WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

  Digg it!  StumbleUpon  Reddit

February 27, 1997
Contact: Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

Weak wild coastal coho stocks may limit fishing this year

OLYMPIA -- The salmon runs likely to provide the best fishing opportunities for Washington's recreational fishers will be in southern Puget Sound, Hood Canal, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Columbia River fishing areas.

That is the good news from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists who delivered their pre-season salmon run forecasts in a public meeting here this morning.

The bad news is that state and federal fish managers may have to severely limit or close fishing in the ocean and in other parts of Puget Sound and the Columbia River system to protect weak wild salmon stocks.

Details of the recreational, commercial and tribal salmon seasons will be developed in a series of public meetings to be held in Portland, Vancouver (Wash.) and Tacoma during March. Ocean and inland fishing seasons will be finalized during the week of April 7 at the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in San Francisco.

Bruce Crawford, who directs the department's Fish Program, said Canadian harvests of Washington-bound salmon off Vancouver Island will play a major role in determining fishing opportunities for Washington fishers, especially in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Canadian plans likely will not be known until this summer.

Department biologists today said the need to protect weak coho and chinook runs also play an important role in determining what fishing seasons can be offered.

Crawford warned that the National Marine Fisheries Service could put some Washington salmon stocks on the federal Endangered Species List.

"We are dealing with serious situations with serious solutions if we don't take care of our salmon stocks," Crawford said.

The forecasts said improved wild coho salmon runs were expected this year in the Skagit River and rivers and streams flowing into Hood Canal. Bill Tweit, who heads the department's coho program, said some other Puget Sound coho runs also look fairly strong.

However, the biologists also reported the wild coho runs expected to return to Strait of Juan de Fuca and Grays Harbor streams as well as the coast's Quillayute, Hoh and Queets rivers were extremely low.

Doug Milward, department manager for ocean salmon fisheries, said the wild Strait of Juan de Fuca and coastal coho runs were expected to be as low as he has ever seen.

Carol Smith, the biologist who runs the state's Chinook Program, said she had serious concerns about the condition of the 10 Puget Sound wild chinook stocks. She said only two were meeting their spawning needs while several were at record low levels.

She blamed the scouring effect of floods in the urban areas, poor ocean survival and overharvesting for the poor wild chinook returns.

On the other hand, she predicted hatchery chinook from southern Puget Sound should have some strong returns this year. Coastal chinook also are expected to provide harvestable numbers of fish, Smith said.

Some Columbia River chinook runs are expected to be stronger than last year.

Here are several areas that should provide salmon fishing opportunities this year, based on today's general forecasts:

  • Southern Puget Sound for hatchery coho and chinook
  • The Columbia River for hatchery coho and chinook
  • Willapa Bay for hatchery chinook
  • Grays Harbor for spring and fall chinook and pen-raised coho
  • The Queets, Hoh and Quillayute rivers for chinook
  • Hood Canal for coho and pinks
  • The Strait of Juan de Fuca for pink and some coho salmon
Dick Geist, a Puget Sound fisheries manager for the department, said efforts would be attempted to stabilize recreational fishing with fixed seasons rather than relying on quotas to manage the harvest.

Geist said the state's pink salmon run, produced chiefly by the Skagit River, should be reasonably large this year. He warned, however, much of the run expected back this year may have been killed by river flooding two years ago.

Washington's commercial fishers should have good fishing opportunities for Fraser River sockeye, pink and chum salmon, the biologists said.