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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

March 19, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Preliminary salmon fishing seasons discussed, but nothing set in stone yet

7633007798_49b2748d80The next step in the salmon season setting process took place Thursday in Olympia, and it appears that while preliminary dates for fisheries have been provided there will be lots of adjustments needed along the way.

Wild chinook stocks of concern that will drive the planning process are Lake Washington and Green River stocks, according to state Fish and Wildlife.

The forecasted abundance of mid-Puget Sound fall fingerling stocks is heavy laden with 2-year-old fish than in recent past years, and will drive up the exploitation rates in Puget Sound and coastal sport fisheries where these fish under the 22- or 24-inch minimum size limit are encountered.

Usually the driving stock of concern in past years has been the mid-Hood Canal wild fish, but this season it appears these will probably not affect how fisheries are shaped.

The Thompson and Upper Fraser River poor wild coho returns this year will also affect how stateside seasons are shaped although state Fish and Wildlife policy coordinator Ron Warren was positive that the issue could be solved when discussed in an interview last week after the three-ocean-salmon options were set.

The Canadian and Alaska fisheries officials were also expected to set their catch rates very soon, and those too were being watched closely by state fishery officials because those could hinge on how local seasons are shaped if they decide to up their catches on salmon migrating to Washington waters.

Other issues at hand are the higher catch rates of summer chinook in 2012 and 2013 at Sekiu, Port Angeles, northern and central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 5, 6, 9 and 10). Increases over 2013 catches have ranged from plus-30 percent at Sekiu to plus-190 percent at Port Angeles.

State fisheries managers say these factors, among some others, will need to be taken into consideration and could mark changes from what anglers saw last year in Puget Sound sport salmon fisheries.

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Expanding fisheries is very unlikely to happen this coming season especially in mixed-stock areas.

Sport fishing constituents and state fishery managers on hand at the public meeting Wednesday will begin looking at adjustments to offset catches of wild stocks of concern, as will tribal and non-tribal commercial fishermen in the coming days.

The first test computer model that determines salmon fishing seasons in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca showed some changes could occur in marine and freshwater salmon fisheries.

With that said, it is a long way before anything can be nailed down as a “sure thing” say those who are involved in the process with state Fish and Wildlife and co-managers.

Highlighted changes in marine areas include a bonus two sockeye in the daily catch limits at Sekiu, Port Angeles and San Juan Islands (Areas 5, 6 and 7) that will take advantage of the 23-plus million sockeye expected back to the Fraser River in southern British Columbia.

These fish use the same migration pathway as U.S. stocks thus if anglers can figure out how to catch them it could lead to a fruitful summer opportunity.

Ilwaco7 Aug. 20-2012

Opening dates pretty much look the same as last year in all marine areas with some minor date changes to the Tulalip Bubble Salmon Fishery, but will likely see some changes to them or bag limits could be reduced from two to one fish daily. There was also some areas that showed a two-pole endorsement added to fisheries.

In freshwater seasons here are the preliminary proposed changes for this summer and fall:

Release wild coho during the Samish River season from the mouth to the I-5 Bridge.

Add selective rules to parts of the Skagit River, and changing opening dates on certain sections of the river.

A sockeye fishery would be added in the Skagit from Highway 536 at Mount Vernon to the mouth of Gilligan Creek from June 16-30 with a three sockeye daily limit (a 12-inch minimum size limit) and a night closure.

The Baker Lake sockeye fishery would be open from July 10 to Sept. 7, and the daily catch limit would be raised to three sockeye. The Puyallup River would switch from weekly fishing windows to being open continuously beginning either Aug. 1 above Freeman Road to the Carbon River or Aug. 16 from Freeman Road downstream to the 11th Street Bridge.

Other changes for rivers would be to eliminate bonus catch limits for pinks since they return during odd-numbered years only.

The Skagit River wild chinook forecast is 18,000 (12,900 last year), and the Nooksack/Samish River hatchery chinook is 43,900 (46,300). The Stillaguamish River wild chinook is 1,600 (1,300). The Snohomish river system wild chinook is 5,300 (3,600) and the hatchery forecast is 5,400 (6,900).

The southern Puget Sound hatchery chinook forecast is 96,700 (102,000). The entire Puget Sound wild coho return is 473,800 (464,900), and the hatchery outlook calls for 377,300 (417,300).

In Hood Canal, the wild chinook forecast is 3,500 (3,400) and the hatchery stock is up considerably at 80,600 (65,700). The Hood Canal wild coho return is 82,800 (36,800), and the hatchery coho is 47,600 (68,600).

Another issue that isn’t tied into the North of Falcon process, but is very important to the interest of sport anglers was the Lake Washington sockeye.

While the 166,997 Lake Washington sockeye forecast falls well short of the current 350,000 minimum spawning escapement, sport fishing constituents wanted to know from state fishery officials if discussions to reduce that goal were still in talks between the tribal co-managers.

“The discussion is still ongoing and the tribes would like to see it reduced,” said Aaron Bosworth, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in Mill Creek. “We’d also like to see it happen before this summer, and once we get through the (North of Falcon) process then we’ll look at it.”

Bosworth says this summer will be different since the majority of wild sockeye returning to Seattle’s largest urban watershed are headed for the Sammamish River system instead of the Cedar River. The Cedar River wild forecast is 50,464, plus an additional 54,348 hatchery sockeye, and the Sammamish wild forecast is 62,185.

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“We have a special situation in that the bigger production is Sammamish wild sockeye,” Bosworth said. “If we had a fishery we’d be fishing on the Cedar stock which is a smaller run. So it is unlikely that we’ll have a fishery in the lake based on the run size, but I hope I’m wrong.”

The Lake Washington sockeye forecast in 2013 was 99,866, but actually the in-season final count at the Ballard Locks soared to 179,203 with more than 140,000 making it to the Cedar River.

In 2012, an in-season return of 145,815 sockeye also shattered the preseason forecast of 45,871.

Lowering the spawning escapement goal to somewhere around 200,000 was being debated by state Fish and Wildlife and tribal fish managers late last year. The current spawning escapement goal is 350,000, which has been in place at least three or four decades.

The last time Lake Washington was open for sport sockeye fishing in 2006, anglers has 18 days to fish on the water with a return of 458,005 fish, the longest since 1996 when it was open 25 days. Other dates a fishery was held included 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1996.

For a look at the ocean sport salmon fishing option, go to http://blogs.seattletimes.com/reeltimenorthwest/2014/03/13/ocean-summer-sport-salmon-fishing-options-set-and-reflects-more-than-twice-as-many-coho-compared-to-last-year/

There will be another Puget Sound sport fisheries discussion 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, at the Trinity Methodist Church in Sequim, and 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, March 22, at the state Fish and Wildlife office in Mill Creek.

The next North of Falcon salmon fisheries public meeting is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, April 1 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites.

Final seasons will be decided April 5-10 at meetings in the Vancouver Hilton Hotel. For details, go to: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon

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