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Bits and Pieces, but All Things Fish

On MSA – You know that feeling after the candles are all blown out, all the leftover chocolate cake is consumed and the party is over and you have to go back to work? Well, it’s been a fun party and the work is far from done on reauthorizing the Magnuson Stevens Act. Let me know if this surprises you but it doesn’t look like reauthorization is going to happen anytime soon in Congress, seems they have bigger fish to fry (pun intended).

Regardless, our time on Capitol Hill was meaningful. Anytime you get a chance to visit with your representatives in Washington DC, especially if you get to meet them face to face, it’s a good thing. It at least makes you feel like you’re being heard. And speaking of surprises….

On the “Friends of Fish” scorecard – I was surprised that I didn’t receive a single response on anglers that might be interested in learning how their legislators voted on issues that affect our fish and fisheries. I thought I threw out a rather large chunk of bait for folks to cast lead at me over! I tend to vote for candidates, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, even the Green Party, if they have the best interests of fish in mind. Of course I can count the number of candidates that ran on a platform of saving wild salmon on ZERO fingers; might be time I threw my hat in the ring…. If you decide to cast your vote (or your lead) at me, let me know your thoughts on such a resource by emailing me at [email protected].

We’re done with the Feds, help us win the state – Many of you have heard us tout our success on securing protections for unmanaged forage fish in federal waters, well now we’re working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on congruent regulation for state waters. Like many natural resource agencies, they’re grossly under-staffed but we’re going to get there! How about you lend your name to our petition to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to show our collective support for this important initiative by going here. Then, you can say you had a hand in protecting critical species such as the Pacific Saury or Pacific sand lance. Keeping unregulated commercial fisheries from starting up without sound science to keep sensitive stocks such as these from quick collapse seems like a good thing, right? Come ‘on, it’ll only take 30 seconds….

Has the spring Chinook run peaked? Historically, the peak of the spring Chinook run has happened around the third week in April, not so in the recent decade. I’m not sure why the Chinook decided to peak the first week in May for the last decade, it may have been due to a change in the flow and spill regime that now exists, due to fish conservation groups taking the Federal Government to task on the Biological Opinion.

Regardless, as the sportfleet sits idle, wondering if we’ll be allowed back on the river if and when the run actually does show up, things aren’t looking very promising at Bonneville Dam. The 7-day fish counts are supposed to be increasing by several thousand Chinook a day, not dropping below a thousand a day. Most concerning, if you look at the ten year average, we’re at almost exactly half of what it usually is. We knew the run size was going to be down but the prediction was for 188,000 Chinook and we’re nearing the peak passage date (early May) with only ~17,000 fish over the dam, we’re not going to make it. I might even be so brave as to go out on a limb and say we likely won’t get half of that 188k prediction. It appears as if the El Nino and Warm Water Blob may finally be catching up to the Chinook population. It makes me wonder if we’ll fall short on the summer and fall Chinook predictions as well.

And speaking of summer and fall Chinook seasons, those just got set. If you want a look into what to expect for opportunity, go here. There’s a few quarks in the regulations this year but hopefully, with the Departments managing somewhat conservatively, we’ll actually get to keep Chinook on the lower Columbia through Labor Day this year.

Finally, is two really better than one? ODF&W just extended the two rod endorsement to the Tillamook and Nestucca Basins. That regulation has been going on in the Willamette for a few weeks now but most would say it really hasn’t increased catches all that much. Seems you actually have to have some fish around for it TO BE effective. None-the-less, it presents a bit of a unique opportunity so check out the official press release here. Now wouldn’t it be really nice if the Fish and Wildlife Commission saw itself straight and rescinded the barbless hook rule on the Willamette too? If they’re that concerned about culling hatchery fish from the Willamette, it would be nice to actually keep one on the hooks while you tried to maneuver it away from waiting sea lions.