SEATAC – Anglers on the Washington coast will see an increase in catch quotas for coho salmon this summer while fishing opportunities for chinook will likely be similar to seasons adopted last year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Three ocean salmon-fishing options adopted today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) anticipate a strong run of coho to the Columbia River and the Washington coast, along with the need to protect wild salmon stocks, said Phil Anderson, WDFW’s interim director.
“Coho salmon originating from the Columbia River and the Washington coast appear to have benefited from improved ocean conditions,” said Anderson, who represents WDFW on the management council. “We will be working over the next few weeks to develop ocean fisheries that provide opportunities for hatchery coho while ensuring that we meet or exceed the conservation goals for wild salmon stocks.”
More than one million Columbia River coho are expected to return this year. That forecast is nearly double last year’s return, and would represent the largest Columbia River coho run since 2001. In contrast, the total coho return to Puget Sound this season is expected to fall to about 582,000 coho, nearly 32,000 less fish than last year’s forecast.
For fall chinook, the overall return to the Columbia River is forecasted to be about 511,000 salmon, nearly 80,000 more than last year’s actual return. But restrictions needed to protect wild salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) will again constrain chinook fisheries in the ocean, said Anderson.
The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean water three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, last year adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 20,000 chinook and 20,350 coho salmon. This year’s recreational ocean options are:
- Option 1 – 38,000 chinook and 189,000 coho;
- Option 2 – 22,500 chinook and 189,000 coho; and
- Option 3 – 10,000 chinook and 168,000 coho.
Anderson said that Option 1 introduces mark-selective fisheries for chinook salmon in Westport and Columbia River area fisheries. 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.
For nearly a decade, the mass marking of hatchery-produced coho salmon has allowed anglers to fish selectively in Washington’s ocean waters. Mass marking of lower Columbia River hatchery chinook – known as “tules” – has been under way since the mid-2000s and the PFMC is considering using this management tool in ocean fisheries for chinook, Anderson said.
“In a year like this, adding chinook selective fisheries in the ocean would help us meet or exceed our conservation objectives while allowing for meaningful recreational fishing opportunities in the ocean,” Anderson said.
As in the past, all three ocean options are based on mark-selective fisheries for coho salmon.
Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2009 salmon fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those fisheries.
The co-managers will complete the final 2009 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with the PFMC process during its April meeting.
Meanwhile, public meetings are scheduled for March to discuss regional fisheries issues. A public hearing on the three options for ocean salmon fisheries is scheduled for March 30 in Westport.
Fishery managers will consider input from regional discussions during the “North of Falcon” process, which involves planning for fishing seasons in Washington’s waters.
Two public North of Falcon meetings are scheduled for March 17 at the Lacey Community Center and March 31 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites. Both meetings will begin at 9 a.m.
More information about the salmon-season setting process, as well as a schedule of public meetings and salmon run-size forecasts, can be found on WDFW’s North of Falcon website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon/).