Sheriff clarifies Bush Point rules

As another humpie season begins at Bush Point, the Island County Sheriff’s Department has called a meeting to explain the trespassing rules at the popular fishing beach.

Humpies, also known as pink salmon, run every odd numbered year and always attract a horde of anglers to Whidbey’s west side beaches where they can stand and cast a Buzz Bomb or herring with a good chance of landing a fish. Along with the humpies is the annual run of hatchery coho.

The west side fishing season opens Monday, Aug. 1, and anglers hit the beach as soon as word gets around that the humpies and coho have arrived.

Bush Point is one of the better fishing spots as it protrudes a bit into Admiralty Inlet, but there is also a conflict of interests between anglers and private property owners. Its popularity has soared in recent years due to accounts in mainland media which have attracted anglers from as far away as Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, B.C.

One portion of the beach long popular with anglers was closed for the first time last year. No major problems were reported, but there will be many more anglers this year due to the humpie run.

Sheriff Mike Hawley has called an informational meeting for Bush Point residents and anglers for Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland.

Hawley will talk about fishing at Bush Point, public conduct, traffic, parking, trespassing, and the rules regulating tideland access by the public.

The major area of concern lies just north of the Bush Point Restaurant. For years the only official public access on that beach was a 40-foot county roadend and land owned by the proprietors of the Bush Point boat launch. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife purchased the boat launch property a few years ago and this summer is installing a boat ramp there. Anglers also traditionally fished in front of some 400 feet of private property and beyond that on public tidelands that range all the way to South Whidbey State Park toward Lagoon Point.

Only four private property owners are involved. One is Dave Moulton, a retiree who took action with his neighbors when off-islanders started camping overnight in front of their property, littering, making noise, and even canning fish on the beach.

“They were yelling at 4 a.m. One guy waved at my wife while he was urinating. It was pretty disgusting,” Moulton said. “I got tired of cleaning up the beach every day.”

Last year they placed a “no trespassing, private tidelands” sign on the beach at the boundary with the Fish and Wildlife property. Recently, Fish and Wildlife planted a similar sign on the beach.

Moulton said the wording will be clarified this weekend when two new signs are implanted, one on each end of the private tidelands. These signs will permit anglers and others to “walk through quietly,” he said, but not fish from the private area.

The new signs will make it clear to anglers that they can still reach the public tidelands beyond the private property. Moulton roughly estimates that the beach now starts with 100-feet of Fish and Wildlife public tidelands at the new boat launch area, 400-feet of private tidelands, and then hundreds of feet of public tidelands to the state park.

“We’ll put signs on both ends this weekend,” Moulton said Tuesday. He said anglers last year were “quite respectful” of the signs, and he hopes the new signs will further clarify the situation.

State Fish and Wildlife will be busy at Bush Point this summer.

Project engineer Kristen Kuykendall said Tuesday that the boat ramp project will go out to bid in a week or two. The new 18-foot wide concrete ramp with a single dock alongside should be in place by the end of September. She anticipates construction will disrupt fishing for four days that month. When that job is complete, crews will go to work in the upland portion, which will include a paved parking lot, restrooms with flush toilets and a small park. The Port of South Whidbey will manage the property when it is finished.

Meanwhile, people with boats can try launching at a temporary boat launch the state installed earlier this year. Kuykendall said the temporary ramp was damaged and shut down for a while but is now back in operation.

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