Columbia River alternative gear

Work on developing alternative commercial fishing gears has been underway for about the last 20 years, but current WDFW efforts are directed by Policy C-3630, adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in September 2020. Alternative gear implementation could provide more tools to harvest hatchery fish while assisting with achievement of conservation objectives.

Current work

Emerging Commercial Fishery Rulemaking: In early 2021, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind directed staff to designate an "emerging commercial fishery" for multiple alternative gears in the Columbia River -- the beach seine, purse seine, and pound net -- to better inform the commercial potential of these alternative gears in the river. As of June 22, 2022, the draft rule and other associated documents are posted for review and comment by the public. 

Alternative commercial fishing gears

Tangle nets

Tangle net illustration

Tangle nets are small-mesh nets that entangle the target fish to minimize injury instead of catching them by their gills. Tangle nets have low encounters of non-target steelhead due to the specific times and areas they are fished, along with the method of entangling fish. Because of this, it works well for spring Chinook and coho.

Seine nets

Purse seine illustration

A deep line of small-mesh net is circled around a school of fish and the fish are corralled in the water so they can be sorted. Beach and purse seines generally have low mortality rates when fish that are accidentally caught are released, yet catch a large proportion of the fish in a fishing area.

Pound nets

Pound net illustration

A pound net consists of net attached to several pilings driven into the river bottom in a line perpendicular to the river flow. Fish swim along the net to a trap midstream, where they can be sorted and either released or harvested. This gear is still being tested for its potential commercial use.

Additional Resources

Columbia River test fishing - data on pound net test fisheries conducted each fall from 2018 to 2020

 Presentation to the Oregon and Washington Policy Review Committee on Columbia River fishing gear selectivity and mortality rates, July 28, 2021

Columbia River Commercial Pound Net presentation to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, April 7, 2022

Relevant RCWs and WACs 

RCW 77.50.030 – Current regulations for salmon fishing gear
RCW 77.65.400 – Designation of a fishery as an emerging commercial fishery
WAC 220-360-030 – Formation of our Alternative Gear Advisory Board