Changes mulled for Merwin, Swift reservoirs

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

Published:

 

State officials are considering doubling the limit to 10 kokanee at Merwin Reservoir and delaying opening day at Swift Reservoir until early June.

A public meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2108 Grand Blvd., to gather comments on a suite of potential regulation changes beginning in May 2013.

The agency is recommending nearly 70 sport-fishing rule proposals move forward for public comment.

To review and comment on the proposals, go to the website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals.

Comments will accepted through Dec. 15 and testimony will be taken at the state Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in January in Olympia.

Here are some of the proposals affecting Southwest Washington:

Merwin Reservoir — The daily bag limit at the reservoir on the North Fork of the Lewis River would be 10 kokanee plus five trout.

Adult kokanee returns to Speelyai Hatchery consistently exceed spawning needs. The hatchery needs 160 pair yet several thousand return each fall.

Swift Reservoir — Opening day at Swift would change from the final Saturday of April to the first Saturday of June.

Landlocked salmon rules would apply (salmon are regulated as trout and part of the trout catch limit).

The maximum size limit would be 15 inches and the daily trout limit would increase to 10 fish beginning in September from Swift Dam to markers 3/8th of mile downstream of Eagle Cliff Bridge.

Adult salmon and steelhead are being reintroduced into the North Fork of the Lewis upstream of Swift Dam. A $65-million smolt collector has been installed at the dam to capture young, downstream-migrating salmon and steelhead beginning next spring.

The later opener is to protect the smolts, while the 15-inch limit is to protect adult salmon from harvest. The increase in the daily catch limit for September, October and November would compensate for the delayed opener.

Black Friday — Six lakes would close on the Monday before Thanksgiving, get stocked with rainbow trout averaging more than a pound, then reopen on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

The waters would include Klineline Pond and Battle Ground Lake in Clark County, Rowland Lake in Klickitat County, Kress Lake in Cowlitz County and Fort Borst Park Pond and South Lewis County Park Pond in Lewis County.

Blue Creek — Blue Creek, a tributary to the Cowlitz River, would be open to all anglers. The requirement that only anglers who permanently use a wheelchair can fish from a sign about 40 feet downstream from the rearing pond outlet to a sign above the rearing pond outlet would be removed.

The area no longer meets the Americans with Disabilities Act standards. A new ADA access has been built nearby on the Cowlitz River.

Steelhead harvest in Blue Creek is to keep hatchery fish off spawning grounds used by wild winter steelhead.

Coweeman River — Five miles of the river from the mouth to Baird Creek would be open for fishing. The goal is to increase the harvest of hatchery winter steelhead and reduce their straying onto the spawning grounds.

Kalama River — Retention of hatchery steelhead would be allowed between Summers Creek upstream to Kalama Falls.

Hatchery steelhead make it past lower Kalama Falls and reach upstream spawning area.

The rule will reduce the number of hatchery fish that might spawn with wild steelhead.

White Salmon River — Fishing for hatchery steelhead would be open from the county road bridge downstream of the former Condit Dam powerhouse upstream to Northwestern Lake Road bridge with selective gear (single barbless hooks, no bait) rules.

Hatchery steelhead are straying into this area above the Condit site and could be retained while protect spawning salmon and steelhead recolonizing the area.