OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has teamed with commercial fishers on a study designed to better understand salmon returns to Willapa Bay.
The multi-year study involves several commercial gillnet vessels fishing specific areas of Willapa Bay. This year, five boats will fish evenings during four, three-day periods – Aug. 22-24, Aug. 29-31, Sept. 6-8 and Oct. 10-12.
During the openings, WDFW staff will note whether each fish caught is a hatchery or wild salmon and take scale samples to determine age. That information will help fishery managers determine when and where hatchery and wild salmon can be found in Willapa Bay, said Ron Warren, regional fish program manager for WDFW.
“Collecting this detailed information about the timing and distribution of specific chinook and coho salmon stocks will help us develop fisheries that direct fleets toward abundant hatchery fish and limit impacts to naturally spawning salmon stocks,” Warren said.
Commercial fishers participating in the limited entry fishery were randomly selected from a group of applicants. Each vessel will be limited to a catch of 100 hatchery chinook and 100 hatchery coho during each fishing period.
Hatchery salmon are identified by a missing adipose fin or by a coded wire tag in their snout that is detected by an electronic wand. Coded wire tags contain information on the fish's hatchery or stream of origin.
Warren said WDFW plans to work with commercial gillnetters for at least five more years to collect data on salmon returns to Willapa Bay. The study was developed earlier this year with input from commercial and recreational fishers during the state’s annual salmon season-setting process, said Warren.
“This study will help us better manage our fisheries in Willapa Bay and ensure we meet our conservation goals for naturally spawning salmon,” Warren said.