WDFW seeks comments on revised draft policy for Grays Harbor fisheries

OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is seeking public comments on a revised draft policy to improve salmon management in Grays Harbor.

The revised draft policy includes new provisions recently proposed by the commission to conserve wild salmon runs, clarify catch allocation, and reduce conflicts between sport and commercial fishers in the harbor.

The commission, a citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), added the new provisions during a public meeting attended by more than 150 fishers Jan. 10-11 in Tumwater.

Ron Warren, deputy assistant director of WDFW’s Fish Program, thanked the commission for adding provisions he said would provide the department with clear direction for setting future seasons for non-tribal salmon fisheries in Grays Harbor.

“We need to focus on conserving and restoring the salmon runs in the Grays Harbor Basin,” Warren said.

The revised policy, scheduled for a vote by the commission at a meeting Feb. 7-8, is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/grays_harbor_salmon/ .

Written comments on the revised draft policy may be submitted through Jan. 31 via email to commission@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

Commissioner Rolland Schmitten, who spoke in favor of the amendments, noted that fisheries in southeast Alaska and Canada intercept nearly half of all fall chinook salmon returning to the Chehalis River, which flows into Grays Harbor.

“Our challenge is that there are simply not enough salmon to meet the expectations of all stakeholders,” Schmitten said.

In other business, the commission modified fishing rules for two rivers on opposite sides of the Cascade Range:

  • Naselle River:   Fishing from a floating device equipped with an internal combustion motor was prohibited year round from the Highway 4 Bridge upstream to the Crown mainline (Salme) Bridge. The commission’s action was based on a citizens’ petition.
  • San Poil River:   The daily limit for walleye was raised from eight fish to 16 fish to address an overpopulation of walleye in this tributary to Lake Roosevelt.

Public meeting provides forum on Grays Harbor salmon management

OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will hold public hearings on a proposed policy for salmon fisheries in Grays Harbor and three other fishing policies during a public meeting scheduled Jan. 10-11 in Tumwater.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will convene both days at 8:30 a.m. in the Evergreen Room of the Comfort Inn Hotel and Conference Center, 1620 74th Ave. S.W. in Tumwater.

An agenda for the meeting is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.

In February, the commission is scheduled to take action on a new Grays Harbor salmon-management policy, designed to meet state conservation and catch-sharing objectives for recreational and commercial fisheries in those waters.

During this month’s meeting, the commission will accept public comments on a draft policy for those fisheries, developed by state fishery managers, a citizen advisory group, and the public. The draft policy is posted for public review on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/grays_harbor_salmon/.

The commission will also accept written comments submitted through Jan. 9 via email to graysharbor@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Ron Warren, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

The public will also have an opportunity to comment on three other state fishery policies scheduled for discussion at the meeting:

  • Lower Columbia River salmon management:  Commissioners will review the results of the broad-based policy approved last year that set the course for restructuring the gillnet fishery, banning the use of barbless hooks, and effecting other management changes on the state’s largest river.
  • White sturgeon retention:  Due to conservation concerns, the Columbia River is currently closed to retention of white sturgeon below Bonneville Dam until further notice. The commission will discuss minor changes to the sturgeon policy language that will not affect current regulations.
  • North of Falcon:  The commission will discuss a policy designed to provide guidance to WDFW in negotiating this year’s salmon-fishing seasons.

In other business, the commission will consider adopting changes in fishing rules on two rivers. One would prohibit fishing from a boat with an internal combustion motor on the lower Naselle River in Pacific County, while the other would increase the daily catch limit to 16 walleye on the lower San Poil River in Ferry County.

WDFW: Commission seeks comment on options for Grays Harbor salmon management

Over the past month, state fishery managers have been working with a citizen committee and the public to develop draft options for a new policy to address conservation and catch allocation for Grays Harbor salmon fisheries.

The goal is to develop a policy that helps ensure spawning goals are met for wild salmon returning to the basin and to give anglers and commercial fishers a clearer picture of what fishing opportunities they can expect each year.

During the commission meeting, WDFW staff will provide a briefing on the development of the new draft policy options and additional opportunities later this year for the public to participate in the refinement of the proposed policy.

After receiving the briefing, the commission will then take public comment on the draft policy options, which will be available early next week on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/grays_harbor_salmon/. The website also includes information that was provided during recent public meetings, as well as a scheduled of upcoming meetings.

The commission is scheduled to hold another public hearing on the draft policy options during its January meeting in Olympia. The commission is scheduled to make a final decision at its February meeting in Olympia.

A separate public hearing is also scheduled during the Dec. 6-7 commission meeting on a proposal to increase the daily limit for walleye from eight to 16 fish on the lower San Poil River to decrease the overabundant walleye population and to align regulations with those for Lake Roosevelt.

The commission also will take public comment on a proposal that would prohibit fishing from boats equipped with an internal combustion motor on a stretch of the Naselle River from the Highway 4 Bridge to the Crown Mainline (Salme) Bridge year round in order to reduce user conflicts.

In other business, the commission is scheduled to take action on proposed new rules for commercial dive fisheries and three land transactions, including the purchase of 2,639 acres in Asotin County to protect fish and wildlife habitat.

The commission also is scheduled to receive briefings on the use of descending devices to improve survival of rockfish that are caught and released, the lower Columbia River sturgeon management policy, and updates to Hydraulic Code Rules.