Corps of Engineers will kill fish-eating birds

1:14 pm April 16th, 2014

By Bob Brown
To reduce the birds’ predation on juvenile salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin, the U.S. Corps of Engineers has announced it will kill up to 650 ring-billed gulls, 1,200 California gulls and 150 double-crested cormorants in the McNary Dam area and four other projects on the lower Snake River. The Corps said the decision to expand its program to reduce bird predation on juvenile salmon was based on a 2011 USDA Wildlife Services study on bird damage management in Washington that certified there would be no significant impact on those species.
The study said up to 750 double-crested cormorants could be killed with no adverse effects on the overall population. About 1,000 breeding pairs were estimated to populate four inland Washington sites, compared to the 15,000 pairs in the Columbia estuary.
The ring-billed gull population in the Columbia Basin grew from about 17,000 to 30,000 birds between 1977 and 2009. During the same period, California gull numbers grew from 9,000 to 38,000. The Corps said it will continue to use its non-lethal hazing program using fireworks, noise, water- spray cannons, and passive deterrent structures to keep the birds away from juvenile salmonids.

Fishing update

• Fishing hasn’t been gang-busters on the Cowlitz River, but it has been good enough to keep anglers interested. Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 587 winter steelhead, seven spring chinook and one cutthroat during five days of separator operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) personnel checked 33 boat anglers with 16 steelhead. Fifty-nine bank anglers had one chinook and 13 steelhead. Two steelhead were released. Fishing has been sporadic on the lower river for boat and bank anglers, said Jarrod Ligh of 4 Corners Store in Castle Rock.

• WDFW hatchery crews have been busy stocking hundreds of lowland lakes on both sides of the Cascades. Nearly 16.5 million trout and kokanee have been planted in preparation for the April 26 lowland lakes fishing season opener. Those fish include 2.3 million catchable trout, nearly 115,000 jumbo trout weighing up to 11 pounds a piece, and more than 50,000 triploid trout averaging 1.5 pounds each. There are also millions of carryover trout stocked last year and have grown to catchable size are also available in lakes throughout the state.
Chris Donley, WDFW inland fish manager, reminds anglers to make sure they have a current Washington freshwater fishing license, valid through March 31, 2015. Last year, state anglers purchased 399,578 annual freshwater fishing licenses and 181,827 combination licenses.
Anglers seeking information on where and how to fish for trout and kokanee can find that information on the department’s Fish Washington home page at “”. Also stocking details by country and lake are available of the department’s website.
• WDFW announced last Wednesday that this year’s salmon fishing seasons have been set, and as in past years, recreational salmon fisheries will vary by area. Marine Area 11 will convert to a mark-selective fishery October through December. Also, a mark-selective fishery is scheduled for the Skykomish River June 1 through July 31, and day closures will be in effect for all anglers on the Puyallup and Nisqually rivers.
In ocean waters, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) approved a recreational chinook catch quota of 59,100 fish, which is an increase of 11,000 fish from the 2013 quota. PFMC also adopted a quota of 184,800 coho for this year’s recreational fishery, about 110,000 fish higher than last year’s quota. Specific fishing seasons and regulations for marine areas in Washington and a portion of the Columbia River will be posted on the WDFW’s North Falcon website within a few weeks.

Smelt or candlefish?

There are probably more than a few people who don’t know why smelt or eulachon, a small anadromous ocean fish, are also known as candlefish. The name derives from it being so fat during spawning (approximately 15 percent of its total body weight is fat) that if caught and dried, a wick can be threaded through its body and used as a candle.
Eulachon oil (also known as grease) was one of the most important products traded by Pacific Coast indigenous communities with people in the interior whose territories did not include spawning rivers. As a result, the trails over which the trade was conducted became known as grease trails. The name eulachon (occasionally seen as oolichan, oulachon, and uthlecan) is derived from Chinookan language and Chinook jargon. However, candlefish was the name most often used by early explorers. The unrelated sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria is also called “candlefish” in the United Kingdom. To be quite honest, I didn’t know why smelt were called candlefish until it was brought to my attention. Live and learn.

Outdoors writer Bob Brown can be reached at

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