There is a Washington State directed effort to reduce walleye and bass populations in certain sections of the Columbia river. State Agencies have and are killing walleye and bass in certain sections of the Columbia river without adequately informing most of the WA state tax paying sportsmen or allowing a fair and reasonable opportunity for expression of opinion, concerns or objections.
A reduction of Walleye and bass in the Columbia river is actively being promoted in the form of Studies, Technical reports, and actions by Geoffrey A. McMichael Mainstem Fish Research (MFR), LLC, Richland. These projects have and are being funded by multiple State Agencies. MFR is obtaining an income stream portraying and targeting walleye and bass as primary predators who according to MFR primarily feed on salmon. The tax paying, license buying WA citizens are most likely an originating source of funds, unknowingly paying for MFR’s efforts to remove our walleye and bass from the Columbia river.
The reports utilize estimates, assumptions, and extrapolations rather than only hard scientific facts and data to establish some findings/conclusions. The primary assumption as stated in the abstract of one of the reports is that two thirds of the tagged (PIT) salmon do not make it past McNary Dam. However, buried in the report is this statement “Estimates should be viewed with some dubiety as detection probabilities of the PIT tags in these fish at McNary Dam were very low, resulting in very imprecise estimates.” So, the stated primary assumption should then also be viewed with dubiety but for some reason this is not highlighted in either the abstract or conclusion of the report.
These reports are not balanced in that they do not sufficiently state that walleye and smallmouth bass also feed on suckers, sculpins, carp, northern pike minnow, shad, crayfish, insects, and a host of other prey. The impact of more significant factors on salmon such as commercial fishing, gill nets, ocean conditions, off shore foreign illegal fishing, improving The Pacific Salmon Treaty, low hatchery production and substantial predators being seals, sealions and birds are not addressed in the reports as most of these factors are not in the study areas.
Mr. Michael of MFR (a former WDFW employee) has reportedly received State Agency funding for projects focused on reducing walleye and bass in certain section of the Columbia river.
In a 2016 project, 326 fishwere eltrofished and killed in the McNary reservoir (274 smallmouth bass, 47 walleye and 5 Largemouth bass) to examine stomach contents.
In a 2018 project, 1,472 predator fish (smallmouth bass, walleye and northern pikeminnow) were captured during electrofishing efforts to estimate predator abundance between McNary and Priest Rapids dams.
In a report dated February 2020, the harvest results were “contrary to expectations” meaning the expected high number of walleye larvae were not found but targeting of walleye as a primary predator of salmon continued to be stated in the report. “Predation by non-native, and native, fish predators on juvenile anadromous fishes rearing in and migrating through the McNary Reservoir is a continuing and possibly growing problem. “In a current/active study MFR is examining if lowering the Columbia river water levels during the walleye spawn will further reduce the walleye fishery by eliminating productive walleye spawning areas.
This is from WDFW sources “As part of this project 71 walleye will be killed and sampled.” To date, 26 walleye have been killed of which 16 were mature females to conduct “chemical trace analysis”. “There is a research program that does require collecting and sampling walleye and the sampling process is lethal. The study is looking to determine if walleye recruitment could be reduced by manipulation of river elevation. The researcher fished/electrofished to collect walleye as part of the study to determine origin, prey species, and abundance.” “The Washington Legislature funded the walleye study at this stage under the Southern Resident Killer Whale projects.” WDFW is the contract manager of this project. “As a WDFW contractor, MFR does not need a Special Collection Permit when conducting official WDFW business.”
This project has been suspended but will restart with the WA state restriction on recreational fishing is lifted. So, if not curtailed by WA State legislators voicing and representing sportsmen concerns more Columbia River walleye will continue to be killed by MFR once the restriction is lifted.
In 2018, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Executive Order 18-02: Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force. Through this executive order, the governor directed state agencies to implement immediate actions to benefit Southern Resident killer whales. He also established the Southern Resident Orca Task Force.
This Task Force issued a report in 2018 with 36 recommendations. Recommendation #14 “Reduce populations of nonnative predatory fish species that prey upon or compete with Chinook” has a single technical report #40 cited as the sole basis. One of the co-authors of this report is Mr. McMichael of MFR.Recommendation #14 also states WDFW should adapt regulations to allow the disposal of these fish species (walleye, bass Catfish) because it is currently illegal to “waste” sport fish. https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/OrcaTaskForce_reportandrecommendations_11.16.18.pdf
The fact that walleye and bass feed on a variety of prey in the Columbia river (not just salmon) is well documented in technical reports by other authors but these reports are not cited in the Southern Resident Orca Task Force report.
In addition rather than just killing off walleye and bass in the Columbia increases opportunities for sports fishing anglers would go a long way to helping solve the problem. Several Northwest walleye fishing guides would be more than happy to help reduce the walleye and bass population by offering their clients bass and walleye fishing trips with liberal fish catch limits for anglers that appreciate catch and eat fishing opportunities.
To counter Recommendation #14 and MFR’s efforts, concerned sportsmen should contact our State Legislators and submit a request for their assistance in halting these projects and dire actions. Preventing this as an individual can possibly be done with some success but it will be considerably more effective if we collectively as concerned tax paying sportsmen work together.