Chumming probably not harmful to fish, biologist says

FISHING — Chumming – the practice of dumping bait of some sort in the water to attract fish so they can be caught — is generally prohibited in Washington.

That could change if a proposal to make chumming legal statewide for sport fishing is approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

“It can be effective for kokanee fishing,” said Craig Burley, Department of Fish and Wildlife sportfish program manager, at a meeting in Spokane regarding fishing rules proposals. “And we understand that putting out dough balls makes it easier to catch common carp. We like the idea of anglers catching more carp.”

Chris Donley, regional fisheries manager in Spokane, said one of the reasons chumming was banned years ago was the mess created when groups would dump barrels of corn under lakeside docks.

Asked if chumming could have an impact on the health of sportfish, he said he’s seen no evidence to that effect.

He listened politely as I offered an example.

In the photo with this story, the pale fillet on left is from a rainbow trout that was stuffed with canned corn apparently from illegal chumming along the shoreline at Lake Roosevelt. The rich-colored fillet, right, is from a similar trout caught the same morning at the same place, but it had no corn in its gut.

Asked if there could be correlation between the corn-stuffed trout and its pale color and less flavorful taste, Donley said, “You have two fish and one picture; write me a paper.”

That’s fish biologist speak for, “We don’t have enough data to make a judgment.”

“I’ve heard those stories for years that corn plugs up a fish’s innards but I’ve never seen that it actually happens,” he said. “A fish can pass a hook. I can’t imagine why it couldn’t pass corn.”

  • Review and comment on current proposed rules through Nov. 30 online. For a printed copy of the…

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