Tag Archives: coho

NMFS Shares Salmon Habitat Gains, Flood-threat Reduction From Tillamook Estuary Work

THE FOLLOWING IS A NEWS STORY FROM THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE

NOAA’s work with community partners restoring estuary habitat in Tillamook Bay, Oregon is revitalizing tidal wetlands for threatened Oregon Coast coho salmon, and helping reduce flooding in the surrounding communities and farmlands.

The project’s benefits to fish were realized immediately—443 acres of different estuary habitats critical to juvenile salmon are now available, including mud flats, open water with vegetation, marsh and others. Often called “nurseries of the sea,” estuaries offer unique conditions, like slow moving water and tides that bring in nutrients, which keep fish safe and allow them to grow.

BEFORE AND AFTER IMAGES FROM THE TILLAMOOK ESTUARY PARTNERSHIP SHOW THE EFFECT OF REMOVING LEVEES AND TIDE GATES NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE TRASK RIVER. (TILLAMOOK ESTUARY PARTNERSIHP VIA NMFS)

A recently published report also confirms the project’s flood reduction goals were achieved. Shortly after project completion, in October 2017, a flood occurred at the site. Our restoration work resulted in widespread reduction in flood levels and duration including along Highway 101, a key commercial and transportation corridor. In total, about 4,800 acres around the project site showed reductions in flood levels.

This project, like many others we work on, shows how restoring habitat back to its natural functions can help coastal communities be more resilient against severe weather. Nature-based approaches are being shown to provide these, and many other economic benefits, along both the the east and west coasts of the United States.

Almost 90 percent of the Tillamook Estuary’s historic tidal wetlands have been lost to development and agriculture. Like many other species relying on estuary and wetland habitats, loss of these areas is a primary contributor to the decline of Oregon Coast coho salmon.

Additionally, Oregon’s winters bring storm surges, heavy rainfall, and snow melt. Combined with high tides, this often causes flooding in the area. Flood losses in Tillamook County exceeded $60 million from 1996 – 2000.

ESTUARIES ARE IMPORTANT HABITAT FOR COHO SMOLTS ALONG WITH THE YOUNG OF OTHER SALMON SPECIES. (ROGER TABOR, USFWS)

To achieve the mutually beneficial project goals, old levees, fill, and tide gates were removed to create tidal estuary habitat. This functions as a “flow corridor,” allowing flood waters to move freely and quickly away from the town of Tillamook. Now, nearby properties and more than 500 structures are protected from flooding. It’s estimated that $9.2 million in economic benefits will accrue from avoided flood damages over the next 50 years.

The project reconnected hundreds of acres of marsh habitat and restored 13 miles of new tidal channels. This will significantly benefit Endangered Species Act-listed Oregon Coast coho salmon. Historically, more than 200,000 of these salmon would return to Tillamook Bay each year. That number was down to just 2,000 in 2012. This habitat is critical for juvenile salmon to feed and grow, and will help with the broader goal of species recovery along Oregon’s entire coast.

The Southern Flow Corridor Project is the result of tremendous community support and collaboration. NOAA Fisheries’ Restoration Center, within the Office of Habitat Conservation, and the West Coast Regional Office, worked with more than a dozen local, state, federal, tribal and private partners on this effort.

BRYCE MOLENKAMP PREPARES TO NET A SALMON ON TILLAMOOK BAY. (MARK VEARY)

Key partners include the Port of Tillamook Bay, Tillamook Bay Habitat and Estuary Improvement District, Tillamook County, the State of Oregon, FEMA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Institute for Applied Ecology, and the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership. We provided funding for the project through the Community-based Restoration Program and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, and on-the-ground technical assistance.

Elwha Fishing Moratorium To Be Extended Into 2021; Good Chinook Forecast

The Elwha River will remain closed to fishing for another two years, until mid-2021, according to WDFW.

“Monitoring has shown that salmon and steelhead populations are expanding into newly opened habitats, but have not yet achieved recovery goals,” Director Kelly Susewind reported to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission this morning.

A CHINOOK SALMON EXCAVATES A NEST INSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK FOLLOWING COMPLETE REMOVAL OF ELWHA RIVER DAM. (JEFF DUDA, USGS)

The north Olympic Peninsula river was closed to all sport and tribal fishing in 2011 ahead of the removal of the two dams on its lower end, Glines Canyon and Elwha.

Chinook, coho, chum, steelhead and bull trout are taking advantage of the new habitat in the pristine national park watershed, with the seagoing char observed as far as 40 miles upstream, above “five major canyons,” according to a Peninsula Daily News report from last fall.

A NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SNORKELER SURVEYS FOR SALMON ABOVE GLINES CANYON DAM. (NPS)

WDFW district fisheries biologist Mike Gross says there are also encouraging signs with Chinook, including this year’s conservatively estimated forecast of 7,400, which is well above 2018’s prediction of 5,200 and above the actual return of 7,100.

He says that last year’s strong showing of 3-year-olds should translate into a good number of 4-year-olds this fall and 5-year-olds in 2020.

That good three-year push of fish should help propel the Chinook population further and further up the Elwha

“These early re-colonizers play an important role in establishing spawning and juvenile rearing in habitats of the upper watershed,” Susewind’s director’s report states.

A SPAWNING FALL CHINOOK PATROLS SHALLOW WATERS OF THE ELWHA SYSTEM IN 2016. (NPS/USBR/USGS ELWHA RESTORATION PROJECT, FLICKR, CC 2.O)

The Elwha is fabled for once hosting returns of truly massive Chinook before the dams were built in the early 1900s.

“Hopefully the ocean cooperates the next few years,” says Gross.

As for coho, the ocean forecast is 1,679, and he expects between 1,000 and 1,200 to actually return to the river.

The extension of the moratorium, which was agreed to by WDFW, the National Park Service and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, is slated to run from June 1, 2019 through July 1, 2021.

“Recreational, subsistence and commercial fishing will resume when there is broad distribution of spawning adults in newly accessible habitats above the former dam sites, and when spawning occurs at a rate that allows for population growth and diversity, producing adequate escapement and a harvestable surplus,” Susewind’s commission briefing says.

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!

Potential 2019 Washington River Salmon Fisheries Posted For Comment

More details are coming out about Washington’s potential 2019 river salmon fisheries and WDFW is looking for public input on them as North of Falcon comes to a boil over the next two weeks.

Overall, there will be seasons, though in places on salt- and freshwaters they don’t look too hot because of low forecasted returns to some rivers, potential impacts on chronically depressed Chinook stocks, efforts to rebuild three “overfished” Washington and BC coho runs, and providing for orca recovery.

ANGLERS WOULD ONLY HAVE SEPTEMBER TO FISH THE SNOHOMISH FOR COHO, WITH A DAILY LIMIT OF ONE AS MANAGERS TRY TO REBUILD THE “OVERFISHED” STOCK. ANGLER JON PULLING CAUGHT THIS ONE WITH GUIDE JIM STAHL A FEW SEASONS BACK. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

On Pugetropolis streams, while WDFW is again proposing bonus limits on coho in the Nooksack system — four a day in the mainstem and North Fork, and up to six on the South Fork — there wouldn’t even be a catch-and-release fishery for pink salmon there.

In fact, there wouldn’t be any humpy fishing in rivers from the British Columbia border all the way down through the Snohomish system, traditionally among the strongest pink populations — at least until The Blob and four big fall 2015 floods hit.

Speaking of the Snoho, WDFW’s proposing just a single month of salmon fishing in it and its two major tribs, September, and only for one coho. That month’s good, but October’s better, harvest wise. The Wallace would only be open for the back half of the month, also for just one silver headed to the hatchery there.

It’s because federal overseers are pushing the state and tribes to improve silver escapement on the key system following several bad years.

But unlike 2016 when none was mentioned, at least this clause is built into WDFW’s fishery proposal: “Extension of season dependent on in-season update.”

Also in the North Sound, the agency would like to open lower Dakota Creek near Blaine for coho, as well as hold a pilot May 1-31 hatchery spring Chinook fishery on the Skagit from the mouth up to Gilligan Creek.

Baker Lake would be open starting July 6 for three sockeye a day, the Samish Aug. 1-Oct. 31 for Chinook and hatchery coho

As for the potential Stillaguamish coho season, that is TBD after comanager discussions, according to WDFW’s literature.

Further south, salmon fishing on the Green-Duwamish could open Aug. 20 below I-405, with Chinook available for harvest starting Sept. 1 from the interstate down to Tukwila International Boulevard.

Fisheries on the Puyallup would open Aug. 15 for hatchery coho and Chinook, but with closures on certain days on the lower river to accommodate tribal openers.

The Nisqually would open July 1 for salmon, with a two-adult daily limit (release wild Chinook).

Things are less cut and dried at Buoy 10 and the rest of the Lower Columbia, where managers are trying to limit Chinook catches but access a good coho run of 900,000-plus fish.

There are multiple options on the table for dealing with August and its fall king runs, but things brighten in September, when the bag could bump to three hatchery silvers a day but no Chinook below Bonneville.

WDFW’s also warning that steelhead fisheries on the big river could see the rolling closures of 2017 and last year’s night closures and one-fish bags.

And things are no less complex in Grays Harbor and its tribs, but at least there are options.

Indeed, it’s better than sitting at home.

Next up in the North of Falcon process is an April 2 meeting in Ridgefield to talk about the Columbia and ocean, and an April 3 meeting in Lynnwood to discuss Puget Sound.

 

National Fishing Trade Group Calls On Inslee To Reject Fish Commission’s Columbia Reforms Vote

A major national trade organization is calling Washington’s recent vote to freeze planned Columbia salmon fishery reforms a “significant threat to numerous fish stocks” and is calling on Governor Jay Inslee to reject it.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE GIVES HIS 2019 STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH EARLIER THIS YEAR. (GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

Expressing concern about putting nontribal commercial gillnetters back on the lower river, a letter from the American Sportfishing Association says doing so “is a move against the best available fisheries science and common-sense conservation efforts. Wasteful fishing practices, such as gillnetting, pose a threat to the long-term solvency of both the commercial and recreational fishing industries alike.”

Numerous Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead stocks are listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Snake fall kings, Idaho summer Chinook, upriver springers, and lower river fall tules, plus some summer-runs and coho.

“The gillnetting issue is great opportunity to show your leadership to the angling community by continuing to be a champion for conservation,” states the letter to Inslee, who launched his 2020 presidential candidacy earlier this month.

It’s a response to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission’s 5-1-2 March 2 move that also pushed catch allocations from 80-20 recreational-nontribal commercial, where they were in 2018, down to 70-30, where they were in 2016 before the reforms began to unravel, and roughly where fall Chinook allocations have also been paused at.

And it comes as former Washington commissioners instrumental in instituting the reforms on the north side of the Columbia sent state lawmakers their own letter that said they were perplexed by the current board’s decision.

Noting how important sportfishing is to the state’s economy — the organization intends to hold a conference in Washington later this year — ASA’s letter in part will remind Inslee of his October 2015 correspondence to then Commission Chair Brad Smith.

In it, Inslee asked the commission to “seek ways to expand public access to the recreational fishery, promote selective fisheries, implement scientifically credible hatchery practices that ensure hatchery production and consider economic factors when setting seasons for both the recreational and commercial fish industry.”

ASA’s letter was sent on behalf of the board of directors. Among its 14 signatories are Dan McDonald of Yakima Bait (full disclosure: a major Northwest Sportsman advertiser), David J. Pfeiffer of Shimano, Zack Swanson of Rapala, Jesse Simpkins of St. Croix Rods, and Bruce Akins of Bassmaster.

“We urge you to support ongoing fisheries conservation in the Columbia River, including protections provided under the Endangered Species Act, by rejecting the WDFW decision on gillnetting in the Columbia River,” they ask Inslee.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Columbia, Oregon’s citizen oversight panel will also take the issue up at its June 6-7 meeting. Oregon Governor Kate Brown says she still supports the reforms and that leading legislators are keeping an eye on “whether the legislative intent of the reforms is reflected in the policies adopted by the commission.”

Editor’s note: The full text of the letter is as follows:

March 14, 2019

The Honorable Jay Inslee
Governor
416 14th Ave SW Olympia, WA 98504

Dear Governor Inslee,

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the American Sportfishing Association, we are writing you to express our concern regarding the recent decision by the Washington Department Fish and Wildlife to reinstate nontribal gillnetting in the Columbia River. The Washington Department Fish and Wildlife’s decision is a significant threat to numerous fish stocks in the Columbia River – including 13 endangered fish species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. Furthermore, this move will result in dramatically shortened sportfishing seasons.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the nation’s recreational fishing trade association. ASA provides a platform for the recreational fishing industry to have a united voice when emerging laws and policies could significantly impact sportfishing businesses or sportfishing itself. In the US, over 49 million anglers generate over $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for over 1 million people. The recreational sporting industry is an important component of Washington’s economy and tourist industries. In the state of Washington, 1 million anglers spent $1.5 billion dollars on fishing annually and the recreational industry supported 15,208 jobs with an overall output of $2.4 billion. As a testament of the importance of Washington to the angling community, later this year ASA will be convening a conference of approximately 250 leaders in the industry, representing numerous companies throughout the country, at Skamania Lodge along the banks of the Columbia River in Washington. The gillnetting issue is great opportunity to show your leadership to the angling community by continuing to be a champion for conservation.

Given the importance of the state to businesses across the country, the sportfishing industry is watching closely the recent deliberations about allowing commercial gillnetting in the Columbia River. This highly controversial move would negatively impact fisheries conservation efforts and impact recreational fisheries from the river’s mouth to the upper Columbia in Eastern Washington. Allowing gillnetting on the Columbia River is a move against the best available fisheries science and common-sense conservation efforts. Wasteful fishing practices, such as gillnetting, pose a threat to the long-term solvency of both the commercial and recreational fishing industries alike. We urge you to support ongoing fisheries conservation in the Columbia River, including protections provided under the Endangered Species Act, by rejecting the WDFW decision on gillnetting in the Columbia River.

Sincerely,

Chris Megan
Publisher
On The Water, LLC

Zack Swanson
General Manager, VP of Sales
Rapala USA

Louis Chemi
COO
Freedom Boat Club

Dan McDonald
President
Yakima Bait Company

Jesse Simpkins
Director of Marketing
St. Croix Rods

Kirk Immens
President
Sportco Marketing, Inc.

Bruce Akin
CEO
B.A.S.S., LLC

Dale Barnes
Division Manager, Marketing
Yamaha Marine Group

Dan Ferris
Publisher
Midwest Outdoors

Steve Smits
President
ZEBCO Brands

Peter Foley
President
Boone Bait Company, Inc.

Patrick M. Gill
CEO
TackleDirect

Carl Liederman
President
Capt. Harry’s Fishing Supply Co., Inc.

Dave J. Pfeiffer
President
Shimano North American Fishing, Inc.

 

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.

WDFW Scientist Named As New State Salmon Recovery Office Director

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

Erik Neatherlin, a scientist and longtime manager in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been selected to lead the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office, which coordinates statewide and regional efforts to return salmon from the brink of extinction.

ERIK NEATHERLIN WILL HEAD UP THE WASHINGTON GOVERNOR’S SALMON RECOVER OFFICE INSIDE THE STATE RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE. HE TAKES OVER FROM STEVE MARTIN. (RCO)

The Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office coordinates the efforts of 25 community-based watershed groups and 7 regional organizations across the state that are charged with implementing federally approved recovery plans for salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

“Erik is a longtime champion of salmon recovery and will bring his considerable knowledge of the science, the partners and the issues to the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which is home to the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office. “He has the perfect skills to lead the way forward and help us return these iconic fish to healthy levels.”

Neatherlin, of Olympia, Wash., has been science director and policy lead for salmon recovery with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife since 2011. In that role, he managed 200 employees and a $26 million biennial budget, and represented the agency on the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. Neatherlin started at the Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2003 as a biologist and worked his way up to a leadership position, working with many external partners, such as tribes, local and federal governments and the Legislature and Congress. He has bachelor and master degrees in science from Florida State University and the University of Washington, respectively. Before joining the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Neatherlin worked as the conservation program director for the Sustainable Ecosystems Institute in Portland, Ore.

“Erik is a very thoughtful leader and, as a scientist, understands the need to make decisions based in facts,” Cottingham said. “He knows a lot is riding on our collective success to recover salmon and their habitats. If we don’t recover salmon, many people will lose their livelihoods and we may lose the southern resident orca whales. It’s important that we have a leader experienced in salmon recovery at the helm and we’re very excited for Erik to join our team.”

Across the Pacific Northwest, salmon populations have been decimated. As the number of people grew and demands for water, power and land increased, salmon habitat was altered or destroyed. In the early 1990s, the federal government began listing salmon species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. By 1999, some salmon populations had disappeared completely and listings affected nearly three-fourths of the state. Today, federal agencies have listed 18 species of salmon, steelhead and bull trout as either threatened or endangered.

In addition to being an iconic fish, salmon are big business in Washington. Many businesses, such as bait and tackle shops and charter fishing companies, rely on the world-renowned Pacific salmon. Today, commercial and recreational fishing are estimated to support 16,000 jobs and $540 million in personal income.

“Recovering salmon is paramount to our state and our region,” Neatherlin said. “We know how to recover salmon and we have many talented people already doing this important work, but to be successful, it’s going to take all of us pulling in the same direction. This includes the tribes and our existing partners, as well as new partners who may be new to the salmon recovery table. I come ready to listen and learn.”

The federal Endangered Species Act and Washington State law require development of plans to recover salmon. Washington residents have been working for nearly 20 years to reverse the fate of salmon, and those efforts are beginning to pay off. For details, visit the State of Salmon Web site.

Big Bump In Possible Washington Coast Coho Quota, But Chinook Could Be Similar To 2018

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

Fish managers have developed options for Washington’s ocean salmon fisheries that reflect concerns over chinook stocks and optimism about improved returns of coho projected this year.

The three options for ocean salmon fisheries were approved Tuesday for public review by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

JENN STAHL SHOWS OFF A COHO SHE CAUGHT OUT OF WESTPORT WHILE FISHING WITH JOHN KEIZER. (SALTPATROL.COM)

The three alternatives are designed to protect the low numbers of chinook expected to return to the Columbia River and Washington’s ocean waters this year, said Kyle Adicks, salmon fisheries policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“With these alternatives in hand, we will work with stakeholders to develop a final fishing package for Washington’s coastal and inside waters that meets our conservation objectives for wild salmon,” Adicks said. “Anglers can expect improved opportunities to fish for coho salmon compared to recent years while fishing opportunities for chinook likely will be similar to last year.”

Similar to 2018, this year’s forecast for Columbia River fall chinook is down roughly 50 percent from the 10-year average. About 100,500 hatchery chinook are expected to return to the lower Columbia River. Those fish – known as “tules” – are the backbone of the recreational ocean fishery.

Meanwhile, fishery managers estimate 905,800 coho will return to the Columbia River this year, up 619,600 fish from the 2018 forecast. A significant portion of the Columbia River run of coho contributes to the ocean fishery.

State fishery managers are working with tribal co-managers and NOAA Fisheries to take into account the dietary needs of southern resident orcas while developing salmon fishing seasons. The declining availability of salmon – southern resident orcas’ main source of prey – and disruptions from boating traffic have been linked to a downturn in the region’s orca population over the past 30 years.

“We will continue to assess the effects of fisheries on southern resident killer whales as we move towards setting our final fishing seasons in April,” Adicks said.

The options include the following quotas for recreational fisheries off the Washington coast:

Option 1: 32,500 chinook and 172,200 coho. Marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) would open June 15 while marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport) would open June 22. All four areas would be open daily and La Push would have a late-season fishery under this option.

Option 2: 27,500 chinook and 159,600 coho. Marine areas 1, 3, and 4 would open daily beginning June 22 while Marine Area 2 would open daily beginning June 29. There would be no late-season fishery in Marine Area 3.

Option 3: 22,500 chinook and 94,400 coho. Marine areas 1, 3, and 4 would open daily beginning June 29 while Marine Area 2 would be open five days per week (Sunday through Thursday) beginning June 16. There would be no late-season fishery in Marine Area 3.

Fisheries may close early if quotas have been met. For more details about the options, visit PFMC’s webpage at https://www.pcouncil.org/blog/, where information can be found about a March 25 public meeting in Westport on the three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries.

Last year, the PFMC adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 27,500 chinook and 42,000 coho.

Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2019 salmon-fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those other fisheries.

State and tribal co-managers will complete the final 2019 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with PFMC during its April meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif.

Several additional public meetings are scheduled in March and April to discuss regional fisheries issues. The public will also soon be able to comment on proposed salmon fisheries through WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/, where a list of scheduled public meetings can be found.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish and wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.

WDFW Fish Commission Adopts Columbia Subpanel Reform Recommendation; NSIA: ‘No Words’

Updated 3 p.m. March 4 and 10 a.m. March 5, 2019 at bottom with WDFW press release.
Updated 3:10 p.m. March 2, 2019 with reaction from NSIA

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission late this morning voted in favor of a joint-state subpanel’s recommendation to decrease recreational salmon fishing allocations on the Columbia and keep gillnetters on the big river.

THE ASTORIA-MEGLER BRIDGE ARCS OVER THE WEST MOORING BASIN IN ASTORIA DURING 2014’S BUOY 10 FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

A step backwards in terms of the planned fishery reforms that WDFW and ODFW had agreed to and sport anglers and organizations wanted to continue moving forward, the 5-1-2 vote pushes spring and summer Chinook allocations from 80-20 recreational-nontribal commercial, where they were in 2018, down to 70-30, where they were in 2016 before the process began to unravel, and roughly where fall Chinook allocations have also been paused at.

“There are no words to describe the depths of this betrayal to the license-buying public, and to the industry that sends millions in excise tax to the agency and hundreds of millions in taxes to the State of Washington,” said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “It’s mystifying how this Commission expects the angling public to support any sort of fee increase in the face of this level of utter disregard? I suspect the people who fund this agency will be in revolt until this shameful vote is overturned.”

Thrown into the bargain is a relaxing of the mandatory barbless hook requirement.


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The vote, held in Spokane, followed 30 to 45 minutes of public input from members of both fleets, as well as deep dives into the program by Washington and Oregon agency staffers that led to the six-member subpanel’s 3-2-1 recommendation vote earlier this week on “Option 1.”

As he did on the subpanel, Commissioner Dave Graybill of Leavenworth voted against it as the full commission took the matter up today in a Ramada conference room.

“I’m not going to accept going backwards,” Graybill said during final comments.

Pointing to low forecasted runs of Chinook this year, he said the Columbia was in “serious trouble” and supporting an increase in nontribal commercial impacts wasn’t something “I can do.”

Voting in favor were Commissioners Bob Kehoe of Seattle, Don McIsaac of Hockinson, Barbara Baker of Olympia, Kim Thorburn of Spokane and Jay Holzmiller of Anatone.

McIsaac, who chaired the subpanel, said that sorting out Columbia management issues ahead of March and April’s North of Falcon salmon-season-setting negotiations was very important and that the change would help achieve concurrency with Oregon in terms of fisheries held on the river.

Spring Chinook allocations will stay at 80-20 this year unless an inseason upriver run update increases the forecast from 99,300 to around 128,000.

Thorburn said there is still work to be done on the policy but that the recommendation most closely aligns with one of the commission’s and it provides economic benefits for all fisheries.

Holzmiller contrasted the infighting between the recreational and commercial fleets with the unified voice of Northeast Washington residents who’d shared their concerns about the region’s whitetail deer and high predator populations with the commission on Friday. In “not wanting to sound like a hippie” from the 1960s, he urged all anglers to work together to figure out how to get more fish back.

Abstaining in favor of holding more discussions were Commissioners Larry Carpenter Mount Vernon and Brad Smith of Bellingham, the current chairman and previous one.

PRC Recommendation
* Option 1 – Transition Period with amendment for spring Chinook
* Transition Period refers to all the allocations and gear types allowed in 2016.
                * Last year moving from gillnets to alternative gear.
* Change from mandatory barbless hooks to voluntary barbless hooks effective as soon as practical but by June 1, 2019 at the latest.
* Good faith progress towards recommending a comprehensive Columbia River salmon fishery policy for 2020 and beyond, to be completed as soon as possible. The policies embodied in this motion are intended to be in place until such comprehensive policy is adopted.
* To be used only in 2019, the motion is amended such that the 80%/20% sport/commercial allocation, with no buffer applied to the commercial share and no mainstem commercial fishing, is to be used unless the Upriver run size update is more than 129% of the Upriver spring Chinook pre-season forecast of 99,300.

THE COLUMBIA REFORMS WERE AGREED TO BY Washington and Oregon back in 2012 and began to be implemented in 2013.

They prioritized developing new alternative nontribal commercial gear in the mainstem, moving netting to off-channel areas near the mouth, and increasing allocation for sportfishers.

Allocations are essentially allowable catch impacts on Endangered Species Act-listed salmon.

In part, the move also aimed to help more wild salmon and steelhead get through to upstream spawning grounds.

But certain aspects have proved difficult to achieve, including the search for alternative gear and finding bays on the Washington side for the net fleet, leading to discontent from commercial interests.

That first led to a pause in the transition for fall Chinook and then a large review of how the whole program has worked and review by the subpanel, which brings us to today’s Washington commission vote.

Oregon’s citizen oversight panel is expected to take it up March 15.

In the end, 70-30 is still above where allocations stood in the so-called 2010-12 “base period,” when they were 60-40, 50-50 and 59-41 on spring, summer and fall Chinook, according to WDFW staff.

But still in the wings is a bill in Olympia, SB 5617, that would ban nontribal gillnetting on the Washington side of the Lower Columbia. If passed and signed into law, that would primarily affect a commercial fishery targeting fall brights above Vancouver.

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

Editor’s note: On the morning of March 5, 2019, WDFW issued a clarification on their original March 4 press release, tweaking verbiage in the eighth and ninth paragraphs about fall and spring Chinook allocations. This version includes both the original paras in strikethrough and the new paras.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has agreed to allow the use of gillnets during the fall salmon fishery on the lower Columbia River while state fishery managers work with their Oregon counterparts to develop a joint long-term policy for shared waters.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), took that action and received public comments on proposed hunting seasons for 2019-21 during a public meeting March 1-2 in Spokane.

The commission’s action to extend the use of gillnets was one of a number of recommendations for Columbia River fisheries developed by a joint committee with members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. Oregon’s full commission will also consider the recommendations when it meets later this month.

Commissioners from both states are working on an overhaul of their respective Columbia River salmon management policies, which are designed to achieve conservation goals for salmon and steelhead, promote orderly fisheries in concurrent waters, and maintain and enhance economic stability in sport and commercial fisheries.

The change in policy affects allowable commercial fishing gear and the allocation of catch between sport and commercial fisheries, among other adjustments. Conservation measures remain unchanged, and no additional fishing pressure was approved beyond the annual amount allowed in full compliance with all salmon and steelhead Endangered Species Act requirements and sustainable fishery management practices.

The Washington policy, approved in 2013, intended for the commercial fishery to have completed a transition from gillnets to alternative gear this year and be relocated away from mainstem Columbia River areas. However, the use of alternative gear has not yet been refined and the off-channel areas have been determined to be unsuitable.

The commission modified that policy in response to a comprehensive performance review conducted over the past year. Without that action, fishing rules for Washington and Oregon would have been incompatible, because Oregon plans to allow the use of gillnets during the upcoming fall season.

The recommendation approved by the commission at the meeting in Spokane will allow commercial fisheries to proceed similar to 2018. A maximum of 70 percent of the fall chinook catch will be allocated to the recreational fishery, the same amount allocated under Oregon’s policy.

The recommendation approved by the commission at the meeting in Spokane will allow commercial fisheries to proceed similar to 2018. A maximum of 70 percent of the fall chinook catch will be allocated to the recreational fishery, the same amount allocated in 2018.

Washington commissioners also agreed to retain the recreational fishery’s share of 80 percent during the spring chinook fishery. The allocation for the commercial fishery was set at 20 percent with no commercial fishing in the mainstem Columbia River unless the in-season run-size update for upper river spring chinook is more than 129 percent of the pre-season forecast of 99,300 fish.

Washington commissioners also agreed to retain the recreational fishery’s share of 80 percent during the spring chinook fishery for this year. The allocation for the commercial fishery was set at 20 percent with no commercial fishing in the mainstem Columbia River unless the in-season run-size update for upper river spring chinook is more than 129 percent of the pre-season forecast of 99,300 fish.

Additionally, the commission made the use of barbless hooks voluntary in Columbia River fisheries as soon as possible, but no later than June 1, 2019.

Five Washington commissioners voted to approve the recommendation: commissioners Kim Thorburn, Barbara Baker, Robert Kehoe, Donald McIsaac and Jay Holzmiller. Commissioner David Graybill voted “no,” and commissioners Bradley Smith and Larry Carpenter abstained.

Details of the motion that passed and more information on the Columbia River Policy Review can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/.

Prior to that decision, the commission was briefed by WDFW wildlife managers and accepted public comments on proposed hunting rules for deer, elk, waterfowl, and other game species. The commission is scheduled to take final action on those proposal at a public meeting April 5-6 in Olympia.

For more information on the season-setting process see https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting/

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.