OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is stepping up enforcement patrols and considering additional fishing restrictions in the Strait of Juan de Fuca after finding that numerous anglers have violated regulations designed to protect wild salmon.
Fishing for chinook salmon in marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) closed Aug. 7. However, WDFW fish samplers and enforcement officers continue to encounter dozens of anglers with chinook, said Pat Pattillo, salmon policy coordinator for the department.
“We closed chinook retention in marine areas 5 and 6 early to avoid further impacts to wild chinook salmon,” said Pattillo. “If compliance in those two marine areas doesn’t improve, we’ll be forced to consider additional restrictions to protect wild salmon.”
Currently, marine areas 5 and 6 are open seven days a week for hatchery coho and pink salmon. Hatchery chinook retention in the two marine areas ended nine days earlier than scheduled because anglers had caught and released more wild chinook than were forecast in the pre-season estimates.
Pattillo said a number of anglers recently have been checked at the docks with undersized chinook they misidentified as pink salmon. He encourages anglers to release salmon they can’t positively identify.
Descriptions of each salmon species can be found on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/identification/pac_salmon.htm, and on page 72 and 73 of the Fishing in Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet, which is available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.
Anglers also can ask WDFW’s dockside fish samplers for a salmon identification card before heading out on the water.
“Anglers are responsible for correctly identifying their catch, so it’s important that they take the time to learn the differences between each salmon species before going fishing,” said Mike Cenci, deputy chief of enforcement for WDFW. “People who fail to learn the difference – or simply ignore the rules – are jeopardizing the resource and putting fishing seasons at risk for everyone.”