The number of recreational fishermen ignoring regulations and littering has become such a problem on the popular Puyallup River it could lead to additional fishing closures.
Too many anglers are fishing on days and in sections where the river is closed, said Steve Thiesfeld, the regional fish program manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“The message we want to get out is stop doing what you know is wrong, get your behavior where it needs to be. We will take some action if we don’t see improvement soon,” Thiesfeld said.
A major concern is people fishing when the river is closed. On Aug. 9, the stretch from Freeman Road to the East Main Avenue bridge in Puyallup was closed. Thiesfeld said there were hundreds of people fishing that day.
“Folks were seeing other people fishing, so they just joined them,” he said.
The closures are intended allow tribal fishermen to fish unimpeded, but they also minimize the number of wild chinook salmon that are hooked. If the chinook mortality rate exceeds expectations, Thiesfeld said additional closures will be needed.
What’s troubling, Thiesfeld said, is there have been closures on the river for several years, and compliance seems to be worsening rather than improving. He said the department will be checking the river because the stretch from the 11th Street Bridge in Tacoma to the East Main Avenue bridge in Puyallup will be closed Sunday and Monday.
Anglers also are ignoring the closure at the mouth of Clarks Creek. No fishing is allowed within 400 feet of the creek mouth, but people are catching salmon staging at the mouth before heading to the hatchery located on the creek.
The creek mouth was closed “so we could meet our egg take goals at the hatchery there, Thiesfeld said. “If folks want to have fish to fish on in the future, we need to meet our goals on production,” Thiesfeld said. “As fast we can put signs up, guys are ripping them down.”
As for the litter, he said, there is so much “you pretty much can fill up a garbage bag any time, any place along the river. It’s simple, if you pack it in, pack it out.
“Getting along with the businesses, the neighbors and everyone on the river is an important part of our sportsmen’s ethic,” he added. “It’s a respect for the environment, for the fishery, for the people who live there. The neighbors shouldn’t have to clean up after the fishermen.”
Part of the problem could be the influx of inexperienced anglers attracted by the return of more than 830,000 easy-to-catch pink and 40,000 coho salmon returning to the Puyallup. Those people might not be as familiar with the rules as more experienced anglers.
“I feel like the coach on the sideline. I need some leaders out there who will step up and say something when the see something being done that’s wrong,” Thiesfeld said.
“We want people to go catch fish, go enjoy that resource, but we have to be able to do that in a respectful manner.”
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
PUYALLUP CLOSURE DATES
From 11th Street bridge to Freeman Road: Sunday, Monday, Sept. 6-8, 13-15, 20-23, 27-30, Oct. 4-7, 11-14.
From Freeman Road to the East Main Avenue bridge: Sunday, Monday, Sept. 6-8, 13-15, 20-23, 27-30.
Regulations: You can find the fishing regulations at wdfw.wa.gov.