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Daily limits on the number of commercially guided fishing boats will be discussed during the interim

Melodie Edwards

Commercially guided fishing boats will be able to launch into Wyoming rivers as they please this summer, as a House Bill that would have changed that has been postponed.

House Bill 84 would have set daily limits on the number of commercially guided fishing boats launching into any section of river in Wyoming.

Similar bills have been brought up over the last 30 years and failed to become law. The concern has been whether rivers are being overfished both by out-of-state and out-of-county commercial parties.

“The department has heard it from all over the state,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Director Brian Nesvick testified to lawmakers. “There's some concern with at least the quality of experience with regards to angling on rivers more than anything.”

In Wyoming, fishing was one of the largest outdoor recreation activities to grow during the pandemic.

Lawmakers on the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee ultimately decided to take up the bill during the interim in order to have time for more lengthy discussion. Industry leaders were supportive of the decision.

”It makes all the sense to take this up in the interim,” Paul Ulrich, a seasonal guide in Pinedale, said, “to get it right, to get a tremendous amount of input from the guidance services and make sure we're protecting our fisheries and our quality of experience for our resident and non-resident guests.”

Nesvick added that WGFD has conducted a lot of preliminary research over the last couple of years, looking at whether there are biological impacts to fisheries from increased angler use – all information he said could be shared during the interim.

“The department could start out with a presentation of a lot of this information that we've collected,” Nesvick said. “I think it would be really important to involve the Board of Outfitters, not the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, but the State Board of Outfitters.”

The Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association is a trade association, whereas the Wyoming Board of Outfitters is a government entity, Nesvick said.

“The board of outfitters is a board that's charged with overseeing the permitting and outfitting industry in the state. It's a board appointed by the Governor,” he said. “They receive complaints, they deal with area of authorization for where outfitters are authorized to operate.”

If the bill is approved by its committee in the interim, it will be heard by the legislature next year.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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