Controversial fishing proposals in store for Washington

OLYMPIA -- Washington fisheries officials are about to deliver a bombshell on Columbia River anglers, proposing single barbless hooks be required for salmon and steelhead angling as far upstream as McNary Dam.

The proposal is part of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's 2010-12 sport-fishing regulations package. The regulations would apply from May 1, 2010, through April 30, 2012.

Single barbless hooks make the release of wild salmon and steelhead much easier.

Patrick Frazier, regional fish program manager, said anglers trolling or anchored with herring in the lower Columbia could continue to use up to three hooks, so long as the hooks are barbless.

Anglers trolling with Wiggle Warts or anchored with Kwikfish could continue to use two hooks, but single, barbless hooks, not the dual treble hooks standard on the lures.

"We expect we're going to hear quite a bit about this one,'' Frazier said.

The single barbless hooks proposal comes at a time when the Legislature has placed a two-year, 10 percent surcharge on hunting and fishing licenses (through June 30, 2011) and a new $7.50 annual fee for salmon and steelhead fishing in the Columbia and tributaries through 2014.

Jack Glass, a Columbia River fishing guide, said he has mixed emotions about the single barbless hook proposal.

"Does it reduce handling mortality and give us more opportunity, more days on the water?'' Glass asked. "If it gives us more revenue, more economic benefit, a fair number of more days, then I could support it.''

Glass said single hooks on plugs work well, but not on spinners.

"Often, without that treble hook, they won't spin right and are not as effective,'' he said.

John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said single barbless hooks are not in the Oregon 2010 draft angling regulations being circulated for review.

Oregon staff hasn't reviewed the Washington proposal, North said, adding that concurrent rules in the Columbia River are necessary.