OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved more than 80 changes to the state’s sportfishing rules during a meeting here Feb. 10-11, but retained a regulation that requires anglers to release any trout they catch on the Cedar River in King County.
In a separate action, the nine-member commission adopted a policy for the Columbia River summer chinook fishery that allocates the state’s share of the harvest equally between recreational and commercial fishers below Priest Rapids Dam.
One new sportfishing rule approved for the upcoming season will require anglers to use knotless nets in waters where selective gear rules are in place to protect certain species. Another will allow anglers to fish from boats with electric motors in those waters.
Starting Nov. 1, a new rule adopted by the commission will allow anglers to catch and retain up to three – rather than two – hatchery-reared steelhead per day on sections of five coastal rivers. Those rivers include the Hoh, Quillayute, Bogachiel, Calawah and Sol Duc, where returns of hatchery steelhead often exceed the number needed to perpetuate the runs.
But the commission rejected a closely watched proposal to allow anglers to catch and keep up to two trout per day on the lower section of the Cedar River, a popular catch-and-release fishery near Seattle. Ron Ozment, commission chair, said the commission received dozens of comments on the proposal – both pro and con – before the vote.
“In the end, we decided the catch-and-release fishery was working well under the current regulations,” Ozment said. “We didn’t want to risk losing what we have now – a popular fishery in an urban area.”
Also rejected was a proposal to eliminate the annual limit of 30 steelhead per angler. Under that rule, which remains in effect, only one of those steelhead can be a wild fish, caught in one of 10 rivers where retention of wild steelhead retention is allowed.
All new fishing rules approved by the commission will be incorporated into the 2006-07 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet, which will be distributed statewide in early May, said Larry Peck, deputy director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Meanwhile, department will work to publicize those changes, and will post the complete list on its website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/) within the next week, he said.
“Keeping up with these changes can be challenging, but every angler has a responsibility to know the rules and follow them,” Peck said.
In addition to adopting new sportfishing rules, the commission took action on several other issues:
- Summer chinook policy: The commission adopted a two-year policy for the Columbia River summer chinook fishery that allocates the state’s share of the harvest equally between recreational and commercial fishers below Priest Rapids Dam. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted similar policy, effective for three years, Feb. 10.
- Columbia license agreement: An agreement was approved between Washington and Oregon that allows anglers and crabbers with a resident fishing license from either state to fish anywhere in the mainstem of the Columbia River where the two states share a border. The agreement also applies to areas adjacent to the river’s mouth.
- Shark finning: The commission prohibited the practice of “shark finning,” which involves removing a shark’s fins – sometimes used to make soup – and throwing the carcass overboard.
- Ballast water: By July 1, operators of commercial vessels weighing 300 gross tons or more will be required to complete an interim ballast water management report. In that report, vessel operators must explain how they will comply with a new state ballast water law that goes into effect July 1, 2007.