Fish Management has failed

Dear Editor,

Have you paid attention to the Elwah River since the dam removal regarding the fish returns? Not so good huh? At least nothing as the removal supporters and experts have forecasted!

I’ll agree there wasn’t the high number of spawning fish as prior to the dam’s removal that has shown the return gross. How many millions did it cost to take out the dams? What is it going to cost in dollars over at the Snake River? How much will be lost in electricity revenues, irrigation for farmers? What will it cost to replace both water and electricity?

I came to Washington State in the late 1960s, fished at Westport when there were hundreds of sport boats and dozens of charter and commercial boats. Anyone who failed to catch salmon failed to put a hook on their line! It was the same for all resorts from Ilwaco to the Sound. The rivers were the same, everybody fished and some limited on salmon.

Indian tribe fishermen at LaPush as I observed, took pick-ups full of salmon with their nets, yet there were spawners far up the rivers, as late as Christmas. I witnessed big black kings on the upper Bogachiel when the steelhead season was just getting started. It was rare to see one above the 101 bridge as long as 6 years ago. I’ve fished, boated, and guided on every river of the West End, from the Queets to the Clallam, when we had lots of fish, many were hatchery.

The Department of Fisheries and Game both had licenses for sporting, guiding, and commercial and operated hatcheries. Now it is the WDFG. They have closed most hatcheries and hardly dabble in reproducing fish while our fish have all but disappeared.

Much of the cause is “climate change”, high water temperature, and lack of baitfish, as well as game. They surrender to guide pressure uninformed and ignorant managers who are pushing for license dollars and pressure from voters and politicians.

Let’s face it; it’s the ocean temperature is 60 degrees at two miles etc. off LaPush and there are no baitfish or birds, or near gone, how will we have salmon or even bottom fish to eat? They move to the colder Canadian water off Vancouver Island or north. When Dan Evans was governor he met with Canadians and formed a pact where our commercial boats could go into Canadian ports during storms, the Canadians had kicked the fishing boats out of harbors on Vancouver Island, back during a bad storm that had forced them in for safety. The Canadian trollers were grossing 350K yearly, fishing the southwest end of Vancouver Island, landing Washington and Oregon marked fish, that had moved north because of warm water. I caught Mackerel off LaPush sport fishing that year where they had been feeding on anchovy schools. Mackerel and a species of gigantic squid seldom encountered in Washington or north waters were found as far north as southeast Alaska.

There is far more to be said about this problem, however, I am severely limited by what the paper will print. What the fishing was 40-50 years ago is long gone. Alaska and south are getting hit hard now and have been there for years.

I guided and sport-fished a number of years ago and watched the overfishing depleting the salmon, even though no dam removal was involved.

What is the solution? Do we fishermen bring this to the attention of our elected representatives, requesting that they make the WDF establish a reproduction by reopening and building more hatcheries? Shorten seasons or close areas to all fishing?

They have proven their current management has failed hopelessly. Catch and Release did not work in any of the rivers of Puget Sound, those rivers are all barren; nor has single, barbless hooks. The Peninsula plans where all alleged enhancement and protection is ongoing and still have a few returning fish, now we are going to restrict all fishing from boats. If you have ever fished from a boat and trolled plugs, you know why they work! Drifting is good but plugs bouncing on the bottom are better. That’s why the guides are upset and the lack of fish isn’t helping.

I have friends that are still guiding, and know they are dedicated; risk their well-being on some dangerous water, deal with some belligerent customers, and unhappy fishing jerks!

It is all part of the game and I wish them well, I’ve been there, done that!

Phil Reed

Forks, WA