RE:Wow... a moment of thanks...
Bob Mottram ; The News Tribune
Washington's saltwater fly-fishing community has won an in-writing acknowledgement from the state Fish and Wildlife Commission that the state will manage specifically for catch-and-release << salmon>> fisheries as well as for catch-and-keep sport fisheries.
The acknowledgement is contained in the commission's recently adopted North of Falcon policy for 2001. The policy is named for the federal-state-tribal process under which co-managers negotiate each spring to set << salmon-fishing>> regulations for state waters in the area from Cape Falcon on the northern Oregon coast to Olympia on Puget Sound.
The new policy says that when managing sport fisheries, "meaningful recreational fishing opportunities will reflect the diverse interests of fishers, including retention and catch-and-release fisheries."
The Department of Fish and Wildlife told the commission that this had been "an implicit intent in past years, but a number of constituents have requested more explicit recognition."
Some anglers, including fly-fishing groups, have pressed the state for catch-and-release seasons in the belief that it allows fishing to continue during some periods when it otherwise would be closed to avoid exceeding catch quotas.
Another new provision in the policy puts into writing what the department said had been "a traditional exception" to the general practice of allocating most chum, pink and sockeye << salmon>> to commercial netters. The exception is for Lake Washington sockeye, and the policy now specifies that the first 200,000 of those fish harvested by non-Indians will go to recreational fishermen. For allowable non-tribal harvests above that level, the policy says, commercial harvest "will be considered."
Most non-tribal commercial sockeye fishing in Washington is directed at Fraser River fish.
Commercial fishing representatives who spoke at the commission meeting acknowledged that recreational anglers traditionally have had first shot at the Lake Washington fish in years when their abundance was great enough to allow a harvest. They objected, however, to including a specific threshold number in the policy. One spokesman also pointed out that, because federal courts have ordered a 50-50 sharing of harvest opportunity between treaty Indians and others, the return to Lake Washington would have to reach 400,000 harvestable fish before non-Indian commercial fishing would be considered.
Another new part of the policy acknowledges an intent that "recreational opportunities will be distributed equitably across fishing areas" throughout Puget Sound.
No explicit formula for that can be established, the department said, but the agency will try to ensure "that individual fishing areas are not unfairly disadvantaged when looking at the balance of available recreational opportunities."
In the past, the department has managed marine fisheries around Tacoma more liberally than those in most other parts of the region because most of the fish returning to the Tacoma area have been hatchery << salmon>> and not endangered stocks.
In the Columbia River, the policy says, commercial and recreational fishing opportunity will be scheduled "to provide a balanced opportunity to each fleet."
In Willapa Bay, harvest will be managed so as to provide "meaningful" opportunities for both recreational and commercial fishermen.
The new policy directs the department to increase effective public involvement in the North of Falcon process, and directs it to "strive to include representatives of recreational and commercial participants . . . as observers during appropriate state/tribal discussions of fishery issues."
The department said it has not received any response to a letter sent in October to the tribes by state Fish and Wildlife Director Jeff Koenings asking them to agree to allow non-Indian fishing representatives to observe some of the negotiations between state and tribes.
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* Reach staff writer Bob Mottram at 253-597-8640, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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