State to test gillnet alternatives on Columbia River

2010-06-17T23:10:00Z 2010-06-19T20:16:03Z State to test gillnet alternatives on Columbia RiverBy Tom Paulu / The Daily News Longview Daily News
June 17, 2010 11:10 pm  • 

In what might seem like a time warp, purse seines, beach seines and fish traps will reappear up and down the Columbia River this summer.

A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife test of alternative commercial fishing gear will be expanded from last summer's pilot project, with new work scheduled from mid-August through October.

However, years of further testing are likely before Columbia River commercial fishermen use anything other than gillnets to catch salmon and sturgeon.

Alternatives to gillnets are getting more attention as fishery managers try to increase the catch of hatchery salmon so they don't compete with wild salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, biologists want to minimize mortality of wild fish that are caught and released.

For more than 50 years, Columbia River commercial fishermen have used only gillnets, which have a mesh size ranging from six to nine inches and trap fish by the gills. Gillnets must be hauled on board boats before the fish can be removed. By that time, fish that must be released may be injured too badly to survive.

WDFW officials Sara LaBorde and Pat Frazier gave an update on the alternative gear project last week at a Longview meeting of the Coastal Conservation Association.

Last summer, the WDFW hired commercial fishermen to test one beach seine, one purse seine and a device called a Merwin trap.

Seines have a 3 1/2 inch mesh and fish can be examined while still in the water.

"We were really pleased with how the fish looked when they came out of the nets," LaBorde said.

Last summer, the beach seine, which was 660 feet long and 30 feet deep, was set in the water with a skiff off Welch Island near Skamokawa.

It caught as many as 29 chinook and 32 coho per day, but issues arose with timing and hauling it in.

"The biggest thing we found out was you have to have a large high school football team to bring it in," LaBorde said. "We have to work on that."

Or a hydraulic power system. Larry Holland of Skamokawa, who operated the beach seine last summer, said he'll try hydraulic power during this year's continued testing.

Another disadvantage of beach seining was the time it took to set the nets in place. Tides permitted only three sets a day, Holland said.

Purse seines get their name from the way they work -- they're pulled in to form a circle around fish, then worked from a boat.

During last summer's testing, the purse seine caught up to 34 chinook and 102 coho per day.

LaBorde said this year's testing will experiment with seines that are longer than the 650-foot-long net used last summer.

The third device in the tests is a Merwin trap, a floating device similar to a catamaran with a funnel-shaped net suspended below.

Holland said results for that trap tested last summer improved after it was modified, but the best day's catch for the Merwin device was 15 coho and one chinook.

Fish traps haven't been widely used on the Columbia for a century; those anglers "are all dead now," Holland pointed out. "Now we can't check anyone's brains."

This year's increased testing results from $1.9 million in federal monies from the Mitchell Act Program, which pays for the operation of hatcheries. It will fund five beach seines, six purse seines and two traps, with each type of gear tested for 30 days. The devices will be positioned throughout the lower river as far upstream as the Bonneville Dam area.

"We want to see how all the gear works in different parts of the river," Frazier said.

The commercial fishermen hired to run the gear won't be allowed to keep any of the fish. A WDFW observer will be on every boat, Frazier said, to help identify species, gauge the fishes' condition and document bycatch.

Some of the salmon will be kept in net pens for up to 48 hours to see if they survive. "We may need guards," LaBorde said. "Our biggest fear is what the sea lions will do around these nets."

Eventually, longer-term mortality surveys may be added, LaBorde said.

LaBorde said the WDFW has consulted with an economist but hasn't addressed the financial aspects of switching fishing gear. "We have not pulled that apart yet," she said.

Commercial fishermen have pointed out that purse seines and net seines require more people to operate than gillnet boats, and a purse seiner typically is larger than a gillnet boat.

Holland added that gillnet boats modified for seining don't work very well.

LaBorde and Frazier spoke of three or four years of testing before a decision is made on the nets, though the WDFW would need more funding to continue the tests.

Frazier said different types of gear might be best for different species of fish.

Although the law allows the gear to be used for research, decades-old Oregon and Washington state laws that prohibit the use of seines and fish traps would have to be changed.

Ed Wickersham of the CCA said his group wants to see alternative gear replace gillnets, not supplement them. The CCA opposes gillnets on the Columbia because they aren't selective.

However, the WDFW isn't opposed to continued use of gillnets, at least some of the time.

"We have always said there is a role" for gillnets, LaBorde said. "There are places, times and species you can fish gillnets. They will be effective and not impact wild populations."

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) Comments

  1. TullyMars
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    TullyMars - June 18, 2010 8:39 am
    There's much to learn from local historians about fish trapping. I would be checking in with David Freece at the museum for referrals. There's a lot to learn...it should be an awesome way to catch fish...but if they're all dead...it's time to check the local history resources.
  2. PS Paul
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    PS Paul - June 18, 2010 9:43 am
    Maybe if we're lucky we can gillnet the salmon into extinction and the commercial netters won't ever have to worry about being "inconvenienced" with hauling in more selective gear!!
  3. hoofhearted
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    hoofhearted - June 18, 2010 9:59 am
    Ban all net fishing on Columbia river and tributaries.
  4. the mole
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    the mole - June 18, 2010 10:34 am
    tullymars,you are correct , the mortality rate in a seine is tremendous!when you purse it closed and start to make the money bag smaller it panics the fish,then they try to run thru the seine of course they can't and when they can no longer swim to breath, they drown! they use to seine in the mouth of the river along with traps and fish wheels and horse seines they were outlawed for a reason!! the book SALMON FISHERS OF THE COLUMBIA by COURTLAND L SMITH will tell you some of the history.
  5. the mole
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    the mole - June 18, 2010 10:48 am
    another book FISH WHEELS of the COLUMBIA by IVAN J DONALDSON and FREDERICK K. CRAMER is also very informative ! I see there are some on here that think" they themselves" do no harm! when in fact they are allowed way more fish than the gillnetters are,their problem is they can't see that their allotment is spread out between to many people,the allotment they receive per sport comes to about 25% of one fish per sportfisherman! I WOULD BE MAD ALSO !!! maybe a buy out for sports is the way to go !
  6. Drampa
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    Drampa - June 18, 2010 12:14 pm
    This year's increased testing results from $1.9 million in federal monies from the Mitchell Act Program, which pays for the operation of hatcheries. So lets not use the money for increased fish runs but turn it over to Killnetters to improve their kill ratio..
  7. the mole
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    the mole - June 18, 2010 2:56 pm
    drampa: this is being done to satify the sportfishing groups and it will still not surpass the sports kill ratio ! I thought the sports supported the hatcheries!!!
  8. Socrates
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    Socrates - June 18, 2010 4:35 pm
    The sooner the gillnets are banned, the better. Seines, fishwheels, etc... are banned for a reason. I'd be willing to compromise, though. Keep the nets in the river, lower bag limits for all, and every fisher keeps the fish they catch (fin or no-fin). No need for barbless hooks. No need to ban nets. Just reduce the overall wastage mortality and escapement numbers would increase.
  9. the mole
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    the mole - June 18, 2010 7:56 pm
    socrates: that sounds to simple,and wise for the state to think of that,lol it sure seems that there is way more,un-clipped up-river salmon than the ones that are clipped !
  10. goodguy
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    goodguy - June 19, 2010 7:48 am
    Why not give the gillneters the $1.9 million in federal monies. Then they can retire or have enough money to live on until they find another job. This would put them in a better position than most people that have lost their job done to environmental reasons. Stop kissing the gillneter's A__, and let the sports fisherman support the economy. If I could catch 1 Salmon a month I’d be happy, and buy my license and gear from local merchants.
  11. the mole
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    the mole - June 19, 2010 9:52 am
    GOODGUY: it is not the gillnetters fault you can't catch a salmon!!! you have over 200,000 sports to share your allotment ,which means you are allowed 25% of one fish apiece! if you thinned the poles to only 100,000,you would only get 50% of a salmon apiece follow my drift! THERE ARE TOO MANY POLES TO ALLOW EVERY SPORT A FISH ! If say, all sports caught a salmon in one day,you would have caught 165,000 salmon,over your allotment,just a little bit over your allotment,"ya think"
  12. cheney119
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    cheney119 - June 19, 2010 10:09 am
    Goodguy don't you mean "until they find a real job". Let's face it how many days a year do these slackers fish each year? They want to maintain a "way of life" (lol) yet they don't make enough money to pay for their gasoline. Just face it commercial fishermen are a bunch of leaches that are somehow still allowed by a curpt fish and wildlife department to even remain in existance. The entire issue just mystifies anyone that does cowtow to F&W Department.
  13. Atrucker
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    Atrucker - June 19, 2010 2:05 pm
    Hey Mole , I see your back blowing smoke. did you see what the wdfw did to The Kalama, Elocamann, Naselle, grays, rivers, last year . they put a weir in and killed ALL the hatchery fish .We got zero chance to catch them . The excuse is the hathery fish crowd the wild fish off the spawning bed. I see no prove in the powder my self. A darn cutthroat trout will cause more trouble . I have seen this happen .
    200,000 poles? LMAO, Go Cheney 119, your so right .
  14. the mole
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    the mole - June 19, 2010 9:45 pm
    smoke is your specialty, LOOMIS'S COUNT IS 2,000,000 SPORT LICENSES the only way he comes up with those numbers is he counts three states to make the point that the sports put more money in the economy !! when I can count two hundred sport boats anchored in the river just below the cowlitz,not counting the boats at kalama,elochoman,plus all along the river! like I said none of you see anything except thru the tip of your pole. if I remember they started giveing them to people,but I am not sure!!
  15. Atrucker
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    Atrucker - June 20, 2010 2:53 pm
    250 tribal nets and that is just what I could see. 179 bowpickres, so really who is blowin smoke . The state did a study that proves the sport dollar surpasses, the commercial interest. We could have a robust salmon fishery on the Columbia , no nets and the state would still make money .
    But salmon for all. and crookshank , see it all diffrent .
    For some reason the own a net , so the river belongs to them . You think the same way Mole .
    Fish for carp there is a market for them.
  16. yadayada
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    yadayada - June 20, 2010 6:53 pm
    Bottom line, Sportsmen pay for the fisheries !
    Lets ban together and not buy any license or tags for 2 years.
    Then ODFW and WDFW will listen to the sportsman for once.
    They wont have any funds left to support their netting buddies with. Then and only then will nets be removed from the columbia. The studies are just smoke screens and another way to waste tax dollars. Goodguy is right give the 1.9 million to the netters and ban all nets seines, etc from the river.
    Pole fishing only !! PERIOD
  17. the mole
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    the mole - June 21, 2010 9:12 am
    250 tribal nets will be fishing in your back yard.your license fees goes to the general fund!!! ( PAVES ROADS) our money goes towards the fisheries 179 bow pickers with a 10 hour opening,does less damage then your month and a half!!! funny how the allotement for you is larger by far in all species and you claim to do no harm.DO YOUR SELF A FAVOR GET THE NETS OFF THE RIVER AND YOU WILL LEARN FIRST HAND EXACTLY WHAT THE U.S/CANADIAN SALMON TREATY IS ABOUT AS WITH THE TRIBES !!
  18. the mole
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    the mole - June 21, 2010 9:20 am
    it is simple by your remarks that your greed surpasses your desire to listen or read facts,just get those nets and Indians off your SALMON!! the Indian does more for salmon enhancement than you do ,geez a bear does more ! stop thinking," you sports" are the cure-all for the fish, you are the problem!!!!by the way I did fish for carp when I was 10!! POLE FISHING ONLY "GIMME GIMME GIMME ALL DA FISH " what a joke !! give the 1.9 to you guys and buy you out !!PERIOD!!!!
  19. Atrucker
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    Atrucker - June 21, 2010 10:05 pm
    Okay mole lay it out to me . And i will call your bluff when your liein.
    1. cost of fuel a day.
    2 . cost of nets to buy and repair .
    3 cost of boat for gear and repair.
    4 cost of license.
    cost of drift .
    5 cost of ice if you use it .
    Now if it costs 5 grand a year just to fish is it worth it . ? just wondering .
    The state showed the sports fishery puts way more money into the game , with bait, tackle, boats, food , and a room to sleep and fuel they buy. Oh and clothes.
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