Tag Archives: Atlantic salmon

More Atlantic Salmon On The Way To Washington: 1.8m Eggs From Iceland

Some 1.8 million Atlantic salmon eggs have been cleared to ship to a private Washington fish hatchery later this week.

The move will likely leave the Governor’s Office, DNR, tribes and others on the anti-Atlantic fish-farming bandwagon fuming.

But Cooke Aquaculture received the transfer permit from WDFW late yesterday after the company applied for it in mid-September and the state agency determined Cooke “met all the fish health standards required under state law.”


Governor Inslee has ordered no new netpens be authorized before an investigation into the collapse of Cooke’s Cypress Island farm in mid-August is finished, but WDFW says it doesn’t have the authority to block the importation of the “healthy” eggs.

The eggs are coming from Cooke’s hatchery in western Iceland, near Reykjavik, and will be reared at its Rochester facility south of Olympia.

Last week, WDFW approved transporting 1 million 6- to 22-ounce Atlantics from the rearing ponds there to a netpen in Rich Passage in Puget Sound.

That saltwater facility came under scrutiny this week from the Department of Natural Resources after a contractor found above-water corrosion and a hole in a net. Cooke was given 60 days to fix it or lose their state lease.

There’s been much ado about raising Atlantics in Pacific waters in recent months, including before and after around 160,000 of 305,000 escaped from Cypress Island.

However, no known populations of the nonnative salmon have taken hold from spills in Puget Sound in the 1990s, and a recent article in the Vancouver Sun notes that despite British Columbia government making 200 attempts to kickstart runs in 52 different water bodies over a period dating back to 1905 using a total of 13.5 million eggs, young fish and smolts, zero were successful.

The Cypress escapees were 3-year-olds and incapable of breeding until next year, if any even are still alive.

Agency OKs Moving Atlantic Salmon Smolts Into Bainbridge Netpen

A month and a half after a commercial netpen failed elsewhere in Puget Sound, state regulators have approved a shipment of 1 million young Atlantic salmon into another floating enclosure here.

WDFW says that Cooke Aquaculture’s facilities in the Bremerton area’s Rich Passage — the site of a protest flotilla in mid-September — were inspected by the Departments of Ecology and Natural Resources and “met structural, water quality, and fish health requirements.”


The agency issued a transportation permit to the company late Monday.

While Governor Jay Inslee has banned permitting new netpens during investigations into why the international conglomerate’s Cypress Island operation broke up in mid-August — there are indications of aging equipment due to be replaced — state laws didn’t preclude moving the “healthy” 12- to 16-month-old fish into another enclosure, according to WDFW.

Cooke had applied in late August to transport the Atlantics from its rearing ponds in Rochester south of Olympia to Clam Bay, even as efforts to capture their 160,000 or so 8- to 10-pound adult escapees were ongoing in the San Juans.

A press release from the Governor’s Office said that Inslee is “very concerned” about the transfer, and called it “disappointing and frustrating” in light of August’s events.

He said his office had asked Cooke to withdraw the permit application “for our tribes, for our citizens, for our environment and for the industry’s long-term prospects.”

Around 305,000 of the market fish were being finished in the Cypress netpens this summer, and 140,000 were recovered inside them after the failure.

Through last week tribal fishermen have netted around 50,000, while hook-and-line anglers reported catching nearly 1,950, with another 3,000 or so caught by nontribal commercial fishermen.

This isn’t to say Atlantics don’t pale in comparison — and in more ways than one — to native Pacific salmon, but the breakout led to numerous wild claims about the fish.

A Sept. 11 initial assessment and Sept. 14 update found Cooke’s fish were “healthy” when the incident occurred, weren’t faring well in Puget Sound based on signs of anorexia, the stomachs of tribally sampled fish were “empty” and no signs of fish pathogens had been found in salmon recovered early on.

There was, however, an interesting note in that report: “Necropsy findings indicate an active inflammatory process of unknown origin originating in the gastrointestinal tract in the later September capture group.”

Neither large escapes from netpens in the 1990s nor directed stocking efforts in the 1980s resulted in breeding populations of the nonnative salmon in Puget Sound rivers.

Cooke will move the young Atlantics from the hatchery to netpen through the fall, according to WDFW, and they will be grown there until mid- to late 2019 before they are harvested.

Editor’s note: An earlier version reported the age of the Atlantics being moved from rearing ponds to Clam Bay as 2 years old, but subsequent information has come in that they will be a year to 16 months old.


More Than Half Of Atlantics Appear To Have Escaped Pen

It appears that more than half of the 305,000 Atlantic salmon in a commercial netpen off Cypress Island were able to get loose when it was damaged two weeks ago, making it the second largest escape in Washington waters.

Cooke Aquaculture reports that the pens are now clear of fish and that the company recovered 142,176 during clean-up operations.

That means somewhere around 163,000 initially escaped before anglers and tribal fishermen swooped in to begin scooping them up.


A voluntary catch-reporting tool on WDFW’s website shows the location of where 1,589 have been landed by anglers since Aug. 21, when the escape became widely known.

“Latest fishing reports show that most of the fish have cleared out of Deepwater Bay to surrounding areas and continue to be caught further from Cypress Island,” a report from the agency late Wednesday afternoon stated.

WDFW’s map shows Atlantics caught as far away as off Tofino, which is not quite halfway up the west coast of Vancouver Island, Texada Island, in the Johnstone Strait between the island and mainland British Columbia.

Others have been reported caught in the Samish and Snohomish Rivers, and six were caught off the east side of Bainbridge Island.

Unfortunately, Area 5, where at least 20 were reported caught, has closed to salmon fishing and thus Atlantics as well. After Sept. 4, Area 9 will as well.

Lummi Nation fishermen have removed at least 20,000, and possibly as many as 30,000. The Suquamish and Tulalip Tribes also authorized gillnetting this week.

According to WDFW, there were three large escapes in the 1990s — 107,000 (1996), 369,000 (1997), and 115,000 (1999).

In the wake of August’s disaster, permitting for new netpens has been put on hold while the incident is fully investigated.

Map Highlights Atlantic Salmon Catches; 120K Recovered From Damaged Pens

Cooke Aquaculture says it’s recovered nearly 120,000 Atlantic salmon from a damaged North Sound netpen, while a new WDFW map is showing where and how many of the escapees anglers have caught.

The agency’s website reports that as of 1:31 p.m. this afternoon, 889 have been reported landed everywhere from Ucluelet, BC, to the Samish River to Alki Beach, but mostly along the east side of Cypress Island, where the pen is anchored.


WDFW says it appreciates all the help and reports from anglers, and notes that there’s now a 100-yard “safety zone” around the damaged facility.

Another 20,000 were reported caught over the weekend by Lummi Nation netters.

Work being done today at the site should help determine how many of the 305,000 nonnative salmon that had been raised for market actually got loose.

It provided an unexpected bounty for anglers but also widespread outcry from fishermen and others, and led the state to suspend issuing new permits for more Atlantic salmon netpens before a full review of the spill is done.

Meanwhile, catches appear to be getting tougher, or at least the big numbers from the first few days have faded away as as many as 80 boats have been working the Secret Harbor pen, but we thought we’d pass along so more advice on how to land ’em.

Wayne Heinz spends his summers fishing and crabbing in the San Juans, and he called the angling right after the damage occurred “the best … salmon fishing in decades.”

“They hit Berkley PowerBait brown sparkle dough and also yellow trout eggs,” he tips.

Use a spinning rod setup strung with 12-pound-test clear mono line, a 3/8-ounce sinker and a 5-foot leader, Heinz advises.

“Anchor 30 to 40 feet deep along the rocky shore  by broken pen  among many other boats. Cast. Slow retrieve. Most fish are 6 to 16 feet deep. They fight hard and go aerial,” he says.

Others have done well with spinners, and a Sekiu resort reported landed some on herring.

For more on the ins and outs of angling for Atlantics, check out WDFW’s website for info.

To Track Dispersing Atlantics, WDFW Asks Anglers To Chart Catches


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is encouraging anglers who catch Atlantic salmon that escaped from a salmon farm near the San Juan Islands last Saturday to report their catch online.

Although anglers are not required to log Atlantic salmon on their catch record cards, state fish managers are requesting anglers report their catch online in an effort to track fish being caught.

The form for reporting can be found online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/atlantic_salmon_catch.php.

“We’re hoping to track how many Atlantic salmon have been recovered by sport anglers and how far those fish have dispersed,” said Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program. “If you’ve caught one of these fish over the last few days, or if you catch one in the near future, please let us know.”

Warren noted the escaped Atlantic salmon are 8 to 10 pounds in size and are safe for people to eat.

WDFW also is deploying additional employees to assist with creel checks in the Bellingham Bay area to help collect data on encounters with Atlantic salmon.

Cooke Aquaculture notified the department of a net pen failure Aug. 19 that allowed Atlantic salmon to escape from the company’s Cypress Island location. The net pen held 305,000 salmon but the number of escaped Atlantic salmon is still undetermined.

The department is working with Cooke and other state agencies to determine the number of fish that actually escaped.

WDFW is responsible for monitoring fish diseases and shares regulatory authority for net pen operations with several other agencies, local governments and tribes.

Anglers must have a current fishing license and must also observe gear regulations identified in the 2017-18 sport fishing rules pamphlet.

There is no size or catch limit on Atlantic salmon. However, anglers may only fish for Atlantic salmon in marine waters that are already open to fishing for Pacific salmon or freshwater areas open to fishing for trout or Pacific salmon. Anglers also must stop fishing for Atlantic salmon once they’ve caught their daily limit of Pacific salmon in marine waters or their daily limit of trout or Pacific salmon in freshwater.

Try Mimicking Dinner Time At Netpens For Atlantics


Who needs pink salmon when there are gobs of hungry Atlantics swimming around out there?!

Kevin Klein, a San Juan Islands salmon angler, reports a friend got into a whole pile of the net-pen escapees yesterday.


“The Atlantic Salmon that escaped form a net pen in the San Juan Islands are now spread across the area. Reports have come in of Atlantics caught as far South as Bush Point on Whidbey Island. Folks are out there catching them, and forty in a day is not uncommon. There is no limit, but current WDFW rules for other species must be followed while targeting them,” he reports.

Note that boat fishing is closed in Marine Area 9, Admiralty Inlet, due to low Coho returns to the Skagit and Stillaguamish Rivers, but the shorelines of Whidbey Island and the Kitsap Peninsula are open for bank fishing through September 4th.

“Once you find them on the troll, try casting spinners or Buzz Bombs to them while throwing pea gravel near the boat. Seriously, it mimics feeding time at net pens. These invasive fish need to be caught before they can spread disease, eat native smolts, or mix with natural Pacific stocks,” Klein reports.
The following is information from WDFW:

I do not have any more information on the details behind the escaped Atlantic Salmon.  However we do have quite a few folks heading north interested in catching these fish.  The common question is where and how.


Where is again primarily around the release site but don’t be surprised to see them spreading out (i.e., Bellingham Bay).


The how is still a bit of an unknown but from the most recent report I have is a few folks have had great success casting spinners.  Being these are pen raised fish, they are likely not strong swimmers and will orient themselves to the top of the water column looking for the easy meal.  Casting spinners into jumping/congregated fish near the surface has already worked for some anglers (and will avoid Chinook and coho).  I have also heard that flies often used for sea-run cutthroat trout has been known to work in the past for those who flyfish.  Our test fisher was out recently and saw plenty of fish near the site within Secret Bay.  Trolling does not appear to work.  However casting chrome-colored buzz bombs, rotators, and spinners had some success in shallow water (less than 3 feet and tight to shore).  Fish were seen finning and jumping near the shore and seem to be particularly attracted to eel grass beds.


Regulations are (again) for fishing in the saltwater:

  1. License plus salmon catch record card
  2. Open only where salmon is open
  3. Must stop fishing once the appropriate salmon daily limit is reached (Chinook, coho, pink)
  4. No limit on Atlantic Salmon or size limit
  5. Be prepared to be sampled at the boat ramp per our baseline creel sampling staff – and if you have tips on how to catch them, please share that information with staff