Removal of catch and release restrictions highlight fishing changes for 2021

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia anglers will want to brush up on some changes approved by the Natural Resources Commission to fishing regulations in the state, particularly the catch and release status on a couple of well known stretches.

During Sunday’s meeting, the Commission narrowly approved a measure to remove the catch and release status for black bass on the New River from the I-64 Sandstone Bridge downstream to the Grand View sandbar. It was a narrow vote of 4-3 to approve the measure. Commissioners Pete Cuffaro, Dave Milne, Kenny Wilson, and B.K. Chambers voted for the change. Commissioners Jeff Bowers, Greg Burnette, and Tom Dotson opposed the idea.

However in a separate recommendation, Commissioners voted unanimously to establish a 14 to 22 inch slot limit for all black bass in the New River from the Virginia State Line to Gauley Bridge, excluding Bluestone Lake from Bluestone Dam upstream to the mouth of Indian Creek.

Those changes were among ten proposed changes put forward by the Division of Natural Resources biologists.  Another measure which won approval Sunday may or may not be finalized.

The Natural Resources Section of DNR recommended removing the catch and release restriction for trout on Shavers Fork for 0.9 miles in the Stuart Recreation Area. However, Commissioner Wilson made a motion to amend the recommendation and also remove a 4.3 mile section of the Cranberry River from the confluence of the North and South Forks of Cranberry downstream to the mouth of Dogway Fork from the catch and release restriction as well.

“People have been asking to be able to keep a few fish in there to eat while they are in there camping. A lot of people have wanted the wilderness type experience to camp, and catch a few fish and eat them. That’s why I proposed it,” said Wilson after the meeting.

Wilson’s amendment was approved and the entire motion passed. However, after the meeting, DNR Director Steve McDaniel indicated the motion may not have been allowable since it was not presented to the public with adequate notice for comment.

“Proper public notice was not given by the agency of a proposed change to a regulation and therefore the public was not given an opportunity to comment on the proposed change. We will ask the Commission to address this error at its October meeting,” said McDaniel after the meeting.

The rest of the proposed changes were approved on a voice vote without much discussion. Those included:

–Establishment of a 30 fish creel limit and 60 fish possession limit for crappie, all species of sunfish, yellow perch, and all other fish not under a current limit.

–Removal of the 12 inch size limit on black bass from Wallback Lake.

–Removal of the season for dip netting to allow for them to be used year round.

–Establish a four-fish daily limit with a 15 inch minimum size for all moronidae species; striped bass, white bass, and hybrid striped bass on the Kanawha River from the confluence of the New and Gauley River downstream to the Buffalo Bridge.

–Removal of Buffalo Creek in Fayette County from the fly-fishing only designation.

–A two fish daily creel limit for all trout in Stephens Lake in Raleigh County.

–All other fishing regulations unchanged from 2020 are approved.

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