Central Puget Sound Summer Chinook (King) Salmon Season Cancelled in 2015

Washington State fish and wildlife will close Catch Area 10 this summer to sport fishing for Chinook salmon. According to several reports, the draconian measure will help rebuild Lake Washington king salmon runs.  Marine Area 10, from Dyes and Sinclair inlets to Seattle.

In 1999 several Chinook salmon stocks were listed as “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act, including the Lake Washington run. Since receiving the Federal listing, these salmon runs have declined 25 percent.

Sport fishing groups opposed and objected to the closure while local tribal fisheries managers favored the measure saying this year’s warmer water temperatures, weather patterns and lost habitat will make this year a bad year for Chinook salmon.

One of the biggest problems, however, was not addressed — an overabundance of sea lions and seals. The tribes have the ability to legally “harvest” sea lions. In previous years, the Muckleshoots did try to get tribal members to participate in a sea lion harvest but nobody wanted to eat them.

Several years ago, while working for Western Outdoors Magazine, I was working on a story about Herschel and Hondo, the two most infamous sea lions at the Ballard Locks. Two old guys told me a story under the condition I not report their story. It has been years now and time for the truth, according to them to surface. They claimed their good friend, who passed away two years before Herschel became a problem at the Locks, took care of the problem. To keep my promise I won’t name names. The individual the two old guys told me about lived on the water where sea lions and seals now hang out in front of the Ballard Locks, dining on federally listed endangered Lake Washington salmon and steelhead.

“Before Seattle woke up, _____ would take his .22 rifle and shoot any sea lion or seal within his range. He’d shoot it in the head and then lungs, two quick, fairly quiet shoots.”

They also said he only shot them on an outgoing tide and claimed the old guy did this for years. They said his shot to the lungs sank the animals and the outgoing tide took away the bodies. Within two years of his death the sealions and seals took over and decimated Lake Washington Salmon and steelhead stocks.

Now today, the feds have a choice, take care of a sea lion and seal problem or end sport fishing, which is the more politically correct option.

The tribes are our answer, in my opinion. If we can work with the tribes and convince them to use their legal status to “remove” sea lions and seals, by any means, perhaps our endangered Lake Washington Chinook salmon might have a chance to recover. And yes, there’s lots of other problems facing these fish, which include poor ocean conditions, declining bait, loss of habitat, over harvesting etc.

In Washington State, the tribes “co-manage” fisheries. However, in my opinion and the opinion of many others, state fishery officials cave to their wishes, needs, and demands because they don’t want expensive battles that could end up in court. In other words, they cave in at the cost of sports anglers. Also note, the feds pressured Washington State fisheries managers to make this deal.

This is not the first time the fishery will be closed. In 2006 the state cancelled the Chinook season. And its not the first time the state caved in to tribal politics. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Tribal fisheries will not be affected by the ban this year.

Co-managing at its finest, punish one group in favor of another. Not fair! The fish sports anglers don’t catch will now swim into a wall of nets or into the hungry mouths of an over population of sea lions and seals, all of which will be waiting near the Ballard Locks.

The tribal fisheries will not be affected by the ban. Again I say, we need to do a better job of working with the tribes, convincing them to help restore Chinook stocks and reduce predation on our fish.

About John L. Beath

John Beath is a writer, photographer, videographer, blogger, tackle manufacturer & Captain at Whaler's Cove Lodge in Southeast Alaska. He is also owner of www.halibut.net and host at Lets Talk Outdoors @ www.youtube.com/jbeath
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