SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Washington anglers can expect a mixed bag of salmon fisheries this year with slightly increased opportunities in the ocean, seasons similar to last year in the Columbia River, and continued restrictions in Puget Sound.
The state's 2017 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers, were finalized during the Pacific Fishery Management Council's meeting in Sacramento, Calif.
In recent years, unfavorable environmental conditions, such as warm ocean water and drought, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington's waters, said Kyle Adicks, salmon policy lead for WDFW.
"We're in the third year of a multi-year downturn in salmon returns," Adicks said. "Similar to last year, we faced significant challenges in crafting fisheries."
With low returns of coho and wild chinook expected back to several rivers, fishery managers are limiting opportunities in some areas to protect those fish. The most severe restrictions will be in Puget Sound marine and freshwater areas, where the forecast is for extremely low returns of "key stocks," such as Skagit River coho and Nooksack River chinook.
"We made some difficult decisions this year in order to protect weak salmon stocks," said Adicks. "However, we worked with constituents to preserve fishing opportunities where it made sense."
Anglers fishing for coho in Puget Sound marine areas will have improved opportunities in areas 9-13 while those fishing in areas 5-8 will see closures or will be limited to openings that align with chinook seasons. That's still an improvement from last year, when only Hood Canal and south Sound were open for coho fishing. Rivers such as the Skagit and Stillaguamish also will be closed to coho fishing this year.
Opportunities for chinook fishing in Puget Sound marine areas are somewhat similar to last year with a few more closures in the winter. Marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) are scheduled to be open from July 16 through Aug. 15, like in 2016. However, both areas have higher catch quotas that should provide better opportunity.
Anglers will have limited opportunities to fish for pink salmon in Puget Sound due to projected low returns of pinks this year. There are no "bonus bag" limits for pink salmon in 2017.
In the Columbia River, anglers will see salmon fisheries that are similar to last year. The popular Buoy 10 fishery opens Aug. 1 while the chinook fishery on the mainstem from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge will be open from June 16 through July 31 for hatchery summer chinook and sockeye.
Anglers fishing Washington's ocean waters will be able to retain chinook, as well as coho salmon in all four marine areas, as compared to 2016 when coho retention was limited only to Marine Area 1. Salmon fisheries get underway daily in areas 1 (Ilwaco), 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) on June 24 and on July 1 in Marine Area 2 (Westport).
Information on recreational salmon fisheries in Washington's ocean waters and the lower Columbia River is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/, where notable changes to this year's Puget Sound sport salmon fisheries also can be found. Details on all recreational salmon fisheries will be provided in the 2017-18 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in late June.
For information on tribal fisheries, contact the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (http://nwifc.org/).