With the traditional start of pink salmon season on the Puyallup River less than two months away but a sport fishery still in flux, negotiations between state and tribal managers have risen to the highest level.
An indication about the seriousness of the issue for both parties, WDFW director Phil Anderson and the Puyallup Tribal Council are now involved in the talks, according to a source close to the discussions which began several months ago during the annual North of Falcon salmon-season-setting process.
At issue are 54 late-summer days that tribal netters want to have exclusive access to the 7 miles of river from the 11th St. Bridge in Tacoma upstream to the mouth of the White River at the town of Puyallup, a stretch that includes some of the best lower-river public access and fishing for the odd-year, all-native humpbacked salmon.
Gear and angler conflicts have occurred in recent years on this history-marked salmon fishery, and could again this year with the Puyallup expected to see 1.2 million pinks as well as smaller numbers of Chinook and coho. Anglers often wade well out into the glacial stream to target the fish; netters and their gear move downstream. Though the lower river has been straightened, there are a couple sharp curves.
When negotiations during North of Falcon failed to resolve the problem, WDFW put the line “To be determined” in the rules pamphlet, and that understandably caught sport anglers’ eye. Fishermen have been contacting the agency and Northwest Sportsman for updates.
As pinks begin to filter towards and into Washington saltwaters and August comes ever closer on the calendar page, a state official acknowledges that it’s the closest to a fishery that discussions have continued, but says WDFW is talking face to face with their counterparts at the tribe to resolve the issue.
Through the twin pillars of a 1974 federal court order and Endangered Species Act listings of some Puget Sound salmonid stocks, harvests are comanaged by the state and tribes.
Sport fisheries also remain “to be determined” on the Skokomish.