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October 22, 2001
Contact: Tim Flint, (360) 902-2728

Gillnet fishery extended in Willapa Bay

OLYMPIA – Commercial gillnetters will have an extra day to fish for chum salmon on Willapa Bay this week, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

This week's fishery, originally scheduled to run for two days, will begin at 6 p.m. today and continue until 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 under the new in-season regulations.

WDFW Director Jeff Koenings said this week's fishery was extended to give area gillnetters an opportunity to benefit from a chum salmon run that appears to be larger than anticipated.

"Catch rates by gillnetters fishing in the bay during the past two weeks have been considerably higher than expected," Koenings said. "Based on that information, we concluded that the run will likely exceed the pre-season forecast and can sustain an extra day of fishing."

Koenings added that an extra day of chum fishing will still allow for the escapement of 13,000 naturally spawning coho salmon, the WDFW interim goal for wild coho in Willapa Bay.

Counting the extra day this week for chum salmon, Koenings said WDFW fishery managers have been able to add a total of five days (including two half-day openings) to the fishery originally scheduled for the bay this year.

"The extra days provided so far this year have already added hundreds of chinook and thousands of coho to the local catch this year," Koenings said. "We recognize the economic benefit this can have for fishers and local communities, and we're glad to play a part in that."

Koenings said the extra fishing days provided this year are consistent with the objectives for area fish stocks established under the 2001 Willapa Bay Management Plan, a joint agreement on Willapa Bay fisheries developed by WDFW and area fishers.

"We're just following through on our agreement with area fishers," Koenings said. "When the runs exceed pre-season forecasts, the management plan gives us the flexibility to allow extra fishing days."