HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) seldom receives a pat on the back for its managerial know-how or for its wildlife programs designed to pacify sportsmen and the general public. Of all WDFW programs, the opening of the general fishing season is probably the pinnacle of all its recreational events and efforts. This year, anglers will find on average the size of catcahable–size trout larger than in previous years. In previous years, catchables averaged eight inches in length, but this year they will be close to 11 inches.
The department plans to release 17 million trout and kokanee into 562 water bodies across the state. Of that number, 2.3 million trout close to 11 inches in length will be part of the stocked fish. Also, in the stocking program will be 110,131 jumbos weighing one to 11 pounds, and 52,000 triploids averaging 1.5 pounds.
Mineral Lake will receive a plant of 36,000 rainbows next month, also 290 jumbos and 680 triploids. Black Lake will receive 25,000 rainbows, Long Lake 2,000 rainbows, Lawrence Lake 10,000 trout and Spanaway 18,000. Ohop Lake is programmed to receive 5,000 jumbo trout and 13,000 triploids. No catchable-size trout will be released into Ohop this season.
Weekly stocking information and tips for catching rainbow trout can be found on the department’s web site.
WDFW is alerting the citizenry that black bear are emerging earlier than usual from their dens this year. Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the department, said field staff has already received reports of black bear activity in North Bend, Issaquah and Chelan County.
Black bears usually emerge from their dens in mid-to-late April, but warm weather can cause them to stir earlier. Whatever the timing, black bears are hungry when they emerge from their dens and because natural foods are scarce, bears often start looking for the easiest source of high-protein food.
Beausoleil strongly recommends people take steps to avoid attracting bear to their home. Particularly in areas known to attract bears, that means securing garbage cans, removing backyard bird seed and not leaving pet food outdoors. If people would control these three bear attractants, the number of bear-human conflicts would be reduced significantly.
Last year, WDFW officials responded to 444 situations involving bears, ranging from raids on garbage cans and bird feeders to confrontations with pets.
Bears are naturally wary of humans, but they can overcome that fear when they are rewarded with food provided intentionally or unintentionally by people. Situations involving bears that have learned to associate food sources with people often end up badly for the bear. Intentional feeding or leaving food waste in places where it can attract bears and other wild carnivores can result in a fine of up to $1,000.
Sea lion update
Legal arguments are once again starting over the Northwest states’ right to remove California sea lions that prey on salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River. A notice of appeal has been filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by the Humane Society of the United States, Wild Fish Conservancy, Bethanie O’Driscoll and Andrea Kozil that challenges a recent U.S. District Court order and opinion that upheld a federal government decision granting Northwest states authority to lethal removal specific sea lions known to prey on protected salmon in the lower Columbia through the spring 2016 season.
No state official, wildlife biologist or fish manager has advocated a war on California sea lions or even their total elimination from the lower Columbia. What state officials have and are advocating is predation control. It is difficult to understand why this is so hard to assimilate. Nationwide, predator control is a tool used for wildlife management and although it may be repulsive to some individuals, it is a fact of life and not a nefarious program. When it comes to controlling California sea lion predation, what is the difference?