Salmon anglers will see an historic expansion of selective fishing for hatchery-marked salmon in Puget Sound this coming summer, as state fisheries managers finalized the fishing seasons at the Pacific Fishery Management Council meetings today.
Northern and central Puget Sound will be open this summer with a non-quota fishing season for hatchery-marked chinook, and many other parts of Puget Sound will be open longer than it had been in the past.
Selective fishing is where anglers catch only those salmon with a missing adipose fin indicating they are of hatchery origin while releasing wild stocks of concern.
“We got a lot of the pieces we had hoped for in expanding fishing opportunities, and it was a great time to move forward,” said Gary Krein, owner of All-Star Charters in Everett and a member of the state’s sport-fishing advisory board. “Overall the tribal members were very supportive.”
The most talked about expansion is the northern and central Puget Sound [Catch Areas 9 and 10] non-quota hatchery-marked chinook fishery that will be open July 16 through the end of August.
While the fishery will be a non-quota season, if catches skyrocket then it could be shutdown earlier than expected. Last year, it was open July 16-Aug. 15 under a 7,000 chinook quota.
The San Juan Islands [Area 7] winter hatchery chinook fishery will be open 2½ months longer than last year. Central Puget Sound [Area 10] will be open from Oct. 1 to Jan 31 [closed Oct. 1-15 last year]. South central Puget Sound [Area 11] will be open one month longer than last year.
In the Strait of Juan de Fuca off Sekiu and Port Angeles, the hatchery-marked chinook fishery will be open July 1-Aug. 15.
A freshwater fishery that will be a good shot in the arm for anglers is the Skagit River opening for chinook July 9-Aug. 9. Fishing will be allowed from Thursday at noon through Sunday each week with a one chinook daily catch limit.
“We haven’t had a fishery there in a number of years, and it will certainly attract attention from anglers,” Pattillo said. “We think it is a quite healthy run and we will be well above the spawning escapement goal in the Skagit. This fishery wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of the tribes.”
The ocean salmon fisheries will such a much liberal season compared to past years, and should be on of the major highlights.
“It is hard to find any negatives about this season compared to the last three years,” said Mark Cedergreen, president of the Westport Charterboat Association. “It will be like the good old days as far as the catching goes, and hopefully people will come on down to the coast.”
The ocean sport quota is 176,400 hatchery coho and 20,500 chinook, compared to last season when it was 20,000 for coho and 20,000 for chinook.
The huge jump in the coho catch quota is due to a huge forecast Columbia River hatchery coho return of more than 1.2 million fish, the largest since 2001. Compare that to last year when 736,300 coho returned (276,100 were predicted).
The reason for this resurgence of coho is very good upwelling and ocean conditions. Plus, when these young coho arrived in the ocean from their natal rivers they found lots of feed and survived well.
The North Coast will open June 27, and the South Coast will open June 28. Westport, Neah Bay and La Push will close Sept. 20 or until the quota is achieved. Ilwaco will close Sept. 30 or until the quota is achieved.
Westport will be open Sundays to Thursdays only, and then could go to a seven day a week fishery on July 23.
Neah Bay and La Push will be open Tuesdays to Saturdays only, and then could switch to seven days per week on July 17. Ilwaco will be open daily, but days could e cut back if they near the quota numbers.
The daily limit off the coast will be two salmon of which only one may be a chinook. Neah Bay will also have a bonus bag limit of two pink salmon, and Westport will get an additional one pink in the daily limit.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the annual cooperative season-setting process known as North of Falcon. The name refers to a cape on the northern Oregon coast that marks the southern boundary of Washington’s managed fisheries.
“We created North of Falcon a quarter century ago to work cooperatively for the benefit of the salmon resource, as well as Indian and non-Indian fishermen,” Lorraine Loomis, Swinomish tribal fisheries manager and tribal North of Falcon coordinator said in a news release. “The tribes are just as committed to the process today as we were then, because it works.”
Phil Anderson, interim director of state Fish and Wildlife says, “the North of Falcon process has been a success because we make conservation of wild salmon populations our highest priority, while designing fisheries that respect the needs of the tribes and the state in sharing the harvest opportunity.”
Here is the updated salmon season story.