The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will accept public comments through Dec. 15 on a variety of proposed changes to the state’s fishing regulations, including one that would remove daily bag limits on nonnative fish species such as smallmouth bass and walleye that prey on imperiled native salmon and steelhead.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission would consider the proposed rule changes at its February meeting.
WDFW has scheduled six public meetings in October to discuss with the public the proposed rules, which would affect various fisheries around the state.
Printed copies of the proposals and comment forms are available by contacting WDFW’s Fish Program at 360-902-2672.
For more information go to:
The website includes information on proposed rules that WDFW fishery managers recommend move forward for further review and public comment, as well as information on proposals not recommended for further consideration.
Craig Burley, fish management division manager for WDFW, said people can submit comments by using a new online form available on the website.
“The ability to submit comments through the website is one of several changes we have made to the process to make it more user-friendly,” Burley said.
Three meetings were held this week in Spokane, Ephrata and Mill Creek. Three other public meetings will run from 6-8 p.m.:
-- Oct. 9 – WDFW’s Vancouver Office, 2108 Grand Blvd., Vancouver, Wash.
-- Oct. 10 – Montesano City Hall, 112 North Main Street, Montesano.
-- Oct. 11 – East Valley Fire Station, 2003 Beaudry Road Yakima, WA 98901, Yakima.
The public also will have an opportunity to provide testimony on the proposed rule changes during the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s January meeting in Olympia. Check the commission’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/) for the specific day and time.
The proposed rule changes would remove the daily catch limit for channel catfish and the daily catch and size limits for bass and walleye in portions of the Columbia and Snake rivers and their tributaries to assist with recovery efforts for salmon and steelhead.
A second option under that proposal would also remove existing limits for those fish, but restrict anglers to three bass larger than 15 inches in length and one walleye larger than 24 inches in length.
The proposed new bass and walleye regulations include Columbia waters upstream from McNary to Priest Rapids Dam, the Yakima River and its tributaries, the Snake River upstream to the Idaho-Washington border, the Yakima, Okanogan, Walla Walla, Palouse, Tucannon and Grande Ronde rivers in Washington.
The rule changes do not include portions of the lower Columbia River mainstem that Washington co-manages with the state of Oregon.
The idea is to “focus the harvest on the fish that are doing the most damage,” said Chris Donley, the WDFW’s inland fish program manager. Studies indicate that bass 15 inches long or smaller prey heavily on salmon and steelhead smolts, while larger bass look for bigger fish to fry. Likewise for walleye.
Donley said that federal, state, tribal and other stakeholders have made “tremendous investments” in habitat, harvest, hatchery and hydro system improvements to help boost the survival of ESA listed salmon and steelhead stocks.
“It would be irresponsible not to look at this as one of the factors” that are hindering salmon and steelhead recovery, Donley said.