Olympia – At its next regular meeting in February, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will hear public testimony and consider a proposal that would allow anglers with permanent disabilities to their upper extremities reasonable access to waters designated fly fishing-only.
The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 9 and 10 at the Best Western Southcenter, 15901 West Valley Road, Tukwila. The exact time the issue will appear on the agenda is still to be set; check the agency's web site for details later this month or call the Commission office at (360) 902-2267.
Current fishing regulations allow only fly-fishing gear, which typically requires two hands and mobility, to be used in waters designated as "fly fishing-only." There are 20 waters in Washington designated for fly fishing-only. Under current regulations, anglers with disabilities cannot effectively take advantage of the opportunities these waters provide. Allowing anglers with disabilities use of spinning gear to fish on these waters will provide them access to these opportunities, because spin gear may be operated with one hand.
The issue was raised this past fall when an angler with a permanent disability protested changing North Silver Lake in Spokane County to a fly fishing-only water, contending that restrictions on fly fishing gear limit his ability to fish in fly fishing-only water. Subsequent discussions between the angler, USFWS, the state Attorney General's Office and the WDFW resulted in an agreement to modify the agency's fly fishing-only definition.
Commissioners are expected to take testimony, then discuss and decide on the proposed regulation change. The proposed rule would allow anglers with the inability to use one or both upper extremities to apply for a fly-fishing special use permit by presenting a letter from a physician.
The fisher would be issued a special use permit in the form of a letter, which he or she would be required to carry while using spin-casting gear in fly fishing-only waters.
Gear regulations with the special permit would include:
- Spin-casting gear with a casting bubble would be allowed.
- Monofilament line with no limit on the breaking strength of the line would be allowed.
- The leader beyond the bubble could not exceed 15 feet in length or have a breaking strength greater than 12 pounds.
Hook size and barb restrictions, fly fishing requirements and bait and weight prohibitions would not change.
For more information on the proposal, contact Bob Gibbons, WDFW's manager of inland and anadromous fish, at (360) 902-2329.