Plenty of rule changes for fishing, hunting seasons

OLYMPIA -- Washington sportsmen will have to apply earlier for permits, pay a little more for licenses and read the 2009 regulations carefully for many changes and new opportunities that will take effect under new rules and legislation emanating from Olympia this week.

Anglers have only a few new regulations to worry about, starting Friday.

Among the most likely to cause confusion is the new rule that opens fishing for certain streams on Memorial Day weekend while many other streams will open the "first Saturday in June" rather than June 1, as they have in the past.

In an emergency rule issued Wednesday afternoon, Snake River anglers will have a new spring-summer chinook limit that goes into effect Friday: one fish a day in the Little Goose area fishery.

State lawmakers this week approved HB 1778, which had numerous provisions affecting sportsmen. What was stripped out of the wide-ranging bill is as important as what was left in. For example, the bill:

-- Authorizes a 10 percent surcharge on all sport fishing and hunting licenses starting July 25.

-- Authorizes the Fish and Wildlife Department to pay damage claims for livestock losses to cougars, bears and wolves, as long as the Legislature provides money for that purpose.

-- Authorizes a two-pole stamp anglers can purchase for use on certain lowland lakes as early as July 25.

Stripped from the bill was a provision to neuter the Fish and Wildlife Commission by taking away its authority to hire and fire the Fish and Wildlife director.

However, a bill that still has some life in it, SB 5588, targets numerous commissions.

It would suspend the Fish and Wildlife commission for two years as a cost-saving measure.

Hunters have the biggest helping of changes to swallow as the 2009-10 hunting regulations pamphlets showed up on the Web and in license dealer's shops this week.

While the details are in the new rules pamphlet, here are some highlights:

-- Application deadline for special big-game and fall turkey permits is May 20, a month earlier than in the past.

-- Crossbows will be legal to use during firearms hunting seasons.

-- Spike bull elk are defined more restrictively, making it more difficult to find a legal bull to shoot.

-- Non-toxic shot will be required this fall for bird hunting on three units of the state's Sunnyside-Snake River Wildlife Area. Lead shot will be banned for hunting upland birds in all state pheasant release areas starting in 2011.

-- Cougar seasons have new weapon-type restrictions. For example, rifle hunters cannot hunt cougars during bow or muzzleloader seasons.

-- Antlerless deer tags in Eastern Washington have gone largely to a second-tag format. Antlerless deer opportunity for youths and seniors has been reduced because of winter kill.

-- All modern firearms big-game hunting permit holders must wear hunter orange. (No more loophole for Governor's tag holders.)

-- Starting in the fall, turkey hunters will be required to use No. 4 shot or smaller.

-- Modern handguns may be carried by archers and muzzleloaders for personal protection if the hunter possesses a concealed pistol license.

-- Deer hunters will find numerous changes in permit hunting opportunities. For example, five new whitetail permits in each of five northeastern Washington units will be issued for a coveted late Nov. 20-24 buck season.

-- Bear seasons in units that formerly opened the day after Labor Day will open Sept. 1.

-- Elk hunters using modern rifles can apply for a unique opportunity to bugle up "any bull" during the rut in a Sept. 21-25 season.

One permit will be offered in each of 27 units across much of the state, including the Blue Mountains.