Out and About: First razor clam dig of the season in doubt

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Razor clam hunters should check the WDFW website before heading out for the announced first-of-the-season clam dig scheduled for October 6 and 7 this week. Rising levels of toxins in the shellfish may halt the digging before it begins.

“We’re again starting to see increasing amounts of the algae that produces domoic acid in our ocean waters,” said Dan Ayers, coastal shellfish manager for the WDFW. “We want to conduct one more test to make sure the clams are safe to eat.”

The season has been closed for most of the last year, with domoic levels only dipping into the safe zone for a single dig last spring.

Chinook retention to close on Cowlitz, Green, and Toutle Rivers

Starting Oct. 2 anglers will be required to release any chinook salmon they intercept on the Cowlitz, Green, and North Fork Toutle rivers due to low returns of hatchery chinook.

State fishery managers at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) said the closures are necessary to ensure that enough fall chinook return to those rivers to support hatchery production during the coming year.

All three rivers will remain open to retention of other fish species, as listed in the 2017 Sport Fishing Rules.

“This was a tough decision for fishery managers, but we can’t ignore the lagging chinook returns,” said Dan Rawding, acting WDFW regional fish manager. “We have to think about producing fish for next year too.”

According to the pre-season forecast, 3,900 hatchery fall chinook were expected to cross Barrier Dam this year, with a goal of collecting 1,900 fish for hatchery broodstock. So far, only 700 chinook have returned to the river, and Rawding said fish managers are now hoping to get 1,400 back to the hatchery.

The Cowlitz River remains open to fishing for coho salmon, summer steelhead, and sea-run cutthroat trout.

Oregon bottomfishing reopened beyond the 40 fathom line

In response to local fishermen wanting more ocean fishing opportunities, the ODFW has reopened bottomfishing beyond the 40 fathom line. The bag limit has been increased to 10 fish, but retention of certain species, including blue, deacon, China, copper, and quillback rockfish, as well as lingcod will be prohibited.

The department cited large unfilled quotas for some species for allowing the additional fishery.

Long-leader gear, which is special gear used to target the mid-depth species that are open, will be required. A descending device, which is used to safely return released rockfish to the depths where they were hooked, will also be required.

While flatfish such as sand dabs or flounder are also open now, anglers may not have flatfish and bottomfish onboard at the same time.

For more information on this fishery, and information on long-leader gear, visit the ODFW website at: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2017/09_sep/092617.asp

WDFW halibut 2018 season public meeting

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will host a public meeting October 12 to discuss management options for the 2018 halibut season.

The meeting will be held from 9 am to noon at Montesano City Hall, 112 N. Main Street.

State halibut managers will provide an overview of options under consideration by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, (PFMC) for recreational and commercial fisheries during next year’s fishing 2018 season.

Washington State hunter education program turns 60 years old

Sixty years ago this October the Washington State Game Commission, a predecessor of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, first adopted mandatory hunter education for those age 17 and younger who want to hunt in Washington.

The law was passed by the legislature, and approved by the Governor in February 1957.

Hunting incidents in Washington have decreased from roughly 40 per year in the mid-1960’s to seven per year this past decade. All hunters born after January 1, 1972, must complete a hunter education course to purchase a hunting license.

More information on hunter education courses can be found on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/classes/basic.php