Puget Sound Chum Salmon
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Chum salmon

Management Chronology
View a chronology of the annual Puget Sound chum salmon management activities conducted by state and tribal managers


In Puget Sound, chum salmon are cooperatively managed by WDFW and the Puget Sound Treaty Indian Tribes. The guiding principles for salmon management are contained in the Puget Sound Salmon Management Plan, adopted by the co-managers in 1985. Several additional processes influence chum salmon management, most notably the North of Falcon planning sessions, and the U. S./Canada Treaty. The following is a thumbnail sketch of some of the elements that make up an extremely complicated management process.

Escapement Goals

Fishing seasons for chum salmon are designed to harvest fish that are over and above the numbers needed for spawning. Those fish that successfully survive all sources of mortality (e.g., fisheries and predation) and arrive on the spawning grounds represent the escapement number for each stock. For each stock or run, an escapement objective (goal) has been established to guide fishery managers in annually planning and conducting fisheries to harvest any fish surplus to escapement needs.

In the late 1970s, Puget Sound chum salmon escapement estimation methodologies were upgraded using the data from several major tagging studies and counts from more intensive spawning ground surveys. Chum salmon escapement numbers were recalculated for the period 1968 through 1977, and new escapement goals were developed for Puget Sound streams.

At the time, it was recognized that chum salmon run-sizes and escapements were different on even- and odd-numbered years (see figure in the Introduction to Puget Sound Chum Salmon). The odd-numbered years had significantly lower run-sizes and escapements than the even-years, apparently because of negative competitive interactions with odd-year pink salmon runs. Separate chum salmon escapement goals were developed for even- and odd-year runs (see Table below), based on past escapement levels that had successfully produced large returns.

These escapement goals have generally been used for chum salmon management since 1979, however, some individual stock goals have been refined as new data have become available. The substantial increases in Puget Sound chum salmon production over the last two decades indicates that the established escapement goals have been effective for successfully managing chum salmon.

Puget Sound Chum Salmon
Escapement Goals by Region
Region Run Timing
Summer Fall Winter
Even Yrs Odd Yrs Even Yrs Odd Yrs Even Yrs Odd Yrs
North Puget Sound none none 198,900 84,100 none none
South Puget Sound 32,000 9,300 80,200 64,350 30,000 20,100
Hood Canal See note 1 See note 1 54,250 39,900 none none
Strait of Juan de Fuca See note 1 See note 1 3,600 3,600 none none
1 Hood Canal and Strait of Juan de Fuca summer chum are managed for recovery, with the objective of escaping 90% or more of returning fish to spawning streams.

Runsize Forecasts

Pre-season chum salmon forecasts are designed to predict the numbers of adult chum salmon returning to Puget Sound each year. There are three distinctly timed runs of chum salmon in Washington (summer, fall and winter), and separate forecasts are made for each. These fish are bound for various streams throughout the Puget Sound region. Washington's Puget Sound chum salmon stocks are grouped into major management areas for pre-season forecasting: Strait of Juan de Fuca summer and fall run; North Puget Sound fall run; upper South Puget Sound summer, fall and winter run; and the Hood Canal summer and fall run.

The pre-season forecasts attempt to predict the numbers of fish that will return to the region. The purpose of making a runsize forecast is to provide guidelines for fisheries management that will help to ensure an adequate escapement of adult spawners to the region. Pre-season forecasts are one of several tools used for planning the management of upcoming fisheries, and to determine allowable fishing rates during the early weeks of the chum return period. As the run progresses, the pre-season forecasts are replaced by in-season forecasts which are based on actual catch rate information.


Read about how chum salmon are aged from scale samples and how age information is used in producing runsize forecasts for management

Forecasts predict the numbers of 3-, 4-, and 5-year old adult returning chum salmon. The forecast is a combination of a recruit per spawner (R/S) prediction and a sibling prediction. The recruit per spawner forecast is based on the average number of fish of the three age classes that have returned from their parent spawners. The age compositions used in the forecast are calculated by averaging past years' age data derived from scale samples collected from chum caught in various fisheries. The R/S method has historically overestimated adult returns (by as much as 35%). The sibling approach uses the number of adults that have returned in the two most recent years from the same brood (parentage) as the fish being forecasted to return. For example, a return of age-3 chum can be used to predict the return of age-4 fish from the same parent spawning, using average age composition information. The sibling method tends to be a bit more accurate than the R/S model. Because each approach uses different information about future run size, an average of the two methods is used to make the final runsize prediction for Puget Sound chum.

The 2000 Puget Sound chum salmon forecast for fall timed chum is for a return of 1.2 million fish, and the winter timed chum salmon forecast will be available in the near future. Sport, tribal and commercial fisheries for 2000 will be designed to harvest any fall and winter chum salmon in excess of escapement needs based on the pre-season and in-season forecasts.

The Management Process

The recreational and commercial salmon fishing seasons for chum are set in the same manner as other salmon fisheries. The basic method is to review the pre-season forecast of abundance and then design fisheries that open in areas and during times when healthy stock predominate and weak stocks are relatively unaffected. Hood Canal Summer Chum are of special concern because of their threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. Consequently, fishing for chum salmon is prohibited in Hood Canal (Catch Record Card Area 12) and Admiralty Inlet (Catch Record Card Area 9) through the summer and early fall.

The fall and winter chum runs in Puget Sound are very healthy. The run size of fall chum is monitored in-season by test fisheries in Area 20 south of Vancouver Island as the fish pass through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and during October in Puget Sound in the vicinity of Apple Cove Point. If these test fisheries indicate the run is either much larger or much smaller than predicted in the pre-season forecast then commercial seasons are adjusted accordingly. Because the recreational harvest of chum is still relatively small, in-season adjustments to recreational fishing seasons focused on chum are rare.