Lagging Ross rainbows prompt rule changes

The scenery’s still gorgeous, the setting full of solitude, but the fishing’s been tempered a bit at Ross Lake.

With wild spawning rainbow trout runs in its tributaries in recent decline potentially due to the explosion of the redside shiner minnow population and predation by bull trout, an emergency order imposed Saturday, July 18 made the following changes to Ross Lake fishing regulations:

▪  16 inches is now the minimum length for rainbow trout retention.

▪  the daily bag limit is now one rainbow.

▪  five eastern brook trout may be retained.

These new angling legalities are in effect until further notice and signal the start of a substantial shift in the renown North Cascades fishery as the presence of the prolific minnows shakes up this mountain reservoir eco-system.

Considered native to western North America, the small bait fish also are now in Diablo Lake one dam down from Ross and, if not there already, are likely to spread to Gorge Lake.

Mysteriously, though Ross Dam has been holding back full pools since 1927, shiners had not been found in the upper Skagit reservoir until about 12-15 years ago. Their numbers have burgeoned in this short period to the point they could now be the largest bio-mass by species in the reservoir.

Speculation after the shiner detection was that the wild, naturally reproducing rainbows might decline in numbers, the population possibly even crashing.

Ross’s fish populations are sustained by natural reproduction. However, the rainbow fry now coming down to the lake each fall from the upper river and lower lake tributaries must compete directly with the shiners for the lake’s declining zooplankton forage.

While the rainbows have gotten a boost from the minnows as prey, eventually they will likely lose out at the fry-stage life history bottleneck with the prodigious shiners out-producing them.

In a number of British Columbia lakes that relied on their rainbows to reproduce themselves, once the shiners find a home, BC Fisheries Branch has had to turn to annualized hatchery stocking of larger rainbows to maintain viable trout populations for public fishing.

One cautionary note to Ross anglers, mistaking the brutish bull trout for brookies is an excuse that’s not going to fly. You must know how to tell them apart.

While both are char, bull trout are native and protected by federal ESA and state angling laws in the Seattle City Light Skagit Basin impoundment.

Life histories and descriptions of these gamefish can be found at: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington/Species/1261/ and wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington/Species/1259/


The Skagit River from Gilligan Creek upstream to the Dalles Bridge southwest of Concrete opens for salmon (except chinook and chum) Sunday, Aug. 16. Of the four fish daily limit, no more than two may be wild or unclipped coho, but sockeye also again are fair-game.

Personal use fishing for an abundant humpie return is already underway in the Skagit downstream from Gilligan. Bait’s (shrimp) okay to use.

The main Nooksack is open for humpies from Lummi Nation upstream to Everson (State Route 544) Bridge. Only humpies may be retained until the end of August. Bait is not legal to use in the Nooksack salmon reach and there’s a hook restriction (in the permanent rules) as well.

The upper Nooksack mainstem opens the first of September for coho, chum and pinks.


In the ever-changing 2015 allocation and drought environments, the past several weeks have seen the posting a number of emergency fishing regulations. Here’s a reprise:

▪  With the temperature-triggered die-off of a large number of Okanogan Lake-bound sockeye, the Upper Columbia River and its reservoirs were closed Sunday, July 26 to retention of reds. The affected section is between from Rocky Reach and Chief Joseph dams. Most Upper Columbia tributaries below Grand Coulee Dam were closed previously (see emergency postings).

▪  Mid-Puget Sound (Marine Area 9 _ Admiralty Inlet), also driven by a personal use catch cap, closed to the taking of chinook salmon Sunday, July 26. As in other marine waters anglers may pursue and retain pinks, coho sockeye and chum under the general salmon category unless those species are explicitly protected by mention of release.

▪  Lake Wenatchee sockeye became fair-game Thursday, July 30 on a contingent basis for four reds a day. Night and hook/point restrictions apply. Managers warn this fishery could close abruptly. Anglers are fishing on an anticipated 7,000-sockeye surplus in the projected 30,000-fish strong return to the eastside lake and its rivers.

▪  The Neah Bay sector (Marine Area 4) closed for chinook Sunday, Aug. 2 as the personal use quota for Washington’s northernmost ocean zone was reached. Pink and coho salmon may still be boated in Marine Area 4. Elsewhere, the daily king limit is now one per day in neighboring waters off La Push (Marine Area 3). Areas 1 and 2 also are open under previous chinook daily bags.

▪  Chinook fishing in the so-called Tulalip Bubble fishery in greater Port Gardner Bay near the Tulalip Tribe’s hatchery was suspended Friday, July 31 because of poor adult spawner recruitment to that facility and the state’s Wallace River Hatchery in the Snohomish Basin. Other salmon species may still be caught in these delineated waters under its daily limit and with the appropriate license endorsement two poles may be used.

▪  As the El Nino-spawned ‘blob’ of warm water _ as some have dubbed it _ off the Washington Coast fosters marine algae blooms with their deleterious (poisonous) metabolic compounds, the closure of ocean commercial and recreation crabbing has been expanded. The closed area now extends from Grays Harbor (Point Chehalis) north to Queets River. The area from Grays Harbor south to the Columbia River was closed in June. Domoic acid, an alga-produced chemical, causes amnesiac shellfish poisoning in humans and in sufficient doses can be fatal. Cooking does not destroy the compound. Biologists say unsafe levels of domoic acid are being found in the crab, which eat another concentrator of the substance, razor clam larvae.

▪  Quillayute River system waters including the Sol Duc, Bogachiel, Calawah, Dickey and upper 475 yards of the mainstem Quill were closed Saturday, Aug. 1 as stream water temperature and flow volume have stymied upstream movement of wild coho and chinook. Quileute Tribe as suspended its fishing as well.

▪  The Methow River trout fishery in Okanogan County from the lower Burma Road bridge upstream to the Weeman Bridge went on ‘hoot owl’ restriction Wednesday, Aug. 5. Fishing is not allowed during the heat of the day, 2 p.m. to mid-night.

▪  Effective Monday, Aug. 10, the Clearwater and Salmon (Queets Basin) river systems on the Olympic Peninsula will be closed to all state-sanctioned personal use fishing. The Queets already is closed inside Olympic National Park by order of the National Park Service. Officials cite low flow and high water temps as factors prompting these shutdowns.

Before hitting the water, anglers should check for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife emergency regulation postings on line at fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/rules_current_order_by_date.j

FACILITY (Stock/Species)

Baker Lake Hatchery (Baker sockeye): 27,364 sockeye trapped & transferred (19,250 to Baker Lake, as of Aug. 8, 6,117 to hatchery). Same week total in 2014 – 5,969 adult sockeye to hatchery.

LAKE LEVEL – Upper Baker Reservoir

Recent: As of Saturday, Aug. 8 the reservoir surface was at 723.11 feet above sea level, with dropping with daily fluctuations the past two days.

Forecast: No prediction for this gauge. Full pool is 727.77 feet above sea level.