Will we see a new record pink salmon run in Puget Sound? The updated Fraser forecast, Southeast Alaska catch, Strait of Juan de Fuca test fishery, and recent local hauls are pulling the jig hard in that direction.
But the man in charge of the odd ones is holding off on setting the hook.
“All signs are pointing to a lot of fish in the water,” allows Aaron Dufault, biologist and number cruncher for the species at WDFW HQ.
Even as anglers throughout the region are seeing a tsunami of the 3- to 10-pounders — a wave that broke hard on the Skagit over Labor Day weekend — it may be a year before spawning escapement data, run reconstruction, genetic tests and other cues tell him whether or not 2013’s run has a bigger hump than 2009’s, when 9.8 mil came back, the all-time high.
In the meanwhile, it’s a theoretical exercise, something for he and coworkers to do after hours, on the back of beer coasters at Olympia taverns, and rabid fish reporters to talk up in the blogosphere.
That’s because, unlike with Columbia Chinook stocks, there’s no impetus for adjusting the pink forecast while the return, err, returns.
“In Puget Sound, historically there’s been no agreement with the tribes to update the run size,” says Dufault.
For the record, the forecast is for 6.2 mil.
But there are those aforementioned signs that say we could be battling pinks for a nice long time.
For starters, Dufault terms the Alaskan Panhandle commercial pink catch a “record high.”
Our fish feed in the Gulf of Alaska and as they head south, split around Vancouver Island. On its south side, a test boat opposite Neah checks for sockeye headed back to the Fraser, but also intercepts southbound humpies, and the signs have been strong.
“They’ve had some extremely high catches, far better than in the past,” notes Dufault.
Something like 6 to 10 percent of the pinks dribbles down Johnstone Strait past the home of the Whitecaps to FC Sounder country.
“They’ve had much higher catches — some record catches up there,” he says.
Late last week, the Fraser run was upgraded, for the second time this season. The original forecast was for 9 million, which was bumped significantly to 24 million, and which now stands at 26 million, says Dufault.
And surveys are finding that some Puget Sound pink stocks on their spawning grounds, namely those in the upper Sauk, are in already in good numbers.
“For this early in the season, they’re doing really well,” says Dufault.
So are anglers from the Straits to the South Sound to the Skagit — and should be for some time to come.
For more on how and where to catch ’em, grab your copy of the September issue of Northwest Sportsman, on newsstands now, or buy the digi-edition, for $1.89. Also note we’re running a great subscription offer now too!
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