Ban on barbed hooks expands on Columbia River

Staff reportApril 28, 2013 

Starting Wednesday, the state will expand the requirement to use barbless hooks on the Columbia River and many of its tributaries. People fishing for salmon or steelhead on the Columbia River and most of its tributaries downstream from Chief Joseph Dam will be required to use barbless hooks.

The regulation, adopted last Tuesday by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, expands a similar rule currently in effect on the stretch of the Columbia River that constitutes the border between Washington and Oregon.

The new rules extend the ban on barbed hooks another 250 miles upriver on the Columbia and to dozens of its tributaries, including the Cowlitz, White Salmon, Klickitat, Snake, Yakima and Okanogan rivers.

Anglers fishing those waters still will be allowed to use single, double-point or treble hooks, so long as the barbs have been filed off or pinched down, said a department news release.

Jim Scott, assistant director of the Fish Program, said the new rule will contribute to ongoing efforts to minimize impacts on wild stocks while maintaining opportunities for anglers to harvest abundant hatchery fish.

“Anyone who’s ever fished with barbless hooks knows they are easier to remove from a fish’s mouth than a barbed hook,” Scott said in the news release. “That’s important in fisheries where anglers are required to release wild fish unharmed.”

Fishing regulations requiring the release of wild salmon and steelhead are common in the Columbia River Basin and other Washington waters, especially in areas wild salmon and steelhead are protected by state and federal laws. In those cases, only hatchery fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained.

Anglers fishing for salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound and ocean waters have been required to use barbless hooks for years.

“The new rule on the Columbia River is consistent with our state’s long-standing commitment to sustainable fisheries,” Scott said.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission, the nine-member citizen panel that sets policy for the department, endorsed the barbless-hook requirement as part of a broad-based policy designed to support the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin.

That policy, adopted in collaboration with the Oregon commission in January, also set the stage for gradually shifting nontribal commercial gillnets to off-channel areas of the river and developing new, more selective types of commercial fishing gear.

With a few exceptions, the barbless-hook rule will be in effect on rivers and streams where a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement is required in addition to a current fishing license. Those waters are marked in the 2013-14 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

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