The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's comment period on proposed changes to sport fishing regulations for 2013-14 closes Tuesday, Jan. 29.
The fish and wildlife commission is considering at least seven changes applying to Whatcom and Skagit County waters.
This rule-making process has its limits, covering the rules for recreational fishing for gamefish in freshwater, as well as some finfish and shellfish in marine waters. Rules and seasons for halibut and salmon for non-treaty anglers in Washington derive from separate processes in January and April.
For our neck of the woods in northern Region 4, under consideration are several new regulations that would restore angling opportunities lost when the so-called "new paradigm" for Puget Sound, northern inland waters and Strait of Juan de Fuca streams took effect three years ago.
My personal favorite is the proposed restoration of fishing in certain beaver ponds in Whatcom and Skagit counties. Proposal Number 41 will reopen beaver ponds if they are on or adjacent to streams otherwise open seasonally for trout (gamefish).
This conditional reprieve will see to the restoration of fishing for trout in some challenging but worthy waters such as the upper North Fork Nooksack river valley above Nooksack Falls and Baker river valley above Shannon Dam.
Other possible rule modifications for waters in this area contained in the package are:
? No. 47. Open most tributaries to Ross Lake to angling from one mile upstream of Ross Lake to headwaters (except Ruby Creek closed and its tributaries open) under certain restrictions.
? No. 46. Reduce waterfowl hunter/angler use conflicts on Fazon & Tennant Lakes by not allowing fishing from a floating device until Jan. 28, to coincide with the closing date of waterfowl hunting season.
? No. 50. Increase angling opportunity on the South Fork Nooksack River and all tributaries, upstream from and including Wanlick Creek under fly fishing only plus catch-and-release provisos.
? No. 53. Shorten fishing season on Channel Creek (Baker Lake) to protect spawning sockeye by changing to an Aug. 30 closure date.
? No. 54. Open a selective gear rules trout fishery in the lower Skagit River from the mouth to Highway 536 Memorial Bridge at Mount Vernon from March 1 through May 31 under certain controls.
? No. 55. Close angling on Hutchinson Creek to protect wild steelhead.
There are 62 other recommended changes for specific waters elsewhere around the state, in marine waters or with broader statewide implications or applications.
The way to get your message across is online, streamlined and highly convenient.
Simply go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/ and click on the link to get to the view and comment portal.
From there you call up each specific rule's page by clicking on the synopsis statement, and there is an e-form on which you can register and comment.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will take formal testimony on all proposals at its February session, at which written comments also may be submitted.
Final decisions on all these changes will be made by the nine-member panel in March, when 2013-14 sport regulations are enacted.
These new rules will take on the force of law on May 1, 2013.
Starting in February the Fish and Wildlife Department and Western Washington treaty tribes formally begin the business of setting salmon seasons in a nearly three-month endeavor called the North of Falcon Process. This starts with a day-long announcement and discussion of 2013 salmon run forecasts, which usually takes place the first week of February.
We also are awaiting the announcement of the International Pacific Halibut Commission's determinations on 2013 allowable flattie harvests.
Catch allocations for discrete areas throughout the Northeast Pacific were made at the IPHC's annual meeting Jan. 21-25 in Victoria, B.C.
Those allotments will enable Washington fisheries managers to set by late March personal use seasons that usually occur in May and June.
If you drew documents to hunt big game species and/or special waterfowl as well as dipped gear for Dungeness crab in the late season this past year, deadlines are approaching to report your efforts and success.
The end of January is the witching hour for deer, elk, black bear and turkey and crabbing reports. You must report hunting activity whether successful or not or the lack of any effort on each individual transport tag purchased.
Waterfowl gunners with special written authorizations to hunt sea-ducks anywhere, brant in Skagit County or snow geese in Goose Management Area 1 must report by Friday, Feb. 15.
Failure to report could cost you money in the future.
APPLY FOR 2013 HUNTS
Idaho non-resident deer and elk tags have been on sale since Dec. 1. Wyoming opened its application period for non-resident controlled hunts for big game species on Jan. 1.
Idaho is accepting applications for spring black bear hunt permits.
Veteran hunters visiting Wyoming should not wait for the usual booklet to arrive in the mail. Since most drawing transactions now occur online, Wyoming hunt managers have done away with the printed application booklet, and that may not be the only change in store for out-of-state hunters.
WINTER-RUN HATCHERY WATCH
The inter-basin transfer of hatchery winter-run steelhead eggs, to make up deficits if a hatchery does not get its needed spawners, is now prohibited, so it is more important than ever for enough adult fish to reach their artificial spawning destinations.
Under the state's steelhead management plan and individual hatchery genetics management plans, facilities must spawn the earliest returning adipose fin-clipped adults that return.
Hatchery fish must arrive in spawning facility traps by Jan. 31 to be eligible for breeding. Any marked fish arriving after that is not to be used for spawning - nor, under the state's hatchery genetic management plan, can wild fish (non-adipose clipped fish) under any circumstances be included in broodstock for spawning.
For more details in individual hatchery programs for winter-run steelhead, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/hatcheries/hgmp/2002-2005_archive.html#pugetsound and http://wdfw.wa.gov/hatcheries/esa.html.
As of Thursday, Jan. 24, these are the numbers, reported by installation, of adult hatchery winter-run steelhead trapped as well as eggs already taken and other details:
Maritime Heritage Center Hatchery (Whatcom Creek): one adult reported, no eggs taken
Kendall Creek Hatchery (North Fork Nooksack River): 62 adults, 72,000 eggs taken (target 165,000 egg take)
Marblemount Hatchery (Cascade River, Skagit): 153 adults, 263,000 eggs taken (target 275,000 egg take)
Whitehorse Hatchery (North Fork Stillaguamish River): 126 adults, 227,890 eggs taken
Tokul Creek Hatchery (Snoqualmie River, Snohomish): 569 adults, 657,353 eggs taken
Soos Creek Hatchery (Green River): 77 adults, 108,000 eggs taken
Dungeness Hatchery (Dungeness River): 36 adults, 31,000 eggs taken
Bogachiel Hatchery (Bogachiel River, Quillayute): 1,930 adults, 306,000 eggs taken
Humptulips Hatchery (Humptulips River): 785 adults, 229,750 eggs taken
Forks Creek Hatchery (Willapa River): 587 adults, 200,000 eggs taken
Cowlitz Hatchery (Cowlitz River): 852 adults, no eggs taken
Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald's outdoors correspondent, since 1983 has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at http://pblogs.bellinghamherald.com/outdoors.