ANACORTES– Two new marine sanctuaries intended to shelter declining groundfish will be established in Puget Sound as part of the 2000-2001 sportfishing rules package adopted yesterday by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The preserves are on Colvos Passage north of Gig Harbor and at Waketickeh north of the Hamma Hamma River on the west side of Hood Canal. The commission also slightly expanded an existing preserve at Orchard Rocks on Hood Canal. A third marine reserve was created at Saltar's Point Beach in Steilacoom that protects the intertidal area and the fish and invertebrates on that beach.
Although Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff had proposed reducing the size of the 1,700-yard-long sanctuary at Waketickeh in response to objections from private property owners in the area, the commission voted to keep the original dimensions of the preserve.
"There is far too little rockfish area set aside in the state and I want us to move forward on this," said Commission Vice-Chairman Russ Cahill.
The preserves are underwater areas where fishing is sharply curtailed to allow groundfish species such as rockfish a better chance to rebuild. Salmon trolling will be allowed in the Colvos Passage reserve, however.
In other rule changes intended to protect groundfish, the commission reduced rockfish limits from five fish to one per day.
Seven species of Puget Sound marine fish, including groundfish such as cod fish species and three species of rockfish, are in decline and are being reviewed for possible federal protection listings .
In other sportfish rule changes the commission scaled back a department proposal to increase the bag limits on wild steelhead on Olympia Peninsula north coastal river systems. The commission voted to set limits of one wild fish per day and 10 wild fish per year on the Clearwater and Quillayute river systems, and maintain the one wild fish per day and two wild fish per year limit on the Hoh River. The changes did not affect existing regulations in other areas of the state where wild steelhead can be kept.
Commissioners indicated they wished to maintain conservative wild steelhead regulations until future returns can be evaluated.
The commission also accepted a department proposal to slightly expand the wild steelhead fishing area on the Hoh River a quarter of a mile, shifting it from Highway 101 to the Oxbow Campground.
Other changes in the new sportfish rule package included:
- Closing a number of fishing streams in the Methow Valley and other areas of north-central Washington to respond to federal protection requirements for upper Columbia steelhead, bull trout and spring chinook. Monitored catch and release fisheries would be allowed on portions of the Methow, Chewuch and Twisp rivers, however, subject to federal approval.
- Enacted a non-buoyant lure restriction, but allowed night fishing to remain open, on Drano Lake and portions of the Wind River and White Salmon River in southwest Washington.
- Closed mid-summer fishing on Echo, Serene and Stickney lakes in King County because of problems with the behavior of users of WDFW public access sites in those areas.
The complete package of 2000-2001 sportfish rules will take effect May 1. The rules will be published in WDFW's "Fishing in Washington" regulation pamphlet and will be available on the WDFW website.
In other action the commission approved a trial purse seine fishery for Pacific sardines. Data collected from the trial fishery will be used to determine whether a permanent fishery will be established.