OLYMPIA—In a move to protect wild Puget Sound chinook stocks, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today it would significantly reduce winter blackmouth fishing this coming year.
Puget Sound, from Sekiu (Marine Area 5) to Olympia (Marine Area 13), will be open for recreational anglers from Feb. 16 to April 10.
The season, which normally is open from January through April, was shortened by one-half to reduce significantly the number of wild Puget Sound chinook that will be impacted by the fishery. WDFW also lowered the daily limit for blackmouth as well as coho to one fish as an additional conservation measure.
The strong conservation measures are necessary because the National Marine Fisheries Service in February is expected to announce it will use the federal Endangered Species Act to protect wild Puget Sound chinook stocks. Many of the wild stocks are in poor condition.
In addition, record low chinook salmon forecasts for the Skagit River coupled with the Department's attempt to move closer to its own Wild Salmonid Policy contributed to the decision to shorten the season and decrease the daily limit.
WDFW worked closely with the leaders of the recreational fishing community to craft the limited season to protect wild chinook stocks.
"We're trying to strike a balance to protect this fragile wild stock while providing a limited recreational fishery," said WDFW Acting Director Larry Peck.
"Fishers have seen their seasons and opportunities dramatically reduced in the past five years to protect wild salmon," Peck added. "And now anglers will lose a significant part of the traditional winter salmon fishery."
Peck said that one of the difficulties facing the Department in considering a Puget Sound winter-spring sport fishery is the lack of information on how many hatchery versus wild fish there are in the water.
However, as more hatchery fish are marked by removing their adipose fins, fisheries managers will be able to more accurately predict hatchery and wild fish run sizes and provide more stable fishing opportunities, Peck said.
The managers also will be able to better predict how many wild fish are making it to spawning grounds upstream, he said.