The state Fish and Wildlife Commission at its Feb. 4-5 meeting approved several rule changes that will impact recreational anglers.
The commission approved new regulations for the 2011 Puget Sound recreational crab season that reflect a new policy adopted last October to expand sport fishing opportunities.
Under the new regulations, Puget Sound sport crabbers will be able to fish for Dungeness crab five days a week – Thursday through Monday – with a five-crab daily limit. Most of Puget Sound will be open July through Labor Day.
For people who fish for crab south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the change means less opportunity. The current crab season in Marine Area 13 is open seven days a week June 18-Jan. 2.
Crabbing in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) will open later to protect soft-shell crab. The season in the southern portion of the area will be July 15-Sept. 30. In the northern and eastern portions, crabbing will be open Aug. 15-Sept. 30.
Winter crabbing opportunities will vary depending on the number of crab still available for harvest after summer catch numbers are tallied.
The commission also OK’d an indefinite Elwha River fishing moratorium, to begin in March 2012. The closure is designed to protect salmon and trout during demolition of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams and encourage fish to move into 70 miles of new spawning and rearing habitat.
The moratorium, in effect until further notice, was endorsed by the National Park Service and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe for the fisheries they manage in the watershed.
After hearing from the public, the commission opted not to close all fishing in Lake Sutherland, linked to the Elwha River by Indian Creek. Fishery managers had previously proposed closing fishing in the lake, currently open year-round.
Effective May 1, only kokanee and trout 6-18 inches long can be retained at Lake Sutherland, which will close for the year Nov. 1. Starting next year, the new rules adopted by the commission will limit fishing for kokanee and other game fish in Lake Sutherland from the third Saturday in April through the end of October.
The commission cut the daily bottomfish limit from 15 to 10 for recreational anglers while several commercial marine fish fisheries in Catch Area 4B (western Strait of Juan de Fuca) were closed. The changes provide additional protection for bottomfish in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The commission also approved:
• Changes in state fishing rules on a variety of issues, including closing fishing for Columbia River smelt (eulachon) statewide.
• An updated management policy for Columbia River summer chinook, which retains the 50-50 allocation between recreational and commercial fishers downstream from Priest Rapids Dam.