Tuesday, December 27, 2011
WDFW Rule Change Proposals
In October WDFW released proposed a list of rule changes to be implemented in the 2012-2013 fishing season. Among the proposals is the permanent adoption of the February 1st closure of Puget Sound Rivers, and the shortening of seasons on several Southwest Washington River systems. In the Willapa Bay region these closures are not a reflection of unhealthy fish populations but rather a lack of escapement goals that are based on the true productive potential of the river systems. While we support cautious management of wild steelhead, we also believe it is incumbent upon the state to provide catch and release fishing opportunities for wild steelhead when possible. Around the state escapement goals range from absurdly high to dangerously low and there is a glaring need for WDFW to adopt a statewide protocol for determining escapement goals and statewide fishing seasons based on this data. In areas where populations are ESA listed such as Puget Sound, WDFW should work collaboratively with NOAA to develop a list of criteria that would allow the opening of selective regulations, catch and release fisheries and monitor populations to ensure that these criteria are being met.
WDFW operates under the false assumption that simply closing sport fisheries will allow wild steelhead populations to recover, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sport fishing has an undeniable impact on wild fish, however it has a comparably small impact particularly when managed under selective regulations for catch and release. Under these conditions the risk posed by sport fisheries is reduced significantly and there is no justification for closing fishing in rivers where wild steelhead populations have been stable for the decades. In instances where populations of wild steelhead are deemed so fragile that they can no longer sustain catch and release fishing for wild steelhead WDFW should also work actively to eliminate other impacts by curtailing hatchery operations, and banning the use of bait all year. With fishing opportunities dwindling around the state we should demand leadership from WDFW that ensures catch and release sport fishing opportunities in areas where it does not pose an undue conservation risk.
Please take a minute to write WDFW and tell them to protect sport fishing opportunity for steelhead by adopting a statewide protocol for determining escapement goals and fishing seasons, and not to close steelhead fishing in areas where populations are stable and have consistently met these escapement goals.
Comments can be submitted before December 30th to WDFW’s rule coordinator at:
Or by mail
WDFW Rules Coordinator Lori Preuss
600 Capitol Way N.
Olympia, WA, 98501