SACRAMENTO, Calif– An unusually high number of anticipated Columbia River chinook salmon is reflected in preliminary proposals recently released for Washington's summer ocean salmon fisheries.
Anticipated high numbers of returning Columbia River chinook, projected to be a 15-year record, may lead to ocean fishing openers that allow ocean sport fishers a two-chinook daily limit at the outset of the season while requiring them to release coho salmon.
"The change in the relative abundance of chinook and coho is presenting unusual challenges and opportunities in shaping 2002 fishing seasons, " said Phil Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) intergovernmental policy director.
"Commercial and recreational opportunities will be crafted in a manner that meets resource conservation objectives including our plans for rebuilding depressed salmon populations," Anderson said.
According to WDFW's pre-season forecast, 677,000 chinook salmon are expected to return to the Columbia River this year, compared to 365,000 last year. For coho, the forecast calls for 360,000 fish, compared to the 1.5 million that returned last year.
"We believe very poor in-river conditions due to low flows and high temperatures contributed to the decline in Columbia River coho expected this year," Anderson said.
Three ocean fishing options approved last Friday provided a framework for the final salmon fishing seasons the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) is scheduled to adopt April 12.
All three options recommend a chinook fishing season opening in late May, with coho fishing opening in late June or early July.
The three season options are:
- Option 1: The total non-tribal quota would be 150,000 chinook and 150,000 coho. Of those amounts, 70,000 chinook and 112,500 coho would be reserved for the recreational fishery.
- Option 2: The total non-tribal quota would be 120,000 chinook and 120,000 coho. Of those amounts, 54,500 chinook and 104,000 coho would be reserved for recreational fishers.
- Option 3: The total non-tribal quota would be 90,000 chinook and 90,000 coho. Of those amounts, 45,000 chinook and 67,500 coho would be reserved for the recreational fishery.
In weighing the options, fishers and fishery managers in Washington and Oregon must decide how to apportion available fish between coastal waters and inside areas such as Puget Sound and Grays Harbor.
That process begins at an all-day public meeting scheduled March 20 at the Portland Airport Sheraton Hotel, where representatives of Washington, Oregon and treaty tribes will meet to begin discussions that lead to agreement on 2002 ocean fishing season.
For additional information on the North of Falcon process click here.