Steelheaders have reason to celebrate

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 25, 2014 

For Nooksack steelheaders now and future, there's good news this week from Kendall Creek Hatchery on the North Fork Nooksack.

With more than a week to go in the 2014-2015 cultured-origin steelhead recruitment window, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish production facility reported Thursday, Jan. 23, that enough adult adipose fin-clipped winter steelhead have now returned and that its 190,000-egg spawning goal is assured.

When hatched later this spring, this brood of young winter-run steelhead will be raised to smolt size for release in late spring 2015.

On Monday, Feb. 24, the basin-wide emergency sport-fishing closure order, which had been imposed Thursday, Jan. 9, will be lifted by state fishery managers.

Relieving the ban will allow recreational steelhead fishing to resume under the permanent regulations (found on pages 23 and 24 of the Fish Washington pamphlet) through the next programmed regulations change happening Friday, Jan. 31.

The 2013-14 set of over-arching rules for winter river fishing calls for the season to end in most all Nooksack reaches the last day of January. Only the lower North Fork Nooksack, from its mouth upstream to Maple Creek, is set to stay open later to Saturday, Feb. 15.

Another north Puget Sound steelhead production facility, Whitehorse Hatchery, also made its broodstock recruitment and egg-take goals this week allowing managers to end the fishing ban on the French Creek to Swede Heaven Bridge reach of the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.

The report from the state's Skagit River salmon and steelhead production facility was not as promising.

Adult hatchery winter steelhead returns continue to lag Marblemount Hatchery on the lower Cascade River leaving steelhead production there still 102,000 eggs short of the 2013-2014 goal with one week remaining in the allowed recruitment window.

Under current state hatchery steelhead program policies, Puget Sound fish facilities are not allowed to spawn adipose fin-clipped adults returning after the end of January cut-off date. Hatcheries also are prohibited by policy from spawning wild steelhead (fish possessing their adipose fins) for their production programs.

The lower Cascade River, a Skagit tributary at river mile 78, was closed by emergency order earlier this month to conserve hatchery-bound adults on the home stretch to their natal origins.

Unlike the Nooksack system which was completely closed, other winter fishing reaches in the Skagit and Stillaguamish basins were kept open to recreational fishing.

The state's gamefish hatchery on Tokul Creek in the Snoqualmie River basin also made its steelhead broodstock and egg takes slightly earlier than anticipated and that stretch of tributary below Snoqualmie Falls was opened a week ahead of the scheduled permanent regulations change.

RAZOR CLAM DIG GETS NOD

The Pacific Coast beach razor clam dig slated for Tuesday, Jan. 28, to Sunday, Feb. 2, has been given the green light by state shellfish and health department managers this week.

This six-day opening series is a p.m. or evening opportunity in which digging is allowed between noon and midnight each day.

The Twin Harbors beach management sector will be available to diggers all six days, Long Beach sector five of the six days (Jan. 29-Feb. 2), the Mocrocks sector four days (Jan. 30-Feb. 2) and Copalis Beach just one day (Feb. 1).

Diggers are allowed to unearth no more than 15 razor clams per day and must retain any brought to hand regardless of size or condition.

REPORTING REMINDERS

If you drew documents (transport tags, harvest reports or catch record cards) to hunt big game species, special categories of migratory birds or Puget Sound Dungeness crab in the late season this past year, deadlines are approaching for making mandatory reports of your effort and success.

The end of January is the witching hour for the obligatory big game (deer, elk, black bear and turkey) and crabbing reports. Note that you must report hunting activity whether successful or not or the lack of any effort on each individual transport tag purchased.

Waterfowl gunners holding special written authorizations to hunt for and harvest sea-ducks anywhere, brant in Skagit County or snow geese in Goose Management Area 1 must make their reportages by Saturday, Feb. 15.

Failure to report could cost you more money in the future.

APPLY FOR 2014 HUNTS

Idaho non-resident deer and elk tags have been on sale since the first of December, and Wyoming opened its application period for non-resident controlled hunts for big game species as of New Year's Day.

Idaho also has started accepting applications for spring black bear hunt permits.

Veteran Wyoming visiting hunters should not wait for the usual booklet to arrive in the mail. Since the majority of drawing transactions now occur online, Cowboy State hunt managers have done away with the printed application booklet and that may not be the only change in store for out-of-state hunters.

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

WINTER-RUN STEELHEAD HATCHERY WATCH

As of Thursday, Jan. 23, Western Washington state and cooperative hatcheries have reported the following hatchery winter steelhead returns and egg-takes. The deadline for obtaining adult fish to spawn is Friday, Jan. 31. There also are comparisons to last year at this time for reference.

?Maritime Heritage Center Hatchery (Whatcom Creek) - 16 adults, no eggs taken. Same time in 2012: one adult.

?Kendall Creek Hatchery (North Fork Nooksack River) - 135 adults with 184,000 eggs taken, goal is 190,000 eggs. Kendall Creek Hatchery also reports an addition nine female steelhead for a potential egg take in hand of 220,000. Same time in 2012: 62 adults, 72,000 eggs taken.

?Marblemount Hatchery (Cascade River (Skagit)) - 73 adults with 147,143 eggs taken, goal is 250,000 eggs. Same time in 2012: 153 adults, 263,000 eggs taken.

?Whitehorse Hatchery (North Fork Stillaguamish River) - 144 adults, 147,006 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 126 adults, 227,890 eggs taken.

?Tokul Creek Hatchery (Snoqualmie River (Snohomish)) - 382 adults with 541,503 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 569 adults, 657,373 eggs taken.

?Soos Creek Hatchery (Green River) - 105 total adults with 141,800 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 86 adults: 108,000 eggs taken.

?Dungeness Hatchery (Dungeness River) - 13 adults with 10,500 eggs taken. Same time in 2012, 36 adults: 31,000 eggs taken.

?Bogachiel Hatchery (Bogachiel River (Quillayute)) - 776 adults with 316,400 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 1,930 adults, 306,000 eggs taken.

?Humptulips Hatchery (Humptulips River) - 45 adults with 225,920 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 785 adults, 229,750 eggs taken.

?Forks Creek Hatchery (Willapa River) - 358 adults with 204,000 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 587 adults, 200,000 eggs taken.

?Cowlitz Hatchery (Cowlitz River) - 617 adults with no eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 852 adults, no eggs reported taken.

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