Lower Samish stays open, anglers still on probation

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 8, 2013 

Due to better - but not their best - behavior, Samish River anglers have earned an extension of the season on this year's run of hatchery-origin fall chinook.

On Friday, Sept. 6, WDFW Regional Fish Program Manager Annette Hoffman said the salmon fishery on the lower eight miles of the Skagit County stream will continue from Monday, Sept. 9, to Saturday, Nov. 30.

The salmon fishery reach is from Bayview Edison Road bridge upstream to the Interstate 5 crossing.

Hoffman said angler behavior thus far in 2013 has been better than in previous years, but anglers remain on probation.

She added that given the positive direction, the department does not want to see law-abiding anglers held hostage by the excesses of a minority.

"We've seen greater compliance in some areas, but there's still room for improvement," Hoffmann said. "We don't want to punish anglers who act responsibly and follow the rules, but the length of the season still depends on our ability to maintain an orderly fishery."

Another element in the decision is the size of this year's run of Samish kings, Hoffmann said.

With the return's peak anticipated soon, managers are predicting that more than 46,500 of these hatchery-origin fish are coming back to Bellingham and Samish bays.

Most of these chinook will be bound for state hatchery trap on the Samish at river mile 10.5 just above Old Highway 99, also known as Burlington-Alger Road.

The department, lower Samish landowners and law-abiding fishers are concerned about illegal behaviors, including snagging and retention of foul-hooked fish, trespass on private property bordering the river, littering and even defecation on the streambanks.

Anyone interested in this fishery should view the department's YouTube video at youtube.com/watch?v=CwGiaKCVHHE.

The 3:40-minute feature outlines threats to the fishery and how anglers may comport themselves to keep it going.

Access to the lower Samish's banks is problematic. Virtually all of the land is privately owned, and some growers who formerly allowed the public to cross their lands have now posted them against trespass.

Under state law, persons venturing onto private property must have permission from the owners or controllers of the property first. Land and property lines need not be explicitly posted, just have fences, cultivated crops or other improvements or indications of ownership or occupancy.

Again this year, some landowners between the Bayview-Edison and Farm-to-Market roads have banded in a business entity call Samish River Services.

For a $100 fee, anglers who buy in will get a permit granting legal daily use of selected tracts of private property, including east bank dike sections and the field access routes to them, between Aug. 1 and Oct. 1.

The firm also will establish a disabled persons access on the southeast side of the Bayview-Edison Road bridge, provide portable toilets at the lower road crossing and arrange for limited off-road parking, also at the lower end of the fishing reach.

Apply by emailing a request in care of samishriverguy@aol.com or by writing to Samish River Services, P.O. Box 277, Bow, WA 98232.

There probably won't be arrangements for access to lands upstream of Farm-to-Market Road and most landowners from there upstream to Interstate 5 are expected to post no-trespassing signs on their properties and ban public access.

Anglers should read and understand the state's criminal trespass laws including RCW 9A.52.010 before deciding to enter or cross any land.

Fishing regulations continuing for lower Samish salmon include a night closure, from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise; the restricting of terminal tackle to just one single-point hook; and the requirement that only fish hooked inside their mouths may be kept.

Personal use anglers may keep two chinook a day from these fresh waters.

It would be wise before heading to the Samish to check the department's emergency fishing Web site at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ for any news of changes in its sport-fishing regulations.

PHEASANT RELEASERS SOUGHT

Whatcom Wildlife Area Manager Richard Kessler is planning for the regular stocking of birds that help to make pheasant hunting possible at Lake Terrell, Alcoa Intalco and BP Cherry Point.

Pheasant hunters willing to donate time to stock birds this fall on Whatcom Wildlife Area hunting venues will meet Monday, Sept. 9, to go over plans and schedule dates for release activities.

For more information about volunteering for pheasant release duty and the particulars of the meeting, call Kessler at 360 384-4723.

For about two months, teams of volunteers will assemble three times a week (usually one weekday plus Friday and Saturday afternoon/evenings) at the headquarters compound at Lake Terrell proper and there they'll gather up, transport and release birds on the three upland field units: Lake Terrell, BP Cherry Point and Alcoa/Intalco Works. These units of Whatcom Wildlife Area are designated as official release sites for the public hunting of pheasants.

Kessler said a good number of veteran pheasant wranglers are returning this fall, but he encourages any upland bird hunting enthusiasts who would like to help the cause to attend.

Kessler anticipates that he will be able to team first-timers with veteran releasers so they can easily learn such things as how to corral and handle the birds and to get to the release points.

This year pheasant hunters down to age 16 will be able to join the volunteers, so family teams can be organized, said Kessler.

Pheasant hunting begins Sept. 21-22 for youth age 15 and under. Hunters age 65 and older get five days in the field to themselves, Sept. 23-27.

The general Western Washington pheasant hunt, open to all Western Washington pheasant permit holders, begins Saturday, Sept. 28. This season ends at all Whatcom Wildlife Area release sites Friday, Nov. 30.

TUCANNON FISHING AMONG CHANGES

Steelheading rules for Southeast Washington's Tucannon River have changed.

The emergency order establishes a closed-waters reach above the town of Marengo upstream of Turner Road bridge as a sanctuary for initial incoming wild steelhead. On the downstream end of the fishable zone, it also more explicitly defines the Tucannon's mouth at the Snake River as well.

The new rule reduces the bag limit to two hatchery steelhead a day and compels anglers to keep hatchery-origin (fin-clipped) steelhead (no catch and release until the limit is kept).

Managers think wild steelhead are declining in number, and if that continues they may not be able to open the river to future sport fishing.

The 2009-2010 catch year - the latest for which an annual summary is available - saw 1,260 hatchery summer-run steelhead caught, 873 of which were landed in the period from September to November.

Wild steelhead in the Tucannon and elsewhere in the Snake River system are protected under federal and state law.

Anglers must have a basic fishing license plus a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement to fish for and retain these fish.

As of Sept. 1, these local personal use fisheries have changed:

Main Nooksack River for salmon. Opened Sunday, Sept. 1. From the State Route 544 Bridge at Everson upstream to the river bank marker behind the FFA high school barn near the school bus facility at Deming. Four salmon per day, including up to two fin-clipped chinook and two additional coho. All wild (non-clipped) chinook must be released in September. Gamefish (trout and steelhead) is open as well. Night closure and anti-snagging rules apply. Pages 23-24 in Fish Washington 2013-2014 rules pamphlet.

The lower mainstem remains open with the new bag limits, with sections of forks of the Nooksack open to the taking of salmon Oct. 1.

Upper Skagit River for salmon. Opened Sunday, Sept. 1, from the Dalles Bridge upstream to Cascade River Road. Four salmon per day, of which two may be wild coho, but all chinook and chum must be released. Gamefish (trout, native char and steelhead) open as well. Night closure and anti-snagging rules apply. Page 25-26 in Fish Washington 2013-2014 rules pamphlet.

The lower Skagit remains open with the new bag limits. The lower Cascade River opens Sept. 16.

Stillaguamish River for salmon. Opened Sunday, Sept. 1. From the mouths of main channel and sloughs upstream to the forks at Arlington. Two coho plus two additional pinks. Above Marine Drive bridge gamefish rules require catch and release except for hatchery steelhead. Below Marine Drive bridge, two trout, including hatchery steelhead, may be kept each day. Night closure, selective gear and anti-snagging rules apply. Page 27 in Fish Washington 2013-2014 rules pamphlet.

Snohomish System for salmon. Opened Sunday, Sept. 1. In the Skykomish from Monroe upstream to the forks. Three salmon plus one additional pink per day. Gamefish (trout, native char and steelhead) open as well. Night closure and anti-snagging rules apply. Page 28-29 in Fish Washington 2013-2014 rules pamphlet.

The lower Skykomish and Snohomish River remain open under the above salmon daily bag limit.

Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald's outdoors correspondent, since 1983 has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that now appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at http://pblogs.bellinghamherald.com/outdoors.

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