While a North Sound tribe halted its pink salmon fishery on the Skagit this week, a state manager says they don’t plan on following suit on the river at the moment.
“We’re not planning on closing anything right now, but we are keeping an eye on things,” said Aaron Dufault, WDFW’s humpy specialist in Olympia.
Initial netting by the Upper Skagits turned up just 10 percent of the expected catch during what is typically the peak of the run of the odd-year fish.
Fisheries director Scott Schuyler termed that an “abysmal” haul, according to the Skagit Valley Herald.
The 2013 run was over a million, and the state and tribes agreed to a forecast of 600,000 this year.
Puget Sound pinks can sometimes be maddening to consistently catch day to day — even hour to hour — let alone try to figure out what they’re up to in the middle of the season. Dufault says this year they’re throwing off all sorts of conflicting signals.
While anglers launching out of Everett in August found record numbers of fish earlier than any other season back through at least 2001, the commercial catches in the area “were not anything to marvel at,” he says.
Unofficially, the Dungeness’s predicted record return of more than a million will likely come in far below forecast.
As catches taper in northern and central Puget Sound marine areas, they’re picking up south of the Tacoma Narrows as a forecasted run of just under a million begins to enter the Nisqually.
This year’s class of pinks has generally been on the smaller side, but those back to the Nooksack have been large, and they’ve provided a pretty good fishery, Dufault adds.
The Puyallup’s pinks showed up slightly early and abundantly, he says.
And they’ve already begun to hit the gravel on the Green, according to the latest WDFW drought monitoring report.
Dufault says that very early spawning surveys are finding a mixed bag — some rivers are seeing slightly more than average for this time of year, some slightly less — and that’s in the normal range of variability.
He says that WDFW will continue monitoring how many arrive on the spawning grounds in the Skagit, and that information would drive any decision to modify state fisheries there.
Meanwhile, since last week’s rains, rivers have begun to drop and warm again.
After peaking near 3,000 cubic feet per second in early September, the Skykomish has dropped below 650 cfs this afternoon
Late Thursday evening, the Duwamish at the golf course in Tukwilastan topped out just below 66 degrees, and that’s creeping into the danger zone for salmonids.
Indeed, the lingering effects of this warm, dry year have not lifted just because of one week of lower temps and some rain.
But this afternoon, WDFW rescinded more of July and August’s drought-related fishery restrictions on both sides of the Cascades; see wdfw.wa.gov for details.
Yet a reminder of the damage that has been wrought to future fish stocks comes from the aforementioned drought report.
Relating a story from West End fisheries biologist David Low, it states:
“… The most astounding habitat changes occurred in June during steelhead surveys. By the end of those June surveys crews were witnessing tributaries that were already in late summer/early fall flow conditions with long dry reaches. In the canyon areas the flows were so low in mid-June that redds were left high and dry and raccoons had excavated all the eggs/sac fry.
“David guesses that in some areas as much as a third of steelhead redds were lost to predation or de-watering.”