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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 13, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Marine salmon fishing seasons should be good despite lower than expected chinook quota off the coast

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SAN MATEO, CALIF. — The salmon fishing season setting meetings ended Wednesday, and the biggest news was a reduced chinook catch quota off the coast.

The ocean fishery has been a contentious situation in recent weeks as Canada and southeast Alaska decided to ramp up their catches of chinook mainly destined to Washington waters.

Anglers had hoped to take advantage of what is expected to be a run of more than 750,000 chinook mainly returning to the Upper Columbia River, which falls in the top-five returns since after World War II.

The Pacific Salmon Treaty’s computer generated formula looks at all chinook run sizes on the entire West Coast. Once those are figured out it provides not only Washington, Oregon and California’s portion, but also Canada and southeast Alaska are given a percentage of those fish that are produced locally.

So the bigger chinook fishery up north will put a toll on the weaker wild tule Spring Creek chinook stock in the Lower Columbia River, which drives the ocean chinook fishery off Washington.

Mark Cedergreen, president of Westport Charterboat Association and chairman of the Pacific Fishery Management Council related this to an apple farmer raising apples, and paying to fertilize them. Then having someone else to come in and take them for free.

Despite the smaller number of chinook to catch in the ocean it 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.

“Most are optimistic about the package we’ve got, and should provide really good fishing,” said Pat Pattillo, special assistant to the director of state Fish and Wildlife. “The seasons we have are almost identical in the structure of the fishery we had last year.”

A chinook catch quota of 33,700 for the sport ocean fishery was finalized, which is 27,300 less than last year’s quota. The coho quota is 67,200, which is the same number as last year’s quota.

“Last year we caught 38,000 chinook for the sport fishery, and if we caught them at the same pace we would get quite a ways through August, but it could be tight toward the end,” Pattillo said. “In recent (North of Falcon) meetings one perspective is if you look at the past few years, having a 33,700 chinook quota doesn’t look too bad.”

“Everyone (all Washington ports) got the same number of coho as last year and we didn’t utilize all the coho in the 2010 quota,” Pattillo said. “We’ll have a better availability of coho this coming season, and they were hard to find at some ports last year so we should be just fine.”

Therefore Pattillo says going sooner than later could be a viable option for those making summer plans to fish off Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay.

“With higher gas prices and other issues planning is really important but definitely go fishing,” Pattillo said.

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This year’s ocean fishery will begin June 18 with an eight-day mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in all ocean areas. The fishery will run seven days a week, with a daily limit of two salmon, through June 25 or until 4,800 hatchery chinook are retained.

“In the early ocean fishery last year four out of five chinook were hatchery-marked fish, and I think it will start off with a bang,” Pattillo said.

The ocean fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho will continue June 26 in Marine Areas 1, 2, 3 and 4. Anglers may keep one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. Anglers also are allowed one additional pink daily at La Push and Neah Bay.

The popular Buoy-10 fishery at the Columbia River mouth will be open for chinook and hatchery coho from Aug. 1-28, which is only three days less than last year’s fishery. Anglers will have a two-salmon daily limit, only one of which may be a chinook. From Aug. 29 through Dec. 31, anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery coho, but must release chinook.

The Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open for chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Anglers will be allowed to retain one adult chinook as part of their two-fish daily bag limit through Sept. 9. Beginning Sept. 10, chinook retention will only be allowed upstream of the Lewis River, but up to two adult chinook may be retained.

“In the river and at the mouth of the Columbia we’ve got a good balance of fishing inside and outside to keep everyone in the game,” Pattillo said.

As for Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, salmon anglers should experience a fishing season fairly similar to last year, and those on the sport fishing board felt good with the outcome.

“I went in with the expectation to not lose anything from last year, and I believe we’ve accomplished that,” said Gary Krein, owner of All-Star Charters in Everett and a sport fishing advisory board member.

“I’m a bit disappointed that we weren’t able to move forward with more selective fisheries (those that target healthy hatchery salmon returns), but I know there was a (state) budget issues and other negotiation issues,” Krein said.

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The highlight this coming summer is anglers can add into the mix a forecast return of 5.9-million pink salmon that will boost catches including a bonus daily bag limit in late summer.

While the odd-year returning pinks hit almost 10-million in 2009, this year’s figure is still an excellent number of fish to be had.

Another good shot in the arm are Puget Sound coho returns where 981,216 coho are forecast to return compared to 613,930 last year.

As for Puget Sound summer and fall chinook returns are expected to total 243,029, which is a bit higher than last year’s forecast of 226,000.

Some of the other changes to the sport fishing package include:

A bigger coho return will allow anglers to fish for coho in October in all of Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-1, except the Port Susan area. Much of this area in Saratoga Passage had been closed the past four years because of poor returns to the Stillaguamish river system.

During the height of the pink salmon fishery there will be a nontribal commercial fishing exclusion zone in the Shilshole Bay area that will extend from a line at West Point to the mid-channel buoy in a straight line to the Point Wells oil dock. This will minimize gear conflicts between various fisheries.

“I think (the exclusion zone) is a positive thing, and a good example of how we are interpreting fisheries now, and how it was debated this year by providing for both recreational and commercial seasons while showing how we avoid conflict for gear,” Pattillo said.

There will be a pink and coho only (no chinook may be kept) directed fishery in Elliott Bay on Aug. 19, 20 and 21 and Aug. 26, 27 and 28. There will also be a gear restriction of no bait allowed and hook size that must not be larger than ½ inch from point to shank, which equals to a size 2/0 hook.

At Sekiu the nonselective coho fishery will begin on Sept. 19, and is three less days than last year when it opened on Sept. 16.

(Photos by Seattle Times staff photographer, Eric Tomita and Tony Floor)



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