Letter To WDFW Director, Jim Unsworth About Fishing For Salmon in Canada

Director Unsworth,

Our current and past fishing regulation pamphlet reads as follows:
“It is unlawful to possess in marine waters or land into Washington any fresh salmon taken for personal use from Canadian waters unless such salmon meet current salmon regulations for the Catch Record Card area where the salmon are landed, unless you physically clear Customs in Bedwell Harbour, Sydney, Ucluelet, Victoria, or White Rock, and get your Customs clearance number at the port. If you are in possession of salmon that would be unlawful if taken in Washington, you may not fish in Washington waters.”

The key here is “Physically clear Customs.”

Yesterday during a phone conversation WDFW Sergeant Rosenberger said anglers must obtain their Canadian Customs clearance number “While at dock.” This is per WAC 220-56-156

Anglers who get a Nexus Pass pass now become subject to Federal law, which has precedence over state law. This issue has become very confusing for sports anglers who have gone through the process to become a “Trusted Traveler” to the governments of Canada and the United States. Having an angler “physically” go to a Canadian government dock to obtain his or her customs clearance number is unreasonable and not in line with current federal law.

Anglers using the Nexus Program MUST clear customs upon entering Canadian waters. The clearance number they get upon calling 1-866-CAN-PASS is the only number they receive as they have cleared customs upon entering Canadian waters. Therefore, any Washington State law that requires an angler to clear customs at a specified government dock is illegal and out of line, unnecessary and a burden to the Canadian Customs if anglers were to call again from the dock in order to get clear customs again, which is not required by Canadian law.

Several anglers along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands are waiting to be ticketed in order to challenge this law in court. Perhaps a clarification or change of wording  to this law, eliminating the requirement to “physically” clear customs from the government dock is in order to allow anglers with an I-68 or Nexus Pass to land salmon in Washington ports as the federal law now permits.

Your attention and response to this problem is greatly appreciated,


John L. Beath,

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Breaking News — How to Keep Canadian Caught Salmon Legally

I just spoke with WDFW Sergeant, Kit Rosenberger who clarified what we need to do to legally fish for salmon in Canada waters and bring them back to our home port when our area is closed to the taking of salmon. He just e-mailed me the actual law, listed below, but clarified the main point, how to stay legal. As many of you know, here is what our Washington State Fishing Pamphlet reads,

“It is unlawful to possess in marine waters or land into Washington any fresh salmon taken for personal use from Canadian waters unless such salmon meet current salmon regulations for the Catch Record Card area where the salmon are landed, unless you physically clear Customs in Bedwell Harbour, Sydney, Ucluelet, Victoria, or White Rock, and get your Customs clearance number at the port. If you are in possession
of salmon that would be unlawful if taken in Washington, you may not fish in Washington waters.”

The key here is “Physically clear Customs.” Sergeant Rosenberger said anglers must obtain their Canadian Custom’s clearance number “While at dock.”

That is the key to this whole International mess, in my opinion. Since Canadian Custom’s officials have no procedure or process to have an already short staffed group of agents come to the dock for visual inspection, they simply give us a clearance number via 1-888-CAN-PASS which is legal as long as the angler is at dock in one of the five listed ports.

When I asked Rosenberger how we sports anglers prove we acquired our Canadian Custom’s clearance number he stated, “Now that is an interesting question.” Indeed it is.

WAC 220-56-156

Possession and delivery of Canadian-origin food fish and shellfish.

(1) Canadian license required. It is unlawful to possess in marine waters or deliver into Washington shellfish or food fish taken for personal use from Canadian waters unless the person who possesses or delivers the shellfish or food fish possesses a valid Canadian sport fishing license and catch record card, if one is required, for the shellfish and food fish taken.

(2) Canadian-origin rockfish restrictions: It is unlawful to possess yelloweye or canary rockfish taken for personal use from Canadian waters.

(3) Canadian-origin halibut restrictions:

(a) The daily limit of halibut is one daily limit, regardless of the origin of the halibut.

(b) The possession limit is two halibut if at least one halibut was taken from Washington waters. It is unlawful to possess in excess of the Canadian possession limit of halibut for the time and area fished if all halibut were taken from Canadian waters.

(c) It is unlawful to possess more than one daily limit of halibut aboard the fishing vessel.

(4) Canadian-origin salmon restrictions:

(a) It is unlawful to possess in marine waters or deliver into Washington any fresh salmon taken for personal use from Canadian waters unless such salmon meet current salmon regulations for the waters of the applicable department of fish and wildlife catch record card area. However, if the vessel operator has a valid Canadian customs clearance number obtained while the vessel was moored at a Canadian government dock in Ucluelet, Victoria, Sydney, White Rock, or Bedwell Harbour, British Columbia, fishers aboard the vessel may deliver Canadian-origin salmon into Washington that are lawfully taken in Canada, regardless of whether the salmon meet the current salmon regulations for the area where delivered.

(b) It is unlawful to fish for any species in state or offshore waters from a vessel having Canadian-origin salmon aboard that do not meet the current salmon regulations for the waters being fished.

(c) It is unlawful for a fisher to fish for any species in state or offshore waters if the fisher possesses in the field any salmon that do not meet the current salmon regulations for the waters being fished.

(5) “Delivery” of Canadian-origin fish into Washington defined. For the purposes of this section, “delivery” means transportation by a private or commercial recreational fishing vessel. Delivery in Washington is complete when, within the state, the vessel anchors, moors, ties to a float or pier, or is placed or attempted to be placed on a boat trailer. “Delivery” is also complete if the fish or shellfish are offloaded from the vessel within state waters.

WDFW Badge“To protect our natural resources and the public we serve”

Kit Rosenberger, Sergeant

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Law Enforcement Program


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Can You Catch & Keep Salmon In Canadian Waters?

Here’s the latest information on what you need to do to legally fish in British Columbia Canada waters.

  1. Purchase your B.C. Tidal Waters Fishing License. You can purchase it in B.C. at a dealer or go online and purchase your single day, multiple day or annual license. However, if you purchase an online license you can not fish in Areas   Here’s the link to purchase your license online. B.C. Tidal Water Fishing License Online Purchase Cost for 1 day, $7.35 CND, 3 day, $19.95 CND, 5 day, $32.55 CND, Annual, $106.05 CND All above prices are for ages 16 and up. Also, this online license prohibits non-Canadian license holders from fishing for halibut in Areas 23, 121 & 123. This would apply to halibut anglers departing from Neah Bay either by charter boat or private boat. Halibut anglers who plan to fish these areas MUST purchase their license in person from a dealer in British Columbia.
  2. Everyone aboard your vessel MUST have a passport or enhanced driver’s license, I-68 or Nexus Pass.
  3. Upon entering Canadian waters, the captain of the vessel MUST call 1-800-CAN-PASS. The Canadian Custom’s agent will ask a series of questions including, boat registration info, names and passport numbers for everyone aboard, their birth dates, where you are located now, where you departed from, how long you will be in Canadian waters, if you have guns, tobacco or firearms aboard.
  4. When re-entering U.S. waters you MUST call U.S. Customs at 1-888-562-5943  If you have either a Nexus Pass or an I-68 on file you will be able to clear customs via telephone. Also note, everyone MUST have one of these documents in order to avoid docking and waiting for a U.S. Custom’s official to inspect your vessel and I.D. of everyone aboard. An I-68 costs $16 per person or $32 for the entire family at the same address and is good for one year and enables boaters entering the U.S. from Canada to clear customs via telephone. The Nexus Pass is good for five years and costs $50. A Nexus Pass requires both countries to approve the applicant and make take several weeks. Both will require an in person interview. The I-68 can be purchased and obtained that day in most cases. To obtain an I-68 call your local U.S. Customs office and schedule a time to fill out the paperwork and be interviewed. You will need your U.S. Passport, or Enhanced Driver’s License.

Also note: It is legal to bring halibut back to your home port, even if halibut is closed in Washington waters. It is not legal to bring back salmon caught in B.C. waters if the port you are returning to is closed to the taking of salmon. Many anglers dispute this, especially those with Nexus Passes. My conversations with WDFW enforcement agents say they will ticket anyone landing salmon caught in Canada if salmon fishing is closed where they are docking.

Here’s the exact wording from the WDFW Fishing Rules
“It is unlawful to possess in marine waters or land into Washington any fresh salmon taken for personal use from Canadian waters unless such salmon meet current salmon regulations for the Catch Record Card area where the salmon are landed, unless you physically clear Customs in Bedwell Harbour, Sydney, Ucluelet, Victoria, or White Rock, and get your Customs clearance number at the port. If you are in possession
of salmon that would be unlawful if taken in Washington, you may not fish in Washington waters.”

And please note, B.C. has several Rockfish Conservation Areas that prohibit any kind of hook and line fishing. Anglers fishing near Middlebank need to know where they can and can’t fish. Please look at the maps below and note the coordinates of the no fishing zone.

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2016 Puget Sound Salmon Season Might Not Happen


As of April 15th 2016,  after heated negotiations between tribal fisheries managers and WDFW there will not be any sport fishing for salmon in Puget Sound or the Strait of Juan de Fuca this coming summer and Fall. For the first time in over 30 years since co-managing Washington State’s fisheries,  Jim Unsworth, WDFW Director stood firm and did not cave into the tribe’s demands, which would have severely restricted what little sport fishing might have taken place in Puget Sound waters. By standing his ground and supporting sport fishing Unsworth sent a new message to the tribes — WDFW will not negotiate unfairly.

The North of Falcon meetings have ended, but the tribes and WDFW will continue to try and come to an agreement. If they do reach an agreement they will still have to convince NOAA federal fisheries managers to issue the required federal fishing permits. However, there will be a limited salmon season off Washington Coast.

Here’s a guest post by Ron Garner, President of PSA followed by the news release from WDFW.

North of Falcon Process

The North of Falcon negotiations for 2016 was one of the toughest ever. We had nothing left on the table to deal with. We were at the bottom of the barrel as this is where previous negotiations have left us. If agreed to, we would have very little fishing. We had 2 weeks of Chinook fishing in MA 9 and 10. With the way we are being managed right now using the required in season management, this could turn into a few days. Especially it being the only game in town, It would have a huge number of boats on it driving it down to days. There was alos a cap on the amount of fish. We are the only ones practicing in season management. NOAA does not require us to, but the tribes do. We cannot go forward with a plan without tribal approval, so if we disagree, we have no plan to take to PFMC.

The Puget Sound Sportfish Advisors for WDFW, Andy Marks for CCA, Dan Stauffer, Tom Drews, and I for PSA, “Tom Nelly” Nelson, Pat Pattillo working for the sports groups, had a unanimous vote yesterday to go forward with no agreement. We put a lot of pressure on the new Director to not take the agreement.

He and his staff stood tall and took their modeling sheet into the tribes for approval, they had added back some mark select fisheries that had been removed, the tribes said no. So that was the end. As of right now there has never been a no agreement at North of Falcon. For many years we have managed that ” a bad deal is better than no deal.” It has gotten so bad that no agreement is not much better than an agreement.

The director stuck his neck out for us and we have to protect him. We told him we would have his back if he carried the line for us. Now he is under intense pressure to make an agreement.

As soon as the final negotiations were done, the tribes put out their press release. It said the state was not being conservative enough.

NOAA has not done their job in this negotiation. There are timelines set.

The tribes missed the deadlines as they were supposed to turn in their performance review of the rivers that they went over on their Chinook impacts and their modeling. The performance review has never been turned in.

There will be more to come but we need to get this out there to counter the tribal press release,
Ron Garner

600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091
April 15, 2016
Contact: Ron Warren, (360) 902-2799

Salmon seasons set for ocean, CR;
state, tribes unable to reach agreement on Puget Sound

Olympia – Anglers will have opportunities to fish for salmon in the ocean and Columbia River this year, although recreational and non-tribal commercial salmon fisheries in Puget Sound may be closed through much of the season.

After lengthy negotiations, state and tribal fishery managers could not reach an agreement on salmon-fishing seasons in Puget Sound. An agreement must be reached in the next few weeks or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribes in western Washington will each need to secure separate federal permits required to hold fisheries in Puget Sound waters where there are protected fish stocks.

That decision was made yesterday at the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Vancouver, Wash. Salmon fishing seasons for Washington’s ocean waters and the Columbia River were adopted during the federal panel’s meeting. A summary of those fisheries is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/attach/apr1516a.pdf

Jim Unsworth, WDFW director, said potentially forgoing salmon seasons in Puget Sound isn’t a decision the department took lightly.

“We realize that closing salmon fishing in Puget Sound for the foreseeable future is not only disappointing but is detrimental to many communities across the region,” he said. “As we work to secure the necessary federal permit, we hope to continue discussions with the tribes. I believe co-management can work, and we will do our part to improve the process of setting salmon seasons in Washington.”

This is the first time the state and tribes have not reached an agreement on salmon fishing seasons while working as co-managers, which began about 30 years ago. In previous years, the co-managers have been authorized to fish for salmon under a joint federal permit.

Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s Fish Program, said the department will begin working with NOAA Fisheries to secure a federal permit for salmon fisheries in Puget Sound. However, it is uncertain the department will receive federal authorization in time to hold salmon fisheries this summer, he said.

“We knew setting salmon-fishing seasons would be challenging this year due to the poor forecast for coho,” Warren said. “Our staff worked really hard to put forward a set of proposed fisheries that met agreed-to conservation goals. Unfortunately, we were not able to reach an agreement.”

About 256,000 coho are expected to return to Puget Sound in 2016. That’s about one-third the size of run predicted in 2015.

During the salmon season-setting process, state fishery managers consulted with numerous members of the department’s Puget Sound sportfishing advisory groups, who supported the department’s decision.

Puget Sound marine and fresh water areas that currently are open to salmon fishing – including marine areas 5, 11, 12 and 13 – will close to fishing May 1, if not scheduled to close earlier in the 2015-2016 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.


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Steelhead Fishing on Hoh River With Guide Pat Neal

YouTube Image.jpgApril is a great time to experience some of the best steelhead fishing in the world, on the Olympic Peninsula’s Hoh River. Yesterday, April 9th, friend Robert and I joined famed steelhead guide, Pat Neal for a 10 mile float on the lower Hoh River.

Our float began at the Cottonwood Campground and wound 10 miles downriver to a private land pullout that costs $5 upon retrieving your drift boat.

During our float trip, Pat Neal entertained us with stories of Mick Dodge, local politics and of course plenty of fishing stories. Pat has been a full time guide since the mid 1980s and also writes for the Peninsula Daily News, as a “Wilderness Gossip Columnist.” I’d heard stories of Pat for years and now I know why. He is super humble with his expert skills, claiming not to be the best guide, just friendliest. His intimate knowledge of the river, wildlife and local politics make him a wealth of entertaining knowledge while he expertly rows the river. His fishing skills give his customers an edge to catch the targeted species, BIG fish.


Pat Neal and his favorite Yakima Bait Plugs

Pat likes to pull plugs because he says they catch the biggest fish. Before launching down river, he tied on pink colored plugs, put them in the river and made sure they wiggled just so. While stroking with the oars he regaled us with stories of local wildlife, personal reflections and inside stories of his friend, Mick Dodge.

The first few hours resulted in just one hit and miss. Two thirds of the way down river my rod doubled over with a chrome bright 12 pound hen that we quickly released. An hour later, while trolling the same pink plug, a massive chrome bright hen hit the plug and launched itself clear out of the water. A quick measurement put the fish at 18 to 20 pounds, according to Neal. My previous best was a chromer from the Cowlitz. Upon close inspection of the images and video, I’d put this bright steelhead at 17 to 18 pounds, a trophy by any measure.

Anyone looking for trophy steelhead should plan a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in April. If you want the best edge at catching a trophy fish, give Pat Neal a call. With luck he will fit you into his busy guide schedule. For more information contact him via his website.



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Honesty & “Encounters” Will Likely Close Area 6 Early

000020Last Friday Area six salmon fishing rules changed from two fin clipped 22-inch or bigger Chinook to just one fish. When the WDFW sent out their press release, they noted that anglers had already reached 71% of allowable “encounters.”

In a nutshell, every time an angler has an encounter with a Chinook, either releasing a wild Chinook or undersized Chinook it counts toward the 2,586 encounters by sports anglers. The state relies heavily on fish counts at local marinas and boat launches. So, every time someone “encounters” a fish checker and brags about their fishing prowess, which may or may not be accurate, each fish verbalized to the checker counts against our Winter Blackmouth season. Honesty then, can hurt or help our Chinook seasons depending on the angler. While not advocating dishonesty about “encounters” I would suggest anglers be more wise while fishing and while at dock, speaking to fish checkers. First off, don’t use teeny, tiny lures — they catch more sub-legal fish. Target bigger fish with bigger lures. You won’t get as much action, but that’s the point. When you get a bite it will likely be a keeper sized fish over 22-inches. Lures should be at least 4.5 to 5 inches in length. Fast trolled plugs also help to avoid short salmon.

When speaking with the fish checkers use common sense and be honest about your catch.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

January 28, 2016

Anglers limited to 1 Chinook per day in Marine Area 6

Action: The daily catch limit for Chinook salmon in Marine Area 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait) will be reduced to 1 fish, with a 2 salmon limit. All wild Chinook salmon must be released.

Effective Date: Feb. 5 through April 10, 2016.

Species affected: Chinook salmon.

Location: Marine Area 6 within Puget Sound.

Reason for action: Before the salmon fishing season started, WDFW and tribal co-managers agreed to a limited number (2,586) of Chinook encounters – retaining or releasing fish – anglers are allowed in Marine Area 6. Preliminary estimates indicate that anglers have reached 71 percent of those encounters. The fishery is being modified to control impacts on stocks of concern.

Other information: WDFW will continue to monitor and evaluate the fishery in order to help maximize fishing opportunity is available for Marine Area 6. Anglers are reminded that they must continue to release all wild chinook.

Information contact: Ryan Lothrop, (360) 902-2808.

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