(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)
Anglers fishing along the Washington coast will see an increase in catch quotas for chinook salmon this summer, although harvest guidelines for coho will be lower than seasons adopted last year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Three ocean salmon-fishing options approved today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) anticipate a strong return of chinook along the Washington coast bound for the Columbia River this summer. But the three options also point to a decrease from last year in Columbia River coho returns.
“These options are designed to meet our conservation objectives for wild chinook and coho salmon,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW director. “Using these options as a framework, we will work with stakeholders on the coast and Washington’s inside waters to develop a final fishing package that provides fishing opportunities on healthy salmon runs while meeting our conservation goals for weak salmon populations.”
The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, last year adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 20,500 chinook and 176,400 coho salmon. This year’s recreational ocean options are:
* Option 1 – 55,000 chinook and 92,400 coho;
* Option 2 – 47,500 chinook and 75,600 coho; and
* Option 3 – 40,000 chinook and 58,800 coho.
Nearly 653,000 fall chinook are forecasted to return to the Columbia River this season, about 234,000 more chinook than the number returning last year. The increased numbers represent strong returns to Spring Creek and other Columbia River hatcheries, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.
“The expected abundance of hatchery chinook salmon should allow fishery managers to structure seasons that enhance fishing opportunities for chinook in the ocean and the Columbia River this year,” Anderson said.
Under Option 1, the PFMC proposed a recreational salmon fishing season this summer that would get under way June 12 in all ocean areas with mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook. The selective fishery would run from June 12-30 or until 19,000 hatchery chinook are retained.
Selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon. If implemented, the mark-selective fishery would be the first in Washington’s ocean waters for hatchery chinook.
For nearly a decade, the mass marking of hatchery-produced coho salmon has allowed anglers to fish selectively for coho in Washington’s ocean waters. Mass marking of lower Columbia River hatchery chinook – known as “tules” – has been under way since the mid-2000s and the PFMC is considering using this management tool in ocean fisheries for chinook, Anderson said.
Under Option 2, recreational salmon fishing would begin June 19 in all ocean areas for both hatchery and wild chinook salmon. That fishery would run through June 30 or until 7,000 chinook are retained. Option 2 does not include a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean this year.
Starting in early July, retention of chinook, as well as hatchery coho, would be allowed under both options 1 and 2.
Under Option 3, recreational chinook and hatchery coho salmon fisheries would begin June 27 in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) and June 29 in marine areas 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay). Like Option 2, this option does not include a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean this year.
While the chinook forecast is up, the Columbia River coho return is expected to be down this year. Nearly 390,000 Columbia River coho are projected to make their way along Washington’s coast this summer, compared to one million coho in 2009 – the largest return in nearly decade.
“This year’s Columbia River coho run, which is well below last year’s return, will challenge fishery managers to develop meaningful fishing opportunities while still meeting our conservation goals for coho,” Anderson said.
As in the past, all three ocean options are based on mark-selective fisheries for hatchery coho salmon.
Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2010 salmon fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those fisheries.
The co-managers will complete the final 2010 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with the PFMC process during its April meeting.
Meanwhile, public meetings are scheduled in March and early April to discuss regional fisheries issues. A public hearing on the three options for ocean salmon fisheries is scheduled for March 29 in Westport.
Fishery managers will consider input from the regional discussions during the “North of Falcon” process, which involves planning for fishing seasons in Washington’s waters. Two public North of Falcon meetings are scheduled for March 16 in Olympia and April 6 in Lynnwood. Both meetings will begin at 9 a.m.
More information about the salmon-season setting process, as well as a schedule of public meetings and salmon run-size forecasts, can be found on WDFW’s North of Falcon website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon/ ).