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
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
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.