New WA Fish Regs: June 6 Opener For Most Rivers

The first five days of June will NOT go to waste on the Skykomish this year. The Northwest Washington river is one of just a few that is not switching to the new first Saturday in June opener.

However, the vast majority of other streams and rivers around the Evergreen State that have opened on the first will now open on June 6, according to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s brand spankin’ new fishing regs.

It’s a regulation change that may catch you unawares if you chase trout and other species on moving waters and beaver ponds.

Bryan Nelson at Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville says that most anglers didn’t know about it.

“I was pissed off as hell,” he says about first hearing of the new first-Saturday rule. “That’s five less days!”

June 1 had been the traditional statewide stream opener for two decades. But the idea to change it came from the Fish & Wildlife Commission when the annual sport-fishing rule change proposals process began last fall.

Item No. 22 reads: “The Fish and Wildlife Commission has asked staff to look at ways to open more fisheries on weekend days, allowing the majority of anglers a better chance to participate.”

The proposal was mentioned in WDFW press releases on October 6, January 28 and February 10.

It was supported by the Conservation Committee of the Washington Fly Fishing Club because it might benefit outmigrating salmonid smolts, but opposed by others who noted June 1 is easy to remember and that a Saturday opener would be more crowded.

It will be a wrenching change for anglers. According to a WDFW source, the June 1 opener has been in place since 1988. Before that, Western Washington streams opened on Memorial Day Weekend while those in Eastern Washington opened on the third Saturday in April, along with lakes.

That the opener is still June 1 on the Sky is good news for King-Sno anglers who like to chase the Sky’s summer steelhead and Chinook. Both species can be found in the river from the get-go. And we’ll preview that fishery in our June issue.

Two more steelie-king rivers, the Cascade and Skagit, will also open June 1.

So why do those two and the Sky get preferential treatment?

“It’s because we don’t want to have different openers for trout and for salmon,” says Northwest Washington fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull. “The Skagit, Cascade and Sky we wanted to open for Chinook on June 1, but didn’t want to have a five-day delay on when you could retain steelhead.”

“We’d like to have as many of those hatchery fish caught as possible. We want to allow people the opportunity to catch them. In the case of the Skagit and Cascade, the longer you wait, the more that make it to the hatchery where they just get thumped.”

If Barkdull was boss, he’d open those two rivers even earlier for Chinook, but those darned wild steelhead get in the way.

“We’re doing what we can to provide opportunities and protect steelhead,” he says. “We split it down the middle to what works best.”

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