Salmon anglers can start gearing up for another wonderful summer and fall season of opportunities in marine and freshwater areas.
The seasons that were finalized by state Fish and Wildlife, tribal and other co-fishery managers Wednesday at the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Vancouver will be very similar to last year along with some minor adjustments to help meet the conservation issues on certain wild salmon stocks of concern.
“We came up with some conservation measures that affected in all marine areas 5 to 13, but if you put a regulation pamphlet up in front of you from last year and one from this coming season you’d had to look very hard at the changes,” said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association in Seattle and state Fish and Wildlife sport fishing advisory board member.
“Nobody escaped (tribal, sport and non-tribal) without making contributions to meet the needs of wild stocks of concern,” Floor said.
“It depends on how you look at it. Do you view it as a glass half full? Or a glass half empty?” Floor said. “I look at it as a glass half full, and from the industry standpoint you’ve got to really like what we’ll have this fishing season.”
“We had a big challenge in regards to some wild stocks like Lake Washington chinook and (southern British Columbia’s) Thompson River wild coho, but overall the package we came away with is good,” said Tom Nelson, a state Fish and Wildlife sport fishing advisory board member.
One of the biggest changes from last summer is the reduced daily hatchery chinook catch limit in central and northern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 9 and 10).
Salmon fishing in Areas 9 and 10 will be open from July 16 through Aug. 31, but could close sooner if the catch quotas are achieved. The limit will be one hatchery chinook daily, compared to the two hatchery fish limit in past seasons.
Other noticeable changes are a shorter non-selective coho season at Sekiu (Area 5) from Sept. 19-25, which is nine days shorter than last year. The Oct. 1-31 will also shift to a hatchery coho and chinook only season; and from Feb. 16-April 10 anglers will need to release wild chinook.
In the San Juan Islands (Area 7) it will shift to a hatchery-chinook only from Oct. 1-31 compared to last fall when wild and hatchery chinook could be kept.
Anglers will also need to release wild chinook in south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) from Oct. 1-Dec. 31, and in southern Puget Sound from Nov. 1-April 30.
Salmon anglers will get a bonus two sockeye in the daily catch limits at Sekiu, Port Angeles and San Juan Islands (Areas 5, 6 and 7) during summer fisheries through Aug. 31 that will take advantage of the 23-to 72-plus million sockeye expected back to the Fraser River in southern British Columbia.
The ocean salmon fishing seasons could very well go down as some of the best seen in more than three decades.
“It will absolutely be a good summer for salmon off the coast, and one of the most significant seen in years,” Doug Milward, the state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon resource manager said of returns that resemble those seen dating back to the all-time peak in 1977.
State fishery managers unveiled a surprisingly large Columbia River forecast that could be a landmark return of nearly 3 million chinook and coho.
The Columbia River fall chinook forecast of more than 1.6 million is the largest fall return since at least 1938. The Columbia coho forecast is 1.2 million coho, and could rival the 2009 coho season when about 1.05 million returned.
The coast-wide sport catch quota for hatchery coho will be 184,800 (75,600 last year), and 59,100 chinook (51,500 last year).
The selective fishery for hatchery chinook will be open daily off Ilwaco and Westport from May 31-June 13. La Push and Neah Bay will be open May 16-17 and May 23-24, and May 31-June 17. The fisheries could close sooner if a coastwide quota of 9,000 hatchery chinook is achieved.
The traditional ocean salmon fishery for chinook and hatchery coho would open daily at Ilwaco and Westport from June 14-Sept. 30. La Push would be open daily from June 14-Sept. 21 and Sept. 27-Oct. 12. Neah Bay would be open daily from June 14-Sept. 21.
In freshwater seasons here are the changes for this summer and fall:
Release wild coho during the Samish River season Aug. 1 to Nov. 30 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 in the Skagit from Highway 536 at Mount Vernon to the mouth of Gilligan Creek from June 14-29 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 from two last summer.
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).