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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

February 28, 2014 at 4:31 PM

Puget Sound summer salmon forecasts come to light ahead of Monday’s state fisheries meeting

5955560061_f58042aca3Salmon anglers who got a kick out of summer and fall fisheries the past few years around Puget Sound and on the coast will definitely like what’s in store for them again this season.

While state Fish and Wildlife will release the Puget Sound salmon forecasts at a public meeting on Monday in Olympia, those predictions have already surfaced late this week and show many returns are status quo from last year or somewhat better.

The Skagit River wild chinook stock forecast is 18,000 up from 12,900 last year. The Nooksack/Samish River hatchery king return is 43,900 down from 46,300, but still better than from other returns since 2006.

The Stillaguamish River wild chinook return is 1,600 this summer up from 1,300 last year. The Snohomish river system wild chinook return is 5,300 (3,600 last year) and the hatchery stock is 5,400 (6,900). The southern Puget Sound hatchery king forecast is 96,700 down from 102,000 in 2013.

In Hood Canal, the wild king stock forecast is 3,500 (3,400 last year) and the hatchery stock is up considerably at 80,600 compared to 65,700 last year.

The Tulalip hatchery king return is 4,700 this year, and less than half of the 2013 forecast of 10,900.

The total Puget Sound wild coho return this season is 473,800 up slightly from 464,900 last year. The hatchery coho return this season is 377,300 down from 417,300 last year.

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The Hood Canal wild coho return is forecast at 82,800 and almost double of last year’s forecast of 36,800. The hatchery coho return is 47,600 down from 68,600 last year.

On the coast, the Willapa Bay hatchery king forecast is 29,500 (plus 2,900 wild kings) compared to 22,200 (4,900) last year. The Willapa hatchery coho forecast is 41,000 (plus 58,900 wild coho) compared to 37,100 (58,600) last year.

The Grays Harbor king totals have yet to be released but the wild coho forecast is 108,800 down from 196,800 last year, and hatchery coho return of 65,400 down from 85,200 last year.

The Quinault fall wild king return is 6,000 compared to 4,000 last year, and hatchery return is 10,300 way up from last year’s forecast of 3,100. The Quinault wild coho is 2,5000 down from 32,100 last year, and a hatchery return of 24,700 down from 42,000 last year.

The combined northern coastal forecast spring/summer wild chinook total is 1,400 (1,300 last year); fall wild is 19,700 (17,500); spring summer hatchery is 2,000 (2,100); and fall hatchery is 11,200 (4,000).

The combined coastal wild coho return is 247,500 down from 374,500 last year, and the hatchery component is 174,200 down from 211,600 last year.

More wonderful news also came out of British Columbia earlier this week when fisheries managers there are predicting a whopping sockeye return of 24 to 72 million headed to the Fraser River in southern British Columbia. Many of these sockeye migrate through the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Neah Bay to Port Angeles and the San Juan Islands.

Local sport anglers will be lobbying to find a way to get a piece of the sockeye pie this summer as it funnels through the Strait. Some have already discovered ways to catch them just like Canadian anglers on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

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The recently released forecasts come on the heels of what is expected to be a landmark return of nearly 3 million chinook and coho to the Columbia River, which could be the largest since at least 1938.

The Columbia River fall chinook forecast is more than 1.6 million. The 2013 return of 1.2 million was nearly double the forecast of 686,900.

Most of the 2014 forecast is an upriver bright chinook forecast of 973,300. The majority of those fish are caught in-river, with some in the highly popular late-summer Buoy-10 fishery at the Columbia River mouth near Ilwaco.

The forecast includes 110,000 from the Lower Columbia hatchery, and 115,000 from the Bonneville Pool hatchery. Both are improvements over 2013 and are the driving forces in the sport ocean salmon fisheries.

The news comes on top of last week’s forecast of 1.2 million coho expected to arrive off the Washington Coast in 2014. Last year’s coho run of 445,300 occurred after a forecast of 716,400.

This summer could rival the 2009 coho season, when about 1.05 million returned, and almost ensures anglers on the ocean this summer will see a bump in the sport catch allocation.

Of the 1.2 million coho forecast, about 526,600 are Columbia early-stock coho, and 427,500 are late stock.

The early coho run is the main source of the ocean and Buoy-10 fishery. The late stock usually enters in October and November, when sport-fishing interest starts to wane.

If the forecasts are accurate, the ocean-sport fishery quota will likely be much higher than the 80,000 hatchery-marked coho quota of the past several years.

All salmon stocks in recent years are still benefiting from upwelling of colder water from La Nina, which produces better ocean survival rates for the entire food chain.

The state Fish and Wildlife public meeting is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, March 3 in the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington Street S.E., Room 172, in Olympia.

Final seasons will be decided April 5-10. For details, go to: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon.

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