Legislation heard today by the Senate Ways & Means Committee would overhaul outdated state laws governing methods for catching salmon.

“Our restrictions on fishing methods are badly in need of updating,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim). “Improvements to pound nets and fish traps have been shown to be far more effective at harvesting hatchery salmon while releasing wild fish unharmed. We have the opportunity to improve our harvests and increase the health of our salmon population at the same time.”

Senate Bill 5567 would repeal the state’s restrictions on the use of pound nets, round haul nets, fish traps, fish wheels and certain other gear for catching salmon and steelhead. It also directs the state Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) to develop guidelines for the use of alternative fishing gear and to authorize a commercial pound net fishery in the lower Columbia River by June 1, 2023.

“It’s time to move past gillnets and on to more modern, less harmful techniques,” Van De Wege said. “Peer-reviewed studies show it’s possible to reduce the handling of wild salmon while harvesting farmed salmon and increase their survival rate to nearly 99 percent.”

His legislation would authorize WDFW to conduct rule-making on fixed-gear fishing techniques.