RE:No March/April Fishery
I'm with you, there really is no reason to keep a native fish, period. We would need to decide whether this meant C&R by sportsmen only, or also by commercial and Indian interests. Indians would have to stop gill netting during certain seasons because it kills indiscriminately. It would have an impact on fishing all seasons and maybe even gear restrictions. These are all good things if you ask me... but it raises some new questions of it's own.
Impact on harvesting methods:
It would force harvesting techniques throughout the steelhead season to permit selective return of natives w/o killing them. This would in effect make gill netting illegal when steelhead are present. It would not however prohibit them from gillnetting ocho species in summer and fall. Even then summer steelhead natives would suffer because they would be killed in salmon gillnets "incidentally". Making the killing and keeping of native steelhead illegal would have a profound effect on fishing methods throughout the region.
Strangely our existing laws allow loopholes to harvest native fish indiscriminately as "incidental" in gill nets in all seasons where gillnetting is allowed. I hate seeing those 20 pound summer runs at Pike's Place from the Hoh. If we could succeed in legislature to make it illegal to kill a native steelhead it would have a profound effect on the way fishing is conducted through the season, preventing this kill fishery. Our trip to the Hoh last April really drove the point home... we witnessed a parade of native fish bonking gear chuckers killing some of the most beautiful native peninsula fish my eyes have ever feasted on. It was senseless, totally senseless exploitation without any concern for the health of the fishery. I wish there were a way to show these people what has happened in other rivers in WA, or beyond in CA, atlantic salmon rivers in the Canadian Maritimes, etc. By all means fish for them but let them swim and buy a salmon fillet at Costco on the way home to eat (that's another story I could get hot about).
Benefits of this law:
It makes financial sense - because of the relatively low price per pound of steelhead, some Indian hatcheries have converted to chum to collect roe instead of meat. I can deduce from this that steelhead does not bring significant commercial value. Without looking into it further it's obvious that commercial fishing of steelhead is not a significant source of commerce for the region whereas steelhead (and salmon) sport angling is worth billions (according to an article in the Seattle Times). The health of a native steelhead population has tremendous importance in commerce across a wide range of beneficiaries (as opposed to a few fish mongers).
It is responsible fisheries management - the region is blessed with indigenous steelhead, in and of itself a near miracle with respect to the explosion of commercial and residential growth. These populations are on the edge due to habitat loss, incidental kills, open sportsmen harvesting, and perhaps most importantly - hatchery intervention. If we are going to continue to saturate these ecosystems with pellet-pout drones of inferior brood, we need much more aggresive ways to prevent the impacted native fish from being roadkill on the capitalist highway. As radical as it may seem, I'd be all for destroying hatcheries and going to policies that nurture wild / native reproduction with C&R access only. Certain rivers, like the Cowlitz, would be maintained for put and take steelheading if there is such a thing... but rivers like the Sky should be restored to natural reproduction. As we learn more about naturally sustained C&R runs, we can adapt this knowledge to other river systems where it would make sense - like the Wynoochee (although I can hear the kicking and screaming now) and rivers out on the Peninsula that already support stream born populations despite our gene pool pollution with Chambers Creek "rags".
The other side of the coin: if an angler accidentally kills a fish (re: a summer fish fights like hell and comes to shore ready for the morgue and can't be recovered) is he or she then breaking the law? Something to think about.
<font size="1">BTW -
I don't remember - was the "ban nets initiative" seasonal banning? I seem to recall it was open seas netting? In any case, this is different because it is not about a practice but a threatened indigenous organism of a specific genus and species.</font><!--1-->