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


chaveecha said...

"it is incumbent upon the state to provide catch and release fishing opportunities for wild steelhead when possible"

Really? That opinion is highly suspect. Just because you and I are compelled to harass wildlife doesn't make it right. I submit that C&R for wild steelhead is a morally bankrupt platform. C&R is a convenient management tool, allowing fish managers to provide opportunity at lower risk to wild populations. But providing opportunity to harass wildlife seems like a form of mass insanity to me.

And the tired claim that a river needs anglers as "friends" is just as suspect. Anglers, as a class of human, are greedy dirt bags. In my limited experience, those unusual anglers who are truly dedicated to the protection of rivers and fish do not become less committed when rivers are closed to angling.

It pains me to see the glaring conflict of interest so endemic in our fish-management system carried over into this conservation community. But I know I'm fighting human nature on these points.


Osprey said...

you are certainly entitled to your opinion on angling but the fact is, "fishing opportunity" is very clearly outlined in WDFW's mandate.

chaveecha said...

And when conservation-minded anglers side with the "opportunity" argument, we serve to maintain the conflict of interest inherent in the current regime.

"Opportunity" is the buzz word for the takers, the hatchery addicts, and the money grubbers. I fear that NW fly anglers are unwittingly falling into step with these jagoffs.

Osprey said...

sometimes to get through you've got to speak the same language. you know better than most that we harbor no love for the status quo. how would you propose we change our system of management to better avoid the conflict of interest?

chaveecha said...

Specifically with regard to Puget Sound rivers, where there has been an long-standing and bitter power struggle between the fly and gear sects, it seems to me the "c&r opportunity" argument has been proven to fail. It undermines the very principles of conservation and has given local fly anglers the stigma of hypocrisy, in my opinion. I think managers sense the hypocrisy and have acted accordingly.

In a nutshell, I believe the fight for wild rivers needs to be taken well beyond the hypocritical and divided angling community and moved to center stage (WWF, Audubon, etc.). Opportunity should not be our goal, or if it is, it should be understood it's a long-term goal to be realized if/when populations are healthy and stable. But wildlife harrassment cannot be part of the game if we want the larger forces of wildlife defenders on our side.

We need to defend rivers and wildlife for their intrinsic value, not for their sport value.

From that platform, an effort to eliminate the conflict of interest inherent in state F&W agencies can really be undertaken. These agencies all need to be restructured so that angling opportunity is always in the backseat, and sound population management is squarely in front.

Pie in the sky? So I'm told, but I believe it could happen with top-flight leadership and a dedicated, long-term strategy. I'm up for the fight, but could never be the leader that such an effort would require. Not sure that person has been born. Yet.