More closures lifted, except lower South Fork

Emergency personal use fishing restrictions and shutdowns have been lifted as of Friday, Sept. 11, on additional reaches in the Nooksack River basin including selected stream sections in the lower North, lower Middle and upper South forks.

They rejoin the mainstem management sections from the Lummi Nation boundary upstream to the FFA building marker at the Mount Baker School District Transportation (bus barn) Facility at Deming that reopened Wednesday, Sept. 2.

Most of these reaches were closed to all hook and line angling Thursday, Aug. 27, in response to escalating adverse affects of this year’s drought on returning wild chinook and pink salmon as well as gamefish species that dwell in those waters.

This doesn’t signal that fishing goes all in under ‘wild west, anything goes’ standards. It means that emergency orders for these waters are rescinded and they revert to governance of the permanent sportfishing regulations found on pages 21 and 22 of the 2015-16 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

In fact, the short mainstem reach of the Nooksack from the FFA building marker (Deming) upstream to the confluence of the North and South Forks covered by the emergency ban remains closed to all fishing by permanent rule until the first of October. Similarly, the relaxation of emergency regulations on the North Fork Nooksack means anglers may once again ply those waters for trout and other gamefish but may not legally take salmon until Thursday, Oct. 1.

Anglers also should remember that now, across the board, if any Northwest Washington creek or river section is not expressly ‘opened’ by regulation it’s closed to all personal use fishing.

That means the vast majority of creeks in the county are not available to hook and line fishers.

Under Friday’s rescinding announcement these specific flowing waters are restored to the local angler dance card:

▪ The North Fork from its mouth upstream to Nooksack Falls together with all its otherwise ‘open’ tributary sections in the Racehorse, Kendall, Maple and Canyon creek drainages.

▪ The Middle Fork from its mouth upstream to the City of Bellingham’s diversion dam.

▪ The Upper South Fork from Wanlick Creek upstream to headwaters including Wanlick and all tributaries (under catch and release fly fishing only limitations).

Weathering the prior spate of drought restrictions and among the ranks of previously legally fishable waters were the North Fork above Nooksack Falls and the Middle Fork above COB’s water diversion.

Only the lower South Fork Nooksack that’s normally open for trout and gamefish at this time of year will stay closed for now.

If the South Fork’s flow drops and clears again it’s likely to stay closed under the emergency order even after the nominal Oct. 1 opening date for salmon which targets hatchery coho bound for Lummi Nation’s salmon hatchery at Skookum Creek.

Anglers are encouraged whenever they plan to set out for a day fishing to check the fish and wildlife department’s emergency fishing regs Web site at fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/rules_current_order_by_date.j for new fishing rule changes as they are posted.


Among emergency closures also lifted Friday, Sept. 11 elsewhere in the Puget Sound basin were those on:

▪ the Samish River from Interstate 5 upstream to its headwaters and Friday Creek for gamefish only.

▪ the Sauk River from its mouth near Rockport upstream to the forks and selected sections of the North and South forks of the Sauk again for gamefish only.

▪ the Stillaguamish River mainstem from Marine Drive upstream to the forks for gamefish and also in time for the Stilly’s humpy run.

▪ the Skykomish River from its confluence with the Snoqualmie upstream to the forks and selected sections of the North and South forks of the Sky for both salmon (under the permanent rule’s limitations) and gamefish.

▪ the Snoqualmie River from its mouth upstream to Snoqualmie Falls for both salmon (coho) and gamefish.


For waterfowl hunters, the 2015-16 Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet is out. It can be found online at WDFW’s hunting regs portal http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ or hard copies can be picked up at any hunting and fishing license dealer.

Forest grouse (ruffed, blues and Franklins) and wild mourning doves have been joined on gunners’ fair game lists locally by resident Canada geese as of Thursday, Sept. 10.

The six-day opening for these ‘stay-at-home’ dark geese has a five honker per day limit in Goose Management Areas 1 and 3 and closes Tuesday, Sept. 15. This does not include specklebellies, also known as white-fronted geese.

These pariah Canada geese already are fair game in Pacific County (part of GMA 2B).

Bird hunters also will get a crack at wild band-tailed pigeons for nine days starting Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The two-day youth bird hunting weekend is slated for Sept. 19-20 during which ducks, geese pheasants, quail and partridge may be taken by youngsters in the company of an adult who is not hunting.


With the marine toxin cloud looming over the possible resumption of personal use razor clam digging this fall on Washington’s Pacific Coast beaches, state shellfish managers are moving ahead with planning a season format just to be prepared.

Domoic acid levels in particular, though dropping recently, remain at or above the maximum amount in clam tissue that is safe for human consumption.

As is usually done as a lead-in to the personal use season, until the end of September the public can make comments and recommendations on the structure of the 2015-16 season either by sending them via email to razorclams@dfw.wa.gov or by snail mail to: Razor Clams, 48 Devonshire Rd., Montesano, WA 98563.

For on-line reviewing of the 2015-16 razor clam beach assessment report, log into: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/seasons_set.html.

General information including the how tos of razor clam digging can be found at: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

Following this input period, the department will announce the potential calendar of dig dates and line-ups of beaches involved for the months of October, November and December.

Dig opportunities as always are premised on the level of domoic acid (which causes amnesiac shellfish poisoning) in clam populations being below the 20 parts per million safety threshold that is prescribed by state and federal health officials. The so-called red tide toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning also must be below actionable levels.

Marine toxin monitoring is periodically done year-round and also immediately prior to each personal use or recreational razor clam dig opening.

Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald’s outdoors correspondent, since 1983, has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that appears Sundays. Contact him through the Herald Sports Department.

This week’s Baker hatchery and flow info

FACILITY (Stock/Species)

Baker Lake Hatchery (Baker sockeye): 29,612 sockeye trapped & transferred (21,049 to Baker Lake as of Sep. 5; 6,301 to hatchery as of Sep. 8). Same week total in 2014 – 6,297 adult sockeye to hatchery.

LAKE LEVEL – Upper Baker Reservoir

Recent: As of Saturday, Sept. 11, the reservoir surface was at 722.40 feet above sea level, down almost four feet from near full pool on Sunday, Sept. 6.

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