OUTDOORS: Puget Sound Anglers to host state commissioner Miranda Wecker

Halibut, Skokomish River and more on the agenda

PERFECT TIMING FOR a visit.

State Department of Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Miranda Wecker will speak to the Puget Sound Anglers’ North Olympic Peninsula Chapter next Thursday.

And there’s much to discuss.

Wecker will talk about Fish and Wildlife’s Wild Future initiative, including proposed license fee changes; offer a review on the status of the recreational halibut fishery and discuss the Skokomish River fishing closure.

The Skokomish tribe argued that the portion of the chinook-heavy Skokomish River along the tribal reservation falls under the tribe’s control.

State disagrees

A legal opinion issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, agreed, and closed the highly-popular chinook fishery held in the river’s lower sections to sport anglers.

This despite the state-operated George Adams Salmon Hatchery churning out clipped chinook further up the river.

Recreational anglers aren’t completely innocent, a rash of human waste was found along the river during salmon season in 2009, leading to an emergency closure.

The Skokomish fishery also has a reputation as a snag-fest, where anglers illegally hook fish by the body rather than through a legal bite.

Fish and Wildlife has said they don’t agree with the tribe’s claim and may take legal action.

Better recordkeeping

On the halibut front, Puget Sound Anglers has proposed a dedicated catch record card for the species, with a requirement to have it submitted much faster than current catch cards and a penalty for non-returned cards.

Anglers currently submit catch record cards 11 months after the halibut opener, making the data received out of date.

There also will be time for questions for Wecker from group members.

Wecker was first appointed to the Commission in March 2005, and was reappointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire in January 2007 and by Gov. Jay Inslee in 2013.

She was elected to serve as commision chair from January 2009 to January 2015.

At last December’s Commission meeting in Port Townsend, Wecker recounted her first fish story — landing a wild steelhead as a child — before offering her approach to the vote to eliminate wild steelhead retenion on West End rivers.

“The North Olympic rivers represent our last remaining stable stocks of wild steelhead,” Wecker said.

“I do not want to be part of running these stocks into the ground.”

The meeting will be held at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave. in Sequim, with a social half-hour starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18.

Wecker will speak when the meeting begins at 7 p.m., and a business meeting will follow.

Commission adds options

Sport anglers soon will have two new options for fishing licenses after action taken by the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission last week.

The commission voted to establish an all-inclusive, annual fishing license at its meeting in Olympia.

The Fish Washington license will allow anglers to fish in both freshwater and saltwater and to harvest shellfish and seaweed. It also includes endorsements for fishing with two poles and harvesting Dungeness crab in Puget Sound and Columbia River salmon and steelhead.

The commission also approved a new combination fishing license for Washington residents 70 years and older. The license will allow senior anglers to fish in freshwater and saltwater and to harvest shellfish and seaweed.

The new licenses will be available for purchase this fall.

The Fish Washington license will cost $79.62, including taxes and fees, while the senior combination license will be priced at $19.05.

Spot shrimp ending

The spot shrimp fishery is nearing its quota in Marine Area 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait) and will close at 9 p.m. Sunday.

The coming closure does not include the Discovery Bay Shrimp District, which will remain open.

Marine Area 6 (excluding the Discovery Bay Shrimp District) will remain open to coonstripe and pink shrimp fishing with a 200-foot maximum fishing depth restriction.

It is unlawful to possess spot shrimp, and all spot shrimp must be returned to the water immediately.

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Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or mcarman@peninsuladailynews.com.

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