pinks — still not too bad.

But how long has it been since you’ve seen success rates on adult kings better than a fish per rod? Check this out: On July 16, opening day of the area 9-10 selective chinook fishery, 169 fishermen at the Port Townsend Boat Haven ramp were contacted with 194 chinook. And that’s about as good as it gets around here.

Krein said the scattering of pinks caught already on Possession Bar is encouraging for this early in the season, particularly as they were mostly taken on spoons worked by chinook fishermen. Good-sized humpies, too, he said, some in the 7- to 8-pound range.

Westport open seven days

Marine Area 2 opened July 19 to salmon fishing seven days a week, joining the three other coastal areas already open daily. Angler effort and catch rates are building slowly, but creel checks have not yet broken the one-per-rod figure, according to Wendy Beeghley, creel sample coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The latest Westport numbers showed about one-third chinook and one-half coho per person, Beeghley said.

“That may improve in the next couple of weeks,” Beeghley said. “They’re doing better up north, on fish moving down the coast, and trollers are also reporting more fish.”

Waterfowl outlook

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its report on 2013 duck breeding populations, and while predictions are for a slightly lower total North American duck population, the numbers remain strong and well above the long-term averages. The report said its survey showed an estimated 45.6 million breeding ducks in the heart of the most important areas in the U.S. and Canada, a six-percent decrease from last year’s estimate but 33 percent above the 1955-2012 average.

Of the 10 species surveyed, seven were similar to last year’s estimates, including mallards. Scaup and blue-winged teal were significantly below last year’s estimates. American wigeon were 23 percent above last year, and mallards are 36 percent above the long-term average.

Neah Bay strong

Best coastal salmon results recently have been at Neah Bay, where anglers are averaging about one fish per rod, equally split between chinook and coho. They have been killing the pinks there, however, and when humpy numbers are added, Neah Bay anglers are scoring at a 1.6-fish-per-person clip.

Cowlitz River

Pretty good steelhead fishing on tap between the hatcheries, where 74 boat anglers last week were checked with 43 fish.

Buoy 10

The lower end of the Columbia opens to chinook and hatchery coho on Aug. 1 but, as usual, fishing probably won’t be close to hot on the opener. Joe Hymer, state biologist in the Vancouver office, said there are a few chinook in the area, but warm water temperatures and a lack of big tides early in the Buoy 10 season will probably tend to keep an improved coho run off the coast.

Hymer looks for fishig to improve, however, over the next few weeks and said the coho numbers look good this year.

Get ready, humpy invasion nearly here

By Wayne Kruse, Special to The Herald

That pink haze on the horizon means the odd-year humpy invasion is nearly here, and it’s time to start gearing up before the good stuff is all gone. The first pink salmon in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca was caught July 3, out of the Ediz Hook public ramp in Port Angeles, and larger numbers quickly followed.

By last Sunday, state Department of Fish and Wildlife creel samplers tallied 146 anglers at the hook with 151 pinks. The catch also included 28 chinook and 8 coho.

Gary Krein of Everett, owner of All Star Charters (425-252-4188), said fishable numbers of pinks should be available on the west side of Possession Bar/Double Bluff somewhere between August 1st and 5th, and on this side — Brown’s Bay and the shipwreck — between the 8th and 12th.

Stock up on white flashers, standard 11-inch, or similar dodgers, and pink or red mini squids tied on double 4/0 hooks. Plan on using 24 to 26 inches of leader, Krein said, and a very slow troll.

Cabela’s Tulalip store has scheduled a full range of free pink salmon seminars this weekend, as follows (the times apply both Saturday and Sunday):

  • Fly Fishing for Pinks, 11 a.m., hosted by Mike Benbow.
  • Successful River Techniques for Pinks, 12:15 p.m., hosted by guide Jennifer Stahl.
  • Catching Pinks with Dick Nite Spoons, 1:30 p.m., hosted by Captain Jon Blank.
  • Puget Sound Pink Fishing, 2:45 p.m., hosted by Captain Nick Kester (on Sat.), and Captain Ryan Bigley (on Sun.).
  • Tying Your Own Pink Salmon Jigs, 4 p.m., hosted by Cabela’s Outfitters.

Also, check out free demonstrations on smoking your catch, kids’ casting, and a lot more.

For a full schedule of pink salmon and archery hunting seminars coming up, visit, or call 360-474-4880.

Baker Lake sockeye

The hugely popular sockeye fishery on Baker Lake opened yesterday, and was too new at time of writing to produce any meaningful results. Prior to the opener, however, Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington (360-757-4361) predicted that this weekend could see enough of the highly-sought salmon in the lake to be worth an early trip.

John said that, through Sunday, some 2,617 fish had been trapped below Baker Dam, and 1,931 had been transported to the lake.

“Compare that to last year,” John said, “when there were only 600 or 700 in the lake at this point, so there may be enough biters on hand to make the first weekend fishable.”

The upper third of the lake is the traditional fishing area, north and/or east of the bend. John said the lake is a little colder this year, which would tend to keep the sockeye fairly shallow — at least until the fleet hounds them into deeper water. John said the bulk of the catch will probably come from 15 or 20 feet of water for the first couple of weeks or so, which means that a 6-ounce crescent sinker should get your gear into their faces about as well as a downrigger. That’s especially true when holding your speed down to the critical very slow troll.

Rig with a big ring “0” or “00” dodger, 8 to 18 inches of leader, bare red or black hooks, or a 1 1/2-inch pink hoochie. Add a small piece of shrimp and douse the works with shrimp oil.

The hoochie can be UV pink, John said, maybe dressed up with a smile blade or a red or pink size 8 or 10 Spin N Glo. John likes dodgers in UV white, UV purple haze, or 50-50.

“The two-pole endorsement on your license is legal on Baker and a good idea,” John said. “these are school fish and when you find ’em, you need as much gear in the water as possible.”

He said that the saltwater “boat limit” is in effect, meaning basically that the guy who still hasn’t boated his limit can continue to fish everybody else’s rods.

Check out the current trap counts at

Lake Wenatchee sockeye

The first sockeye of the year passed Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River Monday, according to state biologist Travis Maitland, signaling the start of the Lake Wenatchee run. Maitland said predictions are for fewer fish this year than during the banner 2012 season (over 66,000 fish at Tumwater), but he still is hopeful of something in the 44,000 to 50,000-fish range, which would be a solid run and which would allow a recreational fishery.

Last year’s excellent season started with a three-fish daily limit, but that was bumped up to five fish in a total sport harvest of over 12,000 sockeye.

Maitland said he should have enough hard data from the dam counts by late next week to come to some decision on the possibility of a fishing season. If a season is announced, he said, it would probably open in early August.

San Juan chinook

The first week of summer salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands has been much better than what anglers found there last year, according to Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington. It’s off to a great start, he said, particularly inside Rosario Strait in such hot spots as Decatur Bay, Thatcher Pass, Reef Point, Eagle Bluff and Obstruction Pass.

The kings are running 10 to 20 pounds and whacking gear such as Coho Killer and Kingfisher spoons in “whie lightning” pattern; UV hoochies; AceHi flies; and herring or anchovies in a helmet.

On the July 1 opener, 123 anglers were contacted by WDFW personnel at the Washington Park ramp in Anacortes, with 42 chinook and 1 coho. On Sunday, at the same spot, it was 29 anglers with 8 chinook. At the Cornet Bay ramp on Sunday, 41 anglers had14 chinook.

Upper Columbia salmon

Not hot yet, but a few sockeye and summer chinook are being caught in the upper Columbia. The run will build in coming weeks, according to Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad’s Family Guide Service in Chelan, below Wells Dam and off the mouth of the Okanogan River above Brewster. For the kings, pull a Hot Spot flasher and a Super Bait stuffed with oil-pack tuna and coated liberally with your favorite sauce. Jones likes Pautzke’s Krill Juice.

For the sockeye, try Mack’s mini cha-cha squidders.

Ocean salmon

The latest state catch sampling, through June 30, showed Ilwaco as the hot spot on the coast, averaging better than a salmon and a third per rod, mostly coho. At Westport it was a half-fish per person, about 50-50 coho and chinook; and at LaPush, one fish per rod, split between coho and chinook.

Cowlitz River

Some 22 boat fishermen kept 6 steelhead last week and 20 bank anglers landed 3 adult spring chinook on the Cowlitz, all between the two hatcheries.

Middle Columbia

The Dalles pool has been offering hot fishing recently, according to Joe Hymer with the state. Boat fishermen averaged 2.5 walleye per person last week and over 6 bass when including fish released.

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.

Geoducks, Crabs and Sea Slugs For Food and Profit

Jackleen De La Harpe, Indian Country Today Media Network

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe crabbers fish for Dungeness with a seductive perfume—the smelliest squid, herring and oily fish—bait that lures crab into the pot for harvest. Dungeness, a sweet, meaty crab, is an important commercial fishery in the Pacific Northwest and a central fishery for the tribe, located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Fished by size, sex and season—no less than 6.25 inches, no females, and no take during the molt cycle—this management strategy contributes to a successful, sustainable crab fishery. This year, a two-day Dungeness opening in Puget Sound netted more than 150,000 pounds of crab in 48 hours.

Dungeness crab
Dungeness crab


Cliff Prince, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, understands the great value of the fishery, especially for his family. “My son, David, has been on my boat since he was 8 years old,” he said. “Being able to spend summers with him is a big thing for our family.” This may be the last summer that David Prince, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, fishes with his father. Prince, 22, a junior at Stanford, is majoring in American Studies and plans to apply to graduate school after he graduates.

“Most of the money I’ve ever had came from crabbing,” he said. “I learned about work from going out with my dad, getting up at 4 in the morning and getting home at 7 at night. It’s the kind of thing that’s shaped a lot of my life. It’s a few thousand hours I wouldn’t have had otherwise (with my dad), being out there every day.” For the tribe, he said, Dungeness crab is “life, meaning everything. It’s what you’ve got, it’s that and fish, and it’s why we’re still here. Going out on the water to get fish and crab, it’s what sustained the tribe back as far as anyone can remember.”

2. Scavenging the Spineless, Slippery ‘Slug-Like’ Sea Cucumber

Fishermen from Lummi Nation harvest a typical array of Northwest fish and shellfish — Dungeness crab, halibut, salmon, shrimp — and a relatively new fishery, the “exotic” sea cucumber, a spineless, slippery “slug-like” creature that divers pull from the rocks and sea floor. Phillip Jefferson, 43, Lummi Nation, began diving for cucumbers in 2001 when the fishery was just getting underway. Now he helps train some of the 50 people from Lummi who earn their living underwater—serious, difficult work that requires certification and strict adherence to safety procedures. Besides the cold Pacific waters, at near-constant temperatures of 45-50 degrees F, strong currents can tire divers while sharks or sea lions, which can weigh as much as a ton, may startle and alarm divers with limited underwater sight. Equipped with surface-supplied air, full face masks or helmets and mesh bags, fishermen may dive to depths of 60-90 feet to harvest the reddish-brown “ocean detritivore,” which is sold in Seattle and to markets in China, the Philippines, and Japan.

Sea cucumber (Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration; Underwater Photographer Kevin Lee.)
Sea cucumber (Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration; Underwater Photographer Kevin Lee.)


Jefferson’s diving supports his family and allowed him to buy his own boat, named for his daughter, Keesha Rae, 14. On a good day, he said, it’s possible to bag 300 pounds of cucumbers. Dive fisheries, including the sea cucumber, make up a small and important part of the Lummi Nation fisheries, grossing an estimated copy.2 million in 2011. Working underwater can be straightforward, he said, “when it’s really bright, you can see a long way.” At other times, it is complicated and even mysterious “when the tide is moving hard and the current creates a lot of debris, like snow. You can’t use a light and can’t do without one. Divers call it a whiteout.” He’s seen cucumbers curl up like corkscrews to avoid predators and roll away with the tide or stand on their tails like a cobra about to strike, perhaps to spawn or elude a predator, which could well be Jefferson himself. With a rapid reproduction cycle and continued management, Jefferson believes he’ll be able to dive for this thriving fishery well into the future.

3. The Spiritual Experience of Digging for Mollusks

Geoduck, in the Salish language, means dig deep. Northwest locals understand geoduck (pronounced gooey duk) to mean really big clam, which weighs, on average, two to three pounds. Dig deep may also refer to wallets—geoduck is found infrequently in U.S. restaurants because it is so expensive—most is shipped to China where, after it has been brokered, can cost as much as copy50 per pound on the plate. This high market value is one reason that makes it one of the most closely regulated fisheries in the U.S. and Canada.

Five-year-old Elona Bowyer of Gig Harbor, a bay on Puget Sound, holds a large geoduck. (AP Photo/Peter Haley)
Five-year-old Elona Bowyer of Gig Harbor, a bay on Puget Sound, holds a large geoduck. (AP Photo/Peter Haley)


The Puyallup Tribe of Indians and the State of Washington carefully co-manage the geoduck fishery. At the end of a diving day and before a boat is allowed to leave a fishing tract, the catch must be weighed to account for the harvest. Most of edible part of the geoduck is the siphon, which looks like an elephant trunk and can stretch from three or four feet under the sediment stopping just at the marine floor to feed. Divers find the hidden clam by looking for a bit of siphon sticking above the sediment or a cryptic discoloration in the sand. With a shot of high-pressure water, the diver exposes the siphon and catches the clam by the “neck” before it retracts deeper below the surface.

Marvin Johnson, 29, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, a certified commercial diver, has been a geoducker for the last three years. This work is his calling, his talent and a blessing, he said, because it allows him to support his family. But it is not just the economics—digging has made him spiritually and physically stronger.

“It’s a spiritual experience to be out on the water,” he said, “it’s especially spiritual to go underneath the water. Our ancestors didn’t have the ability to put on a dry suit, it’s something that it new to us—the crabs walking with you, fish swimming around you, you can see God’s beauty down there.”

4. Keeping Pace With the Speedy Razor Clams

Skill and speed—that’s the combination of a successful Quinault Indian Nation razor clam digger. Razor clams, identified by thin, delicate bronze shells, are fast; they can dig at a rate of two feet in less than a minute. Diggers look for telltale hole in the sand, jam a shovel down, and plunge a hand behind the blade to stop the clam from getting away. The Quinaults process the sweet clam meat at the tribally owned processor, Quinault Pride Seafoods, and sell the clams primarily in the Northwest for chowder or steaks. In the U.S., other than Alaska, only the Quinault Indian Nation commercially harvests razor clams for human consumption.

When scouring the beach for razor clams, diggers look for a dimple in the sand left by the clam's siphon; then they dig as fast as possible.
When scouring the beach for razor clams, diggers look for a dimple in the sand left by the clam’s siphon; then they dig as fast as possible.


Gerald Ellis, Quinault Indian Nation, starting digging when he was six years old and remembers traveling with his family to Celilo Falls on the Columbia River to trade tubs of fresh-dug razor clams for spring Chinook salmon. Meeting at Celilo was a way of life for his family as it was for so many coastal and river tribes in the Northwest, who traveled to Celilo Falls to trade, fish and reconnect. That tradition of thousands of years ended in 1957 when the roaring falls were submerged with the completion of the Dalles Dam.

“Celilo Falls was probably the biggest gathering place for all tribes in the nation, there was such an abundance of fish,” Ellis said. At 68, Ellis no longer digs commercially but takes his grandchildren with him to harvest his 100-clam limit, carrying on traditions that have existed from the beginning of time, and creating his own. He smokes and cans razor clams with jalapenos, an “awesome” combination that he doesn’t sell but trades and shares with family and friends.



Weather casts pall over summer salmon opener

Tulalip Cabela’s offers free seminars on major upcoming fisheries this weekend

Wayne Kruse, The Herald

The first major saltwater salmon fishing season of the summer opened over the weekend, and results were probably better than had been anticipated.

Coastal marine areas 1 and 2 (Ilwaco and Westport) opened for their early hatchery chinook fishery — marked kings only — and despite all handicaps managed to produce decent fishing.

Wendy Beeghley, coastal creel sampling coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Saturday’s weather was really lousy — bad enough that the Westport bar was closed for part of the day — and only marginally better on Sunday. Add to that a forecast for a smaller run of chinook to the Columbia River this year than last (although still pretty decent) and the normal day or two needed by the charter fleet to locate the fish at the start of a season, and the average of a half-chinook per rod on Sunday at Westport wasn’t half bad.

There was little effort at Ilwaco, Beeghley said, probably attributable to the weather, and an average on Sunday of about one-third fish per person.

Best fishing in the Westport area was north, Beeghley said, off Ocean Shores, and the fish ran the whole range, size-wise, from 8 to about 20 pounds.

“We expect fishing to improve in the region as the weather calms down,” Beeghley said. “The offshore troll fishery has continued to improve, indicating better numbers of fish coming down the coast.”

The selective chinook fishery in area 1 runs through June 21, and at Westport, through June 22, allowing two fin-clipped kings per day. The regular summer salmon season opens in both areas the day after the early season closure, while the early selective season off La Push and Neah Bay runs June 22-28.


It’s the peak of the season right now for shad in the Columbia River, with daily counts over Bonneville reaching 200,000 fish on Monday, and the cumulative count at 1.75 million. “That’s about double what it was last year at this time,” said state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver.

“It’s crowded on the weekends,” Hymer added, “but fishing has been pretty good. The creel checks last week were about 10 shad per rod, river-wide, and most of those were incomplete fishing days so the average was probably higher than that.”

He said that unlike some previous years, most of the shad caught in this Washington-side fishery are being kept.

“More user groups are showing up that like to eat the fish,” he said, “and we’ve seen stringers of 100-plus fish. You do need a license, but there is no limit on shad in the Columbia.”

The sporty little 1- to 5- or 6-pound fish are bony, but considered fairly good table fare when properly prepared, and some anglers like the roe, grilled in the skein like sausages and served with scrambled eggs and toast. Others catch and release, or save a few for crab bait.

The area immediately below the Washington-side “new powerhouse” portion of Bonneville Dam is a popular, but crowded, spot, from the yellow deadline marker 600 feet below the dam, downstream. Hamilton Island, below the dam, is also a good bet. Drive east on Hwy 14 a couple of miles past the town of North Bonneville to a line of transmission towers, and take the turnoff to the right. That road leads to the Hamilton Island boat launch and there are good, public, bank fishing spots both above and below the launch. Any small point and its attendant eddy marks a good place to try for shad, which will generally be close to shore and out of the heavy current.

A heavy-trout-weight spinning rod with soft action is about right, and a reel loaded with 6- or 8-pound test line. Use a slinky or piece of pencil lead, or a one-ounce sliding sinker, and about three feet of leader. Lure can be most anything small and shiny or colorful — spoon, spinner, crappie jig, shad dart, bare size 1 or 2 hook with three yellow or red beads strung above it. A lot of bank fishing spots can be grabby, so go equipped with plenty of gear.

Cast upstream and about 30 feet out, let the lure sink until you think it’s just above the bottom, then retrieve slowly and let it swing around below you. Most popular spots are too crowded for float-and-jig fishing, Hymer said.

The shad fishery is considered a very good family experience, but youngsters should definitely be equipped with flotation jackets when anywhere near the Columbia’s often heavy currents.


Good stuff this weekend at Cabela’s Tulalip store, in the form of free seminars on major upcoming fisheries:

Fishing for Kings in Area 9, Saturday, 11 a.m., in the fishing department, Hear special tips and techniques of local experts and bring your stories to share.

Fly Fishing on High Country Lakes, Sunday, 1 p.m. in the Conference Center. The snow will be melting soon and Mike Benbow has been there, done that, on many of the Cascades’ best high country waters. He’ll walk you through the ins and outs of fly fishing the highland lakes.

Waterfowl festival

Over the past 12 years, the Oregon Waterfowl Festival Association has donated nearly $20,000 to Ducks Unlimited for improving habitat on lower Columbia River estuary wetlands. This year’s event runs June 29-30, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in St. Helens, Oregon. For information go to


Marine Area 7, the San Juan Islands, close to ling fishing at the end of the day Saturday, offering one last shot at what has been an excellent season. WDFW checks at the Washington Park launch on Sunday showed 25 anglers with 9 lings and 2 cabezon. Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said that reports have slowed around Lopez Island, but that the north end of the islands has held up well. He said that while Deception Pass and Burrows Island were hit hard in the first few weeks of the season, he thinks new fish have moved in to fill the habitat and that fishing has remained good. Dunk a herring in Deception Pass, or a white or rootbeer grub on a jighead. Around Burrows, he said, work the shallower water and rockslides with a 6- or 9-inch swimshad.

Potholes Reservoir

Arguably the best all-around fishery in Eastern Washington, Potholes Reservoir is coming on as water temps warm. Mike Meseberg at MarDon Resort said bass fishing on the face of O’Sullivan Dam offers top early-season action on smallmouth bass, using topwater lures. Or run over to the Lind Coulee Arm and toss diving plugs in crawdad pattern, or half-ounce spinner baits in chartreuse or white. Work the rocky points, Meseberg said, and you might also nail the occasional walleye.