OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has scheduled a public meeting for March 30 in SeaTac to continue development of this year's comprehensive salmon-fishing package.
The meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. at the SeaTac Holiday Inn, is the final local opportunity for citizen input on proposed Puget Sound salmon seasons before the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meets April 5-9 in Sacramento to set quotas for recreational and commercial fisheries off Washington's coast.
State and tribal salmon co-managers are working in coordination with the PFMC to set fishing seasons for "inside" waters, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.
Pat Pattillo, WDFW salmon policy coordinator, said conservation measures required by the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) for both Snake River and Puget Sound chinook stocks will define the limits of allowable harvest and seasons for both recreational and commercial fisheries throughout the region.
A number of Puget Sound chinook populations are at critically low levels, including mid-Hood Canal chinook, Dungeness and Nooksack spring chinook.
"The simple fact is that increases in Canadian interceptions of ESA-protected U.S. stocks will require greater fisheries restrictions in Puget Sound, the coast and in freshwater areas," Pattillo said. "These restrictions could affect fisheries throughout the year as well."
Proposed ocean recreational fishing options for 2004 are:
- 58,000 chinook and 206,250 coho;
- 45,000 chinook and 168,750 coho; and
- 30,000 chinook and 131,250 coho.
In 2003, the PFMC adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 59,600 chinook and 225,000 coho salmon.
Pattillo said anglers should again expect to see selective fisheries for hatchery chinook salmon in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca, as well as selective fisheries for hatchery coho salmon in many state waters, including coastal areas and in southern Puget Sound.
A recreational sockeye salmon fishing season in Lake Washington is a strong possibility this summer and will be determined by fish counts that begin in June at the Ballard Locks.
"We will likely schedule a public meeting later this spring in the Seattle area to discuss possible sockeye seasons and bag limits," Pattillo said.
More information on this year's salmon season-setting process is available online on the Internet.