Gauging smallmouth

An angler measures a smallmouth bass caught on Lake Roosevelt. While no minimum size requirement exists, statewide you can keep only one smallmouth over 14 inches. (Rich Landers)
An angler measures a smallmouth bass caught on Lake Roosevelt. While no minimum size requirement exists, statewide you can keep only one smallmouth over 14 inches. (Rich Landers)

Indefinite numbers mean stricter daily limits

Smallmouth bass get preferential treatment among exotic predators in Lake Roosevelt.

Starting last year, the daily catch limit on walleyes increased from eight fish a day to 16 fish a day with no size restrictions to help reduce the overpopulated fishery.

However, fishing for smallmouths, another bountiful non-native species that feed on forage fish, is more restricted in Lake Roosevelt and statewide, with a limit of 10 fish a day, no more than one over 14 inches.

The state last year made a policy change to curb bass, channel catfish and walleye throughout much of the Columbia and Snake rivers and their tributaries upstream from McNary Dam. Limits and size restrictions on those popular but predatory sportfish were dropped entirely in most stretches to encourage their harvest and give more protection to endangered native salmon and steelhead.

Lake Roosevelt was exempted because Grand Coulee Dam blocks passage of endangered salmon or steelhead into the reservoir.

But why are smallmouth bass given more protection than walleye in Roosevelt?

“Basically, we dealt with walleye first,” said John Whalen, the agency’s regional fisheries manager.

“We had a lot of discussion among anglers and clubs about (Lake Roosevelt) walleye, with more than 100 comments on the various proposals,” he said. “And we had a lot going on with rules on the Columbia outside of Roosevelt.

“We had good information on walleye in Roosevelt and not so much on smallmouth, although we know they’re in the lake in large numbers.

“So we held off on any proposals, for now.”

Anglers who catch a big smallmouth may continue to fish until they have a 10-fish limit, but they can keep only one fish longer than 14 inches.

“There’s a good population of smallmouths in Roosevelt and lower Spokane River,” he said. “Fisherman like to catch them, but it doesn’t appear they’re impacting them.”

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Rich Landers

Rich Landers

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