As expected Washington state joined Oregon in removing limits on bass, walleye, and catfish in the boundary waters portion of the Columbia River.
Inexplicitly, though, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) did not mention the measure in the regulation changes endorsed by the Washington Wildlife Commission (WWC). And because it wasn't listed as approved, bass anglers and others mistakenly believed that the commissioners had declined to approve it.
"This whole business gave me a day of hope," said Lonnie Johnson, Oregon B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director. "Unfortunately it was just a pipe dream."
One publication even praised the WWC for refusing to "jump on the band wagon and follow Oregon's fuzzily thought-out elimination of daily bag limits . . . "
But upon investigation, B.A.S.S. Times discovered that the commissioners did approve the DFW recommendation. It becomes effective July 1.
"Unfortunately, we didn't do a very good job of publicizing it, so I can understand the confusion," said a public affairs spokesman for the agency. "We should have included it in the news release."
The commission received 23 written comments in favor of removing limits on the non-native species that have been in the Columbia for more than a century, but just 12 from those opposed to the measure.
As salmon and steelhead fisheries have diminished over the years because of habitat loss and altered flows, warmwater species have flourished, especially in the impounded waters behind hydroelectric dams. Although evidence indicates predation by these non-native species has contributed little to this decline, an anti-bass bias has persisted. And in recent years, the federal government joined in putting pressure on both Oregon and Washington to remove limits, despite a lack of science to support the move.
Bass anglers, meanwhile, argue that they also finance fisheries management by buying fishing licenses and that this strategy shows disregard for them as a constituency and will do little to diminish the smallmouth population of the Columbia River. Most of them will continue to practice catch and release.