Below is key information on tentative 2020-21 salmon and steelhead fisheries in Washington waters. More details will be included in the 2020-21 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.
In addition, COVID-19 remains a factor going into the upcoming summer and fall fishing seasons, with the potential to continue impacting fisheries as the year continues.
Below is key information on tentative Puget Sound salmon fisheries this year. More details will be included in the 2020-21 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.
Marine Area 6 (East Strait Juan de Fuca), is closed to salmon fishing in the winter.
Marine Area 7 is closed to salmon fishing in the winter.
Marine Area 8-1 is closed to salmon fishing for the year.
Marine Area 8-2 is closed to salmon fishing for the year, except for the Tulalip Bay area.
Marine Area 9 is closed to salmon fishing in the winter.
Elliott Bay in Marine Area 10 is scheduled only to be open the first weekend in August.
Marine Area 10 is open for salmon fishing from June-November and January through March for winter Chinook.
Marine Area 11 will open for salmon fishing from July-October and be closed to winter fishing.
Marine Area 12 (South of Ayock) will open July-November for salmon fishing and be closed to salmon fishing in the winter.
Marine Area 12 (North of Ayock), will open September-November for salmon fishing and be closed to salmon fishing in the winter. Quilcene Bay will open for coho retention on Aug. 1.
In Marine Area 13, there will be a 20-inch minimum size for Chinook July through September.
The North Fork Nooksack River will have a spring Chinook mark-selective fishery from the Highway 9 Bridge (RM 36.7) to the yellow marker located at the upstream side of the Kendall hatchery (RM 46.7). The fishery will open June 1 and close June 30, unless the wild Chinook impacts are met prior to the anticipated end date.
The Skagit River (from the Memorial Highway Bridge in Mount Vernon to Gilligan Creek) will be open for spring Chinook angling May 16 through May 31.
The Skagit River (from the Hwy 532 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River Road at Marblemount) will be open June 1-July 15 for hatchery Chinook only.
The Skagit River will be open for Coho Sept. 1 - Oct. 31, 2 coho a day
The Cascade River (from the mouth to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge) will be open June 1-July 15 Thursday-Sunday only for hatchery Chinook.
The Cascade River (from the mouth to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge) will be open Sept. 16-Nov. 30 Thursday-Sunday only for up to 4 coho only
The Stillaguamish River will be open Sept. 1-Nov. 15 for gamefish and coho fishing. Additional gamefish opportunity was added in Pilchuck creek.
The Snohomish, Skykomish, and Snoqualmie rivers will be closed to protect coho starting Aug. 1. A mark-selective fishery for Coho on the Wallace River begins Sept. 16.
The Skykomish River will be open Saturday before Memorial Day through July 31 for Chinook fishing.
The Samish River will be closed Sept. 16 to Oct. 31 to help ensure additional Chinook broodstock collection for increasing production to benefit southern resident killer whales.
Minter Creek: Open Sept. 15 - Dec. 31 for hatchery Chinook, hatchery coho, and chum.
The Puyallup River (from 11th St. Bridge to the Carbon River) will be open Aug. 15 – Sept. 30 for hatchery chinook and coho.
The Carbon River (from the mouth to Voight Creek) will be open Sept. 1 – Oct. 15 for hatchery chinook and coho.
The Nisqually River (from the mouth to Tank Crossing) will be open July 1 - Nov. 15 for hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho.
Skokomish: Conversations are continuing about a potential fishery. If any fishery is agreed to, WDFW will make an announcement.
Baker Lake sockeye: Low forecasts will limit sockeye opportunity in the Skagit River in 2020. If enough fish return through the Baker fish trap, a fishery could begin in the lake starting July 11.
Southern resident killer whales: Fisheries are also being limited in areas where southern resident killer whales are known to feed. The adjustments will aid in minimizing boat presence and noise, and decrease competition for Chinook and other salmon in these areas critical to the declining whales.
Management intent and expectations for summer Chinook and sockeye fisheries
- The preseason forecast for upper Columbia summer Chinook is 38,000 fish to the Columbia River mouth. Under the U.S v Oregon Management Agreement (MA), the allowable total fishing mortality (kept + release mortality) for all non-treaty fisheries is 6,460 adult fish, of which a total mortality of 2,540 is available for in-river fisheries.
- Based on WDFW’s Upper Columbia Management Agreement, the available harvest for fisheries downstream of Priest Rapids Dam is 10% of the total allowed for in-river non-treaty fisheries.
- There is not enough harvestable allocation to cover directed summer Chinook fisheries outside of Colville and Wanapum subsistence fisheries. Existing allocations are sufficient to cover indirect mortalities in recreational steelhead/sockeye fisheries downstream of Priest Rapids Dam and commercial Select Area fisheries.
- The mainstem recreational fishery will be closed to summer Chinook retention (including jacks) but remain open to steelhead/sockeye. The daily bag limit is one hatchery steelhead beginning June 16.
- The preseason forecast for sockeye is 246,300 fish. Non-treaty fisheries downstream of the Snake River are managed for an impact limit of ≤1% of the run (≤2,463 fish). Commission guidance allocates the harvestable share approximately 80% to recreational fisheries and the balance to commercial fisheries. Recreational fisheries downstream of Bonneville Dam and from Bonneville Dam upstream to McNary Dam are projected to catch 900 and 200 sockeye, respectively. From May 16 through July 31, the daily bag limit may include up to two sockeye; all sockeye are considered adults.
- Effective March 1, barbless hooks are required when fishing for salmonids in the mainstem Columbia from the mouth upstream to the Oregon-Washington state line upstream of McNary Dam.
Management Intent for Fall Season Fisheries
- This fishery plan reflects the intent of Washington and Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission policies/regulations and the management objective to optimize harvest of fall Chinook and hatchery Coho in non-treaty commercial and recreational fisheries while remaining within the limitations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
- This fishery plan was developed during the 2020 Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and North of Falcon (NOF) meetings in March and April, which included input from the Columbia River Advisory Groups and other members of the public.
- The non-treaty fishery conservation responsibility for ESA-listed salmon and steelhead is shared between recreational and commercial fisheries.
- Commission guidance allocates ESA impacts for the most constraining fall Chinook stock as no more than 70% to recreational fisheries and no less than 30% to commercial fisheries. Commission guidance allows for the use of gillnets in Zones 4/5, and up to 2% of ESA impacts on the most constraining stock to (6.7% of the 30% commercial allocation) be available for alternative gear commercial fisheries.
- The preseason forecast, after ocean fisheries, for Upriver Bright fall Chinook (URB) at the Columbia River mouth is 227,570 adult fish and includes 10,900 Snake River wild fall Chinook (SRW). Based on these forecasts, the allowed harvest rate (HR) limit on URB and SRW Chinook for Columbia River non- treaty fisheries is 15%. However, due to non-treaty fisheries exceeding allowed harvest rates in recent years, and the breakpoint in the harvest rate schedule being well within the margin of historical forecast error, a conservative approach to preseason fishery planning has been employed. All fisheries incorporate a split-season structure which limits the combined non-treaty URB/SRW HR to 8.25% prior to an in-season run-size update. The initial URB run-size update typically occurs in mid-September. Additional fishing opportunity is planned to access the full 15% harvest rate if the URB runsize is projected to be at least 200,000 adults in-season.
- Total preseason shares of URB/SRW impacts for Columbia River fisheries are expected to be 70% recreational and 30% commercial, which is consistent with Commission guidance for the most constraining Chinook stock.
- Based on the preseason forecast, the ESA impact for Lower Columbia River (LCR) wild tules is limited to a 38% exploitation rate (ER), which is shared between ocean and in-river fisheries. The total full- season ER is expected to be 38.0%, with a 28.0% ER for ocean fisheries and a 10.0% ER for in-river fisheries. Total preseason shares of LCR tule impacts for Columbia River fisheries are expected to be 74% recreational and 26% commercial.
- The preseason Coho forecast is 140,190 adults to the Columbia River. The ESA-impact ER limitation for Lower Columbia River natural (LCN) Coho is 18%, which includes both ocean and in-river fisheries. The total ER is expected to be 16.9%, with Columbia River fisheries accruing 6.3% or 37% of the total.
Fall Preseason Fishery Expectations
- The fall fishery expectations outlined in this fishery plan are based on a preseason Chinook model run that is summarized in Table 1.
- Catch expectations are primarily based on stock-specific preseason abundance forecasts and prior- year stock-specific harvest rates. Total-season catch expectations are based upon a full season, assuming an in-season assessment of the URB return allows for a 15% SRW/URB HR. Pre-update fishery regulations are based upon an 8.25% SRW/URB HR.
- Preseason modeling indicates that recreational fisheries occurring prior to the run-update cannot be structured with typical season-lengths given the 8.25% HR available prior to the run update. Area- specific recreational Chinook retention seasons are based on recent-year (2013-2017) observed average URB harvest shares. However, since fisheries upstream of the Lewis River stand to benefit disproportionately from a potential re-opening of Chinook retention after an in-season run update, the base URB harvest shares have been adjusted to allocate a higher portion to fisheries downstream of the Lewis River for use prior to a run update.
- In-season management decisions by the Columbia River Compact/Joint States for commercial and recreational fall-season fisheries will be based on the MA, the state commissions’ policies/regulations, and this preseason plan.
- Catch expectations (including release mortalities) for adult fall Chinook in mainstem fisheries (excluding tributary and Hanford Reach recreational, and Select Area commercial fisheries) total 64,900 adults, including 43,800 in recreational fisheries (67%) and 21,100 in commercial fisheries (33%).
- Harvest, season structures, and impacts accrued will be influenced by actual fall Chinook abundances and stock-specific harvest rates in each respective fishery.
- The upriver summer steelhead forecast is well below average returns; similar to both 2017 and 2019. To limit overall impacts on steelhead, the daily bag limit for hatchery steelhead will be limited to one fish beginning June 16. Additionally, retention or angling closures are scheduled to occur in the mainstem Columbia River and lower reaches of select tributaries and the night-fishing closure for salmonids will be in effect as seen in Table 2.
Goals/expectations for fall recreational fisheries include:
- The Buoy 10 recreational fishery will begin on August 14 with a one salmon (Chinook and hatchery Coho only) daily limit through August 27.
- From August 28 through September 22, Chinook retention is closed. The daily limit is one adult hatchery Coho.
- If in-season estimates of URB abundance allows for a 15% HR, Chinook retention is expected to reopen on or about September 23 and continue through December 31, still with a one adult salmonid daily bag limit.
- Total mortality (kept + release mortalities) expectations include 19,420 Chinook, (3.4% URB/SRW harvest rate, 6.3% LCR wild ER), and up to 18,200 Coho.
- The mainstem recreational fishery from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam varies by river section based on area-specific sub-allocations for URB Chinook. The daily adult bag limit for all sections is one salmonid throughout the season and all steelhead must be released August 1 through October 31. Wild Coho may not be retained.
- From the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to west Puget Island, Chinook and hatchery Coho retention will be allowed August 14 ─ 27 and is expected to re-open on or about September 23 through December 31. From August 28 through September 22, salmon/steelhead angling is closed.
- From west Puget Island upstream to the Lewis River/Warrior Rock line, Chinook and hatchery Coho retention will be allowed August 1 ─ 31 and is expected to re-open from about September 23 through December 31. From September 1 ─ 22, salmon/steelhead angling is closed.
- From the Lewis River/Warrior Rock line upstream to Bonneville Dam, the fishery will be open for Chinook and hatchery Coho retention August 7 through September 6 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only. The fishery is expected to re-open 7-days/week on or about September 23 through December 31. Salmon/steelhead angling is closed from August 1 ─ 6, Mondays through Thursdays during August 10 through September 3, and September 7 ─ 22.
- Total mortality (kept + release mortalities) expectations for the area from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam, include 19,160 adult Chinook (6.2% URB/SRW harvest rate, 0.9% LCR wild ER).
- The mainstem recreational fishery from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco, Washington will be open to Chinook and Coho retention August 1 through September 8 and is expected to re-open on or about September 23 through December 31. The daily adult limit is one salmonid; wild Coho caught downstream of the Hood River Bridge must be released. Salmon/steelhead angling is closed September 9 ─ 22. Total mortalities (kept + release mortalities) expectations include 5,240 adult Chinook (0.9% URB/SRW harvest rate).
- The areas listed below are closed to steelhead retention during the specified periods (for more detail see Table 2). However, when salmon fisheries are closed to angling, they are also closed to angling for steelhead.
- Buoy 10 upstream to The Dalles Dam August 1 through October 31,
- The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam August 1 through December 31 (and Jan – Mar 2021),
- John Day Dam upstream to Highway 395 at Pasco, WA September 1 through December 31 (and Jan – Mar 2021).
- During fall fisheries (August 1 through December 31) from Buoy 10 upstream to the OR/WA border (upstream of McNary Dam) each legal angler aboard a vessel may continue to deploy angling gear until the daily adult salmonid limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.
- As described previously, barbless hooks are required when fishing for salmonids.
- The dates, area restrictions, and catch expectations described above are based on preseason planning and input from the recreational fishing community. In-season events may change many of these expectations.
Goals/expectations for fall commercial fisheries include:
- The August (Early Fall) fishery is modeled to begin during the week of August 9 and is expected to continue into the week of August 30, with fishing periods occurring 1-2 days per week primarily on Monday and Wednesday nights. The one period planned for the final week of August may occur on Sunday night (August 30). Fishery structure is expected to include up to seven 9-hour (9 PM – 6 AM) periods in Zones 4-5 with a 9-inch minimum mesh size. The harvest expectation for pre-update fisheries includes 13,150 adult Chinook (2.6% URB/SRW harvest rate; 1.5% LCR wild ER). Additional fishing periods, potentially with reduced hours, may be considered to meet harvest guidelines.
- If in-season estimates of URB abundance allow for a 15% HR, additional commercial fisheries during the late fall portion of the season (mid/late September and October) are expected. Based on preseason modeling, commercial fisheries are expected to have about 1.8% URB/SRW HR and 0.7% LCR wild Chinook ER available for use during this timeframe.
- Potential commercial periods in mid/late September may occur starting the week beginning September 13 in Zones 4-5 following a run size update. Periods would likely be 10-hours (8 PM – 6 AM) with an 8-inch minimum mesh restriction.
- Commercial fishing periods targeting hatchery Coho using 3.75-inch tangle nets may occur in October if in-season indications of abundance warrant a fishery.
- Due to the low projected returns for steelhead and Coho, and below average expectations for LRH Chinook, commercial pound net and seine fisheries will not occur this fall. These low forecasts combined with limited available impacts are not conducive for an economically viable fishery, resulting in no strong support for an alternative gear fishery in 2020.
- The dates, areas, gear restrictions, and catch expectations described above are based on preseason planning and input from the commercial fishing industry. In-season events may change many of these expectations.
Coastal fisheries (includes Grays Harbor & Willapa Bay)
Grays Harbor Area
The 2020 recreational salmon fishing season in Grays Harbor (Marine Area 2-2) west of buoy 13 is concurrent with the ocean rules for salmon (Area 2 rules apply). 2020 recreational salmon fishing seasons in Grays Harbor east of buoy 13 are:
- North Bay: from Aug. 1 – Sept. 15, anglers can keep one salmon, but must release wild Chinook and wild coho;
- East Bay: from Sept. 23 – Nov. 30, anglers can keep one salmon, but must release all Chinook.
Humptulips River recreational salmon fishing season and adult limits for 2020 are as follows:
- September: anglers can keep two salmon, and must release wild Chinook and wild coho.
- October: anglers can keep one salmon, and must release wild Chinook and wild coho.
- November and December: only one hatchery coho may be retained.
During 2020 recreational freshwater salmon seasons for the Chehalis watershed, south bay rivers, and the Hoquiam River, anglers will be able to retain one adult salmon but must release Chinook for the full season and chum during November and December.
- Chehalis River from Hwy 101 Bridge to South Elma Bridge: from Aug. 1 – Sept. 15, anglers must release all adult salmon.
- Johns, Elk, Hoquiam, Wishkah, Chehalis, Wynoochee, Satsop, and Black rivers will be open October through December, but anglers must release all Chinook in October, and all Chinook and chum in November and December.
- The Skookumchuck and Newaukum rivers will open Oct. 16 – December, but anglers must release all Chinook in October and all Chinook and chum in November and December.
Willapa Bay Area
The recreational salmon fishing season in Willapa Bay (Marine Area 2-1) is scheduled from June 20 through July 31, 2020, concurrent with the ocean rules for salmon (Area 2 rules apply).
From Aug. 1, 2020 - Jan. 31, 2021. anglers can keep two adult salmon, but must release unmarked Chinook. The Willapa Bay Control Zone will also be open at that time and the North River Area Closure will be in effect from Aug. 1 through Sept. 30, 2020.
The freshwater rivers in the Willapa Bay watershed will be able to retain two adult salmon but must release unmarked Chinook and unmarked coho.
- North River, Smith Creek, and Bear River will be Closed to salmon angling.
- South Fork Willapa River and Middle, North, and South Nemah rivers will close to salmon angling Oct. 1, 2020.
- The section from Hwy 4 to 300’ below the upstream entrance of the hatchery attraction channel in the Naselle River will be closed to salmon angling from Aug. 1 – Oct. 15, 2020. This section will re-open Oct. 16, 2020. The remainder of salmon regulations in the Naselle River will be similar to the 2019 fishery season.
- Regulations for Willapa River and Fork Creek will have similar opening and closing dates consistent with the 2019 fishery season.
Washington's ocean waters (Marine areas 1-4)
The Pacific Fishery Management Council approved a recreational Chinook catch quota of 26,360 fish, similar to last year’s quota. The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters 3 to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, also adopted a quota of 26,500 hatchery coho for this year's recreational ocean fishery. This represents a sharp decrease from last year’s initial coho quota of 159,600; predicted strong runs of coho last year ultimately never materialized.
Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for Chinook will be open daily beginning June 20 with a daily limit of one salmon in all four marine areas. No coho may be retained June 20-28. Beginning June 29, anglers may retain two salmon; in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport) only one Chinook may be retained as part of the two salmon daily bag limit. Also beginning June 29, Marine Area 2 (Westport) will be open Sundays through Thursdays only. Each area will close Sept. 30 or when their individual catch quota is met.
In marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport), anglers can retain Chinook with a minimum size of 22 inches. Chinook retained in marine areas 3 and 4 (LaPush and Neah Bay) have a minimum size of 24 inches. In all marine areas, the minimum size for coho is 16 inches, and anglers must release wild coho.