OUTDOORS: Senator now chairs important natural resources committee

ONE OF OUR legislators now chairs the committee that oversees state Department of Fish and Wildlife-related affairs.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, was named the chair of Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks by fellow Democrats after a special election earlier this month that saw the Democrats pick up a seat and become the senate’s majority party.

Many Fish and Wildlife bills get their start in this committee, and as chair, Van De Wege can hold hearings on legislation and determine (via committee vote) if they move forward.

Van De Wege has sponsored bills that propose to regulate fishing guides, particularly out-of-state guides operating on steelhead and salmon rivers and streams.

Van De Wege also appears to enjoy fishing, as his Facebook profile picture shows him holding up a 40-pound ocean-caught lingcod. Other photos show a haul of black rockfish and two chinook.

Way back in March he authored a letter to Fish and Wildlife asking for a seven-day halibut fishery.

But he also was one of 11 senators that voted against Senate Joint Memorial 8009, which called on Congress to provide the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “sufficient resources to expedite Puget Sound hatchery and genetic management plans and that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries prioritize and conduct immediate review and approval of Puget Sound hatchery and genetic management plans.”

Nobody wants to rush a scientific review of course, but a simple request of Congress to provide resources so NOAA can do its work on Puget Sound hatchery and genetic management plans in a timely manner seems pretty harmless.

Shakers lead to shutdown

An overabundance of sub-legal sized blackmouth led Fish and Wildlife to shutter Marinea Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) a week ago.

Blackmouth seekers are going to have to wait until Jan. 16 to get back out on the water in Area 9.

“Everyone wants to be cautious from what we’re seeing right now in Areas 9 and 10 (northern and central Puget Sound),” Ryan Lothrop, the state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound recreation salmon manager said in an interview with Mark Yuasa of The Outdoor Line.

“The sub-legal chinook (fish under the 22-inch minimum size limit) encounter rate hampered our winter fisheries in the past, and it looks like we’re seeing the same scenario this month.”

“We don’t want to put ourselves in a bad situation,” Lothrop said. “When we started test fishing a week prior to opening [on Nov. 1] we knew it wasn’t going to be very good. Then we started getting reports from Areas 8-1 and 8-2 that they were seeing similar things as in Area 9.”

Lothrop said feedback received from anglers and their sport-fishing advisory group is to take a break, let the fish feed and grow and keep the fishery open after the New Year when Area 9 reopens on Jan. 16.

Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) remains open to salmon through Dec. 31. Anglers can keep two hatchery chinook of at least 22 inches in length as part of a four-fish daily limit.

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Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]

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