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Oregon, Washington at odds on barbless hooks

Differing policies on Columbia could lead to confusion

By Terry Otto, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 7, 2019, 8:13pm

At the Aug. 2 meeting in Salem, Ore, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission refused an agency request to make barbless hooks voluntary on the Columbia River for salmon and steelhead fisheries. The use of barbed hooks is allowed right now because of a temporary rule change, which will expire on Nov. 28.

At that point in time Oregon will be at odds with Washington in regards to salmon fishing regulations on the Columbia River.

Washington has finalized its Columbia River regulations, and it includes a provision for voluntary use of barbless hooks on the Columbia and many of its tributaries.

“At the March 2 meeting in Spokane, the (Washington) commission voted to allow voluntary barbless hooks in the Columbia and many of its tributaries,” said Ryan Lothrop, the Columbia River Fishery Manager. “That’s the only directive we have on the Washington side. At this time that continues.”

For now anglers may continue to use barbed hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River.

“It’s important for people to know that we do have concurrency through the fall fishery,” said Lothrop.

He said there are a number of different paths going forward the states can use to address the difference in rules.

“One is you get a recommendation from the joint state commission workgroup that achieves concurrency, because that’s the group’s primary focus,” said Lothrop.

“Another one is that one of the states will have to change their rules to achieve concurrency.”

There are processes already in place that the states can use to do that. However, it is a possibility that the states will not come to an agreement, and that could set up an enforcement issue.

“We’ve been down that road before with Washington allowing night fishing for salmon, and Oregon did not. It makes it difficult for enforcement obviously, depending on what side of the river you are on.”

“It becomes a challenge for both law enforcement and constituents.”

If concurrency is not achieved, anglers will have to pay close attention to what side of the boundary they are on after November 28, and adhere to the rules of that state. That could mean anglers needing to possibly keep two sets of gear on hand, both barbed and barbless, if they wish to be able to fish both sides of the river.

If an angler has either an Oregon or Washington fishing license, they can fish both state’s waters within the Columbia.

The first chance the states may have to grapple with this issue the August 29 joint commission workgroup meeting. However, the issue could be added to either state’s commission meeting schedules in the near future.

In the meanwhile, anglers may continue to use barbed hooks during the fall salmon fisheries in the Columbia River. However, anglers should remember that in November the status quo may change.

Columbian staff writer