Photo by Dan Penttila

Public hearing and public comments

The public provided testimony on proposed smelt regulation during the commission meeting in April 2014. The public also provided written comments. The commission considered three options for regulations in Puget Sound:

  • Option 1: Commercial fishing for smelt in Puget Sound would be open from 8 a.m. Sunday to 8 a.m. Friday during seasonal openings.

    Recreational smelt fishing would also be open year-round, except in Hood Canal where it is closed. The use of dip nets would be allowed from 8 a.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Wednesday. Jig gear could be used seven days per week.
  • Option 2: 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, 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: 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.

Puget Sound Smelt Rulemaking Process

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, although commercial catch and catch rates indicate relatively high harvest in Puget Sound since the mid-1990s. During that time, commercial fishing was concentrated in marine areas where recreational smelt fishing also was popular.

It is the policy (C3012) of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) 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, the policy prescribes a conservative approach to fisheries.

Adopted Regulations

In June 2014, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted new regulations to provide greater protection for smelt. The commission, a citizen panel that sets policy for WDFW, adopted new regulations that:

  • Close nighttime recreational dip net fishing. Recreational dip net fishing will be allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Tuesday. Jig gear can continue to be used seven days per week, 24 hours per day.
  • Reduce the commercial fishery by one day each week, allowing commercial fishing from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday during seasonal openings in each area.
  • Close inactive commercial smelt fisheries, including dip bag and purse seine.

Photo by Henry Cheng