OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission tightened conservation guidelines for Columbia River sturgeon and approved a new two-year package of sportfishing rules during its Feb. 4-6 meeting in Olympia.
The commission - a nine member citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) - adopted a new management policy that would reduce the harvest of Columbia River white sturgeon by up to 45 percent this year.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday supported a 35 percent reduction in the white sturgeon quota. WDFW staff will now work with fishery managers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a joint sturgeon management agreement for the upcoming 2010 season.
In other action, the commission adopted dozens of new sportfishing rules that affect a variety of waters around the state. The new rules were developed with public input and discussed at the commission’s November and December meetings.
The sportfishing rules range from changing the annual opening date for wild steelhead retention on coastal streams to a new prohibition on the harvest of all species of "unclassified" marine fish and invertebrates.
However, a few rule proposals were not adopted, including a ban on the use of small lead fishing tackle at 13 lakes in Washington and a proposal that would close fishing for bottomfish and halibut off the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. The commission agreed to schedule additional public input during the next several months on the two proposals before acting on any proposed changes.
In addition, the commission voted to keep the current harvest schedule and daily bag limit for the Puget Sound Dungeness crab fishery pending a full review of the existing management policy for the fishery. That review will begin in March, when the commission is scheduled to be briefed on the fishery.
Most of the new sportfishing rules take effect May 1. However, a new rule that requires anglers to use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River from the mouth of the river to McNary Dam does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2011.
Summaries of the 2010-12 rule changes, as adopted, will be available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals by mid-February.
In other business, WDFW fishery managers outlined their plans for the spring chinook fishery on the Columbia River that would ensure meeting conservation goals, catch balancing responsibilities between tribal and state fisheries, and fishing opportunities throughout the river and its tributaries.
Although this year’s upriver spring chinook return is expected to be one of the strongest on record, commissioners voiced support for reserving a portion of the catch until there is clear evidence the run is as large as expected. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission also has indicated support for reserving a portion of the catch.
Washington’s commission asked staff to maximize fishing opportunities for spring chinook on the Columbia River and ensure more salmon return to upriver fisheries, while meeting conservation measures.
Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon will meet Feb. 18 to set fishing seasons for Columbia River spring chinook.
Also during February’s meeting, commissioners were briefed on the Puget Sound chinook salmon harvest management plan, revenue generated by wildlife-themed personalized license plates, and the Columbia River summer chinook salmon policy.
For more information about future commission meetings, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.