OLYMPIA – Starting May 1, anglers fishing for salmon or steelhead on the Columbia River and most of its tributaries downstream from Chief Joseph Dam will be required to use barbless hooks.
The new regulations, adopted today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), expand on a similar rule currently in effect on the stretch of the Columbia River that constitutes the border between Washington and Oregon.
The new rules extend the ban on barbed hooks another 250 miles upriver on the Columbia River and to dozens of its tributaries, including the Cowlitz, White Salmon, Klickitat, Snake, Yakima and Okanogan rivers.
Anglers fishing those waters will still be allowed to use single, double-point or treble hooks, so long as the barbs have been filed off or pinched down.
Jim Scott, assistant director of the WDFW Fish Program, said the new rule will contribute to ongoing efforts to minimize impacts on wild stocks while maintaining opportunities for anglers to harvest abundant hatchery fish.
“Anyone who’s ever fished with barbless hooks knows they are easier to remove from a fish’s mouth than a barbed hook,” Scott said. “That’s important in fisheries where anglers are required to release wild fish unharmed.”
Fishing regulations requiring the release of wild salmon and steelhead are common in the Columbia River Basin and other Washington waters, especially in areas wild salmon and steelhead are protected by state and federal laws. In those cases, only hatchery fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained.
“Anglers fishing for salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound and ocean waters have been required to use barbless hooks for years,” Scott said. “The new rule on the Columbia River is consistent with our state’s longstanding commitment to sustainable fisheries.”
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nine-member citizen panel that sets policy for WDFW, endorsed the barbless-hook requirement as part of a broad-based policy designed to support the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin.
That policy, adopted in collaboration with the Oregon commission in January, also set the stage for gradually shifting non-tribal commercial gillnets to off-channel areas of the river and developing new, more selective types of commercial fishing gear.
Before taking action, Washington’s commission held a series of public hearings on barbless hooks and other provisions of the policy in the winter of 2012. WDFW also conducted public meetings on barbless hooks during the 2013 North of Falcon process, where statewide salmon-fishing seasons were set earlier this month.
With only a few exceptions, the rule requiring the use of barbless hooks will be in effect on rivers and streams where a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement is required in addition to a current fishing license.
Those waters are clearly marked in WDFW’s 2013-14 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, now available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/. The paper version of the pamphlet will be distributed to recreational license dealers around the state by early May.