OUTDOORS: Fishing return limited in scope

Turkey, spring bear hunts to open Tuesday

KEEP IT LOCAL, keep your distance and keep washing those hands. That’s the takeaway from the announcement that some fishing and hunting seasons, along with state Department of Fish and Wildlife areas and boat ramps shuttered since late March to prevent the spread of coronavirus, will reopen Tuesday.

The initial moves do not include the biggest spring seasons — halibut and shrimping — at least not yet. Those recreational fisheries remain closed statewide, along with shellfish harvest.

And the entire Washington coast, Marine areas 1-4, will remain shuttered to all recreational fishing and shellfish harvest due to a dearth of public boat ramps, according to Fish and Wildlife director Kelly Susewind.

Along the coast, public ramps in the city of Ilwaco are closed, along with ramps in Neah Bay and La Push as the Makah and Quileute tribes continue to follow a strict resident-only quarantine with concern for the potential public health impacts to their communities from off-reservation visitors.

Port of Port Angeles boat ramps at the Port Angeles Boat Haven and John Wayne Marina in Sequim never closed to recreational boating during the recreational fishing closure.

The city of Port Angeles’ Ediz Hook boat launch was shuttered after the governor’s office moved to suspend recreational fishing back in March, but city Parks and Recreation Director Corey Delikat confirmed the city-operated launch will reopen Tuesday. He said the city would provide more information later this week.

Port of Port Townsend boat ramps were closed to recreational/nonessential activities in late March and signage explaining the decision has been posted at port ramps at the Port Townsend Boat Haven, in Port Hadlock, Gardiner, Mats Mats Bay and Quilcene’s Herb Beck Marina.

A message left with Port of Port Townsend operations staff was not returned Tuesday.

What to target

Lingcod becomes the pinnacle of the phased-in fishing food chain on the saltwater, as that other (better tasting) flatfish is open through June 15 for hook-and-line anglers. The minimum size is 26 inches in length with the maximum 36 inches and a daily limit of one throughout Marine areas 5-13.

Freshwater anglers can aim for a spring chinook or a hatchery steelhead straggler out on the West End.

There will be no formal opening day for lowland lake fishing, but six Jefferson County lakes have been stocked with 4,500-plus hatchery rainbow trout during the closure.

That includes Monday’s stocking of Ludlow (1,099) and Tarboo (1,203) lakes and last week’s dispersal of 963 rainbows into Silent Lake on the Coyle Peninsula.

Lake Leland, which saw some scofflaws fishing from its banks during the recreational fishing closure, has yet to receive its 8,000 catchable rainbow trout plant, which is planned anytime in March through May.

The state also will offer its popular lowland lake fishing derby again this year, in which anglers who catch tagged trout can claim prizes.

Hunting

Turkey and spring bear hunts will open Tuesday, with the spring bear season extended until June 30.

Spring bear hunters who would normally travel outside their local areas to hunt may wait to see how travel guidance evolves, or seek a permit refund and reclaim their points if they are unable to hunt while meeting local hunting recommendations. For more information, call 360-902-2515 or email wildthing@dfw.wa.gov.

Best practices

A lengthy list of recommendations for the phased reopening was offered up by the state, with the Boy Scouts maxim of “Be Prepared,” leading the way.

Day trips are the best option, as camping on all state and federal lands is still restricted. And bring along cleaning supplies like water, soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and protective equipment such face masks or bandanas.

Shopping for those items, as well as food for the day, should be completed locally and not in your point of destination.

Those with cold or flu symptoms should stay home.

Avoid crowded sites, practice appropriate physical distancing and keep your fishing partners limited to those in your household. As much as we would all like to immediately hit the water with your best fishing buddies that still has to wait.

If sites become overcrowded or other COVID-19 related public safety concerns develop, Fish and Wildlife may again close areas to protect public health.

And county health departments also can act to close areas to discourage travel and the potential spread of disease — that’s how all of this started, when Pacific and Grays Harbor counties closed their beaches to planned razor clam digs back in March, it set off a domino effect that led to the closure of recreational fishing and other outdoors opportunities.

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or mcarman@peninsula dailynews.com.

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