The ink on this coming salmon fishing season won’t be dry until tomorrow (Wednesday, April 13), but word has already leaked out at the Pacific Salmon Fishery Management Council meetings in San Mateo, Calif., that anglers off the Washington coast won’t be happy with what they’ll get.
The sport ocean salmon fishery has been a contentious situation in recent weeks as Canada and southeast Alaska has decided to ramp up their catches of chinook that are mainly headed back to Washington waters.
Coastal anglers had hoped to take advantage of what is expected to be a run of more than 750,000 chinook, which falls in the top-five returns since after World War II.
In setting how many fish are allocated toward everyone’s piece of the pie is based on the Pacific Salmon Treaty’s computer generated formula that looks at all chinook run sizes in the Columbia River, and the entire West Coast.
Once those formulas are figured out it provides not only Washington, Oregon and California’s portion, but also Canada and southeast Alaska who are given a percentage of those fish that are produced locally.
So the bigger chinook fishery this season by those to the north will affect the weaker chinook stocks in Washington, Oregon, and the Lower Columbia River.
The chinook run that drives the ocean chinook fishery are the Lower Columbia Spring Creek wild tule chinook stocks that are predicted to be down this season.
Late last week, Mark Cedergreen, president of the Westport Charterboat Association and chairman of the Pacific Fishery Management Council said, ” for everything we put out for our fisheries in the ocean and a lot in Puget Sound didn’t work anymore with those figures because (Canada and Alaska) were catching a larger amount of Upper Columbia fish, and that had a higher impact on our weaker wild chinook stocks.”
While not everything is finalized word has it that the ocean catch quota will fall just under 62,000 chinook between sport and non-tribal commercial fishermen, and the coho quota will be similar to last year.
That means about 30,000 chinook will go to sport salmon fisheries off the coast. Compare that to the 39,000 catch quota last year (a fishing season that lasted well into September) and you get an idea of how long things could last this coming summer.
It appears there could be an early ocean marked-selective chinook fishery that will begin in mid-June and the full ocean fishery starting on June 26.
The smaller number of chinook to catch in the ocean shouldn’t hinder people from heading to the coast this summer as fishing should be decent, and fisheries managers are saying to expect bigger four- and five-year old chinook in the mix.
Cedergreen related this situation as an apple farmer raising the apples, and paying to fertilize them. Then having someone else to come in and take them for free.
“Eventually we’ll end up with an ocean salmon fishing season down here similar to last year, but not have the opportunity to liberalize them like we did last year,” Cedergreen said late last week. “So this is where we’re at, and nobody is happy. The only fishermen that are happy are those who live down here (in the Pacific Northwest) that fish up in southeast Alaska.”
State Fish and Wildlife managers are expected to announce the final fishing seasons for all of Washington’s marine areas, including Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca by tomorrow (Wednesday, April 13).