OLYMPIA – Most waters off Washington's coast will be closed to retention of chinook salmon beginning Saturday, Aug. 10 to preserve fishing opportunities for hatchery coho salmon, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
The only exception is Marine Area 2 off Westport, where anglers will be limited to one chinook per day as part of their two-fish bag limit from Aug. 11 through Aug. 15. That area will then be closed to all salmon fishing while WDFW determines whether any additional salmon can be harvested within the annual recreational quota, said Phil Anderson, WDFW special assistant to the director.
"Our goal is to preserve fishing opportunities for hatchery coho and avoid a premature closure of the entire coastal salmon fishery," Anderson said. "Given the extremely high catch rates of chinook we've seen this year, we need to take additional action now to give anglers a chance to catch more hatchery coho before we hit the chinook quota and have to close the fishery."
As of Sunday, Aug. 4, coastal anglers had caught 76 percent of the 42,750-fish coastwide chinook salmon quota but only 33 percent of the 115,000-fish coho quota.
Under existing WDFW regulations, anglers can retain only those hatchery coho whose adipose fin has been clipped for identification purposes. All others must be released.
Under the new regulations that take effect Aug. 10, ocean anglers can still retain up to two salmon per day. However, neither of those fish can be a chinook salmon in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco), Marine Area 3 (LaPush) or Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay).
The Westport fishery was treated differently because of the disproportionately high percentage of chinook salmon – nearly two chinook for every one coho – caught in those waters this season, Anderson said.
"To minimize catch-and-release mortality and maintain a high-quality fishing experience, it made more sense to continue to allow some chinook retention in the Westport area for a limited period," said Anderson, noting that the new regulations were developed in consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Anderson said WDFW will announce its decision regarding any further fishing opportunities in the Westport area by Aug. 16. All other areas will remain open for retention of all salmon species except chinook until area quotas are achieved.