New Rules For Sound, Straits Streams

New this season, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca streams and beaver ponds have their own  section of rules.

If your favorite isn’t listed in those 18 pages of Washington’s 2010-11 fishing regulations, it ain’t open to fishing anymore.

So much for wandering along any ol’ small backwoods stream on a hot summer day and flipping spinners, spoons, flies or worms for whatever’s biting.

The regs were posted the same day that three species of Sound/Georgia Basin rockfish came under protection of the Federal Endangered Species Act. And they represent the state Department of Fish & Wildlife’s latest attempts to conserve salmon, steelhead and char, numerous stocks of which in Pugetropolis have also been listed over the past decade.

“Frankly, some of our populations are not healthy and we need to take extra measures to return them to healthy levels,” says Craig Burley, the agency’s Fish Division manager.

The change represents a wrenching reversal of course for anglers.

Before, you could fish every river or tributary between Neah Bay, Elbe and Sumas during the June-through-October general statewide season unless it was specifically closed in the regs.

But come this Saturday, May 1, only the streams and beaver ponds in Mason and Kitsap counties and in Ross Lake’s Big Beaver Creek valley listed in the new section (see page 32) will be open.

TO PROTECT ESA-LISTED SALMON, STEELHEAD AND BULL TROUT, RIVERS, CREEKS AND BEAVER PONDS IN THIS REGION ARE ONLY OPEN IF THEY'RE IN THE REGS -- THE OPPOSITE OF HOW THOSE FISHERIES HAVE BEEN GOVERNED. (WDFW)

The idea is to protect young salmonids in rearing habitats where they’re “at risk of being incidentally caught and may not survive being handled and released, especially if bait is used,” WDFW says.

The affect probably won’t be felt by a large percentage of the angling public, rather by guys who might have a stream in their backyard or adventurous folks who beat the brush to access hidden waters.

“It makes me cry to see that the stream I grew up fishing for cutts will be closed,” noted one North Sound angler.

Burley couldn’t quantify how many waters have been summarily closed in one fell swoop, but he points out that as big of a change as the new regs are, they’re similar to something already in the pamphlet. Statewide salmon seasons are also managed as closed unless listed as open.

He feels that Sound and Straits anglers will appreciate being able to open the pamphlet and read whether their stream is definitely open or not.

The new regs, known as the “Stream Strategy,” came out of WDFW’s rules-making process last fall and winter.

Some anglers had wanted even more restrictive rules — no bait, barbless hooks, or close all rivers with anadromous runs — while others thought more review was needed or that only streams with low runs should be affected.

At its February 4-6 meeting, the Fish & Wildlife Commission approved the strategy with some modifications.

They also shortened winter steelheading season by two weeks on many Sound rivers, and WDFW has also quit using late-arriving hatchery fish for eggs as well as stocking smolts in streams where they can’t be collected when they return as adults.

Burley says the agency is struggling to protect fish and meet conservation goals while at the same time trying to provide quality recreational opportunities. An angler himself, he says the goal is to make sure today’s resources are around for our children and grandchildren, “and in some instances that means restricting fishing.”

If the new protections work out for Pugetropolis’s young steelies, Chinook and bull trout, WDFW has considered going statewide with them.

THE REGS ALSO INCLUDE new restrictions to protect rockfish in the Straits, San Juan Islands and Puget Sound. It’s now illegal to fish for lings, hake, cabezon, pollock, cod and other bottomfish in waters greater than 120 feet deep in part of Marine Area 4 as well as all of Areas 5-13. And rockfish retention has been closed in Areas 6-13.

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One Response to “New Rules For Sound, Straits Streams”

  1. Huge Changes In Sound, Straits Fishing Rules « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] NOTE: THIS IS AN EXPANDED VERSION OF A STORY THAT APPEARED ONLINE IN LATE […]

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