OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has scheduled tests of experimental commercial salmon fishing gear that can dramatically improve survival rates of fish released after they are caught.
The new gear, called a tangle net, will be tested for two weeks beginning Tuesday, Sept. 4, on the Willapa River, and on the lower Columbia River beginning Thursday, Sept. 6, and running periodically through October.
"Testing tangle nets and other new commercial fishing gear, such as box traps, are part of WDFW's commitment to expanding selective fisheries, said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings
"This test of a live capture selective fishery is the next generation of commercial fishing in Washington," Koenings said. "Our hatchery fish marking program, restructured fishing seasons, and recreational and commercial fishing gear changes allow fishers to catch abundant stocks while reducing catch impacts on the weakest stocks."
Geraldine Vander Haegen, the WDFW fish biologist supervising the test fisheries, said three commercial gillnet boats on the Willapa River will be fitted with a combination of both traditional gillnet mesh and the smaller, more loosely hanging tangle net mesh.
"We want to compare post-release survival of the fish caught in tangle nets versus the fish caught in the gillnet," Vander Haegen said. "The test boats will have WDFW observers onboard to collect fishery data and to tag fish caught and released from the nets with a small white or yellow numbered jaw tag."
Any fisher who catches one of the tagged fish is asked to call Anita Swanson at WDFW, (360) 902-2676, to help the department assess the status of those fish. Fishers will be asked to provide the catch date and location, as well as the tag's number and color.
"This type of research is important because it could lead to new fishing gear and techniques that reduce impacts on non-targeted fish species," Vander Haegen said.
Recent tangle net test fisheries in Willapa Bay and on the Columbia River showed salmon have a better chance of survival after release from tangle nets compared to traditional gillnets. Tangle nets tend to capture fish by the head, teeth, or fins, while gillnets suffocate fish by compressing their gills, or injure them so they may not survive if released.