Anglers and others with ideas on how to improve state freshwater sport fisheries in the Puget Sound and the state’s coastal regions can submit rule change proposals through March 31.
The proposals will be considered as the state Department of Fish and Wildlife develops recommendations for the next cycle of rule changes.
The state Fish and Wildlife Commission, the nine-member citizen panel that sets policy for the agency, is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed rule changes in November. The commission is expected to vote on the sport fishing rule changes at a public meeting in December.
State fish managers will consider submissions from the public for any fish species except salmon, as long as they apply specifically to the freshwater areas of the Puget Sound and coast, including their rivers, streams or lakes.
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Salmon fishing rules and seasons are developed through a process that also involves tribal and federal fishery managers.
This is the second year the department has put its rule-making focus on a specific geographic area. In the past, the department’s practice was to consider proposals for waters anywhere in the state each year. The new approach allows fishery managers and the public to concentrate on specific proposals and their potential effects in specific waters, said Craig Burley, fish program manager.
In 2014, the first year of the new process, the state focused on developing rule changes for the rivers, tributaries and lakes in the Columbia River Basin.
“This approach will allow fishery managers and the public to focus on specific proposals and their potential effects in specific watersheds,” Burley said last year. “That’s difficult to do if you’re looking at hundreds of proposals affecting waters all over the state.”
“We expect to receive numerous proposals on freshwater fisheries in Puget Sound and the coast this year,” Burley said last week in a new release. “Next year, we’ll look at proposals for saltwater fisheries in those same areas.”
Once the department receives the submissions from the public, it will work through mid-July to review them. Meetings will then be held at regional locations through September to discuss the proposals. At the same time, and running through October, the proposals will be posted on the department’s website for public comment.
At the commission meeting scheduled for Sept. 25-26, department staffers will brief commissioners on the proposed regulation changes. The public will have until the end of October to submit comments on the proposed changes.
At its Nov. 13-14 meeting, the commission will hold a public hearing on the proposals, with the department scheduled to vote on the proposals at the Dec. 11-12 meeting. Those rules that are approved would take effect on July 1, 2016, according to the department’s website.