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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

January 26, 2015 at 4:18 PM

San Juan Island salmon fishery to close Thursday, then reopen for six days between Jan. 30-Feb. 8

1078354_10201659995450495_525996564_nState Fish and Wildlife has announced the San Juan Island (Marine Catch Area 7) salmon fishery will close starting Thursday, Jan. 29, and then reopen Jan. 30-Feb. 1 and Feb. 6-8.

Once it closes, state Fish and Wildlife will review the situation on catch impacts and guidelines to determine if additional fishing days can be offered after Feb. 8.

The good news is this will save the sold-out Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 5-7, but the Anacortes Salmon Derby on March 21-22 could still be in jeopardy. Each of these two derbies lure thousands of anglers and generate thousands of dollar in revenue to the small communities surrounding the islands.

The decision comes on the heels of state fisheries reducing the daily catch limit from two-hatchery chinook to one back on Jan. 12 to control in their words “the fishery’s impacts on ‘wild fish’ stocks of concern.”

The fishery was supposed to be a five month-long season ending on April 30.

“We’re going to look at this really hard going into the North of Falcon (salmon season setting process), and see what can be done to stop it in the future,” 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.

The decision has many anglers in a bind since the inland marine seasons are set on guidelines with angler encounters of wild or unmarked fish.

What makes this difficult to manage on a case-by-case area is that winter chinook are feeders, and move from area-to-area (eight total marine catch areas from Sekiu to Olympia).

On any given season the fishing could better in one area from another because baitfish schools are constantly moving around in Puget Sound, and the salmon hunting for them will go to where the majority of herring, smelt or candlefish reside. It is not uncommon to find one chinook in one area one day and then have it move to another by the following day.

Another issue surrounding this has been a push by the state Fish and Wildlife sport fishing advisory board to create the winter seasons into an aggregate type similar to what is used on the coast during summer salmon fisheries.

San Juan Island anglers must release all unmarked chinook and may keep only those with a missing clipped adipose fin, which identifies it as a hatchery fish.

A percentage of released wild chinook are not expected to survive, and are counted toward the management guideline of 7,775 chinook encounters in the San Juan Islands.

Preliminary estimates earlier this month by state Fish and Wildlife showed anglers had kept or released 4,060 chinook in the San Juan Islands through Dec. 28.

 

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