HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
It would seem the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is always trying to hustle a buck, and for the most part does a pretty good job of it. For the last few years, it has been a way of life for the department because of budget shortfalls. Wildlife departments across the nation are in the same financial boat and do the same thing. WDFW’s latest moneymaking undertaking is to offer current freshwater and saltwater license holders the opportunity to upgrade to a combination license for under $27 through July 20. The upgrade will give those anglers all the fishing privileges of a combination license at the cost they would have paid if they had purchased one in the first place,
Freshwater fishing license holders can purchase an upgrade to a combination license for $26.75, and current saltwater fishing license holders can upgrade to a combination license for $26.20, said Bill Joplin, WDFW licensing manager.
“With the abundance of fishing opportunities this year, it was recognized customers who purchase licenses early may now wish they would have started with a combination license,” Joplin said. “With plenty of clams, shrimp, and salmon now available, this is a particularly good time for freshwater anglers to upgrade their licenses and take advantage of what our coasts have to offer. Current saltwater license holders who upgrade to the combo license will gain access to fishing in lakes and rivers as well as opportunities for shellfish and seaweed.”
For individuals who like to fish but can’t afford a fishing license or don’t desire to purchase a license for one reason or another, June 6-7 is a free fishing weekend. On those days, fishing licenses won’t be required. However, Catch Record Cards are required to fish for salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, Puget Sound Dungeness crab, and halibut (if open). The cards are free and available at hundreds of sporting goods stores and licensed dealers throughout the state. Please note: Catch Record Cards must be on your person while fishing. All other rules apply, including seasons, area and lure or bait restrictions, and size and catch limits. Free fishing days are valid for everyone including non-residents. Also, a Vehicle Access Pass, Discover Pass, Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement, and Two–Pole Endorsement are not required during this weekend.
Other fishing news
• WDFW has announced this summer’s crab fishing seasons. On June 1, crab fishing opened south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Marine Area 13. However, most other areas of Puget Sound will open for crab fishing July 3. Two areas around the San Juan Islands will open later in the summer to protect molting crab.
Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for the department, said, “We are seeing healthy numbers of crab throughout Puget Sound, and because crabbers in Area 13 have fallen short of reaching their catch quota in recent years, it was decided to give them an extra month to fish during the upcoming season. With such strong numbers, crabbing should be good from opening day through the whole season.”
The daily limit for crab throughout Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6.25 inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crabs measure at least five inches across.
• Joe Hymer, WDFW fish, reported that during May 19-25, anglers on the lower Columbia made 8,881 trips and caught 1,181 chinook (604 kept and 577 released) and 339 summer steelhead (325 kept and 14 released). The upriver chinook run size has been upgraded to 230,000 fish. The pre-season forecast was 227,000 fish.
• The Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery continues to be a lucrative activity for anglers targeting those fish. During May 19-26, the best pike fishing was at The Dalles, where 360 fishermen caught 4,458 fish and retrieved three tagged fish worth $500 each. At Columbia Point, 1,406 pikes were caught by 172 anglers. During that week, a total of 10,484 pikes were caught, and almost 29,000 pikeminnows have been caught so far this season.
• Closer to home, local lakes continue to produce nice strings of trout. Standard baits such as worms and power bait and power eggs seem to be the preferred baits and the most effective. Cowlitz River water levels have been erratic lately and have been affecting the bite, but anglers who are hanging in there are catching some chinook and steelhead between the hatcheries, but most of the action is being had near barrier dam.
• The recreation community is reminded our state waters are always cold. The average water temperature throughout most of the state is 60 degrees year-round, and hypothermia is always possible. Wearing life is a sure step to survivability.
Bob Brown is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org