Washington’s state budget crisis resulted in cutbacks of record proportions to fishermen.
With no announcement, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last summer quietly mothballed its state sport fish records program.
The angler who catches a smallmouth bass topping 8.75 pounds might view this news with disdain similar to a Dutch speed skater learning that his coach had just made an avoidable mistake that cost him a gold medal.
“During our budget- cutting exercise last year, we eliminated the aquatics education position and the person who oversees the record fish,” said John Whalen, department regional fisheries manager in Spokane.
Few people in the agency, including Whalen, realized the program had been dropped or that the record-fish report form download had been disabled on the agency’s Web site.
On Monday, a week after The Spokesman-Review queried agency fish division directors about the program’s demise, agency officials decided to revive the records program, possibly by the end of this week, Whalen said.
“We’re going to spread the job out among the regions instead of having it centralized in Olympia,” he said, noting that it’s time to get the program up and running.
“I’ve had two calls this week about anglers near the Tri-Cities catching walleyes that were just an ounce or two shy of the state record,” he said.
To a lucky angler, the changes shouldn’t be noticeable.
If you catch a whopper of record proportions, you must, as always, have it officially weighed and witnessed on a certified scale, such as at a grocery store.
Then the weight must be verified and measurements taken by a Fish and Wildlife staffer at a local or regional office.
Starting next week, the application for record-fish recognition should once again be available for downloading on the agency’s Web site at wdfw.wa.gov. Click on Fishing and Shellfishing then look under Guides, Tips & Resources.
Washington currently lists sport fishing records for 54 freshwater species and 41 saltwater species:
•Smallest – Pacific staghorn sculpin weighing .26 pound.
•Largest – Pacific halibut weighing 288 pounds.
•Most recent – Yellowtail weighing just over 8 pounds on Aug. 8, 2008.
•Oldest – coastal sea-run cutthroat trout weighing 6 pounds caught in 1943.
Looking to catch some fame?
No sportfishing records have been submitted for two freshwater species – the longnose and mountain suckers – and nine saltwater species, including the Pacific hake and brown rockfish.
Catch one of any size and you can report it for consideration as a state record – starting next week.
Contact Rich Landers at 459-5508 or e-mail email@example.com.