Patrols stop illegal fishing on closed rivers

Many of western Washington's most popular rivers are closed to fishing.

Many of western Washington's most popular rivers are closed to fishing. It's to protect Coho, but it hasn't cleared the water of hooks.

"I can't tell if he's fly fishing or not," said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Kim Chandler. "He just took his vest off."

Through binoculars, Chandler spotted a man fishing in the Snoqualmie River on Labor Day. On any other year, the river would typically be open to fishing.

"I've been around for a long time and this is unprecedented,” Chandler said. “These salmon runs here lately. These regulations, I've never seen anything like this before.”

Many rivers are closed right now to protect Coho, including the Green, Skykomish, Snohomish, Sammamish, and Nisqually. Coho runs are predicted at historic lows.

"Well, we'll go have a little chat with him," Chandler said.

It didn't take long for the man to spot us, and it didn't take long for Chandler to break the news.

"The river's closed. There's not a river hardly in western Washington that's open right now. They closed September 1," Chandler said.

"You're kidding," the man replied.

The surprise isn't uncommon. It's a big change from past years, and some fishermen said they just didn't know.  But ignorance here isn't bliss.

"There's not much of an excuse for not reading these," Chandler told the man, pointing to the regulation handbook.

If caught with a fish, the violation comes with a $500 fine and a court appearance. This man got a $150 citation. It's not a cheap fishing day, but with salmon returns so low, wildlife officials said it's a small price to pay to protect a valuable resource.

Copyright 2016 KING


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