The state is considering lowering the minimum size for an angler to keep a chinook salmon caught in Puget Sound from 22 inches to 20 inches.
The discussion is part of the North of Falcon process that will conclude in early April with the setting of salmon fishing seasons for the ocean, Puget Sound and Columbia River.
Anglers have been contacting the state Department of Fish and Wildlife requesting the change, said Pat Pattillo, the department’s salmon policy lead.
Proponents of the change say public dollars are spent to raise the hatchery fish so why not give anglers a greater opportunity to catch them. Also, catching more hatchery salmon would reduce the amount of competition wild salmon face on spawning grounds.
There have been varying minimum lengths, as well as no minimum size, over the years, said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager.
“We arrived at the 20 inches for a few reasons. It was the minimum size we changed from when we went with 22 inches,” Thiesfeld said.
Also, keeping the change fairly small avoids have to include far more catchable fish in models that determine chinook mortality rates. The state is restricted on how many listed wild chinook can be caught during fisheries for hatchery salmon.
“Finally, it made sense that a small change would be more comfortable for folks to support than a large change,” he added.
Before the agency brings the matter up during negotiations with the Puget Sound treaty tribes, Thiesfeld said the department wants to hear from anglers. People should send their comments to Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DISORDERLY FISHING ISSUES
The department also is trying to develop solutions to deal with angler issues on the Skokomish and Samish rivers. The trouble includes anglers failing to abide by the rules and leaving behind garbage and human waste. Failure to resolve the issues could result in the department taking some drastic measures.
“It’s getting to the point where our law enforcement guys, especially on the Samish, that they’re ready to just close the river,” Thiesfeld said. “The ultimate solution is policing the situation among anglers themselves.”
Larry Phillips, district fish biologist for the South Sound, said he noticed last year an increase in the number of fish caught illegally on the Nisqually River.
For every fish caught legally, another was illegally hooked or snagged. Those fish had to be released, with a reduced chance of survival. The department has to account for those mortalities, he said, to make sure to remains in compliance with mandates related to salmon stocks listed on the federal endangered species list.
To avoid conflicts between recreational anglers and tribal fishermen, Pattillo said there will likely be several recreational fishing closures later this summer on the Puyallup River. Similar closures have been in place the last two seasons.Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640 jeff.mayor@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure