Outdoors

Area 7 closes Sunday, 2015 salmon talks start soon

Marine Area 7’s winter blackmouth personal use fishery is set to close by emergency order Sunday night, Feb. 15.

State fish and wildlife officials say this winter’s fishery has reached and exceeded the preseason guideline for managing impacts to wild chinook stocks.

Blackmouth fishing remains open in marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 8-1 (Deception Pass), 8-2 (Port Susan) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and should stay open into April.

For updates the status of these and other fishing opportunities, check WDFW's Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) or the department's website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

Personal use salmon fishing options for the 2015-16 season together with forecasts of run strengths for many salmon stocks will be announced March 2, in Olympia.

The all-day meeting will kick off the two-month North of Falcon process that leads to the establishment of treaty and non-treaty, recreational and commercial fishing seasons.

Pursuers of early returning chinook also should be aware that 2015 personal use seasons for Columbia River spring chinook have been finalized and announced. They can be viewed online at the fish and wildlife department website.

SPRING BEAR DRAWING APPS DUE

Feb. 28 is the deadline for entering Washington’s 2015 drawing for spring black bear special hunt permits.

For these limited entry hunts, a total of 697 permits will be parceled by lottery — 45 percent for Eastern Washington units and 55 percent, or 383 chits, for westside black bear haunts.

Specific locales in this year’s early season bear hunt consist of eight game management units in the Blue Mountains (southeast Region 1) and six GMUs in the northeast part of the state (Region 1).

In Western Washington, five composite or specially delineated bear hunt areas are outlined. This sub-list consists of two hunt areas in North Puget Sound (Region 4 — North Skagit and Monroe), one on the coast north of Grays Harbor (Region 6 — Copalis), one on the northwest side of Mount Rainier (Kapowsin) and one on the south side of the Capitol Forest west of Centralia (Lincoln).

Eastside spring bear hunts were originally designed to equalize gender proportions in the overall annual hunt in those black bear management areas. The five Western Washington hunts target specific bruin sub-populations in areas where some bears claw the lower trunks of young conifers to get the new second growth trees to ‘bleed’ sap.

All of these hunts occur between April 1 and June 15, with initial start dates of either April 1 or April 15. Closing dates are either Saturday, May 31 or Sunday, June 15.

Washington hunting regulations allow hunters to kill two black bear in a license year. A black bear killed in the spring on a special permit counts toward the annual limit.

There is an additional caveat to the bag rule that limits hunters to taking only one bruin per year in Eastern Washington. Postseason reporting on hunting activities on these and other special permits, as well as general season tags, is mandatory.

Hunters are strongly advised to check with private forest owners and assure that they will have access to lands in the bear hunt unit before applying.

These hunts are highly sought after and have several times the number of applicants to permits. Most require three to five preference points to assure drawing success.

FUTURE HUNT SEASONS DISCUSSED

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking public input through Feb. 24 to finalize proposed hunting rules and regulations for 2015-17 hunting seasons.

Persons wishing to review and comment on the proposals will find them at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting/.

Also available for review are the management guidelines contained in the 2015-21 Game Management Plan that governed development of proposals. Visit wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01676/ to see the department over-arching plan.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission sets policy for WDFW and also will take public comment on the proposed recommendations at its March 20-21 meeting at the Civic Center in Moses Lake.

Adoption of 2015-17 hunting seasons and regulations will take place at the panel’s April 9-10 meeting.

OKANOGAN STREAMS REOPEN

Personal use fishers may again retain hatchery steelhead on portions of the upper Columbia River and selected reaches of its major tributaries including the Wenatchee, Entiat, Icicle, Methow, Okanogan, and Similkameen rivers until further notice.

In these waters, anglers are required to release all wild or unmarked steelhead while retaining every adipose fin-clipped steelhead they bring to hand.

The only predetermined closure date for any of these waters are sections of the Okanogan River that will shut down March 1 to protect natural origin steelhead staging prior to spawning.

The others could stay open until the end of March, though it’s also possible they could close before then if wild fish impact thresholds are met.

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