Ever wonder exactly what your elected Representatives do? Let’s see, District 24, that would be Senator Kevin Van De Wege, Representatives Mike Chapman, and Steve Tharinger. Well, they attend lots of meetings but other than that…. Pretty much nothing.

In December of 2020, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) implemented an emergency Rule prohibiting fishing from a floating device in Olympic Peninsula and Southwest Washington rivers. The stated objective of WDFW is a reduction of “catch and release” encounters (hooking a fish) by 50%. It is apparently their “hope” that this will result in a lower mortality rate of spawning steelhead and enhance future returns. Utterly absurd rationale! Numerous scientific studies have shown that mortality rate – attributable to catch and release – is virtually nil and further, no detrimental impact on spawning capability can be established.

The real impact of this ill-conceived, onerous, discriminatory Rule is the extreme economic impact on coastal communities. I personally averaged $4100. a year for the last 3 years chasing steelhead in coastal rivers. I am only one of slightly more than 8,000. Guide fees, hotel rooms, restaurants, fuel, tackle, etc., etc., etc. Most coastal/southwest Washington rivers are 80% or more “no bank” – limiting fishable or “wadeable” water to a mere 20% or less. Getting in and out of a floating device in swift-moving water onto a rocky stream bed is not for the elderly or disabled. Professional fishing guides advise me that they have experienced 50% to 70% cancellation of bookings for the January through April 2021 steelhead season. This does not include the private boaters that have also made the choice of abandoning these waters for rivers that can be fished from a boat. Again, that impacts hotels, restaurants, fuel, tackle etc., and all this economic devastation for a program that has no chance whatsoever of producing a positive benefit for the resource. This emergency Rule must be overturned immediately. There are things that WDFW can do quickly that will produce immediate resource enhancing results – but this Rule is not one of them.

Yes, this information has all been provided to your Representatives a number of times. Who are they?

District 24, Senator Kevin Van De Wege. Representative Mike Chapman, and Representative Steve Tharinger. It is interesting to note that Senator Van De Wege is Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, and Representative Chapman is Chair of the House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources & Parks Committee – each of which has oversight of WDFW. They have all failed to act in your interest, apparently having ceded all power to appointed bureaucrats. It really does appear they have little concern of compounding the economic devastation already experienced as a result of Covid……

So, when you drive through Forks or other coastal communities in the early morning and see few if any, boat trailers, when you see hotel/motel parking lots empty, restaurants closed, and other retail outlets shuttered please remember the names of your Representatives. Better yet, write them down so their names are readily available the next time you vote. Again, that would be Senator Van De Wege, Representative Chapman, and Representative Tharinger.

Jerry Effenberger

Concerned Citizen