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Camp Water

Camp water is close to home. Here you will find information on stuff happening here in the shop and on our local waters. You'll also find our weekly newsletter feature, Trailer Trash Thursday, a fun collection of fly fishing videos, perfect for a midweek distraction. If you don't get the newsletter, be sure to sign up today!

Feds Approve Limited Sea-Lion Removal on Willamette

Joel La Follette - Thursday, November 22, 2018


ODFW Press Release

Nov. 15, 2018

SALEM, Ore. – The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has approved the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s application to lethally remove the few California sea lions present at Willamette falls in an effort to help save winter steelhead and spring Chinook from extinction.

Sea lions are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). On Oct. 6, 2017, ODFW applied for authorization to remove California sea lions at Willamette Falls under a provision of the MMPA that allows for limited lethal take of sea lions that are having a negative impact on protected fish species.

ODFW filed for the application because their analyses showed that the high levels of predation by sea lions (25% of the steelhead run in 2017) meant there was an almost 90% probability that one of the upper Willamette steelhead runs would go extinct. The level of predation on spring Chinook, although lower (7-9% annually), was still enough to increase the extinction risk by 10-15%.

The NMFS reached their decision after considering public comment on ODFW’s application as well as the recommendations of a 14-member stakeholder taskforce.

“This is good news for the native runs of salmon and steelhead in the Willamette River,” said Dr. Shaun Clements, ODFW policy analyst on the sea lion issue. “Before this decision, the state’s hands were tied as far as limiting sea lion predation on the Willamette River. We did put several years’ effort into non-lethal deterrence, none of which worked. The unfortunate reality is that, if we want to prevent extinction of the steelhead and Chinook, we will have to lethally remove sea lions at this location.”

Clements noted that this authorization will do nothing to help curb the recent influx of the much larger steller sea lions into the basin, or their impact on white sturgeon, a species that can live up to 100 years. “Steller sea lions are preying heavily on sturgeon in the lower Willamette but current federal law prohibits us from doing anything about that,” said Clements.

California sea lions in the U.S. are not listed as "endangered" or "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The most recent population estimate for the U.S. stock was 296,750 animals in 2016. ODFW requested and was granted authority to remove up to one percent of the population’s “potential biological removal” level, a metric that translates to a maximum of 93 animals a year on the lower Willamette. According to ODFW’s Marine Mammal Program Lead Dr. Shea Steingass, there are 50-100 animals that are present at the Falls at some point in the year.

“Removal of these sub-adult and adult males will have no impact on viability of the sea lion population but will greatly improve the outlook for threatened upper Willamette winter steelhead runs,” she said.

With federal authorization now in place, ODFW can move forward with plans to trap and remove sea lions from the Willamette. “We currently have up to 12 animals at the Falls and a majority of those have been seen here every year for the past 10 years” said Steingass.

ODFW will have to meet two federally-mandated criteria to remove an individual sea lion: it must be observed in the area between Willamette Falls and the mouth of the Clackamas River for two days, or be seen eating salmonids. Those sea lions captured on the Willamette by agency biologists will be transported to a secure facility and humanely euthanized by a veterinary staff. Staff will also perform a necropsy and collect samples to determine the age, health, and diet of the animal in an effort to better understand ecology and behavior of these animals. ODFW will continue to monitor sea lion predation at Willamette Falls, and report its findings to NMFS, which will decide in five years whether to renew ODFW’s authority.

Clements said the action is about striking a balance between the recovery of imperiled salmon and steelhead and the ongoing conservation of sea lions.

“We are trying to prevent a few individual sea lions from habituating to these areas that are hundreds of miles from the ocean where they are especially effective at driving already depleted fish populations further down the path to extinction,” he said. Predation by pinnipeds also threatens to undermine the gains made by significant regional investments in recovery efforts, such as improvements in fish passage at dams, restoration of fish habitat, and implementation of fishing regulations that prohibit anglers from harvesting wild fish.

The MMPA, unlike the ESA, has fewer tools for managers to use to balance the conservation of predators and prey and prevent these situations in locations where fish are most vulnerable. Sections of the MMPA were revised in 1994 to allow limited management of sea lions for the purpose of protecting ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. Unfortunately, the revisions do not allow for proactive management and cannot address emergencies like that occurring at Willamette Falls. In this regard, ODFW has been working with Oregon’s congressional delegation, which is working on a legislative solution that would give wildlife managers broader authority to deal with conservation problems if they arise elsewhere in the Columbia Basin. “I’m optimistic that we’ll get what we need from Congress, but also nervous that time is running out to get this done before the end of the congressional calendar,” said Clements.

Trailer Trash Thursday BC Whispers Edition

Joel La Follette - Thursday, November 01, 2018

If I could be anywhere on the planet today, this would be the place...

British Columbia Whispers from Sage Fly Fish on Vimeo.

A Record Steelhead from the Sandy

Joel La Follette - Thursday, December 07, 2017

Front page news from the Morning Oregonian on February 10th , 1910 

Dr. E. C. McFarland Makes Record Catch in Sandy River.

Dr. E. C. McFarland, a dentist, yesterday made a record catch with rod and line, when he succeeded in landing a steelhead salmon with a No. 6 hook after a struggle lasting 45 minutes. The catch was made at the Sandy River bridge, near the Sandy post office yesterday morning, and the young nimrod is much pleased with his feat.

This steelhead weighed 20 1/2 pounds. This as far as known is the record catch with a No. 6 hook and a six ounce rod. Steelheads weighing 20 pounds are rarely caught, for Government statistics we'll give this as the record weight attained by this species of salmon. A few weeks ago a 16-pound steelhead was landed, but with larger tackle than used by McFarland yesterday.

Pass Creek

Joel La Follette - Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pass Creek from Native Fish Society on Vimeo.

Trailer Trash Thursday Old Monkey Edition

Joel La Follette - Thursday, October 05, 2017

Imagine having to fly thousands of miles to enjoy the wonders that are the Deschutes River. Take a look at our special river through the eyes of a traveling angler.  

My First Steelhead Trip in Deschutes Riv. TEST Ver. from CONCRETE WILDERNESS on Vimeo.

Trailer Trash Thursday Bikefishing Edition

Joel La Follette - Thursday, September 21, 2017

It takes me a fully packed Fly Fishing Adventure Vehicle to just spend a few days chasing fish away from home. I can't even imagine doing it on a bike...



Steelhead Salmon Extinction in the Columbia

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Dalles Daily Chronicle Saturday, January 7, 1899

STEELHEAD SALMON

May Become Extinct Unless Artificial Means of Propagating Them Are Used.

The steelhead salmon, which are the most valuable of all for cold storage packing, is threatened with extinction in the Columbia, and unusual efforts are to be made to increase the output of fry the coming season.

Last season was the first year artificial propagation had been tried with this species on the upper coast. A hatchery belonging to Thomas Brown and George Broughton, on the Sandy river, was used for this purpose. The expense was defrayed by private subscription, and about one million Steelhead fry were turned into the waters of the Columbia. Fish Commissioner McGuire has already taken the matter up, and expects to make satisfactory arrangements with the men owning the hatchery to again carry on their work this winter. He has not yet seen the other members of the commission, but feels sure they will heartily co-operate with him in this matter. 

The scarcity of Steelhead Salmon has caused the price to go up, until this species is the highest priced now taken out of the river. The Steelheads spawn in the late winter and early spring, while the Chinooks spawn in the fall. The heavy freshets are very destructive to the Steelhead spawn and, for that reason, artificial propagation is absolutely necessary to increase the output.

Well, we all know how that turned out....

Trailer Trash Thursday Steelhead Camp Edition

Joel La Follette - Thursday, August 24, 2017

I'm reaching back into the archives for this Water Time Outfitters Deschutes Steelhead action vignette to get you tuned-up and ready for some exciting summer Steelhead fishing. You may recognize some of the smiles in this video...


Deschutes River Steelhead Summer and Fall from Rob Crandall on Vimeo.

Fishing Law to Be Tested

Joel La Follette - Thursday, August 24, 2017

Turn of the century anglers and game officials still were uncertain about the classification of many of our native salmonids which led to game-law enforcement problems. The definition of Trout and Steelhead had not yet been cast in stone so one man found a unique way to force the issue as reported by the Morning Oregonian of January 28th, 1920. While Steelhead in the Rogue River were much more plentiful at the time, we're still taking about Winter Steelhead here. I hope the officer and the lawyer brought a lunch and plenty of hot coffee


FISHING LAW TO BE TESTED
Man Will Try to Catch Steelhead in Presence of Officials.

MEDFORD. Or., Jan. 27. (Special.) - To make a test as to whether a steelhead is a trout or a salmon, and whether the law against catching trout at this season of the year applies to a steelhead, a local fisherman has agreed to catch a steelhead if he can in full view of local fish wardens and Attorney E. D. Briggs of Ashland has agreed to defend him. In the opinion of the fish and game warden the season on steelhead is closed, but there is considerable doubt among the sportsmen which result of this case is expected to remove.

Willamette Steelhead on Verge of Extinction

Joel La Follette - Monday, August 07, 2017

This is an ODFW Press Release that I received at 10:35 this morning. I hate to see the words extinction and steelhead in the same sentence. It makes me feel a bit ill and very mad.


Willamette steelhead on verge of extinction due to increasing sea lion presence at Willamette Falls


Monday, August 7, 2017

SALEM, Ore. – One of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest’s iconic fish, native steelhead trout, have been migrating over Willamette Falls in Portland to spawn in Cascade Mountain rivers for millennia. They are now at high risk of going extinct, based on a new analysis by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1999 due primarily to the impacts of federal dams and habitat loss, wild native Willamette steelhead have now slipped to high risk of extinction. Willamette steelhead now face a new and growing threat from male sea lions that have learned to exploit the fish as they congregate below Willamette Falls before navigating upriver to spawn.

Continuing a decade-long downward trend, the number of wild steelhead returning to the upper Willamette this year was the lowest on record, with only 512 fish passing above the Willamette Falls. ODFW scientists found that sea lions consumed at least one quarter of the wild steelhead run and warned that if sea lion predation continues at these levels, there is an up to 90 percent probability that at least one wild steelhead population will go extinct as a direct result of the predation. The near-term risk of wild steelhead extinction can be significantly reduced or avoided by limiting sea lion access to Willamette Falls.

“We know what the problem is and have seen this coming for about a decade, we just couldn’t take action to prevent it,” said Dr. Shaun Clements from ODFW.

California sea lions have expanded along the West Coast over the past four decades to a population of nearly 300,000 animals coast-wide today. As numbers increased, a small proportion of sea lions – all males – have expanded their range into freshwater areas where migrating salmon and steelhead are especially vulnerable, including in places such as Ballard Locks in Washington, Bonneville Dam, and at the Willamette Falls, where fish tend to congregate before moving upstream. At these locations, predation by sea lions is especially high and adversely impacts salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon. In the 1980s, sea lion predation on winter steelhead at Ballard Locks in Seattle effectively destroyed the Lake Washington stock.

“Removal of afew problem individuals will have no impact on the overall sea lion populationbut can significantly benefit ESA-listed fish,” said Robin Brown, leadscientist for ODFW’s marine mammal program.

Any solution toaddress the threats to wild fish populations will have to strike a balance between the recovery of imperiled salmon and steelhead populations and theongoing conservation of sea lions. Also at stake are significant regionalinvestments in recovery efforts, such as improvements in fish passage at dams,restoration of fish habitat, and implementation of fishing regulations that prohibit anglers from harvesting wild fish. ODFW scientists have determinedthat curtailing the immediate impact created by sea lion predation is essential to saving the steelhead from extinction to support the success of long-term recovery efforts.

Sea lions are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). TheMMPA, unlike the ESA, has fewer tools for managers to use to balance the conservation of predators and prey and prevent these situations in locations where fish are most vulnerable. Sections of the MMPA were revised in 1994 to allow limited management ofsea lions for the purpose of protecting ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.Unfortunately, the revisions do not allow for proactive management and cannotaddress emergencies like that occurring at Willamette Falls.

“We are in on-going discussions with state and tribal fishery managers and several stakeholder groups,” said Dr. Clements, “Given the situation at Willamette Falls, everyone is united in their call for swift action, and ODFW stands ready to provide expertise to the Northwest congressional delegation on a bipartisan,compromise bill to revise the MMPA to address these emergency situations without undermining the strength and importance of this law.” Bills in the House and Senate; H.R. 2083, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), and S 1702, sponsored by Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), represent the first steps toward that goal.

“We are at a point where any more delays in the Willamette may condemn this run toextinction,” Clements said. “We need to act now or extinction may be our legacy.”

Upper Willamette wild steelhead have been listed as “threatened” under the federal ESA since March 1999. ODFW has not allowed harvest of these fish for more than 20 years. California sea lion populations are robust, and the animals are not listed under the Endangered Species Act, but are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

###

Contact:
Dr. Shaun Clements, (541) 223-8437
Rick Swart, (971) 673-6038

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