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Yuasa: Salmon Fishing, Season Negotiations, Rainbow Releases Highlight April

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

April 2019

Spring breathes new life into the world around us and is nature’s way of saying it is time to dust off the fishing gear for plenty of options happening right now and in the not so distant future.
First off there’s still time to hook into a winter chinook from the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Catch Areas 5 and 6) clear into Puget Sound and Hood Canal (7, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 11, 12 and 13) and prospects on some fishing grounds have taken a turn for the better with some bigger-sized springers up to 20 pounds.

THERE ARE BLACKMOUTH TO BE CAUGHT IN PUGET SOUND WATERS THIS MONTH. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

In eastern Strait (6) the catch limit was increased from one to two hatchery chinook daily and in the western Strait (5) it remains two hatchery chinook daily. In San Juan Islands (7) it will stay at one hatchery chinook daily. WDFW plans to look at possibly increasing the limit in northern Puget Sound and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1, 8-2 and 9) from one to two sometime in April so be sure to check to emergency regulations posted on their website.

In northern Puget Sound catches have been good one day and lousy the next. Target Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Point Wilson; Double Bluff off Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Possession Bar; Mats Mats Bay; Marrowstone Island; and Foulweather Bluff.

Other marine areas worth a look are south-central Puget Sound in the Tacoma-Gig Harbor area; Hood Canal; and southern Puget Sound.

The western Strait, east side of Whidbey Island and southcentral Puget Sound and Hood Canal are open daily for winter chinook through April 30; eastern Strait, San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound are open daily through April 15. Southern Puget Sound is open year-round.

The length of seasons in some marine areas are dictated by catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (minimum size limit is 22 inches).

In eastern Strait the winter fishery can’t exceed 5,473 total chinook encounters, and through March 29 they were at 48 percent or 2,632 encounters. In San Juan Islands it is 10,735, and they were at 75 percent or 8,022 encounters.

Off the east side of Whidbey Island it is 5,474 encounters, and they were at 73 percent of 3,977 encounters. In northern Puget Sound it is 8,336 encounters, and they were at 60 percent of 4,970 encounters. WDFW provides catch updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

If bottom-fishing gets you excited then head to Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay where catches have been excellent. The halibut fisheries in some marine areas begins on May 2.

Salmon season setting meetings ongoing

Carving out salmon fishing seasons is the hot topic of conversation and a final decision will come to light at the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif., on April 11-16.

THE 2019 SUMMER SALMON SETTING FESTIVAL KNOWN AS NORTH OF FALCON WRAPS UP IN APRIL. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The North of Falcon meetings will wrap up Tuesday (April 2) and it appears there will be more coho to catch and chinook fisheries should resemble 2018 although constraints of certain wild chinook stocks like Stillaguamish and mid-Hood Canal will play a factor in what goes down for 2019-2020 season.

Fishery managers indicate chinook stocks are still recovering from several years of drought and dire ocean conditions so don’t expect an uptick until 2020 or later.

In Puget Sound, 670,159 coho are forecasted to return compared to 557,149 in 2018. The chinook forecast is 246,837 (217,042 are of hatchery origin and 29,796 are wild) compared to 255,219 (227,815 and 27,404) in 2018. However, the expected marginal coho run to Snohomish river system will likely mean very minimal if any fishing in the river itself.

The Puget Sound pink forecast of 608,388 won’t generate any bonus catch limits as they’re still in recovery mode. The Puget Sound fall chum return is 1,035,835 and should provide some decent late-season action.

The Lake Washington sockeye continue to struggle and the forecast in 2019 is 15,153 but Baker Lake is pegged at 33,737. Brett Barkdull, a WDFW northern Puget Sound biologist indicated Baker will have a season that mirror’s last summer.

WDFW created a potential “wish list” of several added sport fisheries in the 2019-2020 season.

Mark Baltzell, a WDFW lead salmon policy manager, says there could be a couple weekends in August for a summer fishery – one targeting chinook – in inner-Elliott Bay. This is due to a good return of 25,794 chinook to the Green/Duwamish and this has been a rarity for the past several seasons with a brief fishery in 2017.

On the table is a “bubble salmon fishery” in lower section of Area 11 in May from Point Defiance down to the Narrows Bridge and up into Gig Harbor area or open all of Area 11 in May.

Central Puget Sound (10) could be open in June for a resident coho fishery, which produced good catches of 2- to 3-pound fish in 2018 and a later start (it opened on July 16 in 2018) for the hatchery-mark chinook fishery in Area 10 to push the quota-directed season closer to the Aug. 16 closure date.

Others include an expanded fishing opportunity around Minter Creek in southern Puget Sound. A non-select coho opportunity in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 and 6) and northern Puget Sound (9), which seems unlikely given the fact that some Puget Sound and Thompson River, British Columbia, coho stocks are still stuck in a rut.

Ron Warren, the WDFW head salmon policy manager, said his department has a proposal for a summer Skokomish River chinook fishery on the table to be reviewed by tribal co-managers. This fishery has been closed for three years over a dispute about land ownership on the river’s shoreline bordering the reservation.

There are three alternative ocean sport fishing season options that reflect good hatchery coho fishing and a somewhat mediocre chinook fishery similar to 2018.

The high-end option is 32,000 chinook and 172,200 hatchery coho with opening dates either June 15 or 22; middle is 27,500 and 159,600 on either June 22 or 29; and low is 22,500 and 94,400 on either June 16 or 29.

The coho return for Columbia River is a robust 1,009,600 compared to a 2018 forecast of 349,000 and an actual return of 230,700. Along the Washington coast the coho return forecast is 401,538 up dramatically from 270,756. The Columbia River 2019 fall chinook forecast of 340,400 is better than the 2018 actual return of 290,900 but down from the preseason forecast of 365,600. For details, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Look for trout to generate prime spring options

The warm weather mid-way through last month is a sure sign that spring is in full bloom and that means thousands of anglers will be soaking their favorite colored Power Bait for the statewide lowland lakes’ trout opener on April 27-28 or even sooner for that matter.

TROUT ARE STOCKED IN A WESTERN WASHINGTON LAKE. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

WDFW hatchery crews are working overtime right now planting millions of trout and kokanee into 553 lakes and ponds across the state. The standardized catchable-sized trout is now 11 inches compared to 8-inches in previous seasons and anglers should find about 2.17-million of these trout lurking in lowland lakes, plus another 126,200 “jumbo” trout measuring 14 or more inches long.

If you’re itching to go fishing right now, then take advantage of hundreds of year-round lakes that have or will be planted this spring.
“The early plants in year-round lakes is all about timing as the cormorants – a large diving bird with a voracious appetite for planted trout – are known to get a lot of the fish,” said Justin Spinelli, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Puget Sound regional biologist. “In our world it is something we deal with, and we’ll do our best to ensure they don’t get eaten up too badly. We’ll start ramping up our plants in lakes.”

Just to get an idea of where the WDFW hatchery trucks under Spinelli’s watchful eyes have been spinning their wheels one needs to look no further than Ballinger Lake on the Snohomish-King County line west of I-5 where on March 26-27 they planted a whopping 9,002; Kapowsin, 26,684; Spanaway, 18,012; Meridian, 16,815; and Lawrence, 20,102.

Other recent eye-popping trout plants include Battle Ground Lake, 4,600; American, 2,522; Black (Thurston County), 12,095; Blue (Columbia County), 4,025; Bonney, 1,050; Cassidy, 3,534; Duck, 850; Fiorito, 4,004; Gibbs, 741; Gissburg, 2,002; Green, 10,010; Horseshoe, 2,900; Island, 2,038; Kitsap, 4,830; Klineline, 5,515; Alice, 1,531; Bradley, 1,000; Ketchum, 2,000; Kokanee, 3,016; Louise, 1,000; Sawyer 1,500; Lost (Mason County), 4,912; Offutt, 5,000; Rattlesnake, 3,504; St. Clair, 6,000; Steilacoom, 5,000; and Swofford, 9,050.

Here are the total estimated plants that will occur in year-round lakes:

In King County try Alice (3,600 trout planted in March-April), Beaver (7,000 in April), Desire (8,000 in April), Green (13,500 in March-May), Meridian (16,700 in March), Morton (5,500 in April), North (9,500 in April) and Rattlesnake (3,500 in March).

In Snohomish County try Ballinger (9,000 in April), Tye (3,500 in April-May), Blackmans (1,500 in April), Flowing (6,800 in April-May), Gissburg Ponds (4,000 in March-April), Ketchum (2,000 in March), Lost (1,500 in March), Panther (1,500 in March), Roesiger (3,000 in April), Shoecraft (6,500 in March) and Silver (8,000 in April).

In Mason County try Spencer (12,644 in April-May) and Island (4,400 in April). In Thurston County try St. Clair (24,000 in April-May) and Black (39,350 in March-April). In Pierce County try Tanwax (5,500 in April-May), Spanaway (18,000 in March) and Bonney (1,020 in March). For weekly stocking updates, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

The first five derbies in the series are in the books and each saw a very good turnout of anglers with plenty of winter chinook around to catch.

THE 2019 GRAND RAFFLE PRIZE BOAT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The Everett Blackmouth Derby on March 16-17 had 125 boats with 402 anglers catching 109 hatchery chinook. Winner was Ben Rosenbach with a 13.63-pound fish worth $3,000 that he caught off Hat Island. Next up: Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 12-14; and Lake Coeur d’ Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28.

Be sure to check out the grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics stereo. Other sponsors include Silver Horde Lures; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Harbor Marine; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco and Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics.

The boat will be pulled to each event by a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of our sponsor Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.

There are 15 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’ll see you on the water!

WDFW Outlines 2019 Puget Sound Salmon Fishery ‘Ideas’

Don’t make your fishing plans around these options quite yet, but Puget Sound managers yesterday outlined some initial salmon season “ideas” they wanted to talk to anglers about more as North of Falcon gets cranking.

You’ll have that chance tomorrow in Sequim and next Wednesday in Mill Creek. Fishery proposals for other parts of Washington are subject of upcoming meetings too, and all will be negotiated with tribal comanagers before anything is set in stone.

Among Pugetropolis highlights is reopening Elliott Bay for two weekends this summer, one for Chinook, thanks to a “pretty good run” expected this year.

Just under 25,800 hatchery and “wild” kings are forecast to return to the Green-Duwamish, and fishing for salmon in the morning shadow of Seattle’s skyscrapers in August has been rare in recent years, but would follow on a brief opportunity that occurred in 2017.

Also under discussion are two proposals for Marine Area 10, including another June 1 start to the resident coho season.

Managers called 2018’s “highly popular,” and while I wouldn’t say it was very productive whatsoever on my particular beach, it was a different story for boat anglers fishing much deeper waters.

And they are mulling a later start to the mark-selective summer Chinook fishery off Seattle, or adding time to the season, which has typically begun July 16 and run until the quota was caught, which occurred around Aug. 16 last year.

But elsewhere during the meeting held in Olympia Tuesday morning and which was live-streamed they didn’t sound as positive about anglers’ wishes to hold wild coho seasons in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Admiralty Inlet, primarily due to issues with local and Thompson River, Canada, stocks.

Speaking of coho, WDFW Puget Sound manager Mark Baltzell warned that Snohomish River opportunities might be “very minimal” this season.

Federal overseers say that the stock has been overfished in recent years and now needs to be built back up, and Baltzell described how the state and local tribes have been talking about conserving the fish.

On the flip side, it’s possible there might be some coho angling on the Stillaguamish after a number of years without a season, Baltzell said.

But another Stilly stock is going to cause real headaches.

Just 944 fall Chinook are expected back this year and that will constrain saltwater fisheries. The question is, which one or ones will be cut or pruned to try and limit impacts on the run and get as many back to the river as possible while allowing more plentiful runs to be targeted? This will present a very hard choice for WDFW.

On a much brighter note, salmon managers are mulling how to expand opportunities on relatively plentiful returns to Minter Creek in Deep South Sound. The past few years have seen large numbers of surplus fish, but angler advocate Norm Reinhardt of the Kitsap Poggie Club worried about the potential for the fishery to become “disorderly.”

Baltzell said state game wardens were on board with keeping things under control and pointed out that it’s a relatively small area to police.

KITSAP POGGIE CLUB MEMBER NORM REINHARDT (LOWER RIGHT) RAISES A POINT DURING YESTERDAY’S NORTH OF FALCON DISCUSSIONS IN OLYMPIA. (WDFW)

There’s talk of how to manage Chinook fishing in Marine Area 11 in May, possibly through a “bubble fishery” in its lower end.

And fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull said that the 2019 Skagit River and Baker Lake sockeye fisheries were likely to be “identical” to last year’s editions.

As for the now-annual question about the Skokomish, Fish Program Manager Ron Warren stated that the state has a fishery proposal in to the tribe to evaluate, while Baltzell said that he has been encouraged by ongoing discussions that have included Director Kelly Susewind.

Sport anglers haven’t been able to fish the Skoke the past three years because of a dispute stemming from a federal opinion over ownership of the river on the edge of the reservation.

During yesterday’s meeting, anglers also urged the state to open more of the Puyallup for salmon, add more time for blackmouth in winter, and put September Chinook in the San Juans back on the table.

Puget Sound discussions continue tomorrow at Sequim’s Trinity Methodist Church (100 S. Blake Ave.) from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and at WDFW’s Region 4 office in Mill Creek ( 16018 Mill Creek Blvd.) on March 27 from 6 to 8 p.m.

There are also three other meetings on salmon fishery proposals for other Washington waters:

Ocean: March 25, Beach Room at Chateau Westport (710 W. Hancock), 7 p.m.

Grays Harbor: march 26, Montesano City Hall (112 N. Main St.), 6-8 p.m.

Upper Columbia: March 26, Douglas County PUD (1151 Valley Mall Parkway, East Wenatchee), 6-8 p.m.

Willapa Bay: March 27, Raymond Elks Club (326 3rd St.), 6-8 p.m.

Mid-Columbia: March 27, Kennewick Irrigation District Auditorium, (2015 S. Ely Street, Kennewick), 6-8 p.m.

Snake River: March 28, Walla Walla Community College, Clarkston Campus Room 104 (1470 Bridge St., Clarkston), 6-8 p.m

Following these discussions, WDFW will take the ideas to tribal comanagers, then return April 3 in Lynnwood to talk to anglers about the results of those negotiations and develop final fishery proposals before North of Falcon wraps up in California in mid-April.

More Details From WDFW On This Year’s Salmon Forecasts; Coho Top Prospect

Editor’s note: Here is a link to our coverage from earlier in the day: http://nwsportsmanmag.com/north-of-falcon-being-live-streamed-2019-puget-sound-coast-salmon-forecasts-out

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Fishery managers estimate higher numbers of coho salmon will return to Washington’s waters in 2019 compared to last year, but expect low returns of wild chinook will again make setting fishing seasons a challenge.

COHO FORECASTS LOOK GOOD FOR FISHING ON THE OCEAN, PUGET SOUND WATERS AND THE COLUMBIA, WHERE CHRIS SPENCER TROLLED UP THIS ONE SEVERAL SEASONS BACK. (CHRIS SPENCER)

Forecasts for chinook, coho, sockeye, chum, and pink salmon – developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty Indian tribes – were released today during a public meeting in Olympia.

The forecast meeting marks the starting point for crafting 2019 salmon-fishing seasons in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington coastal areas. The annual process for setting salmon fisheries is known as “North of Falcon.” Fishery managers have scheduled a series of public meetings through early April before finalizing seasons later that month.

Kelly Susewind, WDFW director, said fishery managers will look to design fishing seasons that not only meet conservation goals for salmon but also minimize impacts on the region’s struggling southern resident killer whale population.

“In the coming weeks, we’ll be working with tribal co-managers and constituents to make sure that we meet our conservation objectives while providing fishing opportunities where possible,” Susewind said. “It’s complicated, but important work.”

The forecasts are based on varying environmental indicators, such as ocean conditions, as well as surveys of spawning salmon, and the number of juvenile salmon migrating to marine waters.

As in past years, salmon-fishing prospects in 2019 vary by area:

Columbia River: About 218,200 “upriver brights” are expected to return to areas of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam. That’s similar to the return in 2018 but down more than 50 percent from the most recent 10-year average.

An estimated 905,800 coho are projected to return to the Columbia River this year, an increase of 619,600 fish from the 2018 forecast. About 147,000 coho actually returned to the Columbia River last year.

Salmon fisheries in the Columbia River will likely be designed to harvest abundant coho stocks while protecting depleted chinook and “B-run” steelhead, which return to the Columbia and Snake river basins.

Washington’s ocean waters: Anglers should have more coho fishing opportunities in Washington’s ocean waters this summer compared to 2018, given higher numbers of coho projected to return to the Columbia River and to Washington’s coastal streams.

This year’s forecast of about 100,500 hatchery chinook to the lower Columbia River is down 12,000 fish from last year’s projected return. Those hatchery chinook – known as “tules” – are the backbone of the recreational ocean fishery.

Puget Sound: Increased returns of coho salmon should provide anglers with some good fishing opportunities including in areas in mid and south Sound, said Kyle Adicks, salmon fisheries policy lead for WDFW.

Roughly 670,200 wild and hatchery coho are expected to return to Puget Sound this year, up 15 percent of the 10-year average. However, the total forecast for wild and hatchery chinook is down slightly from 2018.

“We’re again expecting extremely low returns in key stocks such as Stillaguamish and mid-Hood Canal chinook, which will again limit salmon fishing opportunities,” Adicks said.

Meanwhile, this year’s run of pink salmon, which mostly return to Washington’s waters only in odd-numbered years, is expected to be 608,400 fish. That’s roughly 10 percent of the 10-year average of 5.7 million fish.

Southern resident killer whales

While developing fishing proposals, the department will consider the dietary needs of southern resident killer whales as well as ways to protect orcas from disruptions from fishing vessel traffic, Adicks said.

The declining availability of salmon – southern resident orcas’ primary prey – and disruptions from boating traffic have been linked to a downturn in the region’s orca population over the past 30 years.

WDFW is working with the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop tools to assess the effects of fisheries on available prey for orcas.

Public meetings and comment opportunities

A meeting schedule, salmon forecasts, and information about the salmon season-setting process are available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

WDFW intends to livestream several public meetings, including those scheduled on March 19 and April 3. The department will provide links to those upcoming livestreams, as well as to the archived video from Wednesday’s forecast meeting, on the website listed above.

Upcoming meetings include:

Ocean options: State, tribal and federal fishery managers will meet March 7-12 in Vancouver, Wash., with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to develop options for this year’s commercial and recreational ocean chinook and coho salmon fisheries. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

Regional discussions: Additional public meetings have been scheduled into April to discuss regional fishery issues. Input from these regional discussions will be considered as the season-setting process moves into the “North of Falcon” and PFMC meetings, which will determine the final 2019 salmon seasons.

Final PFMC: The PFMC is expected to adopt final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 11-15 meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif. The 2018 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters is scheduled to be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC’s April meeting.

Beginning in mid-March, fishery proposals will be posted on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/, where the public can submit comments electronically.

$18 Million Awarded For Washington Salmon Habitat Restoration Projects

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE

The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board today announced the award of nearly $18 million in grants for projects to restore salmon habitat in an effort to bring the iconic fish back from the brink of extinction. An estimated 75 percent of the funded projects will benefit Chinook salmon, which make up a large part of the southern resident orca whale diet.

EXAMPLES OF PROJECTS FUNDED BY THE WASHINGTON SALMON RECOVERY FUNDING BOARD INCLUDE RECONSTRUCTING A WHIDBEY ISLAND STREAM AT ITS ESTUARY … (RCO)

The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board today announced the award of nearly $18 million in grants for projects to restore salmon habitat in an effort to bring the iconic fish back from the brink of extinction. An estimated 75 percent of the funded projects will benefit Chinook salmon, which make up a large part of the southern resident orca whale diet.

… ADDING SCREENED WATER INTAKES TO PREVENT FISH FROM GETTING SUCKED INTO FARM FIELDS IN THE CHEHALIS VALLEY … (RCO)

“This funding helps protect one of our most beloved legacies,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Together we’re taking a step forward for salmon, and in turn dwindling southern resident orca whales, while also looking back to ensure we’re preserving historic tribal cultural traditions and upholding promises made more than a century ago.”

… ADDING STREAM COMPLEXITY TO BOTH THE WALLA WALLA … (RCO)

Since the creation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in 1999, the board has awarded more than $700 million in state and federal funds to more than 2,650 projects across the state. With matching funds provided by grant recipients, the amount invested in board-funded salmon recovery projects is $987 million.

… AND TUCANNON RIVERS … (RCO)

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board awarded grants to organizations for 95 projects in 30 of the state’s 39 counties. Grant recipients will use this funding to remove barriers that prevent salmon from migrating, increase the types and amount of salmon habitat, conserve pristine areas and replant riverbanks to increase places for salmon to spawn, feed, rest, hide from predators and transition from freshwater to saltwater and back again.

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board funded projects in the counties below. Click below to see details on each project:

Asotin County…………………………. $77,535

Chelan County………………….. $1,006,716

Clallam County…………………….. $762,420

Clark County…………………………. $689,142

Columbia County………………….. $857,484

Cowlitz County……………………… $988,691

Garfield County………………………. $61,450

Grays Harbor County……………. $437,633

Island County……………………….. $217,645

Jefferson County………………….. $475,220

King County………………………….. $645,895

Kitsap County……………………….. $531,047

Kittitas County……………………. $1,172,830

Klickitat County…………………….. $445,035

Lewis County………………………… $964,520
Mason County………………………. $783,956

Okanogan County………………… $849,084

Pacific County………………………. $899,521

Pend Oreille County……………… $342,000

Pierce County……………………. $1,050,095

San Juan County…………………. $277,742

Skagit County…………………….. $1,326,168

Skamania County…………………. $249,916

Snohomish County……………. $1,052,178

Thurston County…………………… $308,390

Wahkiakum County………………. $424,045

Walla Walla County………………. $480,936

Whatcom County………………….. $437,611

Whitman County…………………….. $41,795

Yakima County……………………… $125,715

“We are committed to restoring salmon populations back to levels that support communities and support people,” said David Troutt, chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “This funding enables local communities to restore the places salmon live, while also initiating a cascade of other benefits, from less flooding to better water quality, more water in rivers for salmon and other fish, and a boost to our statewide economy.”

Recent studies show that every $1 million spent on watershed restoration results in between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs and up to $2.5 million in total economic activity. The funds awarded this week are estimated to provide up to 470 jobs during the next 4 years and up to nearly $50 million in economic activity. These new grants will put contractors, consultants and field crews to work designing and building projects and restoring rivers and shorelines. It is estimated that about 80 percent of these funds stay in the county where the project is located.

AND ASSESSING THE PURCHASE OF A NEW WILDLIFE AREA IN SOUTHERN WILLAPA BAY, ALL OF WHICH ARE PROJECTS THAT SHOULD BENEFIT CHINOOK AND OTHER SALMON. (RCO)

Some of the projects approved by the board this week include the following:

·         A Tulalip Tribes project to remove the Pilchuck River diversion dam will open up 37 miles of habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead.

·         A Cascadia Conservation District project near Wenatchee that will create nearly 6 acres of wetland, add nearly 1 mile of side channel and create more places for fish to rest, hide from predators and spawn in the middle Entiat River.

·         A Lewis Conservation District project near Chehalis will help keep fish out of agricultural irrigation intakes in the Chehalis River basin, directly improving the survival of young coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead.

·         A Nez Perce Tribe project in southeastern Washington will remove barriers to steelhead in Buford Creek, opening up nearly 5 miles of potential habitat, 2 miles of which are designated critical habitat.

The board also approved ranked lists of Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program projects to submit to the Legislature for funding consideration. The project requests totaled nearly $21 million with another $46 million requested for larger projects.

The Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program is a state capital bond-funded program focused on Puget Sound and Hood Canal, jointly administered by the Recreation and Conservation Office and the Puget Sound Partnership.

“Salmon are the heart of nature’s system in Puget Sound,” said Sheida Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. The Partnership’s Leadership Council is the regional salmon recovery organization for most of Puget Sound’s salmon species. “They feed our orca, and they also nourish people. They provide cultural, economic and physical well-being to the entire system. These projects help fulfill our responsibility to sustain the salmon that sustain us.”

How Projects are Chosen

Projects are selected by lead entities, which are watershed-based groups that include tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations and citizens. Lead entities recruit projects and sponsors, vet projects based on federally approved regional salmon recovery plans and prioritize which projects to submit to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for funding. Regional salmon recovery organizations and the board review each project for cost-effectiveness and to ensure they will benefit salmon.

“With steady checks and balances throughout the process, this bottom-up approach is the backbone of our efforts to ensure a thriving future not only for salmon, but for orcas, other wildlife and ultimately—us,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants. “It consistently produces projects with widespread support that are rooted in our local communities.”

Why Save Salmon?

Washington state salmon populations have been declining for generations. As Washington grew and built its cities and towns, it destroyed many of the places salmon need to live. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon as endangered.

By the end of that decade, salmon populations had dwindled so much that salmon, steelhead and bull trout were listed as threatened or endangered in three-quarters of the state.

Those listings set off the formation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to oversee state and federally funded investments in salmon recovery.

Grant funding comes from the Legislature-authorized sale of state bonds and from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, which National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service administers.

Information about the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Recreation and Conservation Office is available online at www.rco.wa.gov.

November Weather Schmeather — Too Much To Do This Month On Westside: Yuasa

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

This is the time of the year when anglers often deal with torrential rainfall and windy weather situations. Tack on a lack of fishing opportunities for Puget Sound winter chinook and you just might think November is a lost cause.

Such distress could have you crying out the “sky is falling” like Chicken Little aka “Henny Penny,” but no need to dig that deep into the abyss as there are places to go and fish to catch.

KAYAK FISHING GURU BRAD HOLE SHOWS OFF A CHUM SALMON. (BRAD HOLE)

First and foremost are chum salmon who don’t get the respect despite being one of the hardest-fighting salmon species often ripping line off the reel like an angry king.

A preseason fall chum forecast of 1.2-million – 543,000 destined to central, south-central and southern Puget Sound (Areas 10, 11 and 13) and another 500,000 heading to Hood Canal (12) – should be reason enough to get anglers hungry for something other than a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

“The chum run this season is decent and similar to preseason forecasts the last couple of years although northern Puget Sound returns – Nooksack, 77,152; Stillaguamish, 21,640; and Snohomish, 26,091 – are poor,” said Marisa Litz, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologist.

A look back to 2017, revealed central, south-central and southern Puget Sound had a return of 584,420 chum; Hood Canal, 1,060,763; Nooksack-Samish, 45,028; Skagit, 7,108; Stillaguamish, 3,749; and Snohomish, 2,707.

“November is when the recreational fisheries really get going at Whatcom Creek (in Bellingham), Hoodsport (in Hood Canal) and Kennedy Creek (in Totten Inlet),” Litz said. “Look for a later timed chum run in Chehalis and Satsop (river systems).”

Estuarial locations are prime staging spots like Johns Creek in Oakland Bay; Chico Creek in Dyes Inlet; Curly Creek near Southworth; North Bay near Allyn; Perry Creek in Eld Inlet; McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park; and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.

Recent WDFW fish checks showed 27 anglers Sunday (Oct. 28) caught 27 chum at Hoodsport in Hood Canal; six anglers caught Sunday (Oct. 28) three at John’s Creek estuary in Oakland Bay near Shelton; and four anglers Saturday (Oct. 27) caught two at Kennedy Creek estuary in Totten Inlet.

In marine areas, anglers will target chum at Jefferson Head; West Point south of Shilshole Bay; Point Monroe; Allen Bank off Blake Island; Southworth; Colvos Passage; Point Dalco off south side of Vashon Island; Point Defiance Park at Clay Banks off Tacoma; Anderson Island; and Fox Island.

Hitting a “trifecta” is a possibility in south-central and southern Puget Sound (Areas 11 and 13) for a coho, chum and hatchery chinook. Note: In Area 13 you must release wild coho.

Those looking ahead should put Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-2 (east side of Whidbey Island) on the “must do list” which reopens Dec. 1 through April 30 for hatchery-marked chinook. WDFW has set a preseason chinook encounter prediction of 5,473 for both areas. The fishery could shutdown if the encounters exceed 80 percent.

Lastly, don’t forget to bring along your crab pots as some areas of Puget Sound are also open daily through Dec. 31 for Dungeness crab.

Late-season trout are viable option

More than 147,000 rainbow trout will be planted in many statewide lakes to keep the good times rolling through the winter holidays.

“Some lakes in (Puget Sound) region will be getting thousands of trout,” said Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist.

Beaver Lake is receiving three allotments of 700 to 800 rainbow trout averaging 1 ½ pounds apiece. The first occurred in mid-October, and others are scheduled around Nov. 20 and Dec. 20.

“Instead of dumping all the fish in at one time we have spread out the plants to make the fishery less of a “circus-like” atmosphere and will allow folks to catch fish well into January and beyond,” Spinelli said of the year-round 60.3-acre lake located on the Issaquah Plateau.

WDFW is ramping up plants at Gissburg Ponds and Tye in Snohomish County; Campbell, Clear and Grandy in Skagit County; Black, Long and Offutt in Thurston County; American and Tanwax in Pierce County; and Anderson in Jefferson County.

“We will also stock Lake Goodwin (northwest of Marysville) in mid-December and this has developed into a nice winter trout fishery,” Spinelli said.

For a list of stocked lakes, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/fall-into-fishing/. To view the WDFW weekly plants, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Razor clam season off to a good start

The coastal razor clam season opened last month with very good digging success.

From Oct. 11-13, 9,545 diggers coast-wide had 139,005 razor clams. Diggers averaged 14.8 at Twin Harbors; 14.7 at Copalis; and 14.2 at Mocrocks. The daily limit is the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition.

Digging was spotty to fair on Oct. 25 and 27 at Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Oct. 26 and 28 at Twin Harbors and Mocrcocks and that was due in part to rough surf and breezy conditions.

All digs are reliant on testing for a marine toxin known as domoic acid — a natural marine toxin produced by certain types of marine algae. A high amount of marine toxins can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in adequate quantities. WDFW usually gives final approval one to two weeks prior to each series of digs.

Tentative dates are Nov. 8, 10, 23 and 25, and Dec. 7, 9 and 20 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Nov. 9, 11 and 22, and Dec. 6, 8, 21 and 23 at Twin Harbors and Copalis; Nov. 24 at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; and Dec. 22 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.

For details, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclam.

2019 NW Salmon Derby Series

The 2018 NW Salmon Derby Series ended on a high note and plans for 2019 include 14 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia. We should have an announcement soon on our new boat/motor sponsor!

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

First up are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 4-6 in Anacortes (http://www.resurrectionderby.com/); Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 17-19 (https://www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby), there is currently a waiting list; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/); and Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/).

For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

While many are getting their holiday shopping lists, and dinner or party plans in order, I’ll be gathering my rain gear and heading out the door to my favorite fishing or razor clam spots.

After all there’s nothing like a feisty chum tugging on the end of your fishing line or digging up a batch of tasty razor clams from a coastal beach!

October’s Not Just For Hunting: Lots Of Salmon Fishing, Clamming Ops — Yuasa

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

Anglers who live in the Pacific Northwest have plenty of year-round fishing opportunities to rave about.

As an outdoor journalist this means my word count on stories never dwindles month-to-month and I’m constantly heading to the pencil sharpener to make sure the end of the No. 2 has enough lead to jot down my “slimy” scribbles on a notepad.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Now let’s keep this writing streak going as there’s still a “boatload” of time to hit your favorite fishing holes before the winter holidays roll around.

Fundamentally it’s all about decisions, decisions on where to go and what you want to catch!

On top of the autumn decision list is salmon in local marine waterways like central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 10) open through Nov. 15 for coho or chum or south-central Puget Sound (11) open through April 30 for a salmon trio of coho, chum and hatchery-marked chinook.

Last month an unexpected nice coho return streamed into Puget Sound creating a fishing frenzy and keep in mind the caboose on this “silver streak” is still sitting somewhere out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This past winter, WDFW biologists predicted a coho return of 557,149 (249,174 wild and 307,975 hatchery), and the actual run size could be larger than what appeared in the crystal ball.
Add to the fishing equation in the coming weeks a hard-fighting fall chum – better known as dog salmon for their gnarly, toothy jaw line at spawning time – with an expected Puget Sound return of 1,216,031.

We rolled out the red carpet for the Puget Sound hatchery kings this past summer, and there’s no doubt the good times will keep on rolling for our next salmon royalty well into next month and beyond.

Look for coho and chum in Area 10 at Jefferson Head, West Point south of Shilshole Bay, Point Monroe, Allen Bank off Blake Island and Southworth.

Further south in Area 11 anglers can score a hat trick (a coho, chum and hatchery chinook) by hitting Colvos Passage, Point Dalco, the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park, Redondo Beach and Three Tree Point.

As the days get shorter heading into winter be sure to watch the chum catch rates soar at estuaries off Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet, Johns Creek in Oakland Bay, Hoodsport Hatchery in Hood Canal, Chico Creek in Dyes Inlet and Curly Creek near Southworth.

Other chum fishing holes are North Bay near Allyn, Perry Creek in Eld Inlet, Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park, and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.

Your other marine salmon options are Hood Canal (13) open now through April 30 and southern Puget Sound (13) open year-round.

Anglers will also begin targeting migrating salmon in local rivers like the Skagit and Snohomish river systems – closed in 2016 and 2017 for coho – as well as the Chehalis, Clearwater, Bogachiel, Calawah, Green, Humptulips, Hoh, Queets, Quinault, Sol Duc and Wynoochee. Anglers should consult the WDFW regulation pamphlet or app for what is open and what types of salmon species you can target in each river.

Winter Dungeness crab outlook

If you like to fish for winter Dungeness crab as much as I do, then pay close attention to a forthcoming announcement from WDFW in the weeks ahead about a possible winter crab fishing season.

“Hopefully we’ll have a preliminary estimate soon so we can make decisions on a winter crab season,” said Don Velasquez, a WDFW Puget Sound shellfish manager.

Fishing areas with crab remaining on their annual allocation, will re-open, seven days a week through the end of this year. However, if the entire annual sport catch quota was taken or if it was closed this past summer, then it’s game over this winter.

“Some said crabbing was fine and others were asking what’s wrong,” Velasquez said. “We had a mixed bag of reports from Area 7 (San Juan Islands) and 8-1 and 8-2 (east side of Whidbey Island) had an average year.”

Velasquez said sport anglers who got out during the July opener in Area 9 (northern Puget Sound) benefitted with good catches as the tribal fisheries didn’t get out until a couple weeks later. Preseason test fisheries conducted by WDFW in Area 10 (central Puget Sound) showed a low abundance of crab thus leading to poor success this past summer.

For more information, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/.

Tentative dates set for first-half of coastal razor clam season

The tentative coastal razor clam digging dates have been set and Long Beach will see a very brief 2018-19 season although WDFW shellfish managers are hopeful it is just be a gap year.
WDFW attribute this decline of razor clams to low salinity levels from Columbia River freshwater run-off along the southern-most beaches.

There is no shortage of razor clams at Long Beach with about 330,000 clams available for harvest in 2018-19, but 80 percent of them are less than 2-inches long.

On the other-hand coastal beaches to the north look robust for the upcoming fall and winter digs.

Twin Harbors is in good shape, and Copalis and Mocrocks beaches razor clam populations are up over last year.

WDFW is working with Olympic National Park staff to assess possible digging dates on Kalaloch Beach.

Upcoming digs are reliant on testing for marine toxins known as domoic acid — a natural marine toxin produced by certain types of marine algae that can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities.

Domoic acid levels remained well under the 20 parts-per-million cutoff ranging from 0.0 to 2.0.

Here are the proposed evening low tide digging dates, and final approval will be announced about one or two weeks before each series of digs:

Oct. 11, 13, 26 and 28 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Oct. 12, 25 and 27 at Twin Harbors and Copalis.

Nov. 8, 10, 23 and 25 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Nov. 9, 11 and 22 at Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Nov. 24 at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks.

Dec. 6, 8, 21 and 23 at Twin Harbors and Copalis; Dec. 7, 9 and 20 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Dec. 22 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.

For details, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclam.

NW Salmon Derby Series ends on high note and a look ahead to 2019

It has been an extremely busy 2018 season with the NW Chevy Dealer Silverado truck and fully-loaded KingFisher boat traveling across the Pacific Northwest!

In all we had 14 derbies including our newest – the Brewster Salmon Derby Aug. 2-5 on the Columbia River – and returnees after a two-year hiatus were the Edmonds PSA Coho Derby and the Everett Coho Derby with each drawing thousands of anglers.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

We had a total of 6,585 anglers entered into the derby series, and the winner of the fully-loaded, grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Series boat powered with Honda motor on an EZ Loader Trailer.

Winner of the Everett Coho Derby – which lured 1,694 adult and 201 youth participants with 548 coho averaging 7.04 pounds on Oct. 22-23. Winner was Michael Rien with a 13.27-pound coho worth $10,000! Also congratulations to the youth winner Baron Kuehlwein with a 10.79-pound coho worth $300!

For the second year in a row the winner of the grand prize derby boat hails from the Big One Salmon Derby in Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho! Joshua Stokes who is an avid angler from Post Falls, Idaho, has fished the Big One Salmon Derby for as long as he can remember.

A huge “thank you” goes out to all our sponsors that also include Scotty Downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; WhoDat Tower; Dual Electronic Stereo; Tom-n-Jerry’s Marine; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News PSA; Outdoor Emporium/Sportco; Harbor Marine; Silver Horde; Prism Graphics; and Salmon, Steelhead Journal.
We’ve got a lot of exciting news on the plate for the 2019 derby series and we’ll be making announcements very soon so stay tuned!

For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.
In the meantime, the days may be getting shorter as we head into fall and winter, but there’s nothing like a feisty coho or chum salmon tugging on the end of the fishing line.

I’ll see you on the water!

WDFW Closes More Sections Of Willapa Tribs, But Reopens Bay For Coho

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Salmon fishing to close in Willapa Bay tributaries 

Action: Sections of Willapa Bay tributaries will remain closed for salmon fishing until further notice.

WILLAPA BAY TRIBUTARIES LIKE THE NASELLE, WHERE THIS COHO WAS CAUGHT, ARE BEING CLOSED DUE TO A LOW CHINOOK RUN, BUT NOW THAT FALL STOCKS HAVE CLEARED THE SALTWATER STATE MANAGERS HAVE REOPENED MARINE AREA 2-1. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective dates: Oct. 1 until further notice

Species affected:  Salmon.

Location: North Nemah River from Nemah Hatchery barrier dam to N700 Rd.; Willapa River from Fork Creek to Hwy. 6 Bridge; Fork Creek from Forks Creek Hatchery rack upstream 500’ at fishing boundary sign; North River from Hwy. 105 Bridge to Fall River; and Smith Creek from mouth to Hwy. 101 Bridge.

Reason for action: These sections of Willapa Bay tributaries were scheduled to open Oct. 1 for salmon fishing. WDFW previously closed the lower stretches of these tributaries to protect returning fall chinook.

Fall chinook are returning to tributaries of Willapa Bay in significantly lower numbers than preseason predictions in all fisheries. Closing the salmon fisheries will increase the number of hatchery fish available to make egg take goals at this time.

Additional information:  Managers will continue to assess Chinook returns and re-open if warranted. 

The following sections of Willapa Bay tributaries remain closed to salmon fishing until further notice:

Bear River from mouth to Lime Quarry Road; Naselle River from mouth to Naselle Hatchery attraction channel; Middle Nemah River from mouth to Middle Nemah A-Line; North Nemah River from HWY 101 to bridge on Nemah Valley Road; South Nemah River, from mouth upstream; Willapa River from mouth to Fork Creek; and South Fork Willapa River from mouth to Pehl Rd. bridge.

Salmon fishing to re-open in Marine 2-1 and the Willapa Bay Control Zone 

Action: Marine area 2-1 (Willapa Bay) and the Willapa Bay Control Zone to re-open for coho and chum salmon fishing. The daily limit is six salmon, up to two adult salmon may be retained. Release chinook.

Effective dates: Sept. 27 until further notice

Species affected:  Salmon.

Location: Marine Area 2-1, Willapa Bay Control Zone.

Reason for action: Fall chinook returns to tributaries of Willapa Bay have been significantly lower than preseason predictions and hatchery returns are lower than needed to make egg take at this time. Historic run-timing and stock composition data suggests minimal fall chinook encounters are likely to occur in marine area fisheries.

Additional information: Anglers must stop fishing for salmon after the adult portion of the daily limit is retained.

Managers will continue to assess chinook returns and species composition of marine area fisheries in order to determine if additional actions are warranted.

US, Canada Agree To New West Coast Salmon Treaty

Updated 4:29 p.m. Sept. 17, 2018

US and Canadian salmon managers have reached a new 10-year agreement on Chinook harvest and conservation, one that must still be approved in the countries’ capitals but calls for reduced northern interceptions when runs are poor.

GUIDE BOB REES NETS A CHINOOK AT BUOY 10. SALMON RETURNS TO THE MOUTH OF THE COLUMBIA WOULD SEE ADDITIONAL PROTECTIONS WHILE TRANSITING NORTHERN WATERS DURING YEARS OF LOWER RUNS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Fisheries off Southeast Alaska would be cut as much as 7.5 percent from 2009-15 levels in those years, while those off the west coast of Vancouver Island would be pruned up to 12.5 percent.

Those are key areas that Washington- and Columbia River-bound kings travel through during their ocean sojourn and a bone of contention for managers at all levels.

“I think that thorniness is why it took the countries two and a half years and numerous negotiation sessions,” said John Field, the executive secretary of the Pacific Salmon Commission.

The update to the international treaty would run from Jan. 1, 2019 through 2028 and be in effect down to Cape Falcon, Oregon. It also covers chums, sockeye, pinks and coho.

Field termed the section on Chinook a “long and complicated chapter” and said that all parties are acknowledging that the species isn’t recovering as well as we’d like, so the burden of harvest cuts is being spread out.

According to Governor Jay Inslee’s office, “Fisheries in Washington will remain tightly constrained unless runs exceed management objectives.”

Alaska salmon managers report that Washington and Oregon fisheries could see reductions from 5 to 15 percent.

Washington’s member of the salmon commission, Phil Anderson, the retired WDFW director, said the plan would “create a better future for salmon in Washington.”

Field, who counts himself as a sports fishermen, said that fellow anglers can rest assured that Chinook management will be improved with “augmentations” in the treaty, including improved tagging for mark-selective fisheries, a 10-year schedule to upgrade monitoring of “sentinel” stocks and a review after five years to see if the reductions are actually yielding better king runs.

The importance of Chinook has been in the spotlight of late with the plight of southern resident killer whales and the likely death of yet another one, J50.

According to Inslee’s office, US salmon commissioners will seek out more money from Washington DC for habitat and hatchery work.

“Additional federal funding is essential in order to make the key conservation work possible to recover salmon, and in turn, our orca,” Inslee said.

“Successful updates to the Pacific Salmon Treaty through 2028 will help ensure long-term sustainable and healthy salmon populations that are vital to the people of the Pacific Northwest, and to the entire ecosystem,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown in a press release.

 

Western Washington 2018 Salmon Forecasts Out

UPDATED 4:51 P.M., FEB. 27, 2018 WITH WDFW PRESS RELEASE AT BOTTOM

North of Falcon is officially underway.

Well, it has been for a few weeks now as state and tribal salmon managers came up with their 2018 Western Washington Chinook, coho, sockeye and chum forecasts, and those were posted this morning.

KELLY CORCORAN SHOWS OFF A DEEP SOUTH SOUND CHINOOK CAUGHT LAST SEASON. THE 2018 FORECAST FOR PUGET SOUND KINGS IS UP OVER 2017, WITH OVER A QUARTER MILLION HATCHERY AND WILD FISH EXPECTED. (KELLY CORCORAN)

The short and sweet version is that more kings are expected back in Puget Sound compared to last year, and overall coho are on par with 2017.

According to WDFW, 255,219 summer and fall Chinook are expected back to streams between the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Mt. Baker and Olympia, up from the expected 193,962 last year.

Generally speaking, the figures are up across the board.

On the coho front, the forecast calls for a grand total of 1,114,104 to Washington, and that’s broken down as 557,149 to Puget Sound rivers, 270,756 to coastal streams and 286,199 to the Columbia.

That compares to 1,143,562, 559,045, 198,115 and 386,401 last year.

Notably, the wild-driven Skagit and Stillaguamish runs are up over 2017, though the Snohomish is down somewhat. Still, they’re much better than what was initially expected in 2016, which saw sharp fishery restrictions to get coho back to the gravel and eventually openers as it became apparent enough were inbound.

Puget Sound fall chums are forecast to again be in abundance, with 1.2 million expected, more than 130,000 more than the 2017 preseason prediction with was way off as far more returned.

Just 39,875 Lake Washington sockeye are expected, down from last year’s forecast and well below the actual return. Around 35,000 Baker River reds are predicted, also down.

More details and press releases as they arrive. In the meanwhile here is Mark Yuasa’s update.

Next steps are for the state and Western Washington tribes to craft proposed fisheries with constituents, negotiate a deal and send the package to federal fishery overseers for approval by mid-April.

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Projected poor returns of several salmon stocks are expected to limit fishing opportunities in Washington’s waters this year, state salmon managers announced today.

Forecasts for chinook, coho, sockeye, and chum salmon – developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty Indian tribes – were released during a public meeting in Olympia.

The forecast meeting marks the starting point for crafting 2018 salmon-fishing seasons in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington coastal areas. The annual salmon season-setting process is known as “North of Falcon.” Fishery managers have scheduled a series of public meetings through early April before finalizing seasons later that month.

Kyle Adicks, salmon policy lead for WDFW, said numerous salmon runs are expected to be lower this year compared to last season, including several key chinook and coho stocks. As a result, a number of fishing opportunities from Puget Sound south to the Columbia River will likely be restricted.

“We will definitely have to be creative in developing salmon fisheries this year,” Adicks said. “I encourage people to get involved and provide input on what they see as the priorities for this season’s fisheries.”

Adicks said the low salmon returns are the result of a variety of factors, including another year of poor ocean conditions.

The forecasts are based on varying environmental indicators, such as ocean conditions, as well as surveys of spawning salmon, and the numbeR of juvenile salmon migrating to marine waters.

Columbia River

Roughly 236,500 “upriver brights” are expected to return to areas of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam. That is down more than 50 percent from the most recent 10-year average.

An estimated 286,200 coho are projected to return to the Columbia River this year, down nearly 100,000 fish from the 2017 forecast. About 279,300 actually returned last year to the river, where some coho stocks are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Some salmon fisheries in the Columbia River will likely be more restrictive than last year, Adicks said.

Washington’s ocean waters

A lower return of coho and chinook to the Columbia River, combined with a poor forecast of coho returning to the Queets River, will likely mean further restrictions to Washington’s ocean salmon fishery as compared to last year, Adicks said.

This year’s forecast of about 112,500 hatchery chinook expected to return to the Columbia River is down more than 50 percent from last year’s forecast. Those hatchery chinook, known as “tules” are the backbone of the recreational ocean fishery.

Puget Sound

The expected return of 557,150 Puget Sound coho is down about 6 percent from the 10-year average. Very low returns to certain areas, such as the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Snohomish River, could limit salmon fishing in those regions.

While the 2018 forecast of 227,400 Puget Sound hatchery chinook is up 38 percent from last year, continued low returns of ESA-listed wild chinook to some rivers will limit fisheries this year.

Conservation objectives

With the population of Puget Sound wild chinook in decline, salmon managers are working to finalize conservation goals for managing chinook fisheries in 2018.

“We’ll have a better idea of how restrictive Puget Sound salmon fisheries will be this year when NOAA provides its guidance in March,” Adicks said.

A 10-year management plan for harvesting Puget Sound chinook is being developed and will likely be submitted to NOAA Fisheries in late summer. More information on the plan can be found on the department’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/chinook/, where WDFW will also post NOAA’s guidance for this year’s fisheries.

NOAA also may ask for additional restrictions on fisheries as the federal agency weighs conservation measures for southern resident killer whales, whose population has been declining along with salmon. State, tribal and federal fish and wildlife managers, together with their Canadian counterparts, are discussing how to recover the whale population. Some options include limiting fisheries, increasing hatchery production for salmon, improving water quality, and reducing boating activities in key killer whale habitat.

Salmon managers will continue to discuss the issue at upcoming meetings.

Also at those meetings, state salmon managers plan to discuss with the public ways to simplify salmon-fishing regulations. Anglers are invited to share ideas for making salmon fishing rules less complex during public meetings or by using an online commenting tool.

Public meetings and comment opportunities

A meeting schedule, salmon forecasts, and information about the salmon season-setting process are available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/. An online commenting tool will be available on the website later this week.

Upcoming meetings include:

  • Ocean options: State, tribal and federal fishery managers will meet March 9-14 in Rohnert Park, Calif., with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to develop options for this year’s commercial and recreational ocean chinook and coho salmon fisheries. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters 3 to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.
  • Regional discussions: Additional public meetings have been scheduled into April to discuss regional fishery issues. Input from these regional discussions will be considered as the season-setting process moves into the “North of Falcon” and PFMC meetings, which will determine the final 2018 salmon seasons.
  • Final PFMC: The PFMC is expected to adopt final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 6-11 meeting in Portland, Ore. The 2018 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters is scheduled to be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC’s April meeting.

NMFS Puts Joint WDFW-Tribal Green-Duwamish Hatchery Production Plan Out For Review

State and tribal fishery managers are proposing to increase hatchery salmon and steelhead production by 14 percent in the Green-Duwamish under a federal draft EIS now out for public comment.

The bump is related to three new programs that have a goal of eventually putting young Chinook, coho and winter steelhead above a dam in the headwaters of the King County river.

DUWAMISH RIVER HATCHERY COHO.

As it stands, the plan calls for raising as many as 5.1 million fall Chinook, 5 million chum, 3.41 million coho, 383,000 late-winter steelhead and 100,000 summer steelhead, up from a maximum of 12.44 million currently.

More than 1.5 million of those — 600,000 kings, 600,000 coho and 350,000 late-winter steelhead — would be reared for release as fry, subyearlings or yearlings above or below Howard Hanson by the Muckleshoot Tribe once a “Fish Restoration Facility” is completed below Tacoma Public Utilities’ structure at river mile 64, where downstream passage facilities don’t currently exist but are “tentatively scheduled” to begin construction on next year.

Outside of winter-runs, WDFW, Muckleshoot and other hatcheries on the system rear fish to fuel sport and tribal fisheries on Puget Sound, Elliott Bay and in the river.

Where at one time the Green was one of Puget Sound’s top streams for steelheading in December, January and February, these days managers are trying to conserve and recover the river’s low natural stocks.

The 10 hatchery programs covered by the plan “would be adaptively managed over time to incorporate best management practices as new information is available,” according to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Duwamish-Green Hatcheries Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Other options call for a continuation of the status quo, which is to say without ESA coverage, and terminating or cutting production in half.

NMFS is taking comment through Dec. 20.