Columbia River anglers who fish for salmon and steelhead will not be required to switch to barbless hooks next year, but state fishery managers are asking them to do it voluntarily.
“Going barbless only makes sense in these fisheries where we’re trying to maximize survival rates for released wild fish,” said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Anglers can play an important role in that effort by using barbless hooks.”
Anderson made his appeal to anglers after informing the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission of plans to delay a new rule – originally set to begin Jan. 1 – that would require anglers to use barbless hooks in salmon and steelhead fisheries from the mouth of the Columbia River to McNary Dam.
The Washington commission, which sets policy for WDFW, approved that requirement; the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission did not. Anderson said the prospect of having incompatible fishing regulations on a portion of the Columbia River jointly managed by the two states prompted him to delay the barbless rule for at least a year.
“The two states have worked together for nearly a hundred years to avoid conflicting fishing regulations that would create confusion for anglers on the Columbia River,” Anderson said. “Delaying the barbless rule is disappointing, but we’re going to continue to pursue it.”
Anderson noted that the border between Washington and Oregon – which determines which state’s fishing rules are in effect – is hard to define along the Columbia River. “Down near the mouth, about 90 percent of the river is in Oregon,” he said. “That changes as you move upriver.”
Anderson said barbless hooks, knotless nets and careful handling of released fish are all ways that anglers can contribute to recovery of wild salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River.
“Anything we can do to rebuild wild runs will ultimately help maintain or expand fishing opportunities for hatchery fish,” Anderson said. “We hope that all anglers will get behind that idea and voluntarily switch to barbless hooks.”