FISHING — A little more pressure will be applied to nonnative fish species such as bass and walleye if fishermen accept fishing regulations changes for 2013 proposed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The agency is taking public comments through Dec. 15 on a range of proposals, including suggestions to increase or remove daily bag limits on nonnative fish species such as smallmouth bass and walleye that prey on imperiled native salmon and steelhead.
Promoting more harvest of these species might actually improve fishing for smallmouth and walleye, which tend to be overpopulated in some waters, said Chris Donley, state inland fish program manager.
The jury's out on how much impact the rule would have on walleye and smallmouths since a relatively small portion of fishermen keep their limits of those species at existing levels, he said.
The proposed rule changes would remove the daily catch limit for channel catfish and the daily catch and size limits for bass and walleye in portions of the Columbia and Snake rivers and their tributaries to assist with recovery efforts for salmon
WDFW is recommending nearly 70 sportfishing rules proposals. Among them:
A second option under that proposal would also remove existing limits for those fish, but restrict anglers to three bass larger than 15 inches in length and one walleye larger than 24 inches in length.
The proposed changes are designed to increase the harvest of abundant bass, walleye and channel catfish, which prey on juvenile salmon and steelhead that are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The proposed new bass and walleye regulations include Columbia waters upstream from McNary to Priest Rapids Dam, the Yakima River and its tributaries, the Snake River upstream to the Idaho-Washington border, the Yakima, Okanogan, Walla Walla, Palouse, Tucannon and Grande Ronde rivers in Washington.
Fisheries manager explains
The idea is to “focus the harvest on the fish that are doing the most damage,” Donley said. Studies indicate that bass 15 inches long or smaller prey heavily on salmon and steelhead smolts, while larger bass look for bigger fish to fry. Likewise for walleye.
Donley said that federal, state, tribal and other stakeholders have made “tremendous investments” in habitat, harvest, hatchery and hydro system improvements to help boost the survival of ESA listed salmon and steelhead stocks.
“It would be irresponsible not to look at this as one of the factors” that are hindering salmon and steelhead recovery, Donley said.
Dec. 15: Deadline for public comments on proposed 2013 fishing regulations.
January 2013: The last public testimony on the proposed regulations will be at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/ January meeting in Olympia.
February 2013: The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on the proposed regulations.