Tag Archives: Inland Northwest Wildlife Council

Northwest Sportsmen’s, Boat Shows Take Center Stage

Winter days a great time to check out what’s new in fishing, hunting, find deals, get advice at shows around the region.

Along with the big antler racks, the gun raffle he signed up for and the guy with the sparky fire tool thingy, what caught the eye of my youngest son at the fishing and hunting show we attended last winter was a school of fish.

Walleye to be exact.

As a gaggle of anglers began to settle into their chairs by the massive fish tank ahead of the arrival of the next expert speaker, Kiran sidled up to a corner and a few of the bugeyed Midwestern transplants swam over to say hello.

KIRAN WALGAMOTT EYES UP THE DENIZENS OF WALLEYE ALLEY AT THE WASHINGTON SPORTSMEN’S SHOW IN PUYALLUP LAST YEAR. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

He’ll be able to renew his acquaintance with the fish as sportsmen’s show season kicks off in the Northwest, starting this weekend in Tri-Cities.

And surely 2019’s debut of the walleye tank is among the best new displays to come online in recent years as organizers look for ways to entice us hunters and anglers to take a day off work or come in on the weekend to see the sights.

Yes, that may seem in this day and age like a tough sell as we face low fish runs and harder hunting, but I find it invigorating to walk the aisles with fellow sportsmen, not to mention educational given all the seminars to take in.

And if I buy some new gear – expect to see hundreds of new products at some shows – a few scones and maybe book a trip along the way, all the better as I’m supporting our causes and keeping them strong and viable.

This winter features two dozen different shows in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and southwest British Columbia, with about half just an exit or three away on the I-5 corridor and many more in key Inland Northwest cities.

Here’s a quick look at what’s new and interesting at some of this year’s events:

THE AFOREMENTIONED WALLEYE tank was part of the Washington and Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Shows in Puyallup and Portland, and O’Loughlin Trade Shows’ Trey Carskadon called it a “huge hit last year and back again this year with big names.”

“Walleye Alley is an opportunity to learn the ins, outs and places to catch walleye in Washington state and the Columbia,” he says.

ANGLERS AWAIT THE NEXT SEMINAR AT THE WALLEYE ALLEY DURING A NORTHWEST SPORTSMEN’S SHOW LAST WINTER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Eastside guides Shane Magnuson and Austin Moser will be in heavy rotation on the tank, and the Midwest’s Johnny Candle will be on tap too.

Also returning in late January to Puyallup is the Outdoor Cooking Championship, where the lords of the grill and barbecue pit put their briskets, steaks and hamburgers head to head – or mouth to mouth, in this case – in competition for points in national and international cooking contests.

“It’s a big deal! Last year, we had no idea how big a deal it really was until we started tasting some of the samples – OMG!” gushes Carskadon.

The chefs will also be serving up cooking tips in seminars, joining an absolute plethora of regionally renowned anglers, guides and experts on stage –somehow, 40 hours worth of seminars are packed into each day!

“It’s a true parade of pros with names like Buzz Ramsey, Robert Kratzer, Del Stephens, Glen Berry, Dan Kloer, Johnnie Candle, Brett Stoffel, Terry Rudnick, Brad Hole, Tyler Hicks and many others,” says Carskadon.

FAMED NORTHWEST ANGLER BUZZ RAMSEY LEADS A SEMINAR ON TROUT AND STEELHEAD FISHING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Those last two gents – Hole and Hicks – will be at the Kayak Fishing Pavilion, exclusive to Puyallup, as angling out of the nimble craft continues to explode in the region and nationwide.

For they and other techy fishermen, there’s a seminar series at Puyallup and Portland in early February that should help new and longtime Garmin owners get the most out of their electronics. In terms of good old-fashioned, hands-on skills, expert Brett Stoffel will be giving advice on how to survive in the wild in case of emergency.

For the kids, local bow clubs Skookum Archers and Sylvan Archers members will be on hand for instruction at Puyallup and Portland, respectively, while the Baxter’s Kid’s Trout Pond is “a perennial favorite” at all three shows (the third, the Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show, is in Redmond, in mid-March), and one which annually yields fish up to 10 pounds.

“A little known fact: The uncaught fish at the end of the show are donated to a local food bank,” notes Carskadon.

Other fun stuff includes the “Fistful of Corkies” game, in which you dip into a bin of the drift bobbers from Yakima Bait, dump them in a cup and if one of those size 12s in fire tiger or whatever has a Toyota logo, fish on! you just won a prize.

“There are hundreds of incredible prizes like coolers, apparel, packs, socks, rods, camp gear and much more,” says Carksadon. “At the very least you’ll leave with a handful of Corkies – for free.”

You also stand a chance to win a gun safe, rifle, tools or boots from Fort Knox, Ruger, Gerber and Danner, among other prizes, via the Head and Horns Competition at all three shows. According to Carskadon, it doesn’t just have to be a critter you harvested last fall; it can be “one your great great uncle harvested a hundred years ago.”

(Speaking of a century ago, see the next page’s sidebar for what was at a 1924 sportsmen’s show in Seattle.)

Specific to Portland in early February is the Leupold VIP Movie Night, a first, and featuring “short hunting movies along with the celebrities that are in them.” At press time the lineup hadn’t fully been set, but Randy Newberg, the well-known public land hunter and advocate, was scheduled, and there will be raffles.

Fellow hunter Steven Rinella and several members of his show will be around for what’s being dubbed MeatEater Sunday “to celebrate this wonderful opportunity to learn how to prepare and cook all kinds of wild game.”

Portland’s own Maxine McCormick will also be holding fly rod casting seminars, representing “a rare opportunity to learn from the world’s best – not the world’s best teen or world’s best female flycaster, but the world’s best, period,” says Carskadon.

Also only in the Rose City, the Englund Marine Bait Rigging lab, with tips on setting up for tuna, halibut, Chinook and other top species from expert anglers, plus what’s known as “Retail Row,” part of what makes the Portland show so huuuuuuuuuuuuge.

Along with many of the same features as the other two O’Loughlin events, the Redmond show will see the new Sportsmen’s Cooking Competition, which organizers have high hopes for. You can also check out how fast of a draw you are for free and then clamber through hundreds of travel vehicles at what’s billed as “Central Oregon’s Largest RV Show.”

Info: otshows.com

THE AISLES MAY BE PACKED AT THE ANNUAL BOAT, FISHING AND HUNTING SHOWS, BUT IT’S ALWAYS WORTH CHECKING OUT NEW FEATURES AND PRODUCTS AT THE 20-PLUS EVENTS HELD EVERYWHERE FROM MEDFORD TO VICTORIA, PORTLAND TO BILLINGS. (SEATTLE BOAT SHOW)

ONE THOUSAND BOATS, 400-plus different exhibitors, 200 free seminars, nine full days, 3 acres worth of boat tech and gear, and two locations. Welcome to the 2020 Seattle Boat Show, slated again for late January into very early February.

Along with all the latest and greatest in fishing boats to drool over, the calling card for this mammoth show primarily held at the Emerald City’s CenturyLink Field Events Center is the huge number of fishing and crabbing seminars led by experts. I mean, if you’re going to have a boat, you should get some use out of it, right?!?

To that end, the Northwest Marine Trade Association, which puts on the show, annually puts together a stellar who’s who lineup of speakers, and this year’s is notable because it includes Del “Tuna Dog” Stephens. He’s one of the driving forces in offshore albacore angling since the fishery exploded earlier this millennium (last season saw Oregon’s sport catch of 100,000-plus destroy the old record). Stephens is on deck the afternoons of Jan. 30 and Feb. 1 to talk about the use of new technology for finding and catching tuna and albie fishing from A to Z, respectively.

DEL STEPHENS WILL LEAD TWO SEMINARS ON ALBACORE TUNA FISHING OFF THE NORTHWEST COAST AT THE UPCOMING SEATTLE BOAT SHOW. (DEL STEPHENS)

Fellow briny blue angler Tommy Donlin is coming back to touch on those fightingest fish in our Pacific waters, as well as halibut, lingcod and Chinook. In fact, salmon are a topic for many other speakers, including Nick Kester, Chris Long, Keith Robbins, Tom Nelson, Kent Alger, Austin Moser, Aaron Peterson and others.

A new speaker this year is Leland Miywaki, who came up with the Miyawaki Beach Popper and who will go deep on fly fishing the salt for coastal cuttroat trout – a wildly overlooked opportunity – and salmon.

And Larry Phillips will wave the flag for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife during presentations on coastal fisheries and a Q&A on the myriad issues the agency is dealing with.

Info: seattleboatshow.com

SPORTSMEN’S SHOWS OF YORE

The year was 1924. There wasn’t exactly a walleye tank on site and probably no seminar speakers either over in Tent 4, but that July did see Seattle’s second annual Sportsmen’s Show, held at the corner of 3rd and Blanchard, not far from the Pike Place Market.

While doing genealogy research last year, my mom discovered an article about the show in the July 12 edition of The Seattle Daily Times, where it was front-page, above-the-fold news.

One of the show’s anchors was the state Department of Game, which had a 15,000-square-foot exhibit with featured a “little brook” running between pens with wildlife, including 11 elk calves captured by “teacher-trapper” Dora Huelsdonk from the Hoh River country, as well as cutthroat and bass.

Along with a mammoth reproduction of Mt. Rainier and Snoqualmie Falls, there were also displays of old shotguns and ammo. That year’s show was set to run seven days and was open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. No word whether fire-starting trinkets were available for purchase, but the event was also a membership drive for the Seattle Sportsmen’s Club. –AW

COMING AGAIN TO Central Washington are a trio of shows in January and February, and among the highlights is the second annual Yakima Bait Yard Sale at the Sundome in Yakima, where you’ll find fishy lures and more at “ridiculously low prices,” according to Shuyler Productions

Between that venue and halls in Tri-Cities and Wenatchee, Northwest Big Game displays will be on tap, along with head and horns competitions and plenty of seminars from local experts like Wayne Heinz, Jerrod Gibbons, Jesse Lamb, Rob Phillips and others on bass, walleye, kokanee and others species.

If you’re looking for some ideas for cooking up your catches and kills, Richy Harrod of Harrod’s Cookhouse will be in the kitchen.

The young’ns can try their luck at North, West and South Lunker Lakes, if you will, at all three shows. The Valley Marine Kids Korner will be at each too. And at Yakima there’ll be a fun trout race on Saturday afternoon. I’d put five on Finny McFinface!

Shuyler reports that its first show of the season, the Tri-Cities Sportsmen’s Show at the HAPO Center (formerly TRAC), will also have an expanded arena that will feature boats, campers, trailers and more.

Info: shuylerproductions.com

AND THE GRANDDADDY shindig in our region, the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, will celebrate its 60th anniversary in mid-March, and organizers are making a renowned event even better.

“For the 2020 show we have added a second seminar room and many new outfitters and guides have joined,” reports Wanda Clifford of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.

A CHANCE TO GET YOUR LATEST BUCK OR BULL SCORED AS WELL AS DISPLAYS OF PAST TROPHIES AND STATE RECORDS ARE BIG DRAWS TO SPORTSMEN’S SHOWS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The Big Horn show might be best known for its big bucks and bulls competition – “how it all began,” INWC touts – and as always there will be certified Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young measurers on hand.

There’s also a trout fishing pond, gun raffle, shooting and archery ranges and other kid- and family-friendly things to do.

“The Reptile Man will be joining us for Saturday and Sunday, and Family Day [March 22] will bring free activities for the family,” adds Clifford.

For grown-up sportsmen and -women, ladies night is Friday with half-off drinks.

“We are bringing back our $8 entry off an adult ticket for Thursday, and our She Shed was so successful we are bringing in a Man Cave this year as a raffle item,” adds Clifford.

Info: bighornshow.com/info

For the full list of Northwest sportsmen’s and boat shows, go here.

Groups Urge Washington Lawmakers To Tap General Fund For WDFW

A broad range of fishing, hunting and other outdoor groups are calling on Washington lawmakers to fully fund WDFW through the General Fund and say that the license fee increase proposed by Governor Jay Inslee is “unlikely” to pass.

“Greater funding is needed to preserve and restore the Evergreen State’s fish and wildlife heritage, especially given growing challenges ranging from salmon and orca recovery to elk hoof disease, habitat loss and wolf management,” urges their letter, which came out this afternoon.

OUTDOOR SCENES FROM ACROSS WASHINGTON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT, ALL)

It was signed by 45 “outdoor leaders,” and the list includes the state board of Puget Sound Anglers; David Cloe of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council; Butch Smith of the Ilwaco Charter Association; Carmen Vanbianchi, board member of the Washington Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers; and Rich Simms, cofounder and board member of the Wild Steelhead Coalition.

“Hunting is what I live for,” said another, Rachel Voss, state chair of the Mule Deer Foundation and a Tieton resident. “Our game populations and experiences face countless challenges these days, and only a strong agency offers the chance of answering those challenges and passing on our hunting heritage.”

Many of the signatories like Voss have been working with WDFW on its chronic budget issues over the past couple years, and their letter follows today’s start of the short, 60-day session of the state legislature.

It also comes after fee bill failures in 2017 and 2019 led WDFW to ask Inslee to fill this year’s budget shortfalls with $26 million from the General Fund.

While the governor’s proposed supplementary spending plan does include $15.6 million in sales tax dollars, it also leans on a 15 percent across-the-board hike in the cost of fishing and hunting licenses to raise $7-plus million a year, along with another $1.5 million or so from a resurrected Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement.

The reintroduction of both of those fee packages was “unanticipated,” according to WDFW.

“A really good outcome for us coming out of 2020 is for the department’s budget to be stable,” said Nate Pamplin, WDFW policy director, late last week.

He hopes lawmakers book funding as ongoing instead of one time, which means the agency has to return year after year with hat in hand as costs mount.

Other signatories to the letter to state senators and representatives included Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest; Brad Throssell of the Washington Council of Trout Unlimited; Jason Callahan of the WA Forest Protection Association; Kevin van Bueren of the Methow Valley Fly Fishers; Sherry Penney of the Regional Fisheries Coalition; Greg Mueller of the Washington Trollers Association; and numerous birding, climbing, river and other groups.

They say that WDFW’s ability to perform its twin mandates of providing opportunities while conserving critters and habitat has been “put at significant risk by a structural deficit in the Department’s budget, where ongoing costs (like mandated payroll increases, Endangered Species Act requirements, and demand for outdoor opportunity from the state’s growing population) have been funded for only the initial year [2020] by onetime money.”

“The costs continue in later years. This exacerbates an agency budget that is still not restored from cuts dating to the 2008 recession. This deficit grows each biennium as onetime solutions temporarily fill the gap, only to expire and leave a larger hole,” they write.

2020 Northwest Boat And Sportsmen’s Show Schedule

Northwest sportsmen have a full season of boat, RV, fishing and hunting shows to attend this winter, with an event or two scheduled nearly every weekend somewhere in our region between early January and late March, and even a couple afterwards.

Here is the lineup:

Jan. 8-12 Portland Boat Show, Expo Center, Portland; otshows.com

Jan. 16-19 Tacoma RV Show, Tacoma Dome, Tacoma; otshows.com

Jan. 17-19 Great Rockies Sport Show, MetraPark ExpoCenter, Billings; greatrockiesshow.com

Jan. 17-19 Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show, HAPO (formerly TRAC) Center, Pasco; shuylerproductions.com

WALLEYE ARE AN INCREASINGLY POPULAR GAME FISH IN THE NORTHWEST AND WERE FEATURED IN A GIANT FISH TANK AT LAST WINTER’S O’LOUGHLIN TRADE SHOWS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Jan. 22-26 Washington Sportsmen’s Show, Washington State Fair & Events Center, Puyallup; otshows.com

Jan. 24-Feb. 1 Seattle Boat Show, CenturyLink Field Event Center, South Lake Union, Seattle; seattleboatshow.com

Jan 31-Feb. 2 Eugene Boat & Sportsmen’s Show, Lane Events Center, Eugene; exposureshows.com

Feb. 3-15 Spokane Valley Boat Show at Elephant Boys 2020, Elephant Boys, Spokane Valley; spokanevalleyboatshow.com

SEATTLE BOAT SHOW-GOERS INSPECT WATERCRAFT AT A PAST EVENT. (SEATTLE BOAT SHOW)

Feb. 5-9 First Annual Coeur d’Alene Boat Expo, Hagadone Marine Center, Coeur d’Alene; cdaboatexpo.com

Feb. 5-9 Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show, Expo Center, Portland; otshows.com

Feb. 5-9 Vancouver International Boat Show, BC Place, Granville Island; vancouverboatshow.ca

Feb. 14-16 Central Washington Sportsmen Show, SunDome, Yakima; shuylerproductions.com

Feb. 14-16 Douglas County Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show, Douglas County Fairgrounds, Roseburg, Ore.; exposureshows.com

EXPERT SEMINAR SPEAKERS ARE A HALLMARK OF ALL SPORTSMEN’S AND BOAT SHOWS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Feb. 14-16 Willamette Sportsman Show, Linn County Expo Center, Albany; willamettesportsmanshow.com

Feb. 15-16 The Fly Fishing Show, Lynnwood Convention Center, Lynnwood, Washington; flyfishingshow.com

Feb. 21-23 Jackson County Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show, Jackson County Expo, Medford; exposureshows.com

Feb. 21-23 The Wenatchee Valley Sportsmen Show, Town Toyota Center, Wenatchee; shuylerproductions.com

Feb. 21-23 Victoria Boat and Fishing Show, Pearkes Recreation Centre at Tillicum Mall, Victoria, British Columbia; victoriaboatshow.com

Feb. 22-23 Saltwater Sportsmen’s Show, Oregon State Fairgrounds, Salem; saltwatersportsmensshow.com

ATTENDEES OF THE SALTWATER SPORTSMEN’S SHOW IN SALEM INSPECT SHELLFISHING EQUIPMENT AT THE TWO-DAY MID-FEBRUARY EVENT. (SALTWATER SPORTSMEN’S SHOW)

March 5-8 The Idaho Sportsman Show, Expo Idaho, Boise; idahosportsmanshow.com

March 6-8 BC Sportsmen’s Show, TRADEX, Abbotsford, British Columbia; bcboatandsportsmenshow.ca

March 12-15 Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show, Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, Redmond; otshows.com

March 13-14 Northwest Fly Tyer & Fly Fishing Expo, Linn County Expo Center, Albany; nwexpo.com

March 19-22 Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds, Spokane; bighornshow.com

A CHANCE TO GET YOUR LATEST BUCK OR BULL SCORED AS WELL AS DISPLAYS OF PAST TROPHIES AND STATE RECORDS ARE BIG DRAWS TO SPORTSMEN’S SHOWS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

April 23-26 Mid-Columbia Boat & RV Show, Columbia Point Park & Marina, Richland, Washington; midcolumbiaboatshow.com

May 14-17 Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show, Port of Anacortes’ Cap Sante Marina, Anacortes, Washington; anacortesboatandyachtshow.com

WDFW Fee Hike Bills Get Support During Public Hearings, But Concerns Raised Too

Washington lawmakers heard arguments for and not-quite-fully-against on a pair of bills that would increase fishing and hunting license fees by 15 percent during public hearings held late this week.

While nobody spoke out directly in opposition to HB 1708 or SB 5692, a representative for the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and Northwest Marine Trade Association said the organizations were concerned about them.

“If I leave you with one message today, it is this is not about the money,” said Carl Burke. “We’ve always been willing to pay to play. However, we should not continually — consumptive users — be asked to provide more monies for less opportunity. It’s just that simple.”

He also said the industries needed predictable seasons and more effective inseason management to make decisions on how much inventory they should carry on their shelves and boat lots.

Poor ocean conditions in recent years have made managing salmon and steelhead fisheries very complex for WDFW.

NSIA AND NMTA LOBBYIST CARL BURKE SPEAKS BEFORE SENATORS DURING A PUBLIC HEARING ON A BILL THAT WOULD INCREASE FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSE FEES. (TVW)

And Burke spoke to policies being worked on by the Fish and Wildlife Commission and WDFW that he said put recovery of ESA-listed Columbia salmon runs at risk, a reference to fishery reforms that are now being reconsidered and which has directly led to another bill in the state legislature, SB 5617, which would phase out nontribal gillnets.

He said that lawmakers would be getting a letter more fully outlining NSIA’s and NMTA’s issues and promised to work collaboratively on the bills.


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“We want a well-funded department. We also want a department that is responsive to the public and the needs of the resource. I hope you will look within the budget and fee increase process to make the focus on improving recreational fishing opportunities,” Burke stated.

Scott Sigmon of the Coastal Conservation Association said his organization was officially signed in as “other,” and that CCA’s potential support was linked to increased hatchery production, tying recreational angling fees to recreational fisheries, better fisheries management, and banning nontribal gillnets in salmon waters.

But most of the testimony yesterday afternoon and this morning before the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks and House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committees, respectively, was in full support of the bills.

Tom Echols, representing the Hunters Heritage Council, said WDFW “deserves support of this bill since they haven’t had an increase since 2011.”

Since then, the agency’s budget has seen a growing “structural” deficit in which funding hasn’t kept up with all the things piled onto its plate.

Along with provisions benefiting youths and new sportsmen and -women, the bills include new licensing packages, including a Washington Sportsperson option, “which I will be buying,” said Echols.

It combines Hunt Washington (deer, elk, bear, cougar, small game, migratory bird permit and authorization, plus two turkey tags) and Fish Washington (combo fishing plus two-pole, Dungeness and Columbia endorsements) and would run $245.20, plus dealer fees.

The two options otherwise would run $172.64 and $72.56, pre fee.

While all individual licenses would go up in cost by 15 percent, thanks to Fish and Wildlife Commission concerns, anglers would only end up paying a maximum of $7 more, hunters $15 more.

A LEGISLATIVE ANALYSIS SHOWS HOW MUCH MORE INDIVIDUAL WDFW FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSES WOULD COST UNDER THE FEE INCREASE BILL. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

HHC’s support marks a reversal from 2017 when they were a “no” on that year’s fee hike proposal.

On the fishing side, Jonathan Sawin, skipper of the Cormorant and representing both the Westport and Ilwaco charter boat associations, said he supported the bills as written “so we can continue to have great fisheries on Washington waters.”

Bob Kratzer, vice president of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association and Forks-area salmon and steelhead guide, said that WDFW is “hamstrung” by budget issues when it comes to hatchery production and enforcement of fish and wildlife laws.

He said that he routinely goes to meetings and hears agency staffers say they don’t have enough money for this or that.

“It’s about time we gave them more money so they can afford it,” he said.

“It’s a new day, we have a new director, I’m willing to give that guy a shot,” said Kratzer.

MEMBERS OF THE CHOUSE RURAL DEVELOPMENT, AGRICULTURE, & NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE LISTEN AS REP. JOEL KRETZ ASKS A QUESTION DURING A HEARING ON A BILL THAT WOULD INCREASE FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSE FEES. (TVW)

When Jim Unsworth’s 2017’s fee increase bid went down in flames, legislators gave WDFW a $10 million General Fund bump but also “homework,” in new Director Kelly Susewind’s words, to review its management practices, perform a zero-based budget analysis and come up with a long-term funding plan.

Out off that came the Budget and Policy Advisory Group, and last week 13 member organizations sent lawmakers a letter urging them to boost WDFW’s budget sharply, with three-quarters of that coming from the General Fund and one-quarter from the proposed license increases.

“To succeed, the Department requires at least $60 million above its present funding (not including expected orca recovery needs), half to fix the shortfall created by the state legislature in the last biennium, and half to invest in the future by helping correct inequities and the damage caused by a decade of underfunding,” the letter stated.

Signees included critical fishing and hunting organizations such as Puget Sound Anglers, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Mule Deer Foundation and Ilwaco Charterboat Association, plus nine other conservation, fishing and environmental groups.

(They also asked for $12.9 million for fish and wildlife conservation and $4.2 million for habitat improvements, “the most underfunded components of the Department’s work,” to be included in WDFW’s operating budget.)

Others testifying in front of lawmakers on Thursday and Friday in favor of the fee bills included Bill Clarke of Trout Unlimited, who was a BPAG member and said it had been interesting to dig into WDFW’s finances.

“Many things have recovered since 2009 — price of housing, the stock market, Seahawks football, Husky football, etc. What’s not recovered is the department’s budget. Their general fund support is not recovered. They’ve had a modest increase, and that’s about it,” Clarke said.

TU also supported the 2017 proposal.

Also appearing before the legislative committees to voice their support were Jen Syrowitz of the Washington Wildlife Federation, Lucas Hart of the Northwest Straits Commission and Aaron Peterson of the Regional Fisheries Coalition.

The bills would also allow the Fish and Wildlife Commission to make small increases to license fees to account for inflation starting two years from now, and Clarke noted that with other state oversight boards already having such authority it made sense for WDFW’s to as well.

Still, Randy Leduc, an avid Centralia angler and CCA member, did express concern that that role would move from the legislature’s bailiwick to the commission.

The House version of the bill was dropped by Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat.

I’m happy to sponsor the bill and bring it forward. I think there’s been a rigorous process going through the agency’s budget,” Blake said in speaking in support of it.

Still, you could hear the worry from his fellow South Coast representative, Jim Walsh, an Aberdeen Republican.

Walsh asked, would he hear complaints afterwards from his constituents about the fee hike if he supported it?

WDFW’s Susewind could only say that yes, he would, as we sportsmen are just generally against higher prices, but that the agency is responsive to concerns about paying more for less.

“We hear that loud and clear. We’re committed to working on it, continue working on it. Frankly, in order to provide sustainable or hopefully improving opportunities, we really need an adequately funded agency to do that and so that’s what we will put a lot of this money towards is trying to provide that,” Susewind said. “But there will always be people who don’t support a fee. I would be foolish to say otherwise.”

The fee increase bills have a long, long, long way to go before they go into effect. They must be approved and reconciled by representatives and senators and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee. If they are, the hikes and license package options would go become effective 90 days after this legislative session ends, scheduled for April 28 but later is always possible if recent years are any indication.

Editor’s notes: To read the actual fee hike bills, go here and here. For what the hell it all means in plainer English, nonpartisan legislative analysis of the bills are available here and here. And to view the TVW broadcasts of both committees’ public hearings on the bills, go here and here.