Merwin Reservoir daily bag limit to double in May

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



Come May 1, anglers at popular Merwin Reservoir on the North Fork of the Lewis River will be allowed to keep 10 kokanee per day.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission doubled the limit on the landlocked sockeye salmon in the 4,000-acre reservoir when it adopted the 2013-14 sport-fishing regulations on Friday in Moses Lake.

Trollers are beginning to catch a few kokanee already in Merwin. Five trout, plus the 10 kokanee, will be allowed when the 2013-14 rules apply beginning May 1.

Speelyai Hatchery needs only about 160 pair of kokanee annually for spawning. Several thousand return to the hatchery.

According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, eight fishermen responded about Merwin during the public comment period. Most supported the increased limit.

Among the comments were requests for a 15-fish limit and an increase in the number of kokanee stocked.

In October, the agency stocked 45,000 kokanee at 8 fish per pound (4 to 5 inches). Tuesday, 48,000 more kokanee at 7 fish per pound (5 inches) were released, said Kevin Young of the Lewis River hatchery complex.

Those releases will contribute to the catch primarily in 2014.

Swift Reservoir — The commission also changed opening day at Swift Reservoir to June 1 and increased the bag limit for September, October and November.

However, the change is not expected to debut until 2014.

The 4,500-acre reservoir on the North Fork of the Lewis River has traditionally opened the fourth Saturday in April. Now it will open the first Saturday in June.

The bag limit will be five fish June through August, then 10 fish September through November. Both trout and coho count toward the daily limit and there will be a 15-inch maximum size limit.

Salmon and steelhead are being reintroduced upstream of Swift Dam. Operation of the $60-million fish collector at the dam has begun to capture out-migrating juveniles that will trucked to the lower North Fork of the Lewis and released.

The later opener is to protect the migrating juveniles, while the maximum size limit is to protect adult salmon which might be in the reservoir.

The increase in the bag limit in the fall is to make up for the later opener.

John Weinheimer, a state biologist, said an emergency rule is likely this year to delay the shift to a June 1 opener at Swift.

There are not enough downstream migrating salmon from the upper North Fork Lewis River yet to necessitate losing a month of the trout season, he said.

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