We as sport anglers are shocked and outraged at the decision last evening by the ODFW Commission. Led by Governor Brown’s appointments, the Commission voted 4-3 to abandon the bi-State Columbia River salmon fishing reform plan and put the interests of a few hundred part-time gillnet operators above over 400,000 of sport anglers.

The ODFW Commission has betrayed us. While we thank commissioners Finley, Bittle and Webber for standing up for the promises made to our community, commissioners Anderson, Buckmaster, Wolley and Akenson all rejected not only the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s reasonable proposal, but also its own staff’s recommendation. Instead it has voted behind commercial industry commissioners Buckmaster and Anderson and their agenda to prop up an industry that refuses to evolve.

Compared to the agreement that should have been put in place this year, the Commission’s decision is projected by ODFW to result in the loss of 11,489 sport angler trips per year, while increasing commercial fishing revenue by 44.5%. And the Commission voted to continue to exclude sport anglers from Young’s Bay to give even more fish the commercial netters.

In addition, for the first time in 99 years, ODFW has decided to abandon working concurrently with Washington in managing fishing on the Columbia River. River management is poised to be thrown into chaos with conflicting rules from both states, bringing confusion to anglers, increased costs to our state police for enforcement, and potential litigation.

Ironically, ODFW’s 2017 sport fishing regulations (along with past regulations) on p. 8 state:

“Money from the [Columbia River] endorsement will help fund the transition to eliminate non-tribal commercial gill nets on the lower mainstem Columbia River and provide additional salmon and steelhead for sport fishing.”

That’s now proven to be a big lie! But they still plan to take your endorsement fee money.

The ODFW Commission has shown it is not a friend of the sport angler and Governor Brown’s appointments of Commissioners Anderson and Buckmaster, indicate a Governor and the majority of the commission that is grossly out of touch with a community that funds the bulk of its programs and partners with it to bring its mission forward.

Stay tuned as The Steelheaders are formulating our next steps and organized actions.

Bob Rees
Executive Director – Association of Northwest Steelheaders

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