As Washington’s steelheading world continues to roil over WDFW’s decision this week to ban angling from floating devices and other conservation-based restrictions on coastal systems this winter, several of the state agency’s overseers will hold an unexpected meeting on the issue tomorrow afternoon.
Held at the request of the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Fish Committee, a special meeting notice posted this morning says that Fish Program staffers will brief Chair Larry Carpenter and members Dave Graybill, Don McIsaac and Bob Kehoe, as well as take public comment, on Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. via Zoom.
Subjects include “long-term trends, 2020-21 forecast, management actions to meet conservation objectives and fishing opportunity” for steelhead this season.
Indeed, there will be angling for both hatchery and native fish, but unlike past years, fishing out of a drift boat, jet sled or pontoon won’t be allowed, a massive change but a measure that state fish managers expect to keep impacts low and thus allow for a season.
This morning, a WDFW Facebook post linking to that explanation is filled with angry comments that reflect the way some steelheaders are feeling about the restrictions, which also include a ban on bait and scents, and single-hook-only rules.
Meanwhile, guide Mark Coleman is encouraging frustrated anglers to post upside-down pictures of steelhead in protest on Facebook – like he did immediately after the announcement – along with the hashtag #wdfwtheiragenda, and you can guess what WDFW stands for in this case.
All the new regulations go into effect Dec. 14 on systems from the Forks area south through Willapa Bay, including Grays Harbor tributaries.
The changes follow fast-tracked wild winter steelhead forecasts, a late November meeting, discussion with guides, and internal discussions on how to meet statewide steelhead management goals and spawning escapement needs.
Other options WDFW looked at to deal with chronic poor returns to the Chehalis in particular and other South and Central Coast streams included a complete season closure, no fishing after March 1 or opening only the Quillayute.
Last Friday, Chair Carpenter expressed surprise and embarrassment that the commission had been caught flat-footed on the fast-moving decision.
Coastal steelhead issues are also expected to be a topic on Fish Hunt Northwest this evening from 6-8 p.m. as well.