For the first time, sport fishing guides in Washington State are now required to keep a logbook of their guide activity.
In August 2019, the state legislature approved a law requiring guides to keep track of how many clients they guide, where they guide, what they catch, and more.
The new logbook rule came into effect on January 1.
Some guides have welcomed the logbooks, while others are unhappy with them.
The rule emerged after guides who fished in rivers on the Olympic Peninsula complained about guides from outside the region crowding the rivers they fished. The problem was that the WDFW had no idea how many guides were fishing in these rivers.
Chris Donley, WDFW Region 1 director and WDFW logbook manager, said the issue had brought the discussion about logs to the fore.
âThere was legislation that was co-sponsored by a few Forks area lawmakers that proposed a model of limited entry into the Olympic Peninsula fishery,â Donley said. “Because it was basically guesswork, our recommendation was that we should start a logbook requirement and be data driven in our decision making.”
“Contrary to popular belief, we actually use data to make decisions.”
Guides will need to record the number of people guided each day, along with their client’s wild identification number, where they fished, how many fish were caught, how long they fished, the name of the river fished and in which section they fished. Guides should also note the days they took out their guide boats for unguided trips.
There are guides who don’t like the new rule, but there are also guides who see benefits to be gained.
One of these is guide Cameron Black of Gone Catchin ‘Guide, one of the popular “Addicted Fishing” guides in southwest Washington.
âI think we could use this (data) as a tool to legitimize our industry,â Black said. âWe play an important role in bringing anglers who may not have the means, or the capacity, to participate in the fishery. “
“In terms of getting new license sales and engaging people, we’d like to see some quantification of that.”
The things Black thinks the department might find out is exactly how much guides contribute economically to the areas in which they fish.
On the other hand, many guides are alarmed and worried that the data could be used against them.
Steve Leonard of Steve’s Guided Adventures agrees the data could help the guiding industry, but is concerned about the setback.
âI hope they don’t use it against us or use it to stop fishing,â Leonard said.
It was also a concern raised by Black.
“Are other groups and agencies going to use this against us to restrict or limit fishing?” Black asked.
âThey’re worried that we’re taking the data and using it against them,â Donley said. âThere is this possibility, but it is not our intention. “
Another concern is confidentiality. Will the public be able to request data indicating where each guide is spending their time and effort?
âUnder the laws of the state of Washington, all of this information is proprietary,â Donley said. âWe can’t give someone private business information. “
Black has tracked the issue and knows the information will be protected.
âNo one will be able to go back and see where Cameron Black was fishing in January, none of that,â Black said. âLogbook data is no different from commercial fishing log data. No one can make a public record (request) and get it.
The logbooks will mean extra work for the guides.
âIt will definitely be difficult for us, the guides,â said Leonard. âWe have to do this before we get off the boat launch and do it in the pouring rain. We need to get all the information from our customers.
âI don’t mind the extra work as long as they are doing something with the data that is going to help our sport fishing industry. “
A lack of hard data makes it difficult for WDFW to make informed decisions.
âBefore that, they couldn’t tell you if there were 50,000 guided trips for trout or 20 guided trips for perch or 20,000 trips for salmon,â Black said. âSo I think some of this information could be very valuable, not only for the state, but also for the people who advocate for sport fishing activities. “
Logbooks could provide specific information about regions, such as the Olympic rivers, that could help the department answer questions about particular fisheries.
“It could tell us how many people are fishing, where are they from and how often are they doing it,” Donley said. “Does it affect the quality of the experience or does it affect people’s ability to catch fish?” So, let’s really see this. “
WDFW gleans information from catch cards, but it is voluntary, and only about 40 percent of anglers report it. And, it does not collect information about whether a guide was used to catch a fish. The catch sheets also cover only a few species.
There are other problems with the cards.
âThey are still two years behind in entering the data from the catch cards,â Black said.
He also wonders why there wasn’t a test or two of the system first.
âInstead of rolling it out with everyone in all regions, do a test program with about 30 guys across the state and try it out first,â he said.
However, the rule is now law, and it should soon become clear whether the effort is reaching what is hoped for.
If this is the case, when issues such as the congestion of Olympic rivers become a problem, the ministry should have the necessary data to make an informed decision.