Agency reviews Puget Sound smelt regulations

Staff reportMarch 2, 2014 

The state is considering changes to commercial and recreational fishing regulations that could increase protection for smelt in Puget Sound.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is evaluating both Puget Sound smelt fisheries to determine whether enough protective measures are in place to conserve the population, said Craig Burley, manager of the department’s fish management division.

Smelt serve as an important food source for a variety of species in Puget Sound, including sea birds, marine mammals and salmon, some of which are federally protected, said Burley.

“These forage fish are essential to the health of Puget Sound, where over the last several years we have seen an increase in the harvest of smelt,” Burley said in a news release. “So we’d like to discuss the current regulations to help ensure we have the appropriate harvest levels to continue to sustain the population.”

The department is reviewing the following options:

No change: Under current state rules, commercial fishing for smelt in Puget Sound is open from 8 a.m. Sunday to 8 a.m. Friday during seasonal openings.

Recreational smelt fishing is open year-round, except in Hood Canal where it is closed. The use of dip nets is allowed from 8 a.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Wednesday. Jig gear can be used seven days per week.

Reduce commercial and recreational use: Commercial smelt fishing would be closed Sundays and would be allowed only from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays during seasonal openings in each area. Inactive commercial smelt fisheries, including dip bag and purse seine, which have not been in use for at least 10 years, would be closed.

Recreational smelt fishing would be closed overnight except for the use of jig gear, which could be used seven days per week. Dip nets would be allowed for recreational use from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Tuesdays.

Close commercial fishing, reduce recreational use: All commercial fishing for smelt in the Sound would be closed.

Recreational smelt fishing would be closed overnight except for the use of jig gear, which could be used seven days per week. Dip nets would be allowed for recreational use from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Tuesdays.

Agency representatives will discuss the options at a meeting from 6-8 p.m. March 21 at the department’s Mill Creek office. During the meeting, the public can comment verbally or by filling out comment forms, which will distributed at the meeting.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission also will hear public testimony on the proposals during its April 11-12 meeting in Olympia. The commission is expected to vote on the options at its June meeting.

GET INVOLVED

Written comments can be submitted through May 30 on the department’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ regulations/smelt. The public also can provide input at meetings scheduled in March and April.

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