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Originally published Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 6:55 PM

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Anglers of surf perch should be careful of choices for bait

Those heading to the coast for summertime surf perch fishing need to be aware of what they're using for bait.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Reel Time Northwest

Seattle native and lifelong angler Mark Yuasa blogs on fishing in the Pacific Northwest.

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Those heading to the coast for summertime surf perch fishing need to be aware of what they're using for bait.

In the state Fish and Wildlife regulation pamphlet on page 128, the rules state that unclassified marine invertebrates like sand crabs and pile worms — both commonly used as live bait for surf perch — cannot be harvested from beaches.

But on any given day you can stroll along the Washington coastline and find people gathering small live critters from the sandy beaches.

"We've opened a can of worms with this question," said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish biologist in Montesano.

Sgt. Dan Chadwick, a state Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer in Montesano, said: "It is unlawful, and a fairly new regulation. We're trying to educate the public not to harvest any invertebrates, which includes marine worms and small crabs."

There are a lot of bait options anglers can use that are just as effective to catch surf perch.

"Berkley GULP has a Power Worm that works quite well, and lot of people will use butter and cockle clams, which stay on the hook really good," said Mike Chamberlain, owner of Ted's Sports Center in Lynnwood. "Live night crawler worms and sand shrimp are other good baits to use."

Right now is prime time for red-tail surf perch that average 1 to 3 pounds. They can be found off all coastal jetties and sandy beaches.

One of the other common mistakes the public makes when sightseeing on coastal beaches is the taking of sand dollars, which are a flat-looking burrowing sea urchin that has a pretty five-star pattern of pores on top of its skeletal body.

"Sand dollars are illegal to be taken off beaches, and it occurs quite often (mainly by children beachcombing during razor-clam season), but it is OK to take their relics, just not a live one," Chadwick said.

Gathering huckleberries

This and next month are good times for picking a wide variety of wild huckleberries throughout the state.

Typically huckleberries are found in the subalpine areas along open meadows, clear cuts and mountain hillsides that have good sunshine exposure and a good water source. Open lakefronts are another place to look for the tasty berries.

Huckleberry harvest for personal use remains free, and no permit is required. Personal use consists of three gallons of huckleberries per person per year.

Those gathering more than three gallons or selling berries must obtain a commercial permit that will be available beginning Aug. 13.

They are available at Ranger Districts and the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Headquarters. Permits are $40 for 14 days or $75 for the season. Details: 360-891-5001 or www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/.

To locate the best huckleberry areas, call the Mount Baker Ranger District at 360-856-5700; Skykomish Ranger District at 360-677-2414; and North Bend Ranger District at 425-888-1421.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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