The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday adopted nearly 50 new sportfishing rules, including a requirement that anglers release all wild steelhead they catch on several streams on the Olympic Peninsula.
The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the sportfishing rule changes during its public meeting Dec. 11-12 in Port Townsend.
The rule changes modify fishing seasons, daily catch limits and other regulations for freshwater areas of Puget Sound and the Washington coast.
One new rule prohibits the retention of wild steelhead on the Quillayute, Dickey, Bogachiel, Calawah, Sol Duc, Hoh, Clearwater and Quinault rivers – the only rivers in Washington where anglers are currently allowed to catch and keep a wild steelhead. The rule also prohibits the retention of wild rainbow trout on those eight rivers and their tributaries.
The change, designed to provide further protections for Olympic Peninsula steelhead, takes effect July 1, 2016. The other rules adopted by the commission also take effect that day.
Other sportfishing rule changes include:
Eliminating size restrictions and daily limits for eastern brook trout in most western Washington streams and crappie in several western Washington lakes.
Removing rules limiting anglers to keeping only two trout that are larger than 14 inches in several western Washington lowland lakes. WDFW is stocking these lakes with larger trout, making the requirement unnecessary.
Providing trout-fishing opportunities in sections of several streams currently closed to fishing.
The commission did not, however, adopt a proposal to close a portion of the North Fork Nooksack River near the Kendall Creek Hatchery. Commissioners asked fishery managers to evaluate other potential options to clarify fishing boundaries at the mouth of Kendall Creek, which meanders at different times of the year.
The commission also did not include Summit Lake (Thurston County) in a list of lakes that will be open for fishing year-round. Instead, the commission maintained the current season at the lake, where anglers can fish from the fourth Saturday in April through Oct. 31.
Summaries of the changes will be available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/ by late January.
In other business, the commission discussed this year’s harmful algal bloom off the West Coast; conservation of Puget Sound rockfish; the status of a proposed boat launch at Point No Point in Kitsap County; and recent meetings of the department’s Wolf Advisory Group.