HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
Under the new management policy for lower Columbia River salmon fisheries adopted last week by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, there will be a gradual shift of non-tribal commercial gillnets to off-channel areas and an increased sport fishery catch allocation.
The new policy was based on recommendations made by representatives from the Washington and Oregon commissions and over 1,000 public comments that were presented to the Washington commission during a series of public meeting that began last October.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) director Phil Anderson said, “While both states have adopted plans to phase out the use of gillnets in non-tribal fisheries below Bonneville Dam by 2017, the plan includes commitments to increase the number of fish stocked in off-channel areas to off-set reductions in commercial fishing opportunities. However, the anticipated move of gillnets to off-channel areas depends on the success of developing and using alternative selective gear.”
Anderson also said a key goal of this policy is to maintain or increase the economic viability of both recreational and economic fisheries with the time table established in the policy dependent on achieving that goal. The changes outlined in the policy will allocate more salmon and steelhead to recreational fisheries, but will not necessarily reduce incidental catch of wild salmon and steelhead protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Miranda Wecker, Washington commission chairwoman, said the policy also includes annual reviews, giving the commission an opportunity to makes changes if the new policy falls short of its goals to support conservation of wild salmon and expand the economic benefits the states derive from sport and commercial fisheries.
The commission has directed the department to adopt rules to make permanent a temporary barbless hook rule that took effect Jan. 1.
New fishing rules proposed
WDFW fish managers are proposing 69 new rules for the 2013-14 fishing season and have provided the wildlife commission with an overview of those proposals. The proposals range from changing opening dates for some trout lakes to a new size limit for cabezon. Information on the proposals is available on the department’s website. Deadline for public comment on the proposals is Jan. 29.
Seasons over for cougar
Cougar hunting seasons closed Jan. 15 in several areas of the state. Game Management Units that closed were 105,108,111, 117,121,145,149,154,157,162,163,166,175,178,328,329,335,642,648 and 651. Those GMUs are located in Stevens, Pend Oreille, Garfield, Asotin, Walla Walla, Columbia, Kittitas, Chelan, Grays Harbor, Mason and Thurston counties.
Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, said this season’s cougar hunts are the first under a new management plan, approved by the commission last year. The new plan establishes harvest guidelines for specific areas of the state, based on cougar populations in those areas. Under the plan, WDFW can close areas where cougar harvest meets or exceeds guidelines, while continuing to hunting opportunities elsewhere.
“The goal is to preserve a variety of cougar age classes in numerous areas throughout the state, particularly older animals which tend to be more effective at maintaining sustainable populations,” Ware said.