Washington anglers have their say

Though Santa Claus gets the most letters in December, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission might be a close second this year.

Apparently, a massive letter-writing campaign from recreational anglers in the state has swamped commissioners with complaints about proposed restrictions on the use of lead weights and lures. The proposal was made at the commission's November meeting by spokespersons of a group called the Loon Lake Loon Association, which wants the state to limit the size of lead weights to no lighter than 1 ounce, and the length of lures composed at least partially of lead to no shorter than 2 inches.

The association contends that loons die of lead toxicosis after they swallow small weights and lures inadvertently as they ingest gravel to help grind up food in their gizzards. Though only two people spoke on the subject in November, several representatives of recreational anglers are expected to have their say when the commission convenes here Dec. 4.

Mark Byrne, conservation director of the Washington Federation Nation, will be among the speakers and will voice the concerns of bass club anglers regarding the effects of any such restrictions on recreational fishing in general.

"From what I've heard, fishermen from around the state have written letters and voiced their opposition," said Byrne Thursday evening. "It's too bad the meeting is on a workday, but there will be enough of us there to get our message across.

"Basically, I'm going to talk about the effects of this unfounded, unscientific proposal on all of us who enjoy Washington's lakes, rivers and coastal waters," continued Byrne. "Such a restriction will have a devastating effect on John Q. Public and family fishing in general. I don't think that anybody has really stressed the implications that this will mean for the state's economy and conservation efforts in general. I plan to provide some important details."

After pondering various proposals in December and January, the Commission will announce new hunting and fishing regulations at its February meeting.

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