Washington: Warm Water Fishing Advisory Group Bill Advances in the Senate

Contact: Aoibheann Cline, Western States Coordinator 

Warm water anglers have received good news when it comes to greater inclusion in the management of game fish in Washington State, through the proposed formation of a Warm Water Advisory Group for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Senate Bill (SB) 6450 and House Bill (HB) 2666, proposals that would codify this involvement, were introduced as companion bills on January 17, 2020.

Warm water game fish such as bass, catfish and walleye are popular recreational fishing activities that are an economic driver for the state. Washington anglers purchased 2,446,853 angling licenses and tags in 2018 and have generated $664.17 million in historical funding for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. In 1996, the Warm Water Game Fish Enhancement Program (Enhancement Program) was established in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to increase opportunities for warm water game fish and is funded through a portion of each license fee. The Enhancement Program calls for active involvement of organized fish clubs. These bills would secure warm water anglers’ involvement in the development of habitat for warm water ponds and lakes, culture of warm water game fish, improvement of warm water fish habitat, management of warm water fish populations, and other practical activities that will improve the quality of warm water fishing.

HB 2666 was heard on January 29 in the House Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee where it generated significant conversation, but has yet to be brought up for a vote by the Committee.

On January 30th, SB 6450 advanced out of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee unanimously with an amendment to place a sunset date on the advisory group after concerns were raised that advisory committees often outlive their functional usefulness. The bill was then referred to the Ways and Means Committee on February 6, where it again passed unanimously. The bill is headed to the Senate for a floor vote.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) partnered with the American Sportfishing Association to support the bill in the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Washington anglers can support this bill by contacting their Senators and asking that they support SB 6450 to help save bass fishing in Washington State. Anglers can find information on how to engage through CSF’s partner organization, Keep America Fishing and through Save Washington Bass Fishing.

CSF will continue to monitor and engage on behalf of Washington’s warm water anglers.

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