The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has adopted an overall sport fishing rules package for 2002-03, including a rule that allows for continued retention of wild steelhead, but with reduced daily and annual bag limits.
The nine-member commission, which establishes policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), met Feb. 8-9 in Olympia. On a five to four vote, commissioners rejected a proposal to ban wild steelhead retention throughout Washington state, opting instead to reduce the wild steelhead bag limit from two fish per day and 30 fish per year, to one fish per day and five fish annually. Wild steelhead retention is currently allowed only on rivers with healthy populations.
The sport fishing rules package, including wild steelhead retention rules, takes effect May 1, and was developed over the past year with considerable public input. Commissioners received hundreds of letters and e-mails, and heard direct testimony from dozens of citizens on a variety of proposed sport fishing rules at its December meeting in Vancouver.
In other action, commissioners rejected a proposal that would have allowed anglers to purchase a second freshwater fishing license and use a second fishing pole. The commission approved an updated policy outlining the acceptable use of rotenone to rehabilitate lakes and streams. Review of the department's policy was done to ensure the state's lake rehabilitation program is current with federal regulations regarding environmental health and safety issues. Rotenone, a natural substance, has been used by biologists for a number of years to rid lakes of undesirable fish species. Waters treated with rotenone are typically planted with rainbow trout or other desirable fish species to provide recreational fishing opportunity.
Commissioners also adopted a 2002 North of Falcon policy to help the department with its salmon season-setting process, plus amendments to shellfish disease control rules.
Amendments to Puget Sound commercial marine fish rules were postponed until the commission's March meeting to allow for more input by Fish and Wildlife Advisory Groups and commercial fishing interests. Also postponed, at the request of Grays Harbor County officials, was any action on a proposal to ban jet boats for fishing on the Wynoochee and Satsop rivers. County officials are planning to study the issue of jet boats and other motorized water craft on rivers within Grays Harbor County.