PORTLAND—Washington's Pacific coast should offer improved sport and commercial salmon fishing this summer—thanks in large measure to larger fish runs returning to the Columbia and coastal rivers, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.
These improved salmon runs were the basis for the three fishing options offered for public review today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Final salmon fishing decisions for the ocean and Puget Sound will be made April 9 in Sacramento, Calif.
For the first time, marked hatchery-produced coho may play a major role in providing ocean fishing opportunities. Under two options, fishers will be able to recognize and keep hatchery coho that lack adipose fins and release wild fish.
The sport ocean fishing options are:
- Option 1: 25,000 chinook and a landed catch of 97,500 marked coho (season opening July 19 through Sept. 20 or until salmon quota taken)
- Option 2: 10,000 chinook and a landed catch of 56,250 marked coho (season opening July 26 though Sept. 30 or until salmon quota taken)
- Option 3: 50,000 coho plus a Neah Bay area (Marine Area 4-B) fishery with a harvest of 8,000 coho (season opening Aug. 2 through Sept. 30 or until salmon quota taken)
Fishing options have improved over last years when a complete closure of ocean salmon was considered and coho fishing options were about half this year's recommendations.
All three of this years options include a Buoy 10 coho fishery at the mouth of the Columbia River with a harvest of 32,000 marked coho in August and 23,000 in September.
"I'm pleased these options offer more fish than last year while still protecting salmon stocks in trouble," said Phil Anderson, who represents WDFW Director Jeff Koenings on the PFMC. "The improved chinook fishing options are based on substantially improved expectations for chinook returning to the Spring Creek Hatchery on the Columbia River. They should improve chinook fishing off the Washington coast."
Anderson added a strong run of the Columbia River's wild Hanford Reach chinook also should mean improved fishing in the Columbia.
Puget Sound chinook, scheduled to be given federal Endangered Species Act protection next week, migrate to and from Canadian waters via the Strait of Juan de Fuca so few would be caught in fisheries off the Washington coast.
Anderson said Columbia River hatchery coho stocks also should see stronger returns this summer. Wild coho stocks form Olympic Peninsula rivers also are stronger this year, he added. The larger returns of the wild stocks mean fewer fishing restrictions are needed to protect them.
Improved ocean conditions, such as water temperatures and the availability of forage fish, appear to have contributed to the healthier runs, Anderson said.
"Our management objective is to provide for sport and commercial fishing opportunities where we have harvestable wild and hatchery salmon and protect the wild fish where we don't," said Anderson.
This year's coho options underline the importance of the marking programs now conducted by hatcheries in Washington and Oregon. Those hatcheries remove the adipose fins from young hatchery fish so fishers can distinguish them from wild fish. The adipose fin is located on the back just forward of the tail. WDFW has similar selective fishery proposals for portions of Puget Sound.
The PFMC also proposed options for Indian and non-Indian commercial salmon fishing off the Washington coast. Options are based on formulas that divide salmon harvests between sport and non-Indian commercial fishers based on the number of fish available.
Fishing seasons for Puget Sound, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor and other Washington waters will be set through a public process known as North of Falcon.
The first North of Falcon meeting is March 17-18 at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel, 8235 NE Airport Way. The second is scheduled for March 31, and April 1-2 at Cavanaugh's at Capitol Lake, 23000 Evergreen Park Dr., Olympia. The March 31 meeting will focus on non-tribal fishing issues.
Final PFMC and North of Falcon fishing decisions will be made during the week of April 5-9 at the Sacramento Red Lion Inn, 1401 Arden Way, Sacramento, Calif.
Persons wishing to comment on the ocean fishing decisions should contact the PFMC, 2130 SW Fifth Ave., Suite 224, Portland, Ore 97201. The telephone number is (503) 326-6352.
The PFMC is a federal body representing governmental and fishing interests from California, Oregon and Washington and the federal government. It acts as an advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, who is responsible for setting fishing seasons in waters from three to 200 miles.