Saturday, June 20, 2015

Father-son outing results in catch of a lifetime...

8 year old David Jacobson caught this monster muskie while fishing with his father Erik in Minnesota. Fishing with children takes a lot patience, and this father exemplifies the way an adult should handle a “big-fish situation” with a young angler. First of all, the child is wearing a PFD. The two act as a team, with a goal of landing this muskie, which measured well over 4 feet long. At some point during the video, young David says, “I can’t!” and his father quickly answers “Yes you can!” with full confidence when his son backs up to the bow and lifts the rod so that he can net the fish. The reaction from the young angler is priceless. They snap a few photos, and with support from David, his father releases the fish to be someone else’s moment with the trophy.

Another Good Men Project writer, David Davis, recently wrote an article titled: “A Conservationist Dad Reveals the Truth to Greater Happiness and Health for your Kids: They Need Time by Natural Water.” Water is necessary to our survival, but there’s an element of therapeutic, psychological benefit as well. My childhood consisted of fishing for at least an hour or two every day to unwind and have my moment of zen. To be completely honest, my adulthood is not much different either. My love for being near the water is something that was gifted to me by my father many years ago, and to this day, I have an intense fear of living anywhere that’s landlocked.

This father’s day, set aside time to spend a moment on, in, or near the water. Erik Jacobson resides in Garrison, Minnesota and his passion is fishing for big muskies. His film series “Just Big Muskies” is co-produced with Brian Hanson and they run a website to promote their film projects at

This article was published by The Good Men Project on June 19th, 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cutting the Fat: Quality Food Source Removed from ODFW Budget

A food additive that produces
quality table fare hatchery trout
is being axed from ODFW's budget
Are costs associated with hatchery food really relevant in the big picture of lost fishing opportunity?

A discussion among a joint committee this May about how to account for millions of dollars in lost revenue from the decrease in sales of hunting and fishing licenses led to drastic scare tactics by the ODFW director of what programs might be on the chopping block from the state's budget. The story in the Statesman Journal quotes committee Co-chair & Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis as beginning with the opening statement: 

"I mean, so you're short $9 million. You make $9 million in cuts this year … What happens in two years? What happens in four years?

Without an increase in fees, the fish division would lose funding for the Bandon and Alsea fish hatcheries, as well as the Oregon Hatchery Research Center, the North Santiam River summer steelhead program at Leaburg Hatchery on the McKenzie River. The wildlife division would lose 13 field positions and 5 Fish and Wildlife Division Troopers with the Oregon State Police.

Spending reductions accounted for in the ODFW budget
comprise the blue slice of this pie. "Costs associated with
hatchery food" comprise roughly 3 percent of those reductions
and %.0015 of the department's budget.
In order to reduce costs on a biennial basis, the printing, storing an distribution of regulation booklets as well as the number of pages would be reduced (if only that meant there were less rules instead of a smaller font!). Additional costs would be balanced by the sale of advertisements (wouldn't that mean more pages?) This change is projected to save $375,000 between 2015-2017. Reducing travel costs is projected to save a $500,000. Consolidating regional administrative costs is projected to save $450,000 while eliminating excess IT costs is projected to save the department $200,000.

While these are significant, six-figure budgetary changes, there's one more smidgen of expenses on the chopping block... "Reducing costs associated with hatchery food." This will save the department $45,000 but at what cost? By comparison, the "costs associated with hatchery food" are somewhat insignificant, and more specifically related to food additives that create quality table fare out of hatchery trout.

Freshly stocked hatchery trout fed with quality food at the hatchery will hold the pink color from astaxanthin, a chemical compound found in food sources like shrimp and krill. While the fish may only contain a small concentration of astaxanthin in comparison to it's food source, the additive is a crucial element to creating a quality final product. The additive, as well as the palatability, is being removed from the diet of hatchery fish as part of the budget cuts.

The sale of licenses provides a primary source of revenue that funds a majority of the department's budget, yet the drop in license sales is the scapegoat for imbalances. Events like Free Fishing Weekend, which occurred the first weekend in June, provide a gateway opportunity for new anglers to get a preview of what the fees from purchasing a license go towards. Imagine the bad taste left in the mouth of new anglers that brought home trout for dinner, only to have poor table fare serve as a first impression of the work done by the department's license-funded hatcheries.

Photo by Rob Morganti
Graph source:

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Are Commercial Fishermen Casting Their Nets too Wide?

On April 14, 2014 this derelict net was retrieved from the Columbia River near Cathlamet. This sub-legal sturgeon is just one example of the many negative impacts that gillnets unnecessarily place on our fisheries.

Commercial gillnetting and abandoned gear threatens fisheries by being an indiscriminate killer

Photo Courtesy of Coastal Conservation Association
One of my first pieces for Good Men Project covered the top priorities for sport-fishing conservation, and criticized the harvest method known as gillnetting. Due to the fact these nets do not target particular species and instead trap everything in their path, endangered and protected species often end up in them. Just recently, a world record alligator gar was captured in a net intended for buffalo in Lake Chotard on Valentine's Day in Vicksburg, Mississippi. This animal was "beyond recovery" according to Field and Stream, which also has an editor's note that claims: "...we generally refrain from publishing them because too often these amazing, prehistoric fish are caught and killed for nothing but a trophy photo." The fish was estimated to be between 50 and 70 years old.

The Wild Chinook Salmon in this photo is listed under the Endangered Species Act
Photo Courtesy of Coastal Conservation Association
From my home state of Alabama to my current residence in Oregon, gill-netting is a practice that threatens wildlife nationwide, from freshwater to salt. The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society has taken a stance against the recent introduction of Alabama House Bill 258 to allow gill-netting, claiming that it threatens Lake Guntersville's estimated 853 million dollar recreational bass fishery. Gill-netting has been banned for years in Alabama, but only recently in 2012 was it enforced by the Department of Natural Resources. In the past, it had been used to harvest catfish and buffalo, like the nets in Mississippi that killed the largest alligator gar on record. In the same week, Oregon's stand-in Governor Kate Brown appointed a gill-netting lobbyist to the state's Fish and Commission. Oregon and Washington resolved to ban non-tribal gill-netting in the mainstem of the Columbia River in 2013 with support of the previous Governor Kitzhaber, who recently stepped down from his position. A lawsuit later that year challenging the decision was dismissed and confirmed this February by the court of appeals. The process to remove gill nets from the mainstem of the Columbia to preserve ESA-listed stocks of wild steelhead and salmon has been a lengthy battle led by the Coastal Conservation Association, which has also led the fight in the Gulf of Mexico to remove gill nets from fisheries that trap Red Drum or "Redfish" that the organization pushed to have listed as a game species since the late seventies.

The wild steelhead in this photo is listed under the
Endangered Species Act. 
Photo Courtesy of Coastal Conservation Association
The CCA, which opposes the use of non-selective commercial fishing gear, has also fought battles to ban the use of non-biodegradable netting. Abandoned, or "ghost nets" account for suffocating a great deal of aquatic life as well, particularly in the ocean where they are extremely difficult to remove. Nets made of synthetic materials rest on the ocean floor for many years after traditional nets made of organic materials like cotton would have decomposed.
Kurt Leiber, founder of Ocean Defenders Alliance, saw a need for retrieving these "ghost nets" and lost gear that commercial fishermen left behind. Kurt says that some of these nets made of synthetic fibers can last up to 500 years, and that nets made of hemp are a viable solution. Film-maker and diver Walter Marti documented the removal of multiple species caught in abandoned nets and traps on the ocean floor for The footage shows animals suffering a slow, imminent death while trapped and immobilized. This is how gill-nets are designed to work. While trawl nets and purse seins trap fish and are quickly retrieved, gill-nets are left in place for long periods of time. All of these nets are occasionally lost in storms or on snags. Hook and line commerical fisheries on the other hand are far more sustainable and selective methods.

This article was published by the Good Men Project on April 26th, 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Coastal Conservation Association Meeting Minutes 6-10-2015

CCA Corvallis/Albany Chapter Meeting Minutes 6-10-2015
In attendance were Josh Tacchini, Rhonda King and myself (Randall Bonner)

  • Old business: Previous board meeting and our change in leadership was discussed. Jim Andrews is taking the reigns as president while Grant Scheele will remain Vice President. Ty Wyatt is stepping down to an additional seat as Vice President and will be in guiding in Alaska for the next few months. Hopes for Jim's term as president is that he will attend our state functions, representing our chapter and report back state business at our board meetings and monthly chapter events.
  • Statements from Treasurer:
- Account balances and project funding processes were discussed.
- Discussion of how to raise additional funds for local projects included a poker night. Some chapter funding may have to be used to collect necessary items to organize the event (cards, chips, etc). If anyone has these items and wants to volunteer or donate them, contact Josh Tacchini.
  • The idea for a canning demonstration is evolving into a canning party due partially to the lack of a guest speaker and partially due to a lack of interest by chapter members that are consumed with summer vacations and other activities. This is a bit of a lull for chapter participation, so if you are interested in canning fish, please contact me or Josh Tacchini. Josh will be hosting the event at his home sometime in July. Input on choosing a date would be ideal to make the event worthwhile and boost attendance. Josh and I both have dual propane burners, pressure cookers and water bath canning pots to sanitize the jars. If anyone has more of these items we may be able to cut down on the time consuming production by running multiple batches at once. I will be happy to donate a few fish to people who just want to hang out and lend a helping hand, but please bring jars with un-used lids if you want to take fish home. Wide-mouth half-pint or pint jars are a good size. Josh is also willing to volunteer his smoker for that evening.
  • The discussion about a gear swap is still being thrown around. There have been a lot of ideas about timing and location, but anywhere we can do it free or cheap without competing with similar local events is ideal. Bring suggestions on venues to the next meeting. This concept was a successful event for the Salem chapter last fall, so maybe we should discuss the idea with them. A small fee at the door or for each vendor could also produce some funds for our chapter.
  • A recent article I had published on predator management offers talking points for CCA's role in protecting salmon along the Columbia River from Pikeminnow, Cormorants and Sea Lions. You can read the article here:

The discussion about predators on the Columbia prompted concern for what was being done in our regional waters. Josh mentioned that the Alsea Sportsman's Association documented cormorant hazing in 2012 which you can view on YouTube here:
"Cormorant Hazing on the Alsea River"
Contacting ASA's Mark Davis about the Spring smolt protection program is on the to-do list to see if we can get involved with the hazing boat to drive out cormorants during the crucial period where smolts return to the bay and better their chances to swim out to the ocean.

Next chapter meeting: July 8th, Holiday Inn Express 6pm
Wishing you a bright summer!
CCA Corvallis/Albany Chapter Secretary,
Randall Bonner

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fur, Feathers and Fins: The Urgency of Predator Management to Save Salmon

Sea lions in the Columbia River present a threat to ESA-listed Wild Salmonid Stocks (Photo courtesy of CCA)
Sea lions in the Columbia River present a threat to ESA-listed Wild Salmonid Stocks (Photo courtesy of CCA)
When it comes to saving salmon, predator management ruffles feathers and fur.
Whether you agree with predator management or not, pinnipeds are part of the equation for the disappearance of Columbia Salmon population. After subtracting known salmon takings including human harvest, nearly 45 percent of known salmon from the mouth of the Columbia River this past spring season went missing in the area from river mile 28 to river mile 146 (Bonneville Dam). Let's do the math.
A male stellar sea lion can weigh up to 1,000lbs. They eat 4.5% of their body weight per day. The average spring chinook weighs 12lbs, so an adult male stellar sea lion could consume roughly 4 salmon per day. An article in the Daily Astorian by Edward Stratton cites WDFW biologist Steve Jeffries as saying it's not unusual to see 4,000 to 5,000 sea lions hauled out on Desdemona, between the Astoria Bridge and Hammond in the Columbia River, a fraction of the 15,000 regional population from Netarts north to Grays River, Wash. Let's say 4,500 sea lions consume 4 salmon per day for a total of 18,000 and assume that half of those are hens carrying 4,500 eggs. That's 40,500,000 eggs that never get spawned. With a survival rate of %.02, that's 810,000 salmon that never hatch. Then the ones that do face predators like Northern Pikeminnow in the river and avian predation from thousands of Cormorants near the mouth of the river, where they head out to sea to face a vast array of ocean predators. Not to mention that sturgeon, which take just over a dozen years to reach reproductive maturity and are listed under the Endangered Species Act are also common meals for pinnipeds.
Many different tactics have been employed in the past to relocate and remove them with minimal success. I would recommend reading the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website's frequently asked questions before offering non-lethal suggestions in regards to managing pinniped predators. Everything from trapping and relocation to electrified mats on docks where these mammals perch and even towing a fiberglass replica of a killer whale to deter them from the river have been attempted. An inter-tribal hazing boat works the upper river stretches using a cracker shell shot from a 12 gauge that is commonly known as a "seal bomb" to push the fish further downriver. In a survey this April, the boat reported seeing nearly 100 near Bonneville Dam. The charges are waterproof pyrotechnics that shoot 20-30 yards before exploding with a little more force than an m-80 firecracker on the surface of the water, and the hazing boat is not allowed to fire them directly at the sea lions.
Yakama Nation Tribal Members: Russell Jackson takes watch as Bobby Begay Navigates a Hazing Boat. (Photo courtesy of CRITFC)
Yakama Nation Tribal Members: Russell Jackson takes watch as Bobby Begay Navigates a Hazing Boat. (Photo courtesy of CRITFC)
The Endangered Species Act presents a responsibility to protect wild salmonids but clashes with the Marine Mammal Protection Act. “This is something we think about deeply,” said Chris Yates, an assistant regional administrator for NOAA. “When these two things start to conflict is when it gets really challenging.” The introduction of HR 564, The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act could extend limited lethal management practices to tribal fisheries. Paul Lumley, Executive Director of the Intertribal Fish Commission was quoted in the Oregonian saying that “The Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act are thoughtful laws that need to be reconciled with one another.” The bill would require tribal members to undergo training through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before resorting to bullets, as well as a secondary option to individual animals that have been unsuccessfully deterred by less-than-lethal practices.
A Sea Lion Predation Forum was held in Clackamette Park on May 30th, led by the Coastal Conservation Association and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission to show support for U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader's sponsorship of the Federal legislation. “We know from experience that unchecked sea lion predation can wipe out an entire run of fish as they did to Lake Washington winter steelhead”, said Carlos Smith, Chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “We simply can’t allow that to happen in the Columbia Basin. This problem can be addressed, but we need the right tools.  Congress can provide some of those tools by passing H.R. 564.”
Fifteen years ago it was extremely rare to see a sea lion at Bonneville Dam or Willamette Falls,” said Bruce Polley, Vice President of the Coastal Conservation Association Oregon.  “The huge influx of sea lions entering the Columbia and Willamette and the resulting impacts on our fish populations is an unnatural and unprecedented threat.  We appreciate Congressman Schrader’s leadership on H.R. 564 and urge the rest of Oregon’s Congressional Delegation to support this needed legislation.” You can read the unedited press release from Predation Forum in full on my blog.
States need federal approval to manage pinnipeds, which was granted in 2008 for individual animals that meet the following criteria:
The States (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) may lethally remove individually identifiable predatory California sea lions that are having a significant negative impact on Endangered Species Act-listed salmonids that:
a) have been observed eating salmonids at Bonneville Dam, in the “observation area” below the dam, in the fish ladders, or above the dam, between January 1 and May 31 of any year;
b) have been observed at Bonneville Dam on a total of any 5 days (consecutive days, days within a single season, or days over multiple years) between January 1 and May 31 of any year; and
c) are sighted at Bonneville Dam after they have been subjected to active non­lethal deterrence.
Corps biologists began gathering data on sea lion predation at the dam in 2001, when 6 California sea lions were documented 140 miles upstream from the sea. During the first full season of monitoring in 2002, 30 sea lions were counted. By 2007, stellar sea lions began appearing at the Dam. The program was suspended in 2010 by a court order, and in the same year 160 pinnipeds consumed an estimated 6,081 adult salmon, steelhead and sturgeon. NOAA Fisheries prevailed in a 2013 Ninth Circuit of Appeals that ruled in favor of continuation of culling as part of the management program.
Trapping and branding sea lions to track individuals began in 1997 to aid biologists in tracking their movements along the west coast within the Columbia River. A cage with a trap door remained open and empty for a majority of the time the first few years, but now is packed with so many that some have to be let out before the door to the trap can close. Biologists have discovered that individual sea lions that enter the Columbia can gain up to 400 pounds during the Spring Chinook run.

Sea Lion feeding on White Sturgeon Photo by Garth Killebrew
Sea Lion feeding on White Sturgeon. Sea Lions often tear meat from the belly of their catches for the higher fat content and move on to another kill.
Photo by Garth Killebrew
Dams, which I've explained as a priority of concern here at GMP, present the largest obstacle to salmon populations by cutting off access to spawning habitat. They also present a unique opportunity for sea lions to exploit these man-made structures for an easy meal. The very few lethally managed sea lions have already been trapped, branded and relocated but returned to the dams only to be trapped again. 60 have been lethally removed up until 2014, as well as 13 more that were relocated to aquariums and zoos. Updates on trapping and euthanized sea lions are posted on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website. Even with the amount of sea lions and observed predation at disturbingly record high numbers near Bonneville Dam, the majority of pinnipeds congregate on boat slips in Astoria that have become so inundated by their presence that they aren't usable anymore. The owners of these structures have seen a significant economic impact from being unable to rent their space to boaters.
Sea Lions inundate docks near Astoria, OR. Photo by Theresa Tillson of ODFW
Sea Lions inundate docks near Astoria, OR. Photo by Theresa Tillson of ODFW
The lethal management of cormorants drew it's fair share of opposition. U.S. District Judge Michael Simon refused to block the plan in a decision on May 8th, in spite of several groups seeking preliminary injunction arguing that the dams were a bigger threat to salmonids than the birds and filing lawsuits against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Services agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Later in May, the Corps of Engineers released a report of it's first management activity of 109 culled individual birds and 1,769 nests oiled (eggs are covered in a thin layer of mineral oil to prevent them from hatching). Updates of weekly management activities from the previous week are posted every Thursday at 9am on the Corps of Engineers website.
East Sand Island in June 2012. Photo taken by Lindsay Adrean of ODFW
East Sand Island in June 2012. Photo taken by Lindsay Adrean of ODFW
Brandon Glass of Team Hook Up Guide Service holds an impressively sized pikeminnow caught while fishing for winter steelhead.
Brandon Glass of Team Hook Up Guide Service holds an impressively sized pikeminnow caught while fishing for winter steelhead.
Conservation and animal rights groups geared towards protecting feathered birds and furry mammals make up a great deal of the criticism to predator management. However, there's a responsibility to protect the slimy, scaly salmon deep below the water's surface as well. One discrepancy in the push to move forward with these predator management programs is the lack of opposition to an existing bounty program for the Northern Pikeminnow. While these groups are filing lawsuits against new programs set in place to manage birds and pinnipeds, the Columbia River Reward fishery has gone almost unnoticed while paying out the bounty on well over 4 million pikeminnow since 1990. If anything, this is evidence that sport angling conservationists are not the only group with a bias towards a particular group of animal species.
Although East Sand Island and Bonneville Dam are man-made structures that have adverse effects on predation, perhaps another man-made problem are the existing laws set in place by our colonized body of government. While to some it may seem barbaric to kill seals and sea lions, Pacific Northwest indigenous tribes have hunted these animals for centuries, not just for their pelts, but as a food source.
In 2014, Ellen Degeneres posted a selfie from the Oscars with a Samsung phone that became the most viewed photo on Twitter. As a gesture of appreciation, Samsung offered to make a donation to the charity of her choice. Degeneres made a statement in opposition to the tribal hunting rights of residents in Nanavut, as well as donations to the Humane Society in an effort to lobby against hunting seals, saying that: "Seal hunting is one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government." In response began an Inuit campaign with the hashtag "#Sealfie," and additional hashtags #HuntSeal #WearSeal #EatSeal to put faces on the indigenous culture of seal harvest. In an article from the Pacific Standard, Kent Driscoll, the Iqaluit bureau reporter for Canada’s APTN, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network said, "Seal is everything in Nunavut. It’s one of the most widely available forms of wildlife. You can eat and use every part. The fur is incredibly warm." He goes on to explain that seal is a renewable resource. While Nanavut may be across the border, it seems that the pinniped populations have boomed near the Columbia River since 1972 when the Marine Mammal Protection Act was signed into law by then President Richard Nixon.
It seems reasonable that if these animals are going to be lethally managed, it would honor their lives to allow tribal harvest by people who will make the most use of the resource, rather than treating it like a weed in the garden or a mouse in the kitchen. Either way, there's a historically cultural element missing from the management of these predators.
Much of the support for predator management comes from sport and commercial fisheries. While the Columbia River estuary's wild salmon are protected as a catch and release only fishery, hatchery supplemented fish create a massive industrial and economic force. Fish are becoming more commonly stolen from the line of anglers, causing guides to adapt by keeping their clients calm, quiet and seated while fighting fish, not reaching for a net until it's near the boat. Hazing techniques have been outlined by NOAA for recreational anglers to deter pinnipeds from their gear as well. There have even been multiple reports in recent history of anglers displaying their catches for photos only to have them stolen by sea lions. In one case, a man was pulled overboard.
Fishing Guide Bill Taylor Boating with clients along the Columbia River
Fishing Guide Bill Taylor Boating with clients along the Columbia River (photo by author)
Guide Bill Taylor of Osprey Guide Adventures spends a great deal on the Columbia and Willamette and has had first hand experiences with pinnipeds. When Bill was asked about how predation affects his business, he offered this:
"It is not about me, my customers, or catch rates. It is about salmon being pummeled by an overpopulation of recovered pinnipeds. It took an act of Congress to protect marine mammals. It will take an act of Congress to now bring the populations (of salmonids) to equilibrium levels. The poliitcal red tape seems insurmountable."
While anglers adhere to strict regulations that only allow the retention of hatchery origin fish, wild salmon intended for release are common meals for sea lions. Hazing practices near Willamette Falls pushed sea lions from the barrier downriver into a crowded sport fishery, so they too have adapted by observing individual sea lions consuming salmon so they can be trapped and relocated. Once enough data is collected they can request for the individual sea lions to be lethally removed. A monitoring project in 2014 revealed that sea lions at the falls consumed 13 percent of endangered wild steelhead stock. Sport-angling conservation group Coastal Conservation Association is filing petitions to support bi-partisan Federal sea lion legislation.
Steve Jefferies of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says there are more sea lions than ever in the Columbia. Unusually warm water in the Eastern Pacific, from Mexico to Alaska, displaced bait fish populations the sea lions rely on as a food source. Many of these sea lions have come for the smelt and are staying for the spring salmon. Earlier this Spring in the Seattle Times, Matt Tennis, a biologist with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission who has surveyed these animals for more than a decade says, “We’ve never seen anything like this, all these new animals are moving in.”
Aerial photo of Sea Lions inundating Docks in the East Mooring Basin of Astoria, OR (Photo by Steve Jefferies of ODFW)
Aerial photo of Sea Lions inundating Docks in the East Mooring Basin of Astoria, OR (Photo by Steve Jefferies of WDFW)

This article was published by The Good Men Project on June 1st, 2015:

A secondary version of this article was published on Wide Open Spaces. Follow the link below to view that article: