SACRAMENTO - While chinook salmon numbers look strong, anticipated weak returns of coho salmon to the lower Columbia River and to British Columbia's Thompson River system means fewer fish will be available for harvest in Washington coastal fisheries this summer.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) today adopted a range of ocean salmon-fishing options for summer fisheries. The council's proposed ocean recreational fishing options for 2005 are:
- 30,000 chinook and 75,600 coho;
- 37,500 chinook and 105,000 coho; and
- 45,000 chinook and 134,400 coho.
Final recreational fishing quotas in 2004 were 44,500 chinook and 202,500 coho. Two of three chinook options for this summer are similar to last year’s final quota.
The PFMC will adopt final sport, commercial and Treaty Indian ocean-fishing quotas when the federal panel meets April 4-8 in Tacoma.
Lower Columbia River hatchery coho have traditionally been the backbone of the coastal coho salmon fishery, while Thompson River wild coho contribute to fisheries along the northern coast, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and northern Puget Sound.
"While the need to protect weak coho stocks will likely reduce overall quotas, there should still be excellent fisheries along the coast this summer," said Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "These fisheries provide great recreational opportunity and have an important economic impact to many coastal communities."
Fisheries managers are exploring the possibility of increasing the daily salmon bag limit in north coastal fishing areas to take advantage of an expected strong return of pink salmon, which generally return in odd-numbered years.
The earliest proposed starting date for fisheries off Neah Bay, LaPush and Westport is June 26, while the latest proposed opening date is July 10. The earliest date for Columbia River-area fisheries would be July 3, while the latest opening date would be July 17.
Phil Anderson, special assistant to the WDFW Director, said protections are expected to be in place in the Grays Harbor area to protect an anticipated weak return of chinook salmon.
"The Grays Harbor area provided an excellent chinook fishery in 2004, but this year the expected return of chinook is below what is needed for spawning purposes," he said.
In conjunction with the federal PFMC process, state and tribal salmon co-managers are developing fishing seasons for "inside" waters, including Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.
WDFW has scheduled several public meetings throughout western Washington to discuss potential fisheries. Columbia River fisheries issues will be explored at a March 14 meeting at the Vancouver Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way in Vancouver, Wash. The meeting starts at 9 a.m.
Two public "North of Falcon" meetings are set for March 16 at the Natural Resources Building in Olympia (WDFW headquarters) and for March 29 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites Hotel. Both meetings start at 9 a.m.
A coastal fisheries discussion meeting is set for March 23 from 7-9 p.m. at the South Bend Community Center.
State and tribal salmon co-managers are expected to complete their comprehensive fisheries regulations package by the conclusion of the PFMC's Tacoma meeting in early April.
Preseason salmon forecasts, proposed fishing options and details on upcoming public meetings will be posted as they become available on the North of Falcon portion of WDFW's website on the Internet.