Species covered in proposed rule • Steelhead • Trout
Rule to Change: Skagit River (Skagit Co) from mouth to Hwy 536 at Mt. Vernon (Memorial Hwy bridge)
Dolly Varden/Bull trout June 1 - Jan. 31
All other trout June 1 - Jan. 31
Other game fish June 1 - Jan. 31
New Rule Proposal: Skagit River (Skagit Co) from mouth to Hwy 536 at Mt. Vernon (Memorial Hwy bridge). Selective gear rules in effect from February 1 through May 31
Dolly Varden/Bull trout year-round
All other trout year-round
Other game fish year-round
Why the change is needed: For decades this section of the Skagit was managed with year -round seasons and for the last 15 or so years during the spring selective gear rules were in effect. For 2012 the February to May portion of the season was closed. This section of river during the spring has long been noted as fine fishery for sea-run cutthroat and Dolly Varden/bull trout and was popular with local anglers. The recent closure represents a significant loss of recreational opportunity.
I believe that the recent closure was either a mistake or the first example of a dramatic change in management philosophy for waters with ESA listed species. I have listened to WDFWís testimony at the Commissionís hearing where this change was adopted. It would appear that three factors were given strong consideration in the Agency/Commission considerations. Below is a closer look at those three factors.
The first was the presence of the ESA steelhead that potentially might be impacted as by-catch by a fishery targeting the other game fish species. This is certainly the case. However there are many examples of fisheries across the Stateís anadromous waters (both freshwater and marine waters) that are managed for recreational opportunities that incidentally lead to by-catch impacts on co-mingled ESA listed species. The Skagit is hardly unique. In fact the State continues allows Skagit fisheries targeting abundant hatchery steelhead and salmon as well as health wild salmon populations that may impact ESA listed steelhead. In fact just this season there is a new salmon season (in-river sockeye) with potential ESA impacts. Why are those seasons targeting hatchery steelhead and salmon as well as health wild salmon populations allowed but one targeting healthy wild game fish populations in this section is not?
The second factor was the limitation on allowable ESA steelhead impacts. Again lets look more closely at the situation on the Skagit in regards to those impacts. At the time of the ESA listing of Puget Sound steelhead it was determined that fishing impacts in the decade previous to the listing were not a major factor in the status of the resource. In fact NMFS determined that the average impacts over the decade prior to the listing was acceptable and would the de facto allowable impacts. Those allowable impacts used was the aggregate for the 5 Puget Sound stocks (including the Skagit) with the average aggregate impact being roughly 4%. During the decade prior to the ESA listing the Skagit recreational season had a hatchery only steelhead that season that ran through the middle of March and most years there was an additional CnR spring steelhead season on the middle Skagit and lower portion of the Sauk during rest of March and April. In additional of course the lower Skagit (below Mt. Vernon) was open all year. With recent changes in Skagit steelhead seasons (shortening the hatchery only season to only through January/mid-February and the elimination of the CnR seasons) have clearly reduced the impacts on Skagit wild steelhead to below even that during the decade prior to the ESA listing. Why are additional reductions of very marginal impacts from the spring lower Skagit fishery needed? Clearly the impacts on the Skagit steelhead today are less than prior to the listing and below NMFS allowable impacts. IN similar situations fisheries across the State are allowed - why not the lower Skagit spring fishery?
The third factor was concerns that there would be some shift in angler effort. In the past when there were emergency closures of the spring CnR fisheries up river there was no noticeable increase in effort on the lower river sea-run cutthroat/char fishery. The displaced steelhead anglers did not seem to view the lower river fishery as an attractive alternative to their lost steelhead opportunity. However with the closure in 2012 there has been either a lost of total recreational use in the area or the use has shifted to other fisheries.
If the decision to close this fishery represents a change in management philosophy can the angler of this state expect similar closures of fisheries targeting species other than hatchery steelhead and salmon and healthy wild salmon populations on the various anadromous waters in the State? Examples of fisheries that would be candidates for similar closures would be the trout and whitefish seasons on the Yakima and Methow rivers and the sea-run cutthroat, ling cod and halibut season in Puget Sound.
If the closure of this lower Skagit spring fishery is not a result of management philosophy change than Iím requesting that the State and Commission consider adopting this change and re-open a popular fishery that has been consistent with past management practices as evident by similar fisheries that continue across the State.
Thank you for your consideration.
Names of individuals or groups with whom you have discussed this change: No input given
Describe their support and/or concerns:
No input given
Submitted by: KRAEMER, CURT R — MARYSVILLE, WA
Date submitted: 06/05/2012
WDFW Rule Proposal Recommendation
Recommended for Public Comment Reference ID: DFW006559
Rule Change Recommendation Short Title Open a selective gear rules trout fishery in the lower Skagit River
Rules Category Puget Sound Region Freshwater
Type of Rule Change Proposal Conservation
County or Location Information Skagit/ Whatcom counties
Short Description Open a trout fishery from the mouth to Highway 536 Memorial Bridge from March 1 through May 31. Anglers must use hooks with a 1/2 inch gap (approximately a size 2 hook) and follow selective gear rules.
Explanation This section of river is a popular trout fishery. This rule change will provide significant recreational trout fishing opportunity. Opening this fishery is not expected to have significant impacts on ESA listed anadromous fish.