While state and federal fisheries managers unveiled the three ocean salmon fishing catch-quota options at meetings in Tacoma, there is still a lot of unsettled business before the dust settles.
“Our quota range for coho encompasses last year, but it looks like we’ll see a lower chinook catch,” said Doug Milward, a state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon manager.
Fisheries officials are predicting a record 677,900 Columbia River fall chinook total return, the highest since 2004 and greater than the 10-year average actual return of 547,900 and larger than 512,300 last year.
But, the backbone for ocean and in-river fisheries are the Lower Columbia River hatchery chinook, which is forecasted at 126,000. That is down from last year’s forecast of 191,000 and an actual return of 141,600. Columbia fall chinook runs are split into six different stocks.
Further complicating the chinook issue is whether or not Canada and Alaska will increase their interception of Washington-bound fish, which should come to light later this or early next week.
Last year, the northern fisheries interception of Washington’s chinook didn’t play into catch figures, but two years Canada and Alaska took a bigger piece of the pie and that resulted in a lower catch for local fisheries.
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) other coho runs off the coast and Oregon’s northern coast that play into the quota management and some of those areas might be experience lower coho returns.
Some prime examples are the Willapa River coho return forecast of 58,600 wild (81,300 last year) and 37,100 hatchery (88,800), and the Hoh wild coho forecast of 8,600 (down from 14,300 last year). The Oregon Coast Northern wild coho forecast is 191,000 (down from 291,000 last year).
The high sport fishing quota option this summer is 51,500 chinook and 75,600 hatchery coho.
The middle option this summer is 41,500 chinook and 71,400 hatchery coho.
The lower end option this summer is 30,000 chinook and 63,000 hatchery coho.
Last year’s ocean salmon fishing sport quota was 51,500 chinook (up from 33,700 in 2011) and 69,720 hatchery coho (slightly up from 67,200 in 2011).
While the three options don’t look much better than last year, anglers need to keep in mind that fishing was relatively good in the ocean last summer.
The top two options will include the highly popular early summer sport hatchery-marked chinook fishery that begins in mid-June.
Catch rates last year were decent during this early ocean season hatchery chinook fishery was good with charter boats limiting right in front of Westport. That early coastal summer fishery generated 5,500 angler trips with 5,400 hatchery chinook.
Those good times carried into the entire summer ocean salmon fishery, which remained very good right up until it closed in late September.
Under each option for this year, the ocean recreational fishery would vary:
Option one: The recreational salmon fishing season in marine areas 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay) would begin with two three-day openings for hatchery chinook, May 10-12 and May 17-19. The mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in those two marine areas would then reopen June 15 and run seven days a week through June 28. Mark selective fisheries for hatchery chinook would be open seven days a week June 8-June 22 in Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) and June 8-June 21 in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco). In all areas, anglers would have a daily limit of two salmon, except anglers must release coho and wild chinook. The fisheries could close earlier if a coastwide quota of 8,000 hatchery chinook is reached.
The traditional recreational salmon season for chinook and hatchery coho would begin June 22 in Marine Area 1, June 23 in Marine Area 2 and June 29 in marine areas 3 and 4. Anglers would have a daily limit of two salmon in marine areas 3 and 4. Those fishing marine areas 1 and 2 would also have a two-salmon daily limit, but could keep only one chinook. The fishery would be open daily in marine areas 1, 3 and 4, while Marine Area 2 would be open Sunday through Thursday. Anglers also would be allowed to retain one additional pink salmon in marine areas 3 and 4.
Option two: The recreational salmon fishing season in marine areas 3 and 4 would begin with a three-day opening for hatchery chinook, May 17-19. The mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in those two marine areas would then reopen June 15 and run daily through June 21. Mark selective fisheries for hatchery chinook would be open daily June 15-June 29 in Marine Area 2 and June 15-June 21 in Marine Area 1. In all areas, anglers would have a daily limit of two salmon, except anglers must release coho and wild chinook. The fisheries could close earlier if a coastwide quota of 8,000 hatchery chinook is reached.
The traditional recreational salmon season would then open for chinook and hatchery coho June 22 in marine areas 1, 3 and 4 and June 30 in Marine Area 2. The season would run through Sept. 22 in marine areas 2, 3 and 4 and through Sept. 30 in Marine Area 1. Marine areas 1, 3 and 4 would be open seven days a week, while Marine Area 2 would be open Sunday through Thursday. Anglers fishing all four marine areas would be allowed to retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. Anglers also would be allowed to retain two additional pink salmon in marine areas 3 and 4.
Option three: The recreational salmon season would open for chinook and hatchery coho June 28 in marine areas 3 and 4, June 29 in Marine Area 1 and June 30 in Marine Area 2. The season would be open Tuesday through Saturday each week in marine areas 3 and 4 through Sept. 15. Marine Area 1 would be open daily through Sept. 30, while Marine Area 2 would be open Sunday through Thursday each week through Sept. 22. Anglers fishing all four marine areas would be allowed to retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. Anglers also would be allowed to retain three additional pink salmon in marine areas 3 and 4. Also included in this option is the possibility for anglers to retain both wild and hatchery coho beginning Sept. 1 in all four marine areas.
There will be a Columbia River fisheries discussion of management objectives and preliminary options for Columbia River fall commercial and sport fisheries 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 12 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 proposals for Puget Sound, coast 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.
Details on these ocean options will be available on PFMC’s website at www.pcouncil.org/.
Final seasons will be set April 6-11. For a list of meetings, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon.
(Photos taken by Mark Yuasa, The Seattle Times staff reporter)