The 1967 Washington Department of Fisheries regulations booklet for salmon states on page 13: ''The first six salmon caught 10 inches or more in length, regardless of where they are hooked (inside or outside of their mouth), must be retained.''
The river that the regulation applies to is the Washougal in Southwestern Washington; the area is the first 1500 feet of the stream below the Fisheries Department salmon hatchery rack; the time is from September 1 through October 31. Look for this ruling to produce mixed emotions on the part of sport fishermen.
Foul hooking salmon and steelhead in the past, and even more so today, draws the scorn of serious anglers. Thus, why the new regulation?
The artificial propagation of silver salmon in hatcheries has been abundantly successful, especially in the past few years. However, accompanying the adult silvers into fresh water and eventually to the spawning grounds have been hordes of small male silvers called "jacks." Last year 35,000 of these fish traveled up the Columbia and into the Washougal.
It is true that some of these fish are caught by orthodox means - bright spinners, spoons, salmon roe and possibly a few surprised fly anglers. However, the great majority of these fish are never taken.
I can still remember that day in late August last year when I was on the lower bridge next to the railroad trestle. I was peering down into the water looking for late summer steelhead. I saw several, which was gratifying, but then a school of from two to three hundred jack salmon caught my eye. The great majority of them seemed to be about two pounds in weight. The pool was large and there was a lack of current because the river was very low. The jacks, accompanied by five to 10 adult silvers, s warn aimlessly around the pool. These fish must have just arrived in the river, for as they turned you could occasionally see bright silver flashes.
In another section of the pool, jacks, and an occasional large silver, were splitting the surface of the water, not jumping completely out, but slashing at the surface as small trout will do when after insects.
I had not taken any steelhead that morning. The sun was now at its midday height. My mind turned toward the jacks that were so active. Having only my fly rod with me and a selection of steelhead flies, I decided to try for the jacks.
As I was walking off the bridge I met a fellow angler who had been fishing for the jacks, and asked him how he had done. Nothing. But he said that one fellow had taken several on lures earlier that morning, before the sun was on the water. With that I walked to the stream and began casting.
I started with bright flies and let them drift slow and deep. No results. I changed to bright streamers, casting them out and jerking them in about a foot at a time. For over an hour I tried in vain to tempt a fish with almost everything I had in my fly box. Nothing worked.
The most successful way to angle for these fish is with spinning gear. I believe that flies will work at times, but not as consistently as ''hardware'' and salmon roe. Even then, considering the many anglers that try for them, the great majority of fish are not of a disposition to strike anything at all.
Commercial fishermen could empty the river of most jacks, if given the opportunity, and local food stores would be selling fresh salmon for 599 a pound. Instead of this approach, the Washington Department of Fisheries has given the sports angler an opportunity to take these fish by foul hooking in the 1,500-foot section of the river previously mentioned.
Irregardless of my feelings on the subject, I will be on that stretch of water to take some photographs and to observe what goes on; I will formulate my opinions after I have seen the new regulations in effect.
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