Proposed fish regulations generate far less controversy this year

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Most of the proposed changes to the 2022 fishing regulations in West Virginia are boiler plate material to bring various waters into more uniform regulations. However, amid the cleanup, the Natural Resources Commission wants to know more about an issue which created a substantial stir among sportsmen and the Commission a year ago.

It’s not a proposal at this point, but the upcoming questionnaire of Mountain State sportsmen will gauge their opinion on the removal of the Catch and Release restriction on a 4.3 mile stretch of the Cranberry River from the confluence of the North and South Forks downstream to the low water bridge at Dogway Fork. It’s the same proposal which was hastily amended into one of last year’s proposals and approved by Commissioners.

Although DNR Director Steve McDaniel at the time, acting on the advice of Staff Attorney Jane Charnock, said the amendment was allowed, the Director later learned the amendment was not legal since it had not been properly presented for public comment. The vote and amendment were nullified at the next meeting.

Now, at the request of Commissioners, the measure is being vetted and put on the questionnaire for sportsmen in the March sectional conversations.

The agency’s Assistant Chief for Fish Management Mark Scott presented around 10 proposed adjustments to fishing regulations in the state during the Commission’s February meeting. Among them was the measure which was derailed by last year’s Cranberry amendment.

The proposal would remove the trout Catch and Release regulation on the .9 mile section of Shavers Fork in the Stuart Recreation Area. The proposal calls for the removal since the area includes a swimming hole and isn’t conducive for trout fishing if folks are swimming.

Another proposal put before Commissioners involved the Woodbine Children and Class Q section on the Cranberry River. Scott proposed removing the designation because the area isn’t easily fished for children or those with a disability. He added, it has become a haven for outlaws.

“It’s become nothing but a poacher’s haven,” Scott mentioned to Commissioners. “It’s way out there and it’s hard to police it 24/7. It’s always tough to establish Children and Class Q sections on a stream, but we want to move those somewhere else where access and fishing is a little easier for those groups.”

Commissioner Pete Cuffaro raised questions about the proposal and asked to find out how many citations had been written for illegal fishing there. Cuffaro also requested information about plans for where the new area for Children and Class Q anglers would be established.

The DNR wants to establish a 20 to 30 inch protected slot limit for walleye with an 8 fish daily creel limit, of which only one can be over 30 inches, on Cheat Lake and the entire length of the Cheat River. According to Scott those are the standard walleye regulations on other waters in the state and they want to make them uniform.

Another proposal would also establish a 4-fish daily creel limit and 8-fish possession limit–of which only one may be over 35 inches or longer for flathead catfish on the entire length of the Monongahela River.

“We’re adding the Mon River to what’s already in place for flatheads on the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers,” Scott told commissioners.

A few years ago Commissioners adopted the flathead limits to protect against out-of-state owners of pay fishing lakes who were harvesting the fish and taking them back to their waters at an alarming pace.

Scott also explained to the Commission there is some desire to create trophy panfish waters with another newly proposed regulation.

“Some of our biologists began to study panfish in small impoundments. They feel like they can grow some trophy type panfish for people to catch in those waters if we can implement the changes,” Scott explained.

The changes include a 10 fish daily creel limit in which only five fish may be over 8 inches or longer for bluegill and all other sunfish species in aggregate on Mason Lake in Monongalia County and Teter Creek Lake in Barbour County.

The agency wants to lift a 15-inch minimum length limit for walleye on Tygart Lake and Tygart River from Valley Falls upstream to the dam. According to Scott, the numbers need to be thinned and lifting the restriction will allow people to keep more of the fish and hopefully reduce the numbers.

The DNR has reached a new lease agreement with a landowner and proposes to add 4,400 feet to the existing fly fishing only section of Second Creek.

The rest of the 2022 regulation proposals included:

–The Division of Natural Resources proposes to place the section of the Kanawha River from the Buffalo Bridge upstream to the Winfield Lock and Dam under the regulation of 6-fish daily creel in aggregate for walleye, sauger, and saugeye. Only 2 of the 6 fish can be walleye and the walleye must be 18” or longer.

— The Division of Natural Resources proposes to add tiger trout to be included in all regulations pertaining to trout and consistent with all aggregate limits for trout.

–The Division of Natural Resources proposes to change the trout delayed harvest regulation to be under Catch-and-Release regulations from November 1 through March 31 and General Regulations from April 1 through October 31.

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