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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 9, 2009 at 9:50 AM

Word from state and tribes on salmon season setting process

Here are the initial press releases from state Fish and Wildlife, and a joint statement by the tribes and state Fish and Wildlife on the salmon season setting process.

I should have the complete saltwater sport salmon seasons posted later this afternoon.

Here is state Fish and Wildlife’s press release:

2009 salmon fisheries approved

MILLBRAE, Calif. – Salmon anglers will have increased fishing opportunities on the coast and in the Columbia River this summer, while most recreational fisheries in Puget Sound will be similar to seasons adopted last year, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Washington’s 2009 salmon fishing seasons, developed by WDFW and treaty Indian tribal co-managers, were approved today during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) meeting in California. The fishing package defines regulations for salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s ocean and coastal areas.

While salmon anglers this year have a variety of fishing opportunities, fisheries will be constrained to meet conservation goals for wild salmon stocks, said Phil Anderson, WDFW’s interim director.

“As we develop these fisheries, our first priority is to meet crucial conservation objectives for wild salmon,” Anderson said. “This year’s package of salmon fisheries accomplishes that goal while also providing anglers good fishing opportunities throughout Washington’s waters.”

One of the most promising opportunities this year will be fishing for hatchery coho salmon on the coast and in the Columbia River, said Anderson.

More than one million Columbia River coho are expected to return this summer. As a result of the anticipated run, which would represent the largest return since 2001, the PFMC today adopted a recreational ocean quota this year of 176,400 coho. That’s much higher than the 2008 ocean coho quota of 20,350 salmon.

The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean water three to 200 miles off the Pacific Coast, also set a recreational chinook harvest quota of 20,500 fish. Although similar to last year, the chinook quota is at a near-record low level, said Anderson.

Recreational ocean salmon fisheries will begin June 27 off LaPush and Neah Bay and June 28 off Ilwaco and Westport.

All areas will have a two-salmon daily limit, only one of which may be a chinook. Anglers fishing off Neah Bay and LaPush will be allowed to retain two additional pink salmon, while those fishing off Westport will be allowed to keep one additional pink salmon. As in past years, only hatchery coho salmon with a clipped adipose fin can be retained in ocean fisheries.

In Puget Sound, where summer/fall chinook salmon returns are expected to total about 222,000 fish – a slight decrease from last year’s forecast – several new mark-selective fisheries for chinook salmon were added in the summer and winter months, said Pat Pattillo, salmon policy coordinator for WDFW. Selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon.

“Selective fisheries are just one of the management tools we can use in our effort to recover and protect wild salmon populations,” said Pattillo. “By adding these fisheries, we were able to meet our conservation goals and allow anglers some great opportunities to fish for hatchery chinook in Puget Sound.”

Anglers also will have an opportunity to take advantage of an abundant return of pink salmon this year. About 5.1 million pink salmon are expected to come back to Puget Sound streams, nearly 2 million more fish than forecast in 2007. The smallest of the Pacific salmon species, pink salmon return to Washington’s waters only in odd-numbered years.

“Bonus” bag limits for pink salmon will be established in marine areas 5 through 11, said Pattillo.

In the Columbia River, recreational chinook salmon fisheries in the mainstem from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open from Aug. 1 through Sept. 13. Beginning Sept. 14, chinook retention only will be allowed upstream of the Lewis River.

The Buoy 10 fishery will open for chinook and coho Aug. 1. Chinook retention will be allowed through August. Beginning Sept. 1, the daily limit will be three coho, but anglers must release chinook.

Specific regulations for marine areas in Washington and a portion of the Columbia River will be available next week on state Fish and Wildlife’s North of Falcon web site.

Here is a joint statement by the tribes and state Fish and Wildlife:

Treaty Tribes, State Develop Salmon Seasons That Protect Weak Wild Stocks

OLYMPIA – State and tribal salmon co-managers have crafted a conservation-based package of fisheries for 2009 that will protect weak wild runs while providing limited harvest for treaty tribal and state sport and commercial fisheries.

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 where the treaty tribes and the states of Washington and Oregon cooperatively manage 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,” said Lorraine Loomis, Swinomish tribal fisheries manager and tribal North of Falcon coordinator. “The tribes are just as committed to the process today as we were then, because it works.”

Tribal and state fishery managers are expecting strong coho runs this year to the Columbia River and many of Washington’s coastal rivers, including the Hoh and Quillayute. For Puget Sound, millions of pink salmon are forecasted to return to the region’s rivers, although chinook and coho runs are expected to be slightly down this year.

Based on those projections, state and tribal fishers will have opportunities to fish for salmon this summer, but many fisheries will be constrained to protect wild salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), especially Puget Sound chinook.

“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,” said Phil Anderson, interim director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

State and tribal cooperation also is the key to addressing one of the most pressing needs of salmon, which is more high quality salmon spawning and rearing habitat, Anderson and Loomis said.

“Natural salmon production is disappearing along with the habitat,” Loomis said. “Protecting and restoring habitat are two of the keys to salmon recovery.”

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