“I’ll be really glad when I’ve had enough of this!”
Fred J Taylor, on Cold Weather Fishing
By Terry Otto
It was an offer I couldn’t refuse: A chance to spend the day steelheading with one of the best-known outdoorsmen in the Northwest? It meant a day on world-class waters with a world-class host. Great! So, why the anxiety?
Let’s look at that invite phone call. We talked about what I should bring and not bring, and the what and where of the trip. Then I asked a totally logical question: “What’s the weather supposed to be like down there tomorrow?” Continue reading Cold Weather Fishing is Good Fishing→
Every fisherman has his fishing tricks. Some of them are secret, some they will share with anyone who will listen. Occasionally, you will meet someone with really wacky fishing tricks or superstition. Recently a man in the Midwest made the news by catching a large carp with a pumpkin-flavored doughnut. Do these things really work? Some of them do, and have been used traditionally around the world for generations. The effectiveness of others is as debatable as a good fish story. Here is a look at some of the craziest fishing tricks that people use: Continue reading Strange Fishing Tricks→
Tribal fisheries and sport fisheries seem to have a love/hate relationship
by Debbie Kay
Anyone who’s been fishing in the Pacific Northwest for any amount of time knows very well about tribes and their presence in fisheries. If you ask around, there seems to be a love/hate relationship between tribes and sport fishing, though at the end of the day, both have the same end goal, which is many more generations of healthy, fishable populations of salmon, crab, oysters, clams and other species. Many sport fishermen feel that the tribes take all of the catch, or do nothing to help the population, but neither accusation is true. Here’s a look at some of the things that the tribes are doing for the fish populations of the PNW, and why they may be worth a second look as allies to sport fishermen.
A little bit of history
I have to start by saying that I’ll be using Washington State as my main example, but much of what I’m saying can be extrapolated to Oregon and Alaska (as part of Canada, BC is a different story altogether). The tribal involvement in the fisheries was first established in 1855, when Chief Seattle and three other chiefs signed the first of the Pacific Northwest treaties, called the Point Elliott Treaty. They agreed to give up most of their lands, but with the caveat that they would continue to have the right to gather plants, hunt and fish for subsistence and trade on the land they had given up. Many other Pacific Northwest tribes followed suit with similar treaties, as they gave up their lands, but not the rights to use the lands to survive and do business. Though this right was forgotten and suppressed for over a century, it was re-established in federal court in 1974, in a court case called the Boldt Decision. (clams and shellfish on private tidelands were also re-established as part of this during the nineties, in a case called the Rafeedie Decision.)
Today’s tribal rights
Today the Tribes have a right, thanks to Federal Judge Boldt, to half of the fisheries quota each year. This means half is divided between the population of the state with fishing licenses (both commercial and sport) and the other half goes to subsistence and sport fishers from the tribes. In Puget Sound, there are 23 federally recognized tribes which split the fishing quota for this inland sea area (and a few more who are river-only tribes). The area that each tribe can fish was determined by archaeological evidence of the areas where they were known historically.
So do tribes take all the fish?
Tribes and sport fishing are given separate season times. This is to ensure that people are counted correctly in the right quota. Because tribes represent a smaller population, and each tribe is limited in where they are geographically allowed to fish. They are usually allowed to fish before other commercial fisheries. This may make it appear like they get all the fish and leave none for anyone else. However, when you look more closely, this is not the case. Let’s use 2011 crab as an example. This is the latest WDFW data available.
In 2011, there were a total of 497,651 combination and shellfish-only permits issued to sport fishermen. (This includes both short-term and long-term). Let’s say each of these people crabs for two days and catches their limit of 10 crab total. That is almost 5 million crab. Most of the tribes are small, and so the 23 tribes who have rights to crab in WA probably average 20 crabbers each (with notable exceptions of more and less depending on area). This means about 460 tribal boats are crabbing each year. This means that the tribes should also get 5 million crabs for the year, based on the law. This means that each boat should have access to about 10,800 crab. (For those doing the math with me, you will notice I am rounding for simplicity’s sake). Tribes will usually give their fishermen 50-100 pots per area. At an average of 2 crab per pot and 100 pots in the water at a time, this would mean tribes will take 54 days to equal what the sport fishermen could do in a weekend. At 5 crab per pot, it would take 22 days. Of course, there is a lot of variability that I did not account for, but you get the picture. Tribes are not taking all the crab, but there is definitely a lot of combined demand for it.
What tribes are doing for fisheries
Tribes spend a lot of resources helping the fish populations maintain healthy levels as well. Biologists working for tribes create restoration projects in estuaries and critical fish corridors. They monitor permits at all levels, ensuring that fish protection is considered in all building, logging, and farming activities. They operate hatcheries to keep sport fishing pressure off wild fish and ensure adequate supply to both tribes and sport fishing. They work with legislators and agencies to make sure the rules are following the best available science when it comes to protection of our water resources. Half of all the fish that tribal scientists and policy makers make available for fisheries will go to sport fishermen. This, above all other reasons, is a great reason to be glad that Tribes are working hard to keep viable (and catchable) fish populations on the forefront of the goals for the PNW for generations to come.
This high number of sport fishers in high population areas are part of the reason that areas like Puget Sound below Admiralty Inlet don’t have a commercial crab opening. It becomes more complicated in regions where catch must be divvied between commercial, sport and tribes. This is why it is so important to fill out catch cards and give accurate numbers to fisheries managers, rather than forcing them to guess.
Between droughts and jellyfish, red tides and coastal blobs, there aren’t a lot of cheerful news pieces regarding fishing these days. This makes it a good time to explore the humorous and bizarre world of fish themselves. We all know that fishermen are famous for telling good tales, but how odd do they get? We found some tales of fish rains, escape routes, cheaters, and stomach contents that are guaranteed to make you smile. Whether you fully believe these fish stories is up to you. Continue reading Bizarre Fish Stories→