UPDATED: “Uncharted territories” is the word about statewide fisheries from Larry Phillips, the WDFW Region 6 Director on the “Stay at Home” announcement made by Governor Jay Inslee Leave a reply

Mar 24, 2020 by Mark Yuasa

After Governor Inslee’s announcement this afternoon about a “Stay at Home” order that will take effect in 48 hours the phone has been ringing off the hook and emails are flooding in with questions on what this all means to our Washington sport fisheries.

“We are working with the Governor’s office on at least 20 (WDFW) issues, and clearly this is uncharted territories,” said Larry Phillips, the head Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Region 6 Director.

“Just a couple of them is we’re right in the middle of mass marking (salmon) at hatcheries where we work in very close quarters to the lowland lakes trout opener which is just on the horizon (opens April 25-26),” Phillips said. “We should have more information by (Tuesday) and will get the word out as soon as possible.”

In a phone conversation on Tuesday, Phillips said “our (WDFW) position is that we’re seeking additional clarification from the Governor’s office regarding implementing the “Order.” We should know more soon.”

For the moment, salmon fishing in Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands marine areas will remain status quo as will trout and game-fish fishing in statewide lakes currently open. However, the rule of “social distancing” still applies everywhere.

It was noted that WDFW hatchery staff are working diligently to adjust to marking in the current situation. All alternatives are being weighed including moving trailers from east of the Cascades to the westside to address the likelihood that clipping will take longer with smaller crews. Staff is also going from one shift daily to three shifts daily. Other considerations include delay clipping of yearling releases (some of which are already done in the fall) from late spring to fall in order to get all the chinook done in time for release.

Port of Ilwaco Marina has closed the boat launch facility until further notice due to the COVID-19 crisis. Photo courtesy of Larry Phillips.

The Port of Ilwaco has also stepped up measures at the marina where the boat launch is now closed and no transient moorage space is being accepted at this time. The marina itself remains open.

At Westport, the marina office is closed until further notice but staff is available via phone or email. Advanced reservations for the summer fishing season have been postponed until May 1. The new Westport boat launch ribbon cutting planned for March 24 is postponed until further notice. For more information, go to
https://www.portofgraysharbor.com/downloads/Covid1WestportMarina20200316.pdf.

The Makah Tribe has shut down activities at Neah Bay to general public. As of Monday (March 16) until further notice, businesses and properties owned by the Makah Tribe will limit or close public access, in response to the spread of COVID-19. This includes the marina where sport fisherman launch boats to pursue bottom-fish in the area. The coastal razor clam opener last week was also closed due to coastal county rules implemented to avoid crowding on popular clam digging beaches.

There are a plethora of other spring fisheries that will get underway very soon including the Puget Sound lingcod fishery opening on May 1 and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and most of Puget Sound opening for halibut on April 16 to the western Strait, Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay opening April 30 for halibut. The highly popular spot shrimp fishery is expected to open sometime in May as well.

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