OLYMPIA – Anglers could gain additional fishing access to Rufus Woods Lake on the Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) reservation under a pilot project agreement signed today by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and tribal officials.
If legislative funding for the project is approved, the agreement would allow non-tribal anglers to fish with either a Washington state fishing license or a Colville tribal fishing permit while they are fishing from a boat or from one of three proposed fishing access areas on the reservation. Under the agreement, non-tribal anglers fishing in non-designated, undeveloped areas within the reservation must carry a tribal fishing permit. All non-tribal anglers fishing with a Colville tribal fishing permit also must carry a Colville transport permit if catch is going to be taken off the reservation.
Rufus Woods Lake is a 51-mile-long, 7,800-acre reservoir on the upper Columbia River, created by Chief Joseph Dam. It forms the boundary between Douglas and Okanogan counties in North Central Washington, and the southern boundary of the Colville Indian Reservation. Open year-round, Rufus Woods Lake provides fishing for walleye, kokanee, and triploid rainbow trout. The state’s last three record rainbows were caught in the lake.
“Rufus Woods has become a high-quality fishery, and angler interest in the lake has increased substantially over the last seven years,” said WDFW North Central Regional Director Dennis Beich. “But access to the lake is primarily limited to two public boat ramps at either end. If funding is provided by the Legislature, up to three designated fishing access areas will be developed along the center of the lake’s north shore on the Colville Indian Reservation.”
The boundary of the Colville reservation is the center of the Columbia River bed, however determining and enforcing the actual boundary is difficult because the river has been inundated by dams, said Joe Peone, director of the CCT Fish and Wildlife Department. Through various agreements over the past 15 years, non-tribal anglers have been required to hold both a Colville tribal fishing permit and a Washington state fishing license when fishing Rufus Woods and Lake Roosevelt.
“This agreement is the product of a lot of hard work by both the Colville Tribes and WDFW to better serve the public who have come to regard Lake Rufus Woods as one of the premier fishing locations in the state,” said Peone. “The Colville Tribes have put a great deal of effort into developing and managing this fishery, and we are pleased to have worked out a good agreement with the state. We believe it is something that the Legislature can support as a genuine public benefit.”
WDFW Director Jeff Koenings applauded the cooperative effort.
“We greatly appreciate the Colville Tribes working with us to both simplify fishing license requirements and improve access to the lake,” Koenings said. “Increased access is important to future fishing and hunting opportunities throughout Washington state. This agreement is a good example of how we can work together to increase recreational opportunities for our citizens.”
WDFW will request $423,000 from the Legislature to fund the first year of the project, and will submit additional requests over the next four years.
Pending legislative funding, new fishing access areas will be developed over the next five years. Limited access could be available as early as 2008, with additional capital funding in future years for complete development of shoreline docks, boat ramps, restrooms and camping facilities.
The agreement also provides for increased WDFW and CCT enforcement and fish management staff in the area, including portions of the upper Columbia River’s Wells Pool and the Okanogan River, and provides additional fish stocking for Rufus Woods Lake.
The agreement is the result of several years of negotiation, and has recently gained impetus from the Governor’s Columbia River Water Management Program (CRWMP), which is developing additional Columbia River water supplies for irrigation and other purposes, including fishery needs. The agreement will be in effect and monitored for five years. If goals are being reached and both parties agree, it will be automatically renewed for an additional five years.