Sea lions in Columbia River causing headache for local fishermen - KPTV - FOX 12

Sea lions in Columbia River causing headache for local fishermen

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COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, OR (KPTV) -

Spring fishermen on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers are finding themselves competing with dozens of sea lions for their daily catch.

The animals have made themselves a nuisance as far upriver as Willamette Falls, said Robert Moxley, a sport fisherman who has had his catch stolen right out of his net.

"The lion pulled the net down into the water, broke the rod. The handle hit me in the side of the head. I almost went over, and I lost the net and the rod," said Moxley.

Sea lions, who normally live in the ocean, have migrated upriver over the last 15 years or so, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

"We first observed sea lions on Bonneville tailraces in 2001. We started monitoring them immediately," said Kyle Tidwell, a fish biologist with the Army Corps.

Tidwell said at the peak of last year's salmon run, he and other biologists counted as many as 149 California sea lions at the Bonneville Dam on a single day.

Tidwell said the lions ate more than 8,000 salmon and steelhead, which represents roughly 5 percent of the salmon run.

"Anytime there's a fish on, in a boat or on the shore, they come straight after it," said Neil Aleshire, who regularly fishes below the dam.

Local sport fishermen have been pushing for someone to do something about the sea lions, but both California and Steller sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

"Management is a complex issue, and is being attacked from the state, federal, and tribal agencies," said Tidwell.

In the meantime, Moxley and other fishermen will have to share the waters of their favorite fishing grounds with some aggressive competition.

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