Beaver Pond Closure ‘A Horrible Loss’

Bob Heirman’s running out of places to stock trout.

He rattles off the names of beaver ponds scattered across Snohomish County, waters on foot-wide rills where he can’t put fish these days.

I’ve never heard of any of these ponds, and I’ve lived and/or fished in the Puget Sound county most of my 38 1/2 years.

(Should’ve written down the names for googling, but 2009 this ain’t.)

Then again, Heirman’s got twice as many seasons on me, and is the dean of angling in Snohomish County.

He literally wrote the book on it, which I cited in our June issue. While putting together our July issue, I got a call from him.

He wasn’t happy.

New rules approved by the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission last winter outlawed fishing in every single beaver pond in Snohomish as well as King, Skagit and Pierce Counties and the vast majority of Whatcom County.

Every.

Single.

One.

The regs took affect earlier this month.

When Heirman, who has been secretary/treasurer of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club for the past 51 years, talked to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife this spring about the group’s pond plan, he was told it would be a no go.

No need for him to stock fish where those buck-toothed rodents with the flat tails swim because fishing in them is no longer allowed.

It represents a sweeping overhaul of the rule book, a 180-degree reversal of long-standing policy. Before, every single one of eastern Puget Sound’s innumerable beaver ponds were open from June through October with two-trout limits, 8-inch minimum size, bait OK.

“It’s a horrible loss of angling opportunity,” says Heirman.

A horrible loss for freshwater fishermen in a region already hemorrhaging opportunity (see The State Of Steelheading 2010, April Northwest Sportsman).

Only beaver ponds in Kitsap and Mason Counties, and Ross Lake’s boat-in-only Big Beaver Valley remain open.

The new rules also closed many streams, ratcheting up gear restrictions on others to selective fishing only.

THE AREA UNDER NEW FISHING REGULATIONS FOR BEAVER PONDS AND STREAMS. (WDFW)

THE STATE’S REASONING is to protect juvenile Chinook, steelhead and bull trout, all listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, from hooking mortality in their rearing habitats.

Well and good and understandable.

Our runs of spring, summer and fall kings, and winter steelhead are nowhere remotely close to where they were, and need to be given two helping hands.

Except that Heirman contends anadromous fish don’t use the beaver ponds he’s packing, nor do they jump over impassable falls like the one on upper Woods Creek north of Monroe, so why close them?

He says anglers don’t fish these waters to limit out on a pair of dinky smolts, rather to harvest another predatory species.

“They’re never going to recover fish by closing beaver ponds. The harvest of cutthroat trout is extremely important, and they don’t get it,” Heirman says.

“They” would be WDFW. He says he sees many new faces at the Mill Creek regional office these days, and contends they don’t know the waters they’re managing, but slapped a blanket rule over everything anyway.

“They’re nice people,” he says, “but this is a severe closure on waters that don’t affect anything … They’re scared of their own shadow.”

This from the man whose name not only graces a 343-acre nature park at what once was one of the premier steelheading spots in the county, but just last summer was named WDFW’s volunteer of the year and praised by Director Phil Anderson for his decades of toil in service of fish and fisheries.

Whatever plaque that went with it might’ve been round-filed when Heirman’s plan to plant $1,000 worth of 11- to 14-inch triploid rainbows – 233 pounds worth, he says, reading off the receipt – for the campers up the South Fork Stillaguamish this summer was nixed by the agency too.

BUT SPEAKING OF TRIPLOIDS, Oregon’s been riding the brakes pretty hard on stream stockings for the past 20 years to protect young fish too, though they’ve let up some on a Willamette Valley trib.

Over the past two springs, a small stretch of the South Fork Yamhill, which drains out of the eastern flanks of the Coast Range outside McMinnville, has been planted with several thousand trips and opened for fishing in late May.

The Willamette also has listed Chinook and steelhead, so what gives?

District fisheries biologist Tom Murtagh says the Feds approved the fishery because the Yamhill side of the watershed isn’t needed to help rebuild those listed springer and winter-run stocks, more prevalent on the basin’s Cascade side.

The late timing of the opener helps ease any angling impacts on outmigrating smolts, reconnects locals with their watershed and provides a consumptive fishery in an area lacking one, ODFW notes.

“We’re looking at where we can continue this — not dumping heavy fisheries over sensitive runs,” says Murtagh. “This was one area we could do that.”

Last year saw a “reasonable turnout” amongst fishermen, he says, and over on Oregonfishingforum, Dinghy shows off his catch from earlier this month. Murtagh plans to plant the river again next year.

Granted, WDFW is short on staff and money– and apparently time to clearly think through some of their actions — but I would hope that in the months and years ahead, the agency would re-examine the beaver pond and stream closures with an eye on putting Bob Heirman back to work, stocking trout in places it makes sense.

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2 Responses to “Beaver Pond Closure ‘A Horrible Loss’”

  1. Wild One Says:

    Wow,

    More irrational and ill-conceived regulation from an agency (WA Fish and Game – an oxymoron at that) that manages its deer, bear, elk, and fish populations to the whim of PETA and other organizations of their ilk and then we see major herd/species die offs during tough winters.
    Between these folks and the ass-clowns in Oly raising taxes (and ignoring the will of the voters) verses cutting spending I can’t wait to leave this state for Idaho.
    Good luck with your plans and let me know how that works out for you, I’ll go fishing and hunting elsewhere where I don’t have to consult GPS, astrological charts, the local witch doctor, and the direction of the wind to determine if I can hunt or fish a spot of water/land.

    As Ben Franklin said “Common sense is not common”.

  2. John Kruse Says:

    Thanks for posting this blog. I just started a discussion topic about this on the WDFW Facebook Page (Under the Discussion Section). Looking forward to seeing their replies, as well as the thoughts of affected anglers.

    John Kruse
    Northwestern Outdoors Radio

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