PORTLAND - Salmon anglers will have improved fishing opportunities for chinook on the coast and in the Columbia River, while most recreational fisheries in Puget Sound will be similar to seasons adopted last year, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Washington’s 2010 salmon fishing seasons, developed by WDFW and treaty Indian tribal co-managers, were approved today during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) meeting in Portland. The fishing package defines regulations for salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s ocean and coastal areas.
"This comprehensive package of fisheries meets our conservation goals for wild salmon populations, while providing a variety of salmon fishing opportunities on abundant stocks," said Phil Anderson, WDFW Director. "Developing these fishing opportunities wouldn’t be possible without strong cooperation between the state, the tribes and our constituents."
One of the most promising opportunities this year will be fishing for chinook salmon on the coast and in the Columbia River, said Anderson.
Nearly 653,000 fall chinook are forecasted to return to the Columbia River this season, about 234,000 more chinook than the number returning last year. The increased numbers represent strong returns to Spring Creek and other Columbia River hatcheries, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.
As a result of the anticipated run, the PFMC today adopted a recreational ocean quota this year of 61,000 chinook. That’s well above the 2009 ocean chinook quota of 20,500.
The PFMC also implemented a pilot mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in Washington’s ocean areas. Mark-selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon.
The selective fishery for hatchery chinook in marine areas 1-4 will run from June 12-30. Anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook.
"This is the first season we will have a selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean," said Anderson. "By using this management tool we can meet our conservation goals and give anglers an additional opportunity to fish for hatchery chinook in the ocean."
While the chinook forecast is up, the Columbia River coho return is expected to be down this year. Nearly 390,000 Columbia River coho are projected to make their way along Washington’s coast this summer, compared to one million coho in 2009 - the largest return in nearly a decade.
The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific Coast, set a recreational coho harvest quota of 67,200 coho. Last year’s ocean coho quota was 176,400.
Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and coho will begin July 1 off LaPush, Neah Bay and Ilwaco and July 4 off Westport.
All areas will have a two-salmon daily limit, only one of which may be a chinook. As in past years, only hatchery coho salmon with a clipped adipose fin can be retained in ocean fisheries.
In the Columbia River, the Buoy 10 fishery will be open for chinook and coho beginning Aug. 1. Through August, anglers will have a two-salmon daily limit, only one of which may be a chinook. From Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, anglers will have a daily limit of two fish, but must release chinook.
The mainstem Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open for recreational salmon fishing from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Anglers will be allowed to retain one adult chinook as part of their daily bag limit. Beginning Sept. 12, chinook retention will only be allowed upstream of the Lewis River.
In Puget Sound, most salmon fisheries in the marine areas will be similar to last season, said Pat Pattillo, salmon policy coordinator for WDFW.
However, one major change for 2010 will occur in the Elliott Bay chinook fishery. Responding to a low forecast of Green River wild chinook, fishery managers reduced the Elliott Bay recreational fishery from four days each week to three - Friday through Sunday, said Pattillo. The fishery is scheduled to begin July 2, but salmon fishing after Aug. 8 will be closed unless in-season tests show the run is large enough to meet spawning goals for wild chinook.
In the freshwater, the Skokomish River fishery was converted to a selective fishery for hatchery chinook this year to meet conservation goals for wild chinook, said Pattillo. The Skokomish, from the mouth of the river to the Highway 101 Bridge, will be open from Aug. 1 through Sept. 30 with a two salmon-daily limit, but anglers must release wild chinook and chum.
In addition, state and tribal fishery managers altered their fishing seasons on the Skokomish River to avoid gear conflicts, said Pattillo. The Skokomish River upstream of the Highway 106 Bridge will be closed to sportfishing each Monday from Aug. 1 through Sept. 13 (with the exception of Sept. 6) to ensure treaty tribal fishers can fish unimpeded, he said.
To avoid similar gear conflicts, the recreational fishery on the Puyallup River also was changed, said Pattillo. This summer, a portion of the Puyallup River - upstream of Freeman Road - will open for salmon fishing Aug. 1, about two weeks earlier than last year. Downstream of Freeman Road will remain closed to salmon fishing until Aug. 16, when it will open for fishing seven days a week except closed Aug. 22, 29, 30 and Sept. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14.
"We worked closely with the Puyallup Tribe to develop fisheries on the Puyallup River that maintain opportunities for anglers and tribal fishers, and help increase safety," said Pattillo.
Specific regulations for marine areas in Washington and a portion of the Columbia River will be available next week on WDFW’s North of Falcon website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon/).