UPDATED 1:04 P.M.
The state is holding a meeting tonight to discuss potential changes in fishing rules to curb illegal fishing practices, particularly on the Skokomish River.
The meeting is set to run from 6-8 p.m. in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E., Olympia.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife scheduled the meeting to discuss this year’s salmon returns and potential fishing seasons in southern Puget Sound as part of the season-setting process, also known as North of Falcon.
Attendees will have the chance to talk to fishery managers about the pre-season forecasts and potential recreational salmon fisheries in south Puget Sound, particularly in the Puyallup, Nisqually and Skokomish rivers.
At the March 1 meeting when the preseason salmon run forecasts were released, fishery managers talked of potential changes in the rules. They want to take steps to cut down on the illegal taking of fish and leaving behind garbage and human waste in hopes of avoiding shutting down a fishery.
While the issue is reaching a crucial level on the Skokomish, it also is becoming a concern on the Nisqually River, Larry Phillips, district fishery biologiist for Pierce and Thurston counties, said at the March 1 meeting.
Among the changes being discusses for the Skokomish is a requirement anglers use circle hooks and that they be fished under a bobber. Other people want to drop the requirement that fish be hooked in the mouth to be legally caught.
I talked with Frank Urabeck, a long-time recreational fishing advocate, and he doesn’t feel the situation is so bad as to require the use circle hooks.
“I’d like to see us go back to the statewide regulation that it’s hooked anywhere in the head, and if it’s a hatchery fish, you keep it,” Urabeck said. “You get your two-fish limit and then you get out of there.”
He also said a limit on leader length, perhaps 6 feet, would reduce the amount of snagging that is done.
Urabeck said he does not think the situation is as bad as portrayed, especially compared to the Samish River. He argues most anglers are good at policing themselves.
“Hopefully we can come up with some ideas that will address their concerns and still keep the fishery as it is,” he said of tonight’s meeting.
If not, he admits, drastic measures could loom in the future.