OLYMPIA - Fishing options adopted today by a federal fishery panel for this year's Washington ocean chinook and coho salmon seasons point to the relative abundance of stocks returning to the Columbia River and other state waters.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) has set low, medium and high fishing options for public review. The panel will adopt one option for chinook and coho salmon coastal fisheries at its April 7-11 meeting.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will now meet with the public and treaty Indian fishery co-managers to discuss the options and develop fisheries plans for state waters that are consistent with PFMC's ocean season options. The recreational fishing options are:
- Option 1 - 59,600 chinook and 225,000 coho;
- Option 2 - 56,000 chinook and187,500 coho; and
- Option 3 - 47,500 chinook and 150,000 coho.
By comparison, the 2002 recreational ocean fishing quotas were 60,252 chinook and 109,630 coho.
Phil Anderson, WDFW Special Assistant to the Director and the state's representative on the PFMC, said the earliest start date for any coastal chinook fishery in areas such as Westport, LaPush and Neah Bay would be June 22. For Columbia River-based fisheries, the earliest starting date would be June 29.
Actual starting dates, regional allocations and other details will be developed before the conclusion of the April PFMC meeting.
"The proposed quotas for 2003 should translate into healthy coastal and recreational fisheries this summer," Anderson said.
All recreational ocean coho fisheries proposed for 2003 would be under selective fisheries rules where anglers would be allowed to retain only hatchery fish, identified by a clipped adipose fin.
Anderson said the options also include a proposal to increase the minimum size required for chinook salmon retention from the current 24-inch minimum length to 26 inches. Daily recreational bag limits are two fish, no more than one of which can be a chinook salmon. One proposal under discussion adds one pink salmon to the daily bag limit in Marine Areas 3 and 4 (LaPush to Neah Bay) for a total of three fish per day.
State and tribal fisheries managers have scheduled two all-day public meetings to develop a comprehensive fishing package for nearshore and freshwater salmon-fishing areas.
The first meeting is set for March 20 in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E. in Olympia. The second meeting is set for April 2 at the SeaTac Holiday Inn, 17338 International Airport Blvd., in SeaTac. Both meetings begin at 9 a.m.
Fisheries managers expect to complete the fishing package at the conclusion of PFMC's final preseason meeting, April 7-11, in Vancouver, Wash.
WDFW maintains a website highlighting the preseason salmon-planning process on the Internet.