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It's Official: Bag Limits Off in Washington
for Columbia/Snake Bass, Walleye, Channel Catfish

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, March 8, 2013

Larry Sherman of Lewiston caught this 7-pound, 3-ounce smallmouth bass while fishing on Dworshak Reservoir. The reservoir was placed on a list of the top 100 bass fishing areas. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on March 1 adopted numerous changes to sportfishing rules, including a paring down of the white sturgeon catch limit and the elimination of catch restrictions for non-native predators that gobble up protected, and non-listed, juvenile salmon and steelhead.

In all the panel approved nearly 70 sportfishing rules. The WFWC is a nine-member citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Among the other rules approved by the commission are:

( For more details, see CBB, Feb. 1, 2013, "To Aid Salmonids, Washington Mulls Lifting Bag Limits On Bass, Walleye In Portions Columbia/ Snake")

The WFWC adopted a new regulation that will, beginning May 1, limit anglers to one white sturgeon per year in Washington's waters beginning May 1. The annual limit has been five per year per licensed angler.

And starting Jan. 1, the new rule will also require anglers to release all white sturgeon in the lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam, the Washington coast, Puget Sound and their tributaries. However, catch-and-release fishing for the species will be allowed in those areas.

The rule is designed to address ongoing concerns about declines in the lower Columbia River white sturgeon population.

Washington white sturgeon rules will, as of May 1, match up with those of Oregon. The two states co-manage the mainstem Columbia where the river represents a common border. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in December. The rule covers all state waters including inland rivers, bays and estuaries and supersedes a two fish annual bag limit set in September as part of the 2013 Sport Fishing Regulation development process.

OFWC had considered a proposal that would have closed sturgeon to all retention in most state waters in 2013, but decided on the reduced bag limit as a transition to catch-and-release only fishing in 2014.

The reduced bag limit comes after several years of declining harvest quotas reflecting concerns about shrinking numbers of legal-sized fish.

Abundance and productivity of white sturgeon inhabiting or originating from the lower Columbia River has declined substantially over the past five years due in part to long-term reductions in key food resources and predation by Steller sea lions, according to the WDFW.

Washington and Oregon fishery managers responded by decreasing annual harvest guidelines in the lower Columbia River (from Bonneville 146 river miles down to the Columbia mouth) by 40 percent in 2010, 29 percent in 2011, and 39 percent in 2012. The year-to-year scaling down resulted in an overall 74 percent reduction in the total number of fish that can be taken from 2009 levels.

Corresponding reductions have been implemented to guidelines for Washington's Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor and a seasonal retention closure was implemented in 2012 for Puget Sound fisheries.

The intent of these actions is to stabilize and rebuild the white sturgeon population. Assessments are conducted each summer to monitor population responses to management actions. Results of the surveys become available mid-fall and additional restrictions may be needed if the population does not respond as intended. Recent management actions have focused on retention seasons and no fishing.

In other action, the commission approved three land transactions, including the purchase of 1,614 acres in Asotin County. The acquisition is phase two of a multi-year project to secure a total of nearly 12,000 acres of riparian habitat for steelhead and bull trout and terrestrial habitat for deer, bighorn sheep and elk.

The property is located in the southeast part of the state, about 22 miles southwest of Anatone. The total project area contains about seven miles of frontage on the Grande Ronde River and contains several creeks, most notably Wenatchee, Cougar and Grouse.

The property will be managed as part of the Grouse Flat Unit, Blue Mountain Wildlife Area. Cost is $3 million for the 1,614-acre parcel.

The commission also approved the purchase of 195 acres of lowlands in the Chinook River Estuary in Pacific County to increase salmon habitat, and an easement across four properties along Issaquah Creek in King County for the construction of a replacement intake system upstream from the WDFW Issaquah Fish Hatchery.

Related Pages:
Columbia River Ranks as a Top Bass Fisheries by Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, 4/30/12
Columbia River, Dworshak Reservoir Included in List of Nation's Top Bass Fishing Spots by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 5/4/12
Columbia River Ranks as a Top Bass Fisheries by Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, 4/30/12

It's Official: Bag Limits Off in Washington for Columbia/Snake Bass, Walleye, Channel Catfish
Columbia Basin Bulletin, March 8, 2013

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