A Yakama fisherman wins a state Supreme Court ruling about a ticket issued to him for catching undersized fish.
OLYMPIA — In a ruling issued Thursday morning, the state Supreme Court determined that state wildlife authorities had no right to give a Yakama fisherman a ticket for catching undersized fish with a net at a tribal fishing site.
In a 6-3 decision, the state’s highest court said that the state had no jurisdiction when it issued a citation to Lester Ray Jim, an enrolled Yakama, at the Maryhill Treaty Fishing Access Site on the Columbia River.
On June 25, 2008, state Department of Fish and Wildlife officers gave Jim a ticket for unlawfully retaining five undersized sturgeon and unlawful use of a net at Maryhill. Jim told officers he planned to release the sturgeon back into the river after bringing them onto shore, a common practice among tribal fishermen.
The sturgeon, which can survive out of water for several hours, were released back into the river.
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Tribal law allows Yakama members a reasonable opportunity to release alive any sturgeon of prohibited length incidentally caught in authorized fisheries.
The fishing site where the incident occurred is one of several established by the U.S. Congress in 1988 to make up for traditional fishing grounds flooded by Columbia River dams.
Jim appealed in Klickitat County District Court, which dismissed the citation. Klickitat County Superior Court then overturned the dismissal, saying the state indeed had jurisdiction anywhere except within reservation boundaries.
Jim appealed again, this time to the State Court of Appeals, which ruled in his favor. The state then appealed to the Supreme Court.