Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna L. Birkholm

January 25th, 1998

Catch & Release Under Attack

Mike Croft cartoon
The State of Washington's Senate gets this years OOPS AWARD of 1999. I know it's awfully early in the year to give our this prestigious award, but I doubt that anything or anyone can top this one.

Our friend, Mike Croft, author, cartoonist, and fly fisherman extraordinary emailed a copy of the following to me. I read it twice, printed it out, read it again as my blood pressure shot upward. I cannot imagine a more wrong attitude than the one shown in the following. Before I taint your view of it, read it for yourself. The bold face is mine - it didn't come that way. And do keep in mind, it's not just Washington targeted here. Your state could be next!


State of Washington 56th Legislature 1999 Regular Session

By Senators Haugen, Swecker, Spanel and Fraser

Read first time . Referred to Committee on .

AN ACT Relating to CATCH AND RELEASE recreational fisheries;
adding a new section to chapter 77.12 RCW; and creating a new section.


NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. The legislature finds that the practice of establishing exclusive catch and release recreational fisheries on steelhead trout by the fish and wildlife commission requires that the commission commit significant resources to assure that these fisheries are not subject to ABUSE BY UNKNOWING OR UNCARING ANGLERS. In addition, the commission shall not authorize catch and release seasons or areas that may harm steelhead trout reproduction by authorizing fishing on spawning beds and for spawning fish.

NEW SECTION. Sec. 2. A new section is added to chapter 77.12 RCW to read as follows
The commission shall not authorize catch and release fisheries for steelhead trout unless all of the following conditions are met

 (1) Sufficient enforcement capability is assigned to the fishery to assure angler compliance to the rules;

 (2) There must be an angler education and certification program administered by the department to establish an individual certification for each angler that participates in the fishery. The certification shall attest to the competency of the angler for proper methods of releasing steelhead unharmed, angler ethics, anadromous fish identification, and other educational needs for the development of responsible anglers;

 (3) A daily limit must be placed on the number of steelhead that can be caught and released;

 (4) A plan must be developed and implemented to limit the number of days a week that an individual angler may participate in steelhead catch and release fisheries throughout the state;

 (5) A proposal must be submitted to the legislature at the beginning of the 2000 legislative session for increasing the penalties for retaining steelhead in a catch and release recreational fishery;

 (6) A proposal must be submitted to the legislature at the beginning of the 2000 legislative session that allows for increased angler fees for participation in a steelhead catch and release fishery. The fees will compensate the commission for the additional costs necessary for the proper management of a catch and release steelhead trout fishery;

 (7) A steelhead catch and release mortality study must be conducted by the department in order to assess the rates of steelhead mortality during a catch and release fishery. The commission shall supervise the study to assure that at least one aspect of the study shall assess the affects of warm stream conditions on the survival of released steelhead; and

 (8) Catch and release fisheries may not be authorized for spawning steelhead trout under any circumstances.

In the event that the commission cannot comply with all of the statutory requirements for the management of a properly conducted steelhead trout fishery, then the commission shall not authorize any steelhead trout catch and release fisheries within state waters.

This is the tip of the iceburg. Washington has major fisheries problems. A battle for power between the Fisheries Commission, the folks who work for them, the Governor who would like to be able to appoint as political favor the head of fisheries. Ongoing fights with the tribes and recreation fishers.

Notice I did not mention the commercial netters. There is no battle there, the state and commission will always put those interests first. And neither of them put fish first! (They did have a man in charge who did, Bernie Shanks and they got rid of him.) And then there is the matter of the Feds breathing down their necks on listing most of the state's salmon as threatened or endangered!

The other problem is the recreational fishers who say, "don't shut down fishing, make it catch and release."

Follow along for a minute. Two years ago a new Washington law was passed which made it illegal for hunters to use dogs to hunt cougar. It passed big time. Backed by guess who? PETA! You have to understand the most populated area of Washington is on the west coast, and very liberal.

It didn't take long for the results of that law to show up. In about a year the cougar population had expanded into the fashionable neighborhoods and the state was forced to hire 'state hunters' WITH DOGS to try and control the cougars. So instead of having people buy licenses and hunt the cougars, the taxpayer pays the state hunters to do what citizens were paying the state to do.

But make no mistake, PETA paid for the campaign - and won. I don't personally know the four senators who sponsored this bill. I do know PETA is involved.

Here is what really scares me. When a state attempts to pass a law regulating Catch and Release fishing, the door is wide open. If you have any question where that door leads, I implore you to read Mike Connors article a few months ago on Ethics. Read the whole thing. Carefully. Then let me know if you see the handwriting on the wall.

Violators in Washington are not caught, much less prosecuted. In an small area with a population of a half-million there is ONE enforcement officer. People 'fish' with huge treble snagging hooks in closed areas. Illegal nets are throughout the Puget Sound waters. Numbers on illegal boats have been painted over so they can't be reported. Calls to report violations go unanswered. Photographs of violations and violators are called "inadmissable" because a consersation officer did not take them. Spawning fish are targeted. Illegal by-catch is sold in public. Or the new one - given to food banks, so illegal by-catch is ok! It goes on and on.

But this state is going to have a Catch and Release Recreational Fisheries Program! Ya right! This has got to be the biggest snow job in history.~ Deanna Birkholm

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