Increased Fees — And A New Op From Fees

Call it the stick and carrot approach, but WDFW fired off a pair of news releases late this afternoon that A) warned Washington sportsmen to brace for higher license fees as of Sept. 1 and B) highlighted a summer Chinook river that was recently opened thanks, in part, to a special fee anglers must pay to fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia.

While only maybe a dozen guys or so a day have been hitting the Wenatchee since August 1’s first-time-in-28-years opener, WDFW manager Jeff Korth expects that number to climb as flows drop, more kings arrive and anglers begin to dial it in.

Here are those press releases in full:

Increased Fees

Starting Sept. 1, the base cost of most Washington hunting and fishing licenses will increase.

This is the first general recreational license fee increase in more than a decade.

The 2011 Legislature approved the new fees to help meet rising costs and a shortfall in revenue for managing hunting, fishing and the fish and wildlife populations that are the focus of those activities.

Not all license fees will increase, and some will decline, including those for youth, seniors and persons with disabilities.  New license fee prices are available on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/license_fees.html .

“The new fees are critically important in maintaining fishing and hunting opportunity and make it possible for the department to fulfill its dual mission of conserving species while providing sustainable fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation across the state,” said WDFW Director Phil Anderson. “The fees reflect the cost of managing specific fisheries and hunts, and are competitive with fees charged in neighboring states. At the same time, we made an effort to encourage broad participation through youth and senior discounts.”

The new fees are expected to generate about $8 million annually for activities that support hunting and recreational fishing. Recreational license and permit revenue is used to manage fisheries and hunting seasons, produce trout and steelhead for recreational fisheries, enforce regulations, monitor fish and game populations and help maintain wildlife lands.

Revenues from the license fee increase will replace a temporary 10 percent license sale surcharge that expired in June, and will fill a projected deficit in the account that funds fishing and hunting activities. Without the license fee increase, WDFW would have been forced to make major cuts in hunting and fishing seasons and opportunities.

“Fishing and hunting contribute more than $1.4 billion a year to the state’s economy, benefitting local communities, small business owners and the people they employ,” Anderson said. “Maintaining fishing and hunting opportunity is vital to Washington’s economy and quality of life.”

Increased opportunity

The Wenatchee River salmon fishery–recently opened for the first time in at least 25 years–is the latest result of the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement program.

Since April 2010, all anglers 15 years and older fishing for salmon or steelhead on the Columbia River or its tributaries have been required to purchase an $8.75 endorsement to support management of those fisheries. The endorsement pays for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fishery management activities including scientific monitoring and evaluation, data collection, permitting, reporting and enforcement.

The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually to avert recreational fishery closures and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River basin.

“This program has made it possible to maintain existing opportunity and open new fisheries such as the Wenatchee River hatchery summer salmon season,” said WDFW Fish Program Assistant Director Jim Scott.

The Wenatchee River fishery opened Aug. 1 from the river mouth at the confluence with the Columbia River to 400 feet below Dryden Dam. Anglers are allowed to retain two hatchery-marked (adipose-fin-clipped) adult and jack summer chinook salmon per day. The season runs through Oct. 15 with selective gear rules and night closure in effect. Anglers are required release fish other than hatchery chinook salmon.

Another section of the Wenatchee River, from the mouth of Peshastin Creek to the Icicle Creek road bridge west of Leavenworth, will open Sept. 1 through Oct. 15 for retention of hatchery summer chinook salmon under the same rules.

Season and rule details are listed on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=1077 .

The Wenatchee River fishery is allowed because hatchery summer chinook returns to the river are expected to exceed spawning escapement needs, WDFW’s Northcentral Regional Fish Program Manager Jeff Korth explained. Hatchery summer chinook are not listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, but Upper Columbia River spring chinook are listed as endangered and steelhead and bull trout are listed as threatened. The majority of spring chinook and bull trout have already migrated to the upper Wenatchee River, but a few steelhead remain in the area of the recently-opened fishery.

“Monitoring the impacts of the fishery on listed stocks is essential, but monitoring and other management activities for this fishery are expensive,” Scott said.

Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement program was created by the 2009 Washington Legislature (Senate Bill 5421). A board of citizens representing four regions within the Columbia River basin reviews fishery proposals and has been instrumental in the success of the program.

Besides the Wenatchee River fishery, the endorsement program also supported salmon or steelhead seasons on other rivers in the Columbia River system, including the Snake, Entiat, Methow, Okanogan and Similkameen.
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