The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved new regulations for recreational and commercial smelt fishing in Puget Sound in order to increase protection for the valuable species.
The commission, a citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), voted to approve the new rules at a meeting Friday in Olympia.
Miranda Wecker, commission chair, said the new regulations demonstrate the agency’s conservation objective to maintain a healthy population of forage fish, which are an important food source to a variety of species in Puget Sound.
“The new regulations preserve sport and commercial fishing opportunities while providing needed protection for smelt,” Wecker said.
The new policy:
Adds a new 60,000-pound annual quota for the Puget Sound commercial smelt fishery.
Reduces the commercial fishery by one day each week, allowing commercial fishing from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday during seasonal openings in each area.
Closes inactive commercial smelt fisheries, including dip bag and purse seine, which have not been in use for at least 10 years.
Closes nighttime recreational dip net fishing. Recreational dip net fishing will be allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Tuesday. Jig gear can continue to be used seven days per week, 24 hours per day.
Population abundance estimates are not available for smelt. However, Puget Sound-wide commercial catch and catch rates indicate relatively high harvest over the last several years. The commission also requested an annual review of the commercial and recreational smelt fisheries in Puget Sound.
In other business, the commission approved several land transactions and was briefed on a planned acquisition of 2,900 acres in Yakima County. The property connects summer and winter habitat for the Yakima elk herd.