State Fish and Wildlife officials are mulling over some sportfishing rules for 2010-2012 that could affect some places you fish, and are looking for public input on them.
State Fish and Wildlife will accept written comments on more than 100 proposals through Dec. 1.
Among them is a recently added proposal that would close fishing for bottomfish and halibut off the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. The proposed closure, which would extend 1.5 miles offshore and stretch about four miles from Cape Flattery east to Neah Bay, would provide additional protection for bottomfish and halibut in the area while establishing a world-class destination for divers.
Other conservation measures within the package of proposed sportfishing rules would:
Prohibit the harvest of all species of “unclassified” marine fish and invertebrates – such as blennies, tide pool sculpins, starfish, sand dollars and shorecrabs – which can either be found on Washington’s beaches or in nearshore waters. The proposal does not prohibit collecting empty shells from any species.
Develop a set of protective measures for rockfish, including prohibiting retention of rockfish in Marine Areas 6 through 13 and closing the retention of bottomfish in waters deeper than 20 fathoms in Marine Areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line) through 13.
Close fishing seasons that allow retention of hatchery-reared steelhead a month earlier on a stretch of the Skagit River and two weeks earlier on portions of several other north Puget Sound rivers including the Pilchuck, Raging, Skykomish, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Stillaguamish, Nooksack and north, south and middle Nooksack rivers, as well as Pilchuck creek. All of those rivers would close to retention of hatchery steelhead at the end of the day on Feb. 15 under proposals designed to further efforts to conserve and restore Puget Sound wild steelhead, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Prohibit the retention of wild steelhead on the Green (Duwamish), Pysht and Hoko rivers. The proposals are designed to protect wild steelhead on the three rivers, where wild runs have recently been in decline.
Move the annual opening date for wild steelhead retention on coastal streams to Feb. 16. Changing the starting date – currently Dec. 1 – on those streams where wild steelhead retention is allowed would help protect the early portion of the run.
Require the use of single-point, barbless hooks for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River from the mouth of the river to McNary Dam. Requiring the use of single-point, barbless hooks would make it easier for anglers to release fish that cannot be retained.
Close fisheries on a significant number of small streams that drain into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the rest of Puget Sound to protect juvenile anadromous fish. The proposal also calls for the department to list in the sportfishing rules pamphlet all those rivers and streams along the Strait and Puget Sound that would be open for fishing, rather than noting those that are closed.
Change the maximum size limit for retaining lingcod from 40 inches to 36 inches in Marine Areas 5 through 11 and 13. The proposal, designed to protect female lingcod that mature at larger sizes than males, would establish a 26-inch minimum and 36-inch maximum size limit on lingcod for anglers and spearfishers in those marine areas.
Prohibit anglers from using lead weights weighing less than half an ounce or lead jigs measuring less than 1.5 inches while fishing at 13 lakes where common loons breed. The intent of the proposal is to protect common loons from ingesting small lead fishing gear lost by anglers – a major cause of loon mortality in Washington.
Other proposed sportfishing rules include:
Changing the harvest schedule for Dungeness crab from Wednesdays through Saturdays to Fridays through Mondays in Marine Areas 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10, 11 and 12. The proposal also would reduce the daily limit of Dungeness crab in all areas of Puget Sound from five to four, allowing WDFW to provide crabbing opportunities on Saturdays and Sundays without quickly exceeding harvest targets.
A revised list of waters where a Columbia River Endorsement will be required, along with a fishing license, for adult salmon and steelhead anglers on the Columbia River and its tributaries. The revision also changes the date the endorsement will be required from Jan. 1, 2010, to April 1, 2010.
Opening Marine Area 5 to spearfishing for rockfish. The proposed retention rules for spearfishers would be the same as those for anglers fishing for rockfish with a hook and line in Marine Area 5.
Comments can be submitted by mail to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Rules, Coordinator Lori Preuss at Lori.Preuss@dfw.wa.gov or 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501.
That new proposed rules are available on the Web site at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/rule_proposals/index.htm. Printed copies of the proposals are available by calling 360-902-2700.
In addition, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the proposals at its Dec. 4-5 meeting in Olympia. Written testimony can also be submitted during that meeting.