This is letter that came in my e mail and as it is written by a Willapa resident and Rec fisher so I thought I would put it up. Some very good points in it, especially the reduction in Chinook size. Most folks do not stop and look at the issue from a purely unbiased view. I remember Harry Senn asking me two questions as a learning exercise. How do you turn a robust hatchery stock into a smaller not so robust fish. Answer is use a large net that allows a much higher percentage of small fish into escapement. Next was how do you turn a robust Coho stock into a infamous non biter fish? Answer is you reuse the stock generation after generation ( this applies to wild stocks also ) and harvest the aggressive fish by Recs which will get you a uncooperative Coho. Cause and effect thing.

Anyhow the letter is a interesting perspective.

February 22, 2013

Fish and Wildlife Commission Members,

WDFW policy has diminished many recreational fishing opportunities all over the State by allowing commercial over harvest, Willapa Bay is an example. For many years it was a struggle but both commercial and sport fishers got a decent season at the annual salmon meetings. During this period the commercial season usually started in mid September. If there was a large run forecast they might get one or two days before mid September. It seemed to be maximum harvest because they went 6 consecutive years without chinook egg take goal at the hatcheries.

In 2010 things changed dramatically, WDFW dispensed with any pretense of fairness. They held private meetings with the gill netters before each of the last two meetings. They ignored pleas by the sport fishers and the Westport Chamber of Commerce and increased the gill netting significantly. Sport fishing dollars are very important to the businesses of the surrounding area. People come from all over Washington and the U.S. to fish Willapa Bay.

At this time they also ruled that commercial and sport fishers could keep only hatchery salmon. The hatcheries started with chinook stock from the river they are on. There is no native run to protect. There is no good reason for this rule. We feel they are trying to discourage sport fishing. It is especially hard for children to release the biggest fish they ever caught. It is a terrible waste of food when you add up sport fishing wild release mortality and gill net mortality of the salmon which they figure at 45% for every wild fish netted and released. In 2010 over 1000 wild chinook and more than 9500 wild coho were wasted. This rule and the increased netting is not conserving naturally spawning fish, it is decimating them.

It is also a big waste of money. WDFW spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies and then ignores them. What they are doing on Willapa Bay is not sustainable. In 2011 WDFW increased the gill netting further. 2009 commercial chinook catch was 6,471, 2010 was 9,039 including special permit “test fishery” and wild mortality. In 2011, the total commercial kill was about 21,600, this is more than three times the last ten year average of 6,422. Commercial fishers threw overboard 2700 dead or dying wild chinook. In 2009, commercial fishing hours before Sept 15 were zero, in 2012 they were given 144. They took 9726 chinook plus mortality. We have had some good run size but this is way beyond common sense.

At the last 2011 salmon meeting there were few sport representatives. They felt their presence was meaningless after their 2010 experience. The WDFW also changed the location of a Willapa and Grays Harbor meeting without proper notification. We thought this was their way of saying we weren’t wanted. We want to stress that these are good, very competent, very knowledgeable people. Prior to 2010 we felt that we were treated fairly and had a good relationship with the department. We feel they must be responding to political pressure.

Another problem is the chinook salmon are getting smaller with intensive gillnetting. The small fish slip through the nets, altering the genetics. Sport fishers would like to see them pick the bigger fish to reproduce at the hatcheries to counteract this. They would need a surplus to do this. The DFW says they need diversity but this is a false diversity because of this straining effect. We sincerely hope you can help with these problems.

Edited by Rivrguy (10/29/14 11:55 AM)
Dazed and confused.............the fog is closing in