Photo by Dan Penttila

Public Meeting

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will be taking action on this issue at the June 13-14 meeting in Olympia.


Photo by Henry Cheng

Puget Sound Smelt Rulemaking Process

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public comments on proposed options for commercial and recreational fishing regulations that could increase protection and conservation for smelt in Puget Sound.

Smelt serve as an important food source for a variety of species in Puget Sound, including sea birds, marine mammals and salmon, some of which are federally protected.

Population abundance estimates are not available for smelt. However, Puget Sound-wide commercial catch and catch rates indicate relatively high harvest over the last several years. During that time, commercial fishing has been concentrated in marine areas where recreational smelt fishing also is popular. The overlap of the two fisheries has sparked both concerns about localized overharvesting and frustration from local homeowners.

It is the policy of the department (C3012) to maintain healthy populations of forage fish species and individual stocks, while assuring the integrity of the ecosystem and habitat upon which marine resources depend. If insufficient information exists or the condition of the resource is poor, a conservative approach to fisheries will be taken.

WDFW is reviewing three options for commercial and recreational smelt fishing regulations.  The Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets policy for WDFW, is expected to take action on smelt regulations at its meeting in June in Olympia. 

WDFW is reviewing the following options:
(See proposed rule actions)

  • Option 1 - No change
    Under current state rules, commercial fishing for smelt in Puget Sound is open from 8 a.m. Sunday to 8 a.m. Friday during seasonal openings. Recreational smelt fishing is open year-round, except in Hood Canal where it is closed. The use of dip nets is allowed from 8 a.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Wednesday. Jig gear can be used seven days per week.
  • Option 2 - Reduce both commercial and recreational use
    Reduce both commercial and recreational use: Commercial smelt fishing would be closed Sundays and would be allowed only from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday during seasonal openings in each area. Inactive commercial smelt fisheries, including dip bag and purse seine, which have not been in use for at least 10 years, would be closed. Recreational smelt fishing would be closed overnight except for the use of jig gear, which could be used seven days per week. Dip nets would be allowed for recreational use from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Tuesday.
  • Option 3 - Close commercial fishing, reduce recreational use
    Close commercial fishing, reduce recreational use: All commercial fishing for smelt in Puget Sound would be closed. Recreational smelt fishing would be closed overnight except for the use of jig gear, which could be used seven days per week. Dip nets would be allowed for recreational use from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Tuesday.