WDFW Commission Liberalizes Bass, Etc., Daily Limits On 77 Lakes

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission made decisions on several fishing rule proposals and a land transaction at their Dec. 13-14 meeting in Bellingham. The commission also heard updates on Southern Resident Killer Whales, Baker Lake and Skagit River sockeye fishery management, hatchery reform, non-toxic ammunition, and Columbia River salmon policy.

WASHINGTON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS INCREASED THE BAG LIMIT ON LARGEMOUTH BASS THIS SIZE ON 77 LAKES FROM FIVE TO TEN A DAY IN RESPONSE TO THE STATE LEGISLATURE’S DIRECTIVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT SALMON SMOLT PREDATION AND INCREASING CHINOOK, COHO, STEELHEAD AND OTHER FISH AVAILABILITY FOR ORCAS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

On Friday, the commission approved a 1.8-acre land acquisition for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in Asotin County. The property will be donated by Larry and Marilou Cassidy, as an addition to the Snyder Bar Water Access Area, located in the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area. The new addition will improve public access for fishing and boating.

WDFW fishery managers briefed the commission on the department’s proposals to simplify forage fish, marine fish, and shellfish sport fishing rules. The commission adopted the department’s recommendations to modify rule language to be more concise and consistent with other regulations. More details on these changes are available on WDFW’s fishing rule simplification webpage.

The commission also approved regulation updates to simplify sturgeon fishing rules and improve conservation efforts. Rule changes include expanding spawning sanctuary areas in the Columbia River, shifting retention fisheries upstream of McNary Dam to catch-and-release only, closing night fishing for sturgeon in the Chehalis River, and defining oversize sturgeon as fish larger than 55 inches fork length. More details are available on WDFW’s sturgeon fishing rules webpage.

In addition, WDFW staff provided an update on the Joint State Columbia River Salmon Fishery Policy Review Committee’s work to recommend possible revisions to the Columbia River Salmon Management Policy. The commission asked the director to present information in January 2020 about the delegation of authority and to contact the director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss possible options for fisheries in 2020.

The committee expects to hold additional public meetings in early 2020, with a possible recommendation to both Oregon and Washington commissions in spring 2020. Information and materials from previous meetings are available on the joint policy review committee webpage.

On Saturday, fishery managers briefed the commission on Baker Lake sockeye salmon management following poor returns in the last several years. WDFW staff provided updates on the harvest shares from the 2019 season and reviewed the department’s efforts to address management challenges, which focused on prioritizing Baker Lake sockeye harvest equity in the 2020 North of Falcon salmon season-setting process.

“We couldn’t have had better public testimony to illuminate the different perspectives on the Baker Lake sockeye salmon fishery,” said Ron Warren, fish policy director for WDFW. “Baker Lake is a beautiful and popular fishery that we want Washingtonians to continue to enjoy.”

Finally, fishery managers presented six options to liberalize limits on bass, walleye, and channel catfish in select waters throughout the state, a requirement passed by the state Legislature this spring as part of House Bill 1579. The bill’s intent was to implement task force recommendations to benefit the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population by increasing salmon availability.

WDFW conducted six months of public engagement on the proposal to change rules for bass, walleye, and channel catfish fishing, which included five public meetings around the state. After reviewing public feedback, 72% of comments supported a warmwater species rule change to reduce the risk of predation on salmon smolts.

All six options presented to the commission include removing size and daily limits on rivers. The options varied in the number of affected lakes, size limits, and daily limits. WDFW staff recommended “Option B” which would affect 77 lakes around the state containing bass, walleye, or channel catfish, and have public access.

The commission supported WDFW’s recommendation and adopted “Option B2”, which includes changes to size and daily limits of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and walleye in 77 lakes around the state:

  • Largemouth bass: Change from 5 to a 10-fish daily limit; only one fish may be over 17 inches.
  • Smallmouth bass: Change from 10 to a 15-fish daily limit; only one fish may be over 14 inches.
  • Channel catfish: Change from a 5 to a 10-fish daily limit.
  • Walleye: Change from 8 to a 16-fish daily limit; only one fish may be over 22 inches.

A recording of the Dec. 13 meeting is available at https://player.invintus.com/?clientID=2836755451&eventID=2019121001 and the Dec. 14 meeting is available at https://player.invintus.com/?clientID=2836755451&eventID=2019121002.

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