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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


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January 24, 1998
Contact: Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

Barbed hooks remain legal but wild steelhead must be released

LA CONNER -- Washington's sports anglers won't have to crimp the barbs on their hooks to fish for every species in Puget Sound as well as in rivers, streams and beaver ponds, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission decided this weekend.

But it did adopt a Department of Fish and Wildlife recommendation that requires the release of all wild steelhead unless regulations allow their retention in specifically identified rivers and streams. The commission directed the department to be guided by the state-tribal Wild Salmonid Policy in upcoming negotiations for the 1998 salmon season regulation setting process. The commission also took several actions designed to conserve herring, shrimp and groundfish, such as lingcod and rockfish, in commercial fisheries.

On the hunting side, the commission decided it would not take any action as scheduled in April on a proposed hunting regulation simplification package. Public meetings currently being held throughout the state will help the department prepare a hunting simplification framework which the commission said it would vote on by the end of the year.

As part of its recommendations for 1998-99 sportfishing regulations, department biologists had recommended that barbless hook regulations be extended to all fish species in Puget Sound as well as most rivers, streams and beaver ponds as a conservation measure. Biologists and some commissioners said they believed barbless hooks made it easier to release undersized and non-targeted species with less stress on the fish.

But Commissioners Will Roehl and Pat McMullen argued the department had no scientific studies that proved barbless hooks killed fewer fish than barbed hooks.

They said the department needed to be guided by science in deciding barbless hook and other fishing issues.

McMullen also argued that anglers could voluntarily crimp their hooks if they chose.

Barbless hook requirements that existed in 1997 will continue in 1998.

In adopting state-wide wild steelhead release regulations for the 1998-99 fishing seasons, Commissioner John McGlenn said the state had little information about many steelhead populations. He said it was poor idea to fish on wild stocks for which little information was available.

"We need a grip on the total resource picture and allow wild steelhead retention only where we know we have opportunity," McGlenn said.

In the past, regulations allowed the retention of wild steelhead except in streams or rivers that were closed by emergency regulations.

The first implementation of the new Wild Salmonid Policy in the public North of Falcon process, which sets salmon harvests in Washington waters, could mean fishing restrictions in some areas to ensure enough adult salmon from weak stocks survive to spawn in their native streams.

Bern Shanks, WDFW's director, said the department's salmon run preseason forecasts would be ready next month. That is when state and tribal fish managers will have a better idea of how many salmon will return this year and which runs need protection.

"Our goal is to sculpt sport and commercial fisheries around our most vulnerable runs," Shanks said. "We hope to have large numbers of fin-clipped hatchery coho salmon that should provide important sport fishing opportunities this year."

"At the same time, we expect Puget Sound chinook stocks to be listed under the Endangered Species Act next month. We already have steelhead listed in the Columbia. I can't sugarcoat it, every fisher must be prepared to make sacrifices," Shanks said.

The commission also moved to conserve groundfish and forage fish stocks in Puget Sound.

"The whole biological community out there (in Puget Sound) has been going in one direction--down," said Shanks.

Bruce Crawford, who heads WDFW's Fish Management Program, said many fish stocks in the world are in trouble.

In an effort to protect declining Puget Sound groundfish, shellfish and forage fish stocks, the commission:

  • Passed regulations designed to simplify regulations, improve catch reporting and conserve declining stocks of lingcod, rockfish, sablefish and Pacific cod.

  • Changed commercial shrimp fishing gear regulations to protect shrimp stocks and meet tribal harvest opportunities, as required by the federal court.

  • Changed commercial Dungeness crab regulations to provide tribal opportunities, protect crabs when their shells are soft and provide recreational opportunities in popular bays near urban areas.

  • Adopted a management policy for forage fish, such as herring, designed to conserve them by recognizing their important role in the marine ecosystem. The policy restricts harvests when stocks are low or little information about them is available.