A man has allegedly admitted to illegally gillnetting coho on the Dosewallips, on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula, and Washington game wardens say that potential criminal charges have been referred to Jefferson County prosecutors.
WDFW Police say they received a report last Thursday afternoon, November 10, about a gillnet strung across the river – which is located between Brinnon and Quilcene and never open to any commercial fisheries and is also currently closed to fishing – and WDFW Officer Owen Barabasz “quickly responded to investigate.”
After Barabasz’s initial attempt to access the river was thwarted by steep terrain, fellow Officer Patrick Murray flew a drone from a “public space” nearby to spot what looked like a gillnet across the river, and then used that discovery to draft a search warrant for the property.
With the paperwork in hand, that evening WDFW Officers Barabasz, Murray, Mark Hillman and Sergeant Kit Rosenberger and a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputy served the warrant on the property, where they ran into a man in waders and wearing a headlamp.
“The man admitted to setting the net and led the officers to the net’s location. Officers soon observed a second gillnet fishing the river as well,” WDFW reported.
Barabasz and Hillman, both of whom serve on WDFW Police’s Swiftwater Rescue Team, came up with a plan to remove any salmon from the nets while the gear was still in the river.
“They both donned their swiftwater rescue gear and waded to a nearby island where Officer Hillman belayed Officer Barabasz across the river,” officers reported. “Utilizing his dry suit Officer Barabasz swam/floated to where he was able to disconnect the gillnet from the opposite shore. The net was pulled to a nearby deep pool where Officers Hillman and Barabasz carefully freed and released 6 live coho salmon back into the river. The second gillnet was pulled with three more coho released.”
A 16-second video shows them cutting one of the salmon out of a net.
WDFW states that both gillnets were seized and the suspect is now entangled in some potential criminal charges – “for unlawful use of a net, commercial fishing without a license, and commercial fishing in closed waters.”