State and federal fisheries managers continue today (Monday, March 11) to decide on the three ocean salmon fishing options at meetings in Tacoma.
Fisheries managers are saying in general there shouldn’t be any big changes in coho options that look similar to last year.
The high option last year was 71,400 hatchery-marked coho, the middle was 63,000 and the low was 54,600. Last year, fisheries officials settled on an option of 69,200 hatchery-marked coho, which was slightly up from 67,200 in 2011.
Despite a rather strong Columbia River coho forecast of 716,400 (compared to a forecast of 632,700 last year, and an actual run of 306,100) there are other runs that play into the quota management and some of those areas might be experiencing lower coho returns.
On the chinook end the quota options also look similar to last season’s coastwide sport catch quota is 51,500 chinook (it was 33,700 in 2011).
Just like coho, a drop in chinook returns to certain areas might play into how seasons are shaped despite what fisheries officials are predicting to be a record 677,900 Columbia River fall chinook return, the highest since 2004 and greater than the 10-year average actual return of 547,900 and larger than 512,300 last year.
The Columbia fall runs are split into six different stocks, and the low abundance of “lower river” tule chinook being down to a forecast of 88,000 compared to last year’s actual return of 84,800 (forecast was 128,400) is the main factor in what three options are chosen for the ocean salmon fisheries.
The lower river chinook hatchery forecast is what drives the ocean and in-river fisheries.
The popular June hatchery-marked chinook selective fishery on the ocean is once again on the table on the top-two options this season.
Another factor that will play into how Washington ocean chinook fishing seasons are shaped depends on what Canada and Alaska does with their fisheries, which won’t be decided for another week.
Last year, the northern fisheries interception of Washington’s chinook didn’t play into our catch figures, but two years they took a bigger piece of the pie and that resulted in a lower catch number for our fisheries.
Chinook sport fishery options last year ranged from a high of 51,500, to a middle one of 45,500 and a low of 35,500. In 2011 the sport chinook option fisheries managers settled on was 33,700.
Last year, coho fishing was somewhat tough in the ocean, but very chinook catches throughout the summer from Neah Bay/La Push south to Westport and Ilwaco made up for that.
State fisheries officials are hopeful to have the three options completed later this afternoon or at the latest by Tuesday (March 12) morning.
There will be a Columbia River fisheries discussion of management objectives and preliminary options for Columbia River fall commercial and sport fisheries on Tuesday, March 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Vancouver Water Resources Education Center, 4600 SE Columbia Way in Vancouver.
There will be a public discussion of Grays Harbor salmon forecasts and fishing opportunities 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 14 at the Montesano City Hall, 112 N. Main Street in Montesano.
The first state Fish and Wildlife “North of Falcon” meeting to discuss preliminary fishery proposals for Puget Sound, coastal and Columbia River area sport and commercial fisheries will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, March 15 in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E. in Olympia.
Final seasons will be set April 6-11. For a list of meetings, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon.
(Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times archive)