OLYMPIA - Salmon anglers can catch a glimpse of what fishing prospects for the year ahead might look like when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) hosts its annual pre-season forecast meeting March 1 in Olympia.
The meeting on pre-season forecasts and fishery discussions is set for 9:30 a.m. on March 1 in the auditorium of the General Administration Building in Olympia, 11th Avenue and Columbia Street.
WDFW staff will provide an overview of expected abundance for various salmon species throughout the state this year. Interested citizens can also take part in fishery work sessions focusing on key issues for Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington coastal areas.
Early forecasts for chinook and coho salmon entering the Columbia River indicate saltwater and freshwater fisheries should again provide excellent fishing opportunities throughout the summer, said Pat Pattillo, WDFW salmon policy coordinator.
Fisheries managers are also expecting a strong return of sockeye salmon to the Lake Washington system. The last Lake Washington sockeye salmon fishery occurred in 2002 when recreational anglers caught 36,000 sockeye during a three-day fishery in late July.
Pattillo said biologists will carefully monitor sockeye numbers as the fish move through the Ballard Locks to determine if the return is strong enough to support a fishery this summer.
WDFW and its tribal co-managers are working with federal fisheries managers to complete a multi-year harvest plan for Puget Sound chinook. The plan is designed to ensure protection for chinook salmon, listed as a "threatened" species under the federal Endangered Species Act, while providing fishing opportunities targeted on hatchery chinook and other species.
State, tribal and federal fisheries managers will meet March 8-12 in Tacoma with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to develop a range of options for this year's commercial and recreational ocean chinook and coho salmon fisheries.
Two primary public meetings will be sponsored by WDFW following the PFMC meeting to plan salmon fishing seasons for Washington's "inside" waters, including Puget Sound. These "North of Falcon" meetings are scheduled for March 17 and 30 in Lynnwood and SeaTac, respectively.
WDFW has set three additional public meetings in March to discuss regional fisheries issues. Input from these discussions will be considered as the pre-season process moves into the North of Falcon and PFMC meetings to determine final 2004 salmon seasons. The meetings are set for:
- March 9, in South Bend at the Willapa Harbor Chamber of Commerce for Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay fisheries issues;
- March 11, at WDFW's Mill Creek office to discuss Puget Sound fisheries issues;
- March 16, at the Columbia River Double Tree Inn at Jantzen Beach in Portland to discuss Columbia River fisheries issues.
The PFMC is expected to adopt the final ocean fishing harvest levels and seasons at its April 5-9 meeting in Sacramento. The co-managers will complete the 2004 salmon fisheries package for Washington's inside waters by the conclusion of the PFMC's April meeting.
Pattillo said WDFW will again provide detailed preseason salmon forecast information, proposed fishing options and details on upcoming public meetings on the department's website, http://wdfw.wa.gov/ on the Internet. Information will be posted on the website as it becomes available, Pattillo said.