Tag Archives: chums

2019 Puget Sound, Coast Salmon Forecasts Out As North Of Falcon Live-streamed For First Time

The big North of Falcon salmon forecast reveal was live-streamed for the first time today on WDFW’s website, where the predictions for Washington Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum runs are also posted, as are comparisons to past years.


If you’re looking for a highlight at first glance it would be that nearly 2 million silvers overall are expected back to the Columbia, coast and inside waters, well up from last year’s forecast.

“The expected return of 670,200 (Puget Sound) hatchery and wild coho is up about 15 percent from the 10-year average,” a WDFW report adds. “It’s also an increase of 113,000 fish from the projected returns for 2018. Bright spots include mid- and South Sound rivers such as the Green, Puyallup, and Nisqually as well as marine areas 11 and 13.”

However, Hood Canal expectations are lower and exploitation rates are dropping from 65 percent to 45 percent and that may affect fisheries, and the escapement goal for the Snohomish is being bumped up to 50,000 due to concerns about recent years’ returns, and that may impact fisheries.

On the Coast, WDFW says, “The number of coho returning to Grays Harbor is forecasted at 135,900 fish, up from 93,800 in 2018. Fishery managers expect coho fisheries in Grays Harbor will be more robust in 2019 than last year.”

To the south, just over 900,000 coho are predicted back to the Columbia (537,000 earlies, 359,000 lates), about three-quarters of a million more than actually did in 2018, and allowing for a higher exploitation rate in the ocean and river — “I’m kind of excited for the first time in three years,” says WDFW’s ocean manager Wendy Beeghley — but accessing them in the Columbia may be tricky.

“The total forecast – including upriver brights and tules – of fall chinook to the Columbia River is 340,400 fish,” WDFW reports. “That’s about half of the 10-year average and is down slightly from 2018’s forecast of 365,600. Approximately 290,900 fall chinook actually returned last year. Fisheries for fall chinook will likely be limited in several areas of the Columbia River due to low returns both of fall chinook and ‘B-run’ steelhead bound for the Columbia and Snake river basins.”

The B-run forecast is 8,000, “a player in a our Columbia River discussions,” according to WDFW manager Ryan Lothrop. Recent years saw rolling restrictions to protect the Idaho-bound stock.

Just under a quarter million wild and hatchery Puget Sound Chinook are expected, just slightly down from the 2018 forecast.

“The projected return of 217,000 hatchery chinook is down 13,500 fish from 2018 but 11 percent above the 10-year average,” WDFW reports. “Continued low returns to mid-Hood Canal and Stillaguamish will continue to limit fisheries.”

As for accessing Skokomish River hatchery kings, which have been off limits for several seasons now over a boundary dispute, Puget Sound manager Mark Baltzell says that WDFW is still talking with the Skokomish Tribe about access and that getting anglers back on the water “is a goal of ours.”

Lake Washington sockeye are expected at 15,000 and change, “down 82 percent from the recent 10-year average,” and less than HALF of 2018’s lowest run on record, but Baker River reds are better, 33,737, “up 6 percent over the recent 10-year average, makes a fishery a possibility,” WDFW says.

As for pinks, it looks very poor, some 604,146 to Puget Sound streams, down from 2017’s preseason forecast of 1.5 million, but about 100,000 more than actually came back. Still, it would be among the lowest runs on record back to 1959, due to the hit the fish took at sea during the height of The Blob and poor river conditions when they returned to natal streams.

“We’re digging out of a pretty big hole,” said Aaron Dufault, a state stock analyst.

“We’re probably not going to have our bonus bag limit in the salt and in some of our rivers,” added Baltzell.

The Sound forecast of 1.035 million fall chum is down from 2018 but in line with 2017.

“Several areas, such as north Puget Sound rivers, are expected to have very low returns of wild chum, similar to recent years. Anglers should not expect to see chum fisheries in these areas,” WDFW reports.

But things are brighter for chums in the South Sound and Hood Canal.

Briefing meeting-goers, the agency’s Marissa Litz spoke to multiple blobs, El Ninos and La Ninas since 2013 leading to “a lot of instability across food webs” for salmon, including lower body sizes and fecundity for many stocks, but also surprisingly high returns in places, namely Alaska.


The release of the forecasts, drummed up by state and tribal fishery biologists over the winter, marks the first step in setting recreational, tribal and commercial spring, summer and fall seasons in Washington waters.

This year’s NOF — the 35th since the process was initiated in 1984 — will have a focus on what fisheries can be held without jeopardizing southern resident killer whales, according to the state agency’s Fish Program manager Ron Warren at the outset of today’s meeting at the Lacey Community Center.

“We’re working with the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop tools to assess the effects of fisheries on available prey for orcas,” he said in a press release last week. “These upcoming meetings provide opportunities for the public to understand the steps we’re taking to protect orcas this year.”

Prompted by a question from Norm Reinhardt of the Kitsap Poggie Club during the meeting Warren expressed caution that efforts to increase hatchery Chinook production — 24 million in Governor Inslee’s proposed budget — would lead to more fishing opportunities, noting that underlying impact rates on ESA-listed wild kings still govern seasons.

That makes river fisheries all the more important, angling advocate Frank Urabeck pointed out.

“Let’s do better for sportfisheries in the terminal areas,” he stated.

As for how the new Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada will affect this year’s seasons, Phil Anderson, the chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council was hesitant to say that reductions in northern interceptions would increase fishing opportunities in Puget Sound but would instead “alleviate” impact rates on stocks in our southern fisheries.

Warming To A Very Unwild, Very Unscenic Salmon River

It took me awhile to warm to the Duwamish.

Several years of sharing a bank with it, in fact, and I may never be a fan of the diminished river that flows through Auburn, Kent, Tukwila and Seattle like I am of other waters.


Perhaps if I’d grown up in this gritty, highly industrialized part of Pugetropolis it would be easier.

But the Skykomish, Sultan, Wallace, as well as the Sauk, forks of the Stilly, Icicle, the upper Snoqualmie trio and other streams on either side of Washington’s Central Cascades were where I tramped and wade-fished in my younger days, and they became what I know of as “rivers.”


Nothing wishy-washy about them.

Brawny, emerald-hued streams, bottomed by salt-and-pepper-speckled granite, lorded over by bald eagles.

Gravel bars and plentiful skipping rocks, ever-shifting side channels, the roar of rapids, big downed trees that were no match for the power of relentless currents, logjams, deep eddies, Carrock-sized boulders.

They’re the kind of Western waters that get admitted into the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act as birthright.


The Duwamish?

A guide marker for winter morning and evening flights of crows.

Deceptively brown as it slithers over its silt bed.

Carrier of flotsam, and overgrown by brambles and other invasives.

Damned to indecision, reversing itself twice a day in late summer and fall, and carrying the occasional dead body first towards saltwater, then sending it back upstream as if realizing it would be immoral to dump it in the Superfund zone when the tide changes but not having any better ideas either.


Apparently it’s possible to be an elitist snob about rivers, because that’s what I was, someone who looked down his nose at a stream running a course that geology, a volcano and more than a little help from mankind have dealt it.

But I’m working on it, and salmon fishing has been that path.


I WOULD HAVE REMAINED IGNORANT OF THE DUWAMISH — other than it being somewhere underneath one of the many bridges between home and the Columbia — had we not moved the offices of Northwest Sportsman magazine and our other titles from Seattle’s stadium district to an office park a hail Mary away from the river in late 2013.

By then, that year’s pink, coho and kings had long become nutrients, and the chums and hatchery steelhead were in its upper end, so it was too late for any before-work, lunch-hour or after-work casts.

I ignored 2014’s silver run, as I’m admittedly a rather late devotee of freshwater coho (saltwater is something else), so it really wasn’t until August 2015 that I began sniffing around the river with an eye for access points to odd-year humpies.

Fishermen’s paths through the brambles took me down to a foreign water, one with a different smell, a dirty hem line that marked high tide on leaves trailing into the river, and the slickest looking mud you’ll ever see disappearing into unknown depths.

Danish bogman country.


Gingerly, I gave it a go and before long I thought I had figured out how to catch Duwamish pinks, but the fish would soon show me that in fact I did not know very much at all.

Afterwards I began to discover that the river carries an amazing story.

At one time the valley its lower end sidles through was actually a saltwater channel, a sheltered marine passage between what would become the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, according to the Burke Museum.

In those days, returning pinks, kings, coho and chums would have swam past what you might call “SeaTac Island” to enter the Duwamish.

Eventually that channel was filled in by multiple mudflows that came off of Mt. Rainier and gradually pushed the mouth of the river north.

In its Waterlines exhibit, the Burke says that 2,000 years ago, the estuary was right here in Tukwila, somewhere by the Fun Center, the Sounders’ practice facilities, Southcenter Mall, the casinos.

But then a huge earthquake 11 centuries ago lifted the land on the south side of the ominous Seattle Fault by 20 feet, moving the river’s mouth to where it is on Elliott Bay today.


At that time, the Duwamish was a far mightier river, collecting the runoff from a nearly 1,700-square-mile watershed that stretched from Everett, Mukilteo and Mill Creek in the north, to Redmond and Stampede and Naches Passes on the Cascade Crest in the east, to the massive Emmons Glacier on the northeast side of Mt. Rainier in the south.

It was fed by the Sammamish and Cedar Rivers, which drained into Lake Washington and out as the Black River.

And the Black met the combined flows of the Green and White Rivers at Fort Dent to form the Duwamish.

The system was “highly productive” for salmon, according to the Burke, and Native American villages and longhouses once stood near the mouth and along Elliott Bay. The area where Longfellow Creek flows off of West Seattle might have even been the site of a tribal smelt fishery, the museum suggests.


DUWAMISH COHO ARE NOT THE EASIEST FISH TO CATCH, at least in my experience the past three falls.

It seems like I’ve primarily been engaged in moving product off of the rack at Outdoor Emporium and putting it up on the wrack that is all the submerged obstructions in the river.

Needless to say, I’ve had plenty of time to ponder why coho jump. Just because? The sheer thrill? To shake loose sea lice? Coming up on unexpected underwater obstacles? One after another does seem to leap in the exact same spots, I’ve noticed.

Recently as I was making a steeply slanted bank more hospitable to stand and cast from I came across alternating layers of brown-orange and dark gray soils. I’m no geologist but it suggested flood deposits from different sources.

The farmers who began working the Green and Puyallup Valleys in the late 1800s had differing ideas about where the silty White should drain.

Growers on the King County side would dynamite a logjam to get the river to flow west instead of north, and then farmers on the Pierce County side would blow up a bluff to force it north instead of west.

It went on for decades, with rifle-armed patrols watching warily what the other side was up to.


Then in 1906, “it all became moot,” reports Washington’s HistoryLink.org. One of Mother Nature’s infamous November atmospheric rivers sent such a flood downstream that it permanently shifted the White into the Puyallup River and its waters now meet Puget Sound at Commencement Bay instead of Elliott Bay.

A decade after losing that major tributary, the Duwamish was abandoned by the bulk of three more — all of the Sammamish and Cedar and nearly the entire Black — when the ship canal was opened and Lake Washington dipped 9 feet.

The Black is now just a trickle but it will periodically and temporarily rise with murky water when a dam releases water from a nearby riparian area. The watershed has shrunk to only 492 square miles.

Meanwhile, downstream, the estuary of the Duwamish was being filled in to make a deeper, better harbor for shipping interests.

Development backed up the valley, like the river itself rises at high tide. Riprap and flood protection levees straight-jacketed its course.

Whistle-stops and burgs became towns, towns became cities — a fake city even sprang up during World War II when the roof of Boeing’s B-17 factory on the lower river was camouflaged.


No doubt that the bombers that came out of the plant were instrumental in winning the war, but what also came out of the facility in the form of PCBs and other effluents was devastating to the home front and the area was declared a Superfund site. Cleanup there wrapped up in 2015, with a mile’s worth declared “award-winning new habitat areas” by the EPA.

Even as work continues on other polluted sites in the lower river, anglers are advised in nine different languages not to eat resident fish or shellfish.

My family and I have eaten several Duwamish coho the past three falls, and I plan to serve up some more, as sea-going salmon are on the safe list.

I think with the change in the weather this week that is more likely — as long as it doesn’t rain too hard. Even as contaminants are removed from near the mouth, storms are flushing street runoff into the river and it’s now believed that something in our vehicles’ tires is especially toxic to coho.


TODAY MARKS THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and I recently ran a photo essay on Northwest streams protected by the Congressional legislation signed by President Johnson in 1968.

There’s the muscular Rogue and Sauk, the deeply remote Imnaha and Owyhee, and the fishy Chetco and Klickitat.

The Duwamish couldn’t be more different — to fish it is to hear the roar, hammering and squeal of the cogs of the industrial world’s engines in motion — and I doubt it will ever join that prestigious club, but it has helped me see that messy, overlooked, down-on-their-luck rivers are important too.

In recent summers I’ve found myself fretting about its water temperatures, and drawing up plans for fish habitat projects.

And it’s got something else going for it. Earlier this fall, guided by the advice of a fellow angler I met on the banks last year, I caught my first two Chinook out of the river.


Duwamish kings were recently identified as among the most important stocks for our starving orcas, as key as salmon from the pristine and well-protected Elwha and Skagit Rivers.

Yes, there are wild and scenic elements of the river — Flaming Geyser — but the portion that I’ve gotten to know is anything but. Yet in doing so I’ve come to appreciate that there are more kinds of rivers. As long as there are salmon and salmon fishermen of all kinds are able to fish its runs, it will help keep the pressure on to clean up and restore the Duwamish. I think we owe that to a river we have so altered.

And now to catch one of its coho.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this mistakenly called Flaming Geyser Flaming Gorge.