THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE AND NORTHWEST INDIAN FISHERIES COMMISSION
Washington anglers can expect a mixed bag of salmon fisheries this year with increased coho opportunities in the ocean and the Columbia River, but additional necessary restrictions to protect chinook in Puget Sound.
The state’s 2019 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers, were finalized today during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif.
This year’s fisheries were designed to take advantage of a higher number of coho salmon forecast to return to Washington’s waters as compared to recent years, said Kyle Adicks, salmon policy lead for WDFW. However, projected low returns of key chinook stocks in Puget Sound prompted fishery managers to restrict fisheries in Puget Sound.
“We’re able to provide more opportunities to fish for coho in some areas, particularly in the ocean and Columbia River, than we have been able to do for several years,” Adicks said. “But continued poor returns of some chinook stocks forced us to make difficult decisions for fisheries in Puget Sound this year.”
Again in 2019, fishery managers projected another low return of Stillaguamish, Nooksack and mid-Hood Canal chinook and took steps to protect those stocks. Notable closures of popular fisheries include: the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7) in August; Deception Pass and Port Gardner (areas 8-1 and 8-2) in December and January; and Admiralty Inlet (Marine Area 9) in January.
WDFW Director Kelly Susewind acknowledged the reductions in Puget Sound salmon fisheries are difficult for both anglers and the local communities that depend on those fisheries.
“Reducing fisheries is not a long-term solution to the declining number of chinook salmon,” Susewind said. “The department will continue working with the co-managers, our constituents, and others to address habitat loss. Without improved habitat, our chinook populations will likely continue to decline.”
Limiting fisheries to meet conservation objectives for wild salmon indirectly benefits southern resident killer whales. The fishery 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.
Anglers will also have limited opportunities to fish for pink salmon in Puget Sound due to projected low returns this year. There are no “bonus bag” limits for pink salmon in 2019.
Below is key information on Puget Sound salmon fisheries this year. More details will be included in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.
Marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (East Strait Juan de Fuca) are closed to salmon fishing in February.
Marine Area 7is closed to salmon fishing in August, October, and January.
Marine Area 8-1 is closed to salmon fishing in December and January but open for coho fishing in October.
Marine Area 8-2 will be open from Aug. 16 through Sept. 15 for hatchery coho from the Mukilteo/Clinton line south and west towards Marine Area 9. Similar to 8-1, this area will be closed to salmon fishing in December and January.
Marine Area 9 opens slightly later (July 25) this year with a lower quota for chinook (3,500 fish) and is closed in January.
Elliott Bay in Marine Area 10 is scheduled only to be open the first weekend in August, however, additional openings could be added during August.
Marine Area 10 will open July 25 for chinook fishing. The Area 10 summer quota is 3,057 chinook. Last year it was 4,743.
Marine Area 11 is closed in June and then again from October through December. The area quota for the summer (July through September) is 2,800 chinook. In order to maximize opportunity for chinook, boat fishing will be open five days per week (Saturday through Wednesday) while shoreline fishing will be open daily.
Marine Area 12 (north of Ayock) will open in August (a month earlier than 2018) for coho fishing.
In Marine Area 13 there will be a 20-inch minimum size for chinook July through September.
The Skagit River (from the Memorial Highway Bridge in Mount Vernon to Gilligan Creek) will be open for spring chinook angling May 1 through May 31.
The Stillaguamish River will be open Sept. 16-Nov.15 for coho fishing. Gamefish seasons will be restricted to minimize impacts to chinook May through Sept. 15.
The Snohomish, Skykomish, and Snoqualmie rivers will be open Sept. 1-30 with a one-coho daily limit.
The Skykomish River will be open Saturday before Memorial Day through July 31 for chinook fishing.
The Samish River will be closed Sept. 23 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, anglers can keep four chum, two hatchery coho, and two chinook.
Skokomish: Conversations are continuing about a potential fishery. If any fishery is agreed to, WDFW will make an announcement.
Baker Lake sockeye: Baker Lake will open July 6, and a fishery on the Skagit River, which opens June 16.
Southern resident killer whales: In meeting conservation objectives for wild salmon, the co-managers are also limiting fisheries 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
The summer salmon fishery will be closed to summer chinook (including jacks) and sockeye retention due to low expected returns this year.
Fall salmon fisheries will be open under various regulations. Waters from Buoy 10 upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco will open to fall salmon fishing beginning Aug. 1.
Below are highlights of the major Columbia River salmon fisheries this year. More details will be in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.
Summer salmon fishery
The summer season on the mainstem Columbia River will be closed to summer chinook (including jacks) and sockeye retention.
During fall fisheries, anglers fishing from the same boat may continue fishing for salmon until all anglers have reached their daily limits in the areas listed below. The areas are closed to steelhead retention in August.
• Buoy 10 salmon fishery will be open from Aug. 1 through Aug. 20 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention. The daily adult limit is two salmonids (salmon or steelhead) but only one may be a chinook and one steelhead. From Aug. 21 through Dec. 31, the daily adult limit is two salmonids, but chinook and wild coho must be released. Only one hatchery steelhead may be retained.
• Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to West Puget Island line (west end of Puget Island extending from green navigation marker #39 on the Washington shore to green navigation marker #41, then to red navigation marker #42, and terminating at red navigation marker #44A on the Oregon shore) will be open from Aug. 1 through Aug. 20 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention. The daily adult limit is one salmonid. From Aug. 21 through Dec. 31, the adult daily limit is two salmonids, but chinook and wild coho must be released Only one hatchery steelhead may be retained.
• West Puget Island line upstream to the Lewis River will be open from Aug. 1 through Aug. 27 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention. The daily adult limit is one salmonid. From Aug. 28 through Dec. 31, the adult daily limit is two salmonids, but chinook and wild coho must be released. Only one hatchery steelhead may be retained.
• Lewis River upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open Aug. 1 through Sept. 8 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention. The daily adult limit is one salmonid. During Sept. 9 through Dec. 31, anglers will have a daily adult limit of two salmonids, but chinook and wild coho must be released. Only one hatchery steelhead may be retained.
• Bonneville Dam upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 with a daily adult limit of two salmonids with no more than one chinook. Downstream of the Hood River Bridge, wild coho must be released. Steelhead daily limit is one hatchery fish when open as part of the adult limit, as described in the following section. Only one hatchery steelhead may be retained.
Within the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco, the daily limit for hatchery steelhead is one fish and the area is closed to salmon or steelhead fishing at night from July 1 through Dec. 31. The following areas are closed during the time periods listed below.
• Columbia River from the mouth upstream to The Dalles Dam
• Cowlitz River downstream of the Lexington Drive/Sparks Road bridge
• Lewis River downstream of the confluence with the East Fork
• Wind River downstream of Shipherd Falls
• Drano Lake
• White Salmon River downstream of the county road bridge
• Klickitat River downstream of the Fisher Hill Bridge
• Columbia River from The Dalles Dam to McNary Dam
• Drano Lake
• Columbia River from John Day Dam to Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco
The section from Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco upstream to Hanford will be managed inseason, but start with a limit of two hatchery steelhead limit. The area will be closed at night to salmon/steelhead fishing. The Snake River will be managed in-season as well with a one hatchery fish limit and from the mouth upstream to Couse Creek boat ramp, only steelhead that are less than 28 inches in size may be retained.
“While we anticipate a robust coho fishery in the Columbia River this year, we’re taking steps to protect depleted runs of chinook and steelhead,” Adicks said.
Steelhead fisheries in the Columbia and Snake rivers this season will be similar to those in 2017, when a similarly low run was projected, he said.
Coastal fisheries including Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay
Below is key information for coastal salmon fisheries this year. More details will be available in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.
Grays Harbor Area
The Area 2-2 Humptulips North Bay chinook fishery begins in August and runs through Sept.15.
The Area 2-2 East Bay coho fishery begins Sept. 16 and runs through Nov. 30.
The Chehalis River fishery in the lower river gets underway Aug. 1.
The Humptulips River is scheduled to be open for salmon fishing Sept. 1-Dec. 31.
Willapa Bay Area
The recreational salmon fishing season in Willapa Bay (Marine Area 2-1) is scheduled from Aug. 1-Jan. 31. Anglers can keep two adult salmon, but must release unmarked chinook. Also, the Willapa Bay Control Zone will be open at that time.
The freshwater rivers in the Willapa Bay watershed will have similar opening and closing dates as 2017 with fishery regulations consistent with the marine area regulations described above.
Washington’s ocean waters
“We expect some good opportunities for fishing in the ocean this summer,” Adicks said.
For 2019, PFMC adopted a significantly higher quota for coho, and a similar quota for chinook compared to last year. All four of Washington’s marine areas will open daily beginning June 22.
Washington’s Ocean Waters (Marine areas 1-4)
More details on these fisheries will be available in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council approved a recreational chinook catch quota of 26,250 fish, slightly below last year’s total. The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, also adopted a quota of 159,600 coho for this year’s recreational ocean fishery – an increase of 117,600 fish over last year’s coho quota of 42,000.
Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho will be open daily beginning June 22 in all four marine areas. Each area will close Sept. 30 or when their individual catch quota is met. The La Push (Marine Area 3) subarea will re-open Oct. 1 through Oct. 13 or until a quota of 100 chinook or 100 coho is met.
In marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport), anglers can retain two salmon, only one of which can be a chinook. Anglers fishing in areas 3 and 4 (Neah Bay) will have a two-salmon daily limit. In all marine areas, anglers must release wild coho.
Notable changes to this year’s Puget Sound sport salmon fisheries can be found on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/north-falcon, where information on recreational salmon fisheries in ocean waters and the Columbia River also is available.
For information on tribal fisheries, contact the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (http://nwifc.org/).
Treaty tribal and state salmon co-managers have reached agreement on a package of fishing seasons for 2019 that addresses the conservation concerns for ESA-listed salmon runs and the southern resident orcas while also providing limited harvest opportunities.
More coho are expected to return this year, but poor returns of Stillaguamish, Nooksack and mid-Hood Canal chinook will limit harvest in some areas. Low returns of wild chum salmon also are expected.
“Cooperation between the co-managers helped to ensure that everyone will be able to fish this year,” said Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “We are especially thankful for the leadership of new WDFW director Kelly Susewind in helping to meet our shared conservation challenges.”
This year’s season-setting process required increased conservation measures because of ongoing habitat loss, Loomis said. “We are losing habitat faster than we can restore it. We must turn this situation around. Both hatchery and naturally spawning salmon depend on good habitat for their survival.”
Ocean and climate conditions have improved over recent years when a blob of warm water persisted along the Washington coast and resulted in record low returns. Drought conditions in recent years left many Washington streams running low with high temperatures that can be lethal to salmon. Last year’s snowpack was at normal levels; this year’s is expected to be slightly lower.
The tribal and state salmon co-managers also must contend with an exploding population of California sea lions and harbor seals. The two species of marine mammals are believed to take more than six times as many salmon than are harvested by fishermen.
“We know that the ongoing loss of salmon habitat, an overpopulation of seals and sea lions, and the needs of protected species like southern resident orcas are the biggest challenges facing us today,” Loomis said. “We also know that we must work together if we are going to restore the salmon we all need.”