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Northwest Sportsman Magazine

Unusual New Salmon Fishing Rule For The Samish This Season

Samish River salmon anglers, you will get to decide if you continue to fish for Chinook and coho in mid- and late September.

It is totally up to you.

Clean river banks, an orderly fishery and attention to posted lands means the North Sound stream stays open and hatchery salmon keep hitting your barbecues  and smokehouses.

But if the wardens’ pens run dry, tackle packaging and Fido doots sully the shores, and boot tracks stomp behind no-trespassing signs, like they have in recent seasons, it will be a no-go.

It’s a new approach WDFW is taking this year with the lower Samish, which has become a headache for fish and wildlife officers and fishery biologists.

A couple weeks ago we wrote about the problems in a blog entitled Between a rock and hard place on a very muddy river.

As part of the annual salmon-season-setting process earlier this month, agency staffers were trying to figure out a solution.

Just increase commercial netting out in Samish Bay to reduce the number of salmon that even make the Samish and thus reduce sport angling usage?

Get draconian and pinch things off without more warning?

Or give anglers one last chance?

It appears that that last one is the path forward.

This year’s salmon regulations for the Northwest Washington stream will feature a very unusual caveat.

The first part will be pretty standard — open August through early September, daily limit two, only fish hooked inside the mouth can be kept, single-point hooks only, night closure, typical stuff.

But the second will say something along these lines about continued fishing this fall:

Salmon fishery may reopen pending an evaluation of angler behavior, regulation compliance, littering, and trespassing.

It’s never been done before. Usually if there’s any question about a fishery when WDFW prints the regs in early spring, it’s something like “pending inseason return update” or whatever, not dependent on how we treat the opportunity and landscape.

Who knows, maybe with this year’s predicted abundance of snappy pink salmon in the salt and local rivers at roughly the same time, pressure on the Samish will disperse elsewhere and it will be a nonissue.

Either way, legitimate anglers who want to continue harvesting the bounty of the Samish should step up to keep their fishery from being trashed — then closed.

For good if this doesn’t work.

14 comments to Unusual New Salmon Fishing Rule For The Samish This Season

  • Michael McCullough

    Love it……the people that fish the Samish aren’t real fishermen anyways. Mostly a bunch of snaggers even with the new regs imposed in recent years they still find a way around them. Plus there is never enough of a presence of WDFW personel on the river to enforce regulations. The landowners at the mouth of the river shouldn’t really complain anyways since they charge outrageous fees to fish on their property. As far as being on private property, the landowners have made several access points unusable, because of some of the “quality” anglers that used the areas. I personally only fished the Samish just to get one hen king each fall and then would not go back. Plus why not shut it down for fishing for salmon anyways, WDFW has already basically shut it down for steelhead fishing and cutthroat fishing during the best times for both.

    • Andy Walgamott

      In my original blog I outlined what can lead to a seeming lack of WDFW LE presence on the Samish. It may be worth repeating:

      Many anglers don’t like what’s going on on the Samish.
      But when they report what they see it can seem like WDFW doesn’t give a rat’s ass.
      That’s because, says my source, the thin green line is not only stretched in late summer and early fall with other fishing and hunting seasons to police — this year, add in humpies — but when they check Samish anglers, some have to be hauled off to jail for warrants or whatnot.
      I’m told that occurs as often as one in five contacts.
      That takes the officer away from the river for several hours and makes it seem like nobody’s around.
      Then there’s the sheer numbers of anglers — as many as 1,000 salmon-seekers have been counted on the lower end in a day.
      Even when the state has had a half a dozen wardens working it, there still are calls from outraged ethical anglers wondering where the hell they were all day.
      They’re there, writing up tickets — as many as 100 a day under the Highway 99 bridge alone.
      The noncompliance rate, according to my source, is staggering, so high it’s embarrassing.
      The tickets flood the county prosecutor’s office, which can’t deal with it all. A bunch were thrown out, I’m told.
      The problem is also one of interpretation. Ethical anglers may use certain tactics which they honestly feel are completely legit, but aren’t according to WDFW’s judgement of how the gear fishes underwater.
      Now they’re branded as flossers, snaggers, leaving them with a distaste for the agency.

  • Jason Brooks

    Being a Skokomish fisherman (eggs under a bobber…we did an article on it a while back) I like the “idea” of the Samish rule…BUT, has WDFW just opened a Pandora’s Box of sorts? Who determines the “amount” of misuse and abuse…since there aren’t enough gamies to observe the activity will reports be relied upon as a determining factor? If so, then the anti’s could easily flood WDFW with false reports or mis-understood reports (like someone trying to take off a shirt and pulling down their waders to do so and it looks like their doing something else). This gives anti’s another way to push WDFW into a less than game management agency and into a anti-fishing/hunting corner.

    Land owners who want to shut down the fishery could also exagerate violations to get the river shut down…or any other special interest groups for that matter.

    Will this cause ethical fisherman to not report violations in fear that it will shut down the fishery? Think about it, if the WDFW gets a certain amount of calls per day/week/season on violations but can’t respond to them due to manpower issues will this be used to determine the season closure…then what if your the one that makes that call that pushed it to be closed and now you can’t fish it yourself…this rule might cause ethical fisherman to “turn a blind eye” of sorts.

    Plus this “rule” already exists…at least in hunters ed they teach “sportsman’s ethics” and such other rules like behavior in city/county parks could be extended to state public lands.

    Personally, I like the idea of a special use punch card for that specific river, alow 5 punches per year and no more than one card issued per season per angler at a cost of $5…(that’s a dollar a fish). Also, if it’s a hatchery fish then it must be bonked and punched…regardless of where it was hooked (keep in mind snagging rules still apply if someone is actively snagging) since salmon are classified as food fish, not game fish in the regs. 1 fish daily limit and the crowds will thin due to limit being reached and must stop fishing…this would work on the Skokomish too.

    Okay, enough about my suggestions…back to the new “rule”…I’m concerned for the resource, including our opportunities…and how our activities will be determined under this new “rule”…who is the moderator and how will they be influenced…

    Jason Brooks

  • John Bihon

    After reading some of these comments I can only say you guys are a bunch of pothedic idiots …most people who fish the samish clean up after themselves …and to call everyone a snaggin whatever SOB just peesses me off … Alot of people have no where else to fish …Thank the great state of washington …Samish fishery mostly consists of HATCHERY CHINOOK and I personally could careless how they are caught …if they were wild fish i could see the point ..catch them all – club them in the head AND EAT THE SOB !! pEOPLE PAY TO FISH SO LET THEM FISH .I find it kinda fun to fish the samish …good place to catch fish ..thats what it is all about …PEOPLE CATCHING FISH BECAUSE THEY PAYED FOR IT !! Same bullsheet happening with the skagit …give us a sockeye season one year and the next year do not give it back …then you have NATIVE STEELHEAD BEING CAUGHT BY NETS BUT GIVE A KID A TICKET FOR HOLDING ONE OUT OF THE WATER !!! THEY CAN KISS MY ——-!! sORRY but I am american and its my job to beach !!!!!!

  • Fishman x3

    I have had my best years on this fishery, had to share, oh well, that is where the opportunity is. The land owners really do want to get rid of us, that is why the access fee was so high. We payed it to keep fishing here period. Not sure what I will fish this year, but I hope it stays open, bonk one for me.

  • fishslayer

    I have fished samish back when both sides were free. I was first fishing with eggs then switched to jigs. Every one on that river uses jigs.even one the land owners side. I have never kept a snagged fish. I feel washington fish and wildlife is just trying to find a way to charge us more money to fish. There is a note now saying that they will be charging $5.00 per person now on AUGUST 16 till when ever. I think this is [expletive deleted]. The people who does not snagg should not be punished for those who do.

    • Andy Walgamott

      Agreed, those who do it fair and square shouldn’t be punished because of the actions of others. The note — is that from WDFW or a landowner?

  • Eric

    I grow up fishing Samish river for many years. This fishing was great opportunities a place for everyone fishing. Right now I was just confused where we could fishing in Samish river. We all need a salmon for our family BBQ.

    thank you very much to read this letter

  • Osprey

    I agree that WA State is going overboard in regulating the sportsman fisheries and the Samish is one of the worst.

    The Samish is a combat meat fishery with planted kings. Better to limit the number of fish harvested per angler than waste the court’s time over method violations. Who cares if the fish are snagged? It’s not a sport fishery, it’s a meat fishery!

    As far as the private landowners frustration with litterbugs, they can either prohibit access, have it policed, or clean it up and shut up. I don’t like people trashing the place either and I’m grateful for access, but those are the choices.

    Again, I think it would be wiser and more fair to monitor how many kings are being taken. Every year I see the same few guys taking 1-2 dozen fish for themselves. How many kings does a guy need? Let’s share, play fair, and keep this great fishery going.

    And don’t get me started about netting out in the bay. If it were up to me, there would be no netting allowed from Neah Bay inland and none in the rivers ever! Too few salmon to support native and commercial fishing.

    Just hope the state doesn’t screw this for all of us. Aren’t they supposed to be working for taxpayers? Don’t we pay and go through enough nonsense for the privilege to enjoy catching fish? If the runs were better managed there would be plenty of fish to go around and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    - O

  • Bob Venters

    Some of the commenters have the testicles of a tiger to call all that fish the Samish “Snaggers”. I have fished the Samish for the past 5 years or so and the group I fish with are among the most “to the book” fishermen I have fished among. The type fishing that is done in the Samish requires it and it is tough to be among the combat fishermen and women, and violate ANY regulations because they will be sure to remind you IF they suspect or see anything or anyone doing something that would be illegal or would place their fishing the Samish at risk. I have seen the video I call offensive as hell because it calls or infers that anyone who uses jigs…snaggers. This is a LEGAL method of fishing and is effective, which is why it is used, along with the other methods of bobber fishing etc and using spoons or spinners. Why screw over the legal fishermen and women who are VERY cognizant of the fragile eco system there, and are assistants to the game dept because they are there to remind anyone who violates any rules of the area, the State or the owners rules. If the state wants to stop the “snagging” and the other illegal activities going on PATROL IT and cite the offenders. I have fished many places and there is alot of BLATANT ILLEGAL activity out there, that is worthy of the Dept of Wildlife attention, and would generate revenue for the state. Leave the legal fishermen and women alone.

  • Michael Frye

    THE ONLY PERSON I HAVE EVER SEEN ON THIS RIVER THAT KNEW HOW TO FISH, WAS MYSELF. I CAST SPINNERS, FLY FISH AND FISH EGGS UNDER A FLOAT. JIGS DONT CATCH SALMON. IDIOTS THAT CAST A JIG OUT AND STILL FISH WHILE THE JIG IS COVERED IN MUD ON THE BOTTOM ARE DOING NOTHING BUT FLOSSING OR SNAGGING. SALMON WILL NEVER BITE A JIG ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY CANT SEE IT BECAUSE IT SANK IN MUD ON THE BOTTOM. I WISH I WERE A FISHERIES OFFICER. I WOULD WRITE TICKETS TO EVERY JIG FISHERMAN. THE STATE NEEDS TO MAKE THIS RIVER SO THAT THE ONLY WAY IT CAN BE FISHED IS TO USE LURES WITH A STEADY RETRIEVE OR FLOATING EGGS UNDER A FLOAT OR FLY FISHING. ANYONE CAUGHT FISHING ANY OTHER WAY OR WITH ANY OTHER TACKLE SHOULD BE CITED AND REMOVED FROM THE RIVER. I STOPPED FISHING THIS RIVER ABOUT 5 YEARS AGO BECAUSE OF ALL THE IDIOTIC FAKE FISHERMAN THAT ACTUALY THINK THE FISH ARE BITING THEIR JIGS. WHAT A JOKE.

  • Charles Smith

    Back in 1962 we could catch salmon thru out Puget sound around fort Lewis. I just moved to blaine from eastern WA., Looking forward to doing some salmon fishing. I’d be happy to land just one salmon. Looking at the rule book you can not find any place on Puget sound open for Salmon. Finally Thru some hear say I find the Samish may afford an opportunity. Nope now I hear the Water is closed. We pay good money to go fishing for what? All I hear is tickets being issued. Is the river open or closed. dicussed 81 year old angler?

    • Andy Walgamott

      The Samish remains open: WDFW PR — Samish River salmon fishery extended with warning to anglers

      OLYMPIA – With the peak of the Samish River chinook salmon run fast approaching, state fishery managers have agreed to extend the Skagit County fishery from Sept. 9 through Nov. 30.

      The strong run of 47,000 hatchery-raised chinook salmon expected to return to the river this year should have made that decision easy, said Annette Hoffmann, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

      A tougher assessment was whether anglers fishing the river are heeding the department’s warnings about illegal snagging, trespassing on private property, littering and other unacceptable behavior, Hoffmann said. Those issues have been a problem for a number of years, she said.

      In response, WDFW made the second half of the Samish River salmon season subject to changes in anglers’ behavior.

      “We have seen greater compliance in some areas, but there’s still room for improvement,” Hoffmann said about this year’s fishery. “We don’t want to punish anglers who act responsibly and follow the rules, but the length of this season still depends on our ability to maintain an orderly fishery.”

      WDFW Enforcement Captain Mike Hobbs said enforcement officers will continue to patrol the area as long as the fishery remains open.

      “We expect anglers on any river, not just the Samish, to respect the fishing rules, landowners and other anglers on our state’s waterways,” Hobbs said.

      In another effort to reach anglers, the department produced a four-minute video – which has received more than 1,300 views – outlining the issues on the Samish and explaining how to catch chinook salmon legally and effectively. It is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwGiaKCVHHE .

      The daily limit on the Samish is two salmon per day, which may only be retained if they are legally hooked in the mouth. A night closure is in effect, and only one single-point hook is allowed.

  • Jeff Hawkes

    What ? Open it up to nets ? Look what happened on the Skagit with the chum in less than 2 yrs they were gone ! A staple for fledgling eagles… Gone. I would guess the answer to anything else but I know the answer to that question wouldn’t be nets.

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