OLYMPIA – Time is running short for this year's chinook salmon fishery south of Leadbetter Point, officials with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) warned today.
"This could be the last weekend for recreational chinook fishing in the Ilwaco area and at the mouth of the Columbia River," said Cindy LeFleur, WDFW harvest manager for the Columbia River. "The recreational chinook catch has been moving up on the harvest guidelines for those areas very fast."
LeFleur said final decisions about when to prohibit retention of chinook salmon in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) and the Buoy 10 fishery at the mouth of the Columbia will likely be made Monday, Aug. 27. "We'll announce those decisions as soon as possible, but we wanted to give anglers advance notice that the chinook fishery in those areas could close within the next week."
By Aug. 27, LeFleur estimates that anglers will have caught approximately 6,300 adult chinook or 70 percent of the 8,800 chinook salmon reserved for the recreational catch in the Buoy 10 fishery. Doug Milward, WDFW ocean salmon manager, estimates that anglers will have caught 7,152 or 92 percent of the 7,750 chinook allocated to the sports fishery in Marine Area 1.
The good news, they said, is that there are still plenty of hatchery coho salmon to be caught in both areas, many weighing in at eight pounds or more. Coho fishing is scheduled to continue through Sept. 30 in Marine Area 1 and through the end of the year in the Buoy 10 area, LeFleur said.
"The goal in all the coastal areas is to keep the fishery for hatchery coho going as long as possible," Milward said. "We have way more hatchery coho than we need to meet production goals at our facilities and we want to give anglers every opportunity to catch them."
To do that, a portion of the recreational chinook allocation will be reserved for unintentional hooking mortality during the coho fishery, Milward said.
"That will be a major focus of our discussion Monday," Milward said. "We want to leave the chinook fishery open as long as we can, but not at the expense of the coho fishery. Either way, we want anglers to be able to get the most out of this terrific season."
Milward noted that the recreational chinook salmon catch in coastal areas north of Leadbetter Point, including Westport and Neah Bay, is still well short of harvest guidelines and will not be affected by next week's decision.
"The chinook catch is really trailing off everywhere except terminal areas like the mouth of the Columbia River, so we don't expect any immediate rule changes elsewhere on the coast," Milward said.