Now that we’ve gotten all the obvious salmon fishing seasons finalized lets dissect what kind of summer and fall opportunities there are besides the expected gargantuan 6.2-million plus pink salmon return.
On the northern coast at La Push and Neah Bay there is a brand new salmon fishery that was created to reduce the increased catch of endangered bottomfish species like yelloweye and canary rockfish in between days when halibut fishing is closed.
“Many anglers were pursuing lingcod on the days when halibut fishing was closed in May, and that lead to a dramatic increase in catches of fish like yelloweye,” said Doug Milward, a state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon resource manager. “That is when we came up with this idea of having a select hatchery-marked chinook fishery so we can step away from being on the bottom, and catching fish we didn’t want to.”
“It is a new idea and I don’t how many halibut fishermen will go for it, and it is in May a time when weather isn’t that great,” Milward said. “But, the more we talked about it during the salmon meetings the more it made sense.”
Thus came about the decision by state Fish and Wildlife to open Neah Bay for a hatchery-marked selective chinook fishery on May 10-11 and May 17-18. The daily limit will be two hatchery chinook only with a minimum size limit of 24 inches. Release all coho and wild chinook.
Halibut fishing off the northern coast is open May 9 and May 11, and May 16 and May 18.
While Elliott Bay in central Puget Sound will remain closed during the critical periods when low returning chinook are passing by, state Fish and Wildlife has decided to allow a pink fishery in the outer portions of the bay.
The pink fishery will be open Friday to Sunday of each week beginning Aug. 16 to Sept. 1 from a boundary line of West Point south to Alki Point and a boundary of that goes along the north side of Harbor Island.
There will also be specific gear restrictions that anglers must abide by when fishing in the bay for pinks to ensure protection of chinook, and that is a half-inch maximum hook restriction and no bait allowed. Lastly, the Spokane Street Bridge area won’t open until Sept. 1 with specific gear restrictions and snagging rules.
In Sinclair Inlet near Bremerton, state Fish and Wildlife has come to an agreement to allow a three chinook daily catch limit, and also a two-pole endorsement that anglers may purchase.
Also new this season will be an additional daily bonus catch limit of pinks in southern Puget Sound.
This was created to coincide with a strong pink salmon forecast of 764,937 headed back to the Nisqually River later this summer.
The Tulalip Bubble Salmon Fishery opening is also going to different this season, and will open on the same Friday through noon Monday schedule, but won’t open until May 31.
Last year, the bubble fishery opened in mid-May, but in years before 2012 it had opened in early June. There will also be a sport fishing closure there on June 15 for a tribal ceremonial salmon fishery. Chinook returns to the bubble area are predicted to be poor again this season as it has been in recent years.
Another change in the marine areas is the San Juan Islands used to be open during the month of October for wild and hatchery coho, but this season anglers will only be able to retain hatchery-marked coho from Aug. 1 clear through Oct. 31.
This change in the island change was one of the necessary efforts to protect poor wild coho returns to the Thompson River in British Columbia.
No change is a good thing, and that is what salmon anglers who head up to the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Sekiu will see this summer. The hatchery marked selective chinook fishery will be open July 1 through Aug. 15. Then it will be open for pinks and hatchery coho only from Aug. 16 to Sept. 14. From Sept. 15-30 anglers will need to release chinook and chum, and then anglers will be able to keep two salmon daily from Oct. 1-31, and only one chinook may be retained.
Both the Port Angeles and Sekiu areas in the Strait will have a bonus two pink daily catch limit.
The popular hatchery chinook fishery in northern and central Puget Sound from July 16 through Aug. 31 will happen again this summer, and could close sooner if the chinook catch guideline is achieved. Then reverts to coho and pinks only from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31.
Central Puget Sound will also have the salmon catch and release fishery from June 1-30, and release chinook from July 1-15.
At Willapa Bay off the southern coast there will be an area off Tokeland in the north-central portion of the bay that will be open for sport salmon fishing only from 6 p.m. Aug. 15 through 6 p.m. Sept. 15. Anglers in Willapa Bay may use two fishing poles with the purchase of an endorsement fee from Aug. 1 to Jan. 31.
On the freshwater salmon fishing scene, new this season on the Snohomish River will be an early Aug. 1 opener below Highway 9 that is directed at the strong return of pink salmon. Normally it would open on Aug. 15.
The hatchery chinook fishery on the Skykomish River will open June 1 to July 31. Last year the fishery didn’t open until mid-July.
On the Lower Skagit River the pink fisheries will begin Aug. 1, and the dates for other sections moving upstream will be staggered. There will also be a four coho daily limit of which no more than two may be wild coho.
One note of caution on the Skagit River system is that anglers will need to look at the regulation pamphlet carefully when it comes out in May as there will be hook size restrictions in an effort to protect people from targeting chinook that are off-limits.
The sockeye forecast of 21,557 returning to Baker Lake will be strong enough to open a fishery starting July 10 for the third year in a row. However a sockeye fishery will not occur in the Skagit River.
The pink salmon season on the Nooksack River will be open July 16 to Aug. 31 for an expected return of 154,075.
The Stillaguamish River won’t have an early opening for pinks to protect chinook, but will open on Sept. 1 along with a bonus pink salmon daily limit for a forecast of 409,700 pinks.
The Green River in the heart of Seattle will also have some early openings directed at a strong pink return of more than 1.3-million although there won’t be as many compared to 2011 due to conservation issues with wild Green River chinook.
The lowest section of the river from the 1st Avenue South Bridge to Highway 99 will be open for pinks starting Aug. 23. Then other opening dates will be staggered heading upstream along with some gear restrictions to protect chinook.
Salmon fisheries in the Skokomish and Puyallup rivers have not yet been decided, and won’t be decided when the regulation pamphlet comes out. Any possible openings for those two rivers could happen under emergency rules announcements.
State Fish and Wildlife plans to have all the seasons and regulations available in the next couple of weeks athttp://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon.
(Photos courtesy of Mark Yuasa and Seattle Times photo archive)