The Washington State Sport Catch Report was first published in 1967. The report originally provided salmon catch estimates, which were and still are based on data from catch record cards (punch cards). In 1975, marine fish sport harvest estimates were added to the report, followed by shellfish estimates in 1976. Marine fish and intertidal shellfish sport harvest estimates are based on field and creel surveys. In 1994, with the merger of the departments of Fisheries and Wildlife, steelhead sport harvest estimates were added to the report. Now, catch record card data are collected for salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, Dungeness crab and halibut. The card data is supplemented with field or creel survey data or telephone surveys where available to improve recreational harvest estimate accuracy. The sport harvest estimates for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, marine fish and shellfish are produced at varying times of each year.
The 2016 sport estimates reflect harvest from April 1, 2016, through March 31, 2017. Historically, salmon, sturgeon, halibut, marine fish and shellfish estimates were made on a calendar year basis from January 1 through December 31. Steelhead estimates were summarized from May 1 through the next April 30 to better capture the results of steelhead "run years". Effective January 1, 1999, the sport license system adopted an April 1 to March 31 license year for all species. To adjust to the new reporting time frames, the 1999 sport report included 15 months of salmon and sturgeon catch and 11 months of steelhead catch (May 1, 1999 – March 31, 2000). When comparing past years' sport harvest estimate tables, please note the changes in the license structure and reporting year as described above.
In 2016, the following licenses and catch record cards were required to fish in Washington:
- Saltwater license: Required for saltwater fishing, for all anglers aged sixteen and over. Available for residents, resident seniors (70 and older), and non-residents. Catch record cards required for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and halibut, for anglers of all ages.
- Freshwater license: Required for freshwater fishing, for all anglers aged sixteen and over. Available for residents, resident seniors (70 and older), and non-residents. Catch record cards required for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon, for anglers of all ages.
- Shellfish/seaweed license: Required for harvesters aged sixteen and over. Available for residents, resident seniors (70 and older), and non-residents. Allows the holder to harvest clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, crab, squid, other shellfish, and seaweed. In addition, a Puget Sound crab endorsement and catch record card was required to harvest Dungeness crab in Marine Areas 5-13.
- Combination license: Allows anglers to fish in both saltwater and freshwater and to harvest shellfish and seaweed. Available for both residents and non-residents aged fifteen and over.
Fish catch record cards were required for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and halibut. Each species group could be issued as a separate card, or included together on one card. Separate catch record cards were required for recording Dungeness crab in Puget Sound. Separate crab cards were required for the summer and fall/winter seasons.
In 2001 WDFW implemented the Washington Interactive Licensing Data (WILD) system to electronically capture recreational license issuance information at the point of sale. The catch record card remained the same paper document distributed by sport license vendors, but demographic data about persons receiving the cards became available almost immediately.
Table 1 lists license sales for the license year which ran from April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017. Table 2 provides counts for the numbers of fish and crab catch cards issued going back to 1971. Table 3 shows the return rate, expansion factor, and non-response bias correction factors for the 2016-2017 cards.
Catch record card returns are used to estimate sport salmon catch in marine and freshwater areas. For some areas, the catch cards numbers are replaced with estimates based on creel surveys. In marine areas, creel estimates were used in Areas 1-4 (not including Willapa bay or Grays Harbor), and for many of the Puget Sound fisheries including the summer months in Area 5, 9, 10 and 11, and winter blackmouth fisheries in Area 7, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10, and 11.
The sport catch record card is used to produce the annual sport harvest estimates for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, and halibut. Anglers holding in-sample cards are sent reminders to return their CRC's. Harvest summed from returned in-sample cards is expanded to account for the un-sampled cards (75%) and unreturned cards. A bias adjustment factor is applied in some areas and species to account for successful anglers returning cards at a higher rate than unsuccessful anglers. Creel survey data are substituted for CRC data when available. The preliminary sport harvest estimates are sent to WDFW and Tribal biologists statewide for review. After review comments are compiled and investigated, final sport harvest estimates are prepared and distributed.
The methods used produce estimates of sport harvest, which have some level of uncertainty. This uncertainty, or variance, is estimated and expressed with confidence levels, which are not provided in this report. These variance estimates are available upon request.
Sport catch data from coastal areas 1 – 4 were reported using "port sampling" (creel survey) catch estimates. Such estimates were derived by monitoring daily landings at four coastal ports: Ilwaco, Westport, La Push, and Neah Bay. Catch is reported in the area where the fish was caught and not the area where it was landed.
Some catch data (i.e. salmon and bottomfish) are reported using statistical months or statistical weeks. Statistical weeks (defined as Monday-Sunday) are consecutively numbered weeks beginning on January 1 and continuing through week 53 or 54, ending on December 31. The first and last weeks of any year usually contain less than 7 days. Statistical months are made up of a set number of statistical weeks, which approximate calendar months but do not coincide with calendar month start and end dates. For example, in 2016, the statistical month of January begins January 1 and ends February 2 and the statistical month of February starts on February 3 and ends March 2. Due to the differences between calendar and statistical months, some catch may be reported during what appears to be a closed period.
Annual sport salmon catch estimates for 1971 through 2016 are shown in Table 4. Between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017 a total of 82,537 salmon were caught in marine areas, and 220,736 salmon were caught in freshwater. The marine totals by species, as shown in Table 5, are: 54,161 chinook; 23,035 coho; 4,771 chum; 10 pink; 12 sockeye; and 548 jacks (all species combined). Freshwater species breakdowns are: 107,990 chinook; 40,980 coho; 12,622 chum; 0 pink; 45,649 sockeye; 16,182 jacks (all species combined).
Catch record card returns are used to estimate sport salmon catch in marine and freshwater areas. For some areas, the catch cards numbers are replaced with estimates based on creel surveys. In marine areas, creel estimates were used in Areas 1-4 (not including Willapa bay or Grays Harbor), and for many of the Puget Sound fisheries including the summer months in Area 5, 9, 10 and 11.
On the new combined sport catch record card, sturgeon fishers were required to record their catch statewide. The total sport harvest for 2016, based on creel surveys and catch record card returns, was 746 fish. Sturgeon retention was only allowed in the Columbia and Snake River systems.
Harvest estimates for sport-caught summer and winter steelhead are based on catch record card returns. Steelhead caught during the months of May through October are considered "summer-runs," designated S. Steelhead caught from November through April are considered "winter-runs," designated W, with the exception of steelhead caught above Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, where all steelhead are considered "summer-runs,", because of run and spawn timing.
Table 31 presents steelhead sport harvest estimates for the 2016-2017 season geographically by stream and river system. Monthly estimate totals are given for marked and unmarked steelhead.
Marine fish are those species of fish which live their entire lives in salt water. There are four general groups of marine fish for management purposes: 1) bottomfish, which are species such as rockfish, lingcod and most species of sole and flounder; 2) forage fish, which are small, schooling fish such as herring and smelt; 3) tunas and mackerels; 4) Pacific halibut.
The recreational catch of bottomfish and halibut in ocean waters (Catch Areas 1-4) is estimated from marine surveys (Table 35 and 36). The estimates are made for each of the four main coastal fishing areas: Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay.
The Puget Sound (Catch Areas 5-13) catch of bottomfish, excluding halibut, is estimated using a combination of two surveys: a creel survey of anglers to determine the catch rate and species composition and a phone survey of licensed anglers to determine total fishing effort. These estimates are shown in Table 37. The recreational catch of forage fish is not routinely monitored and no harvest estimate is available.
Razor clam harvest on the coastal beaches is summarized in Table 38. During the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017 281,373 digging trips resulted in a harvest of 4,117,430 clams, for an average of 14.6 clams per trip.
Puget Sound recreational clam and oyster harvest estimates are shown in Table 39. Harvest totals for Manila and native littleneck clams, butter clams, cockles, softshell clams, horse clams, geoducks and oysters are shown for public access beaches. Estimates show 114,362 sport harvester trips gathered 360,880 total pounds of clams and 645,980 oysters in 2016 on the monitored beaches.
The Puget sound and Hood Canal shrimp fishery harvest is reported in Table 40. Shrimpers caught 189,890 pounds of shrimp between May and September. The sport crab fishery in the Puget Sound areas is summarized in Table 41. Crabbers harvested an estimated 2,254,156 pounds of Dungeness crab.