Puget Sound anglers, guides, gear retailers, resort owners, commercial fishermen and others got their first glance at possible summer salmon seasons today.
Options presented this morning by WDFW included a mixed bag of opportunities to catch abundant Chinook and coho in some marine areas and rivers, sharply carved seasons elsewhere to limit impacts on depressed stocks, and closures on some waters to ensure enough salmon make it back to North Sound spawning grounds.
The agency was gathering comments from its stakeholders for the next round of negotiations with Western Washington tribes, who were also in meetings today.
Discussions at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites were slated to continue through the afternoon, but, well, some of us have magazine deadlines to attend to, so I had to leave “North of Falcon II” early and can’t go as in-depth on all the arcane math behind WDFW’s modeling as is my usual wont, but I found several fishing options that the agency has drummed up as newsworthy:
For starters, with over 16,300 Chinook heading back to the Green, the agency would like to hold a one-weekend (Friday-Sunday), two-salmon-limit fishery on inner Elliott Bay in August (hatchery coho and pinks only the next two weekends), and open part of the lower river for king retention.
Initially, WDFW is looking at a nonselective season on E-Bay kings, following a lack of objection from the Muckleshoot Tribe, according to Mark Baltzell, Puget Sound salmon manager.
But that concerned several anglers, including retired state salmon policy expert and current sportfishing representative Pat Patillo. He thought that it might be better to propose the fishery as a mark-selective one, aligning it with consistent efforts to target and harvest fin-clipped hatchery salmon.
Either way, it buoyed one longtime angler who sat in the front row of today’s briefing.
“We’re glad to see a chance to get back our king fishery,” said Ed, last name unknown.
WDFW is also modeling hatchery Chinook seasons in the Nooksack, Skykomish, Skagit, Cascade, Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers, and any-king fisheries in the Samish River and Tulalip Bubble.
Unlike 2016, this year there are least options to fish for coho on the salt.
But to protect very low forecasted returns of Stillaguamish and Skagit coho, WDFW is considering closing Areas 8-1 and 8-2 through October, and running Area 9 as a shore fishery only for hatchery silvers in September.
According to the agency’s Ryan Lothrop, Admiralty Inlet typically produces 24,000 silvers that month, with impacts to Stilly and Skagit coho “quite high” as the rivers’ stocks mix before heading for their natal streams.
The tribes were said to be “relatively open” to a shoreline fishery throughout Area 9, including down to the Hood Canal Bridge, though it would only yield about 5 percent of the usual catch for anglers, according to WDFW.
Elsewhere, Areas 5, 6, 10 and 13 are modeled as open for hatchery coho, while wild and clipped silvers could be fishable in Areas 11 and 12.
WDFW’s proposal also includes selective coho fisheries in the Nooksack, Samish, Cascade and Nisqually Rivers, and any-silver fisheries in the Snohomish, Green, Puyallup, Nisqually and Quilcene Rivers, and Lakes Washington and Sammamish, and Tulalip Bay.
The Skagit and Stillaguamish would be closed, but the retired WDFW biologist and North Sound angler Curt Kramer said the agency owed game fish anglers something for 2016 closures and termed the Stilly a “blue-ribbon” cutthroat fishery.
Since the early 2000s, odd-numbered years have delivered stellar numbers of pink salmon, but not so for 2017, at least by the forecast, some 1.15 million Puget Sound wide.
Again, with Stillaguamish and Skagit coho mixing into the best waters for Snohomish- and South Sound-bound humpies, things look grim for Area 8-2 anglers, but audience members came up with two possible sliver fisheries.
Patillo advocated for one on the eastern side of the area, from, say, Mukilteo down to the Shipwreck, with the idea being a fishery in Humpy Hollow would be further away from the constraining coho stocks.
Scott Weedman of Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville wanted to know about one off the mouth of the Snohomish River, from approximately the Tulalip Bubble down to Mukilteo, an area known as 8A.
The latter is a consideration, with the assumption that the closer to the Snohomish, the higher the density of salmon native to that basin. WDFW staffers were up until 2 a.m. this morning modeling an 8A fishery.
Other modeled saltwater fisheries include:
- Hatchery Chinook in all or parts of July and August in Marine Areas 5-7, 9-11, 12 south of Point Ayock, and 13;
- Any-Chinook fisheries in Area 7 from August through September;
But ominously, Skokomish kings and coho are listed as TBD, a possible sign about negotiations to reopen the river after last year’s closure by the tribe.
About 60 people attended today’s meeting. Besides those mentioned above, they included Gabe Miller of Sportco in Fife, Tom Nelson of The Outdoor Line, Puget Sound sportfishing advisors Ryley Fee and Norm Reinhardt, among others, Mark Spada, a pair of representatives from Sekiu, charter skippers Keith Robbins, Carl Nyman and Steve Kesling, Kevin John from Holiday Market, Art Tatchell of Point Defiance Boathouse, Jacques White of Long Live the Kings, Fish and Wildlife Commissioners Dave Graybill and Bob Kehoe, numerous Puget Sound Anglers, Kitsap Poggie Club and CCA members, Mark Yuasa at the Seattle Times, dozens of WDFW headquarters and regional staffers, and Susan Bishop at NOAA.
Again, I had to leave early, but this represents what WDFW presented to fisherman as North of Falcon 2017 draws to its scheduled mid-April conclusion.