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Yuasa Reviews Washington 2018 Salmon Seasons, Looks Ahead To Halibut, Shrimping

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

The months are flying by faster than a coho hitting your bait in the prop wash.

It felt like “Yesterday” – an ode to a classic Beatles song – when we gathered in Lacey on Feb. 27 to see what the salmon forecasts had in store for us. Now a season package is “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” – did you say Stevie Wonder? – for anglers to digest and begin making plans on where to wet a line.

The process known as “North of Falcon” (NOF) culminated April 6-11 in Portland, Oregon, and I was on-hand as a sport-fishing observer.

JUSTIN WONG HOLDS UP A NICE KING SALMON HE CAUGHT LAST SUMMER IN THE OCEAN OFF WESTPORT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

When proposed seasons came to light in mid-March it was like a feisty trophy king tugging on end of a line, which after a long battle unhooked itself at the boat causing the lead weight to smack you right in the eye.

While grief and a swollen black eye set in, you might have been down in the dumps. But, my mantra has been to never whine about what you can’t do or lost (the trophy king in paragraph above), and more on making the most of the present moment.

Life throws you lemons so make sweet lemonade because if you don’t your head will go into a swift-moving tidal tail-spin and turn your fishing line into a messy tangled web of hurt.

The initial good news is environmental conditions – El Nino, warm water temperatures, a “Blob” and droughts – that have plagued us with restrictions going back to 2015-16 appear to be in the rear-view mirror.

Secondly, was the warmth (albeit mixed feelings by some NOF attendees) of unity and transparency between user groups despite a usual difference in opinions over how the whole pie of sport, tribal and non-tribal fisheries was divvied up.

These are signals of “baby steps” in a complicated process that long has been filled with arguments, bitterness, cultural indifference, protests and a fight over that “last salmon” dating back to Boldt Decision.

The true litmus test of how long this “hand-holding” philosophy will last between all parties is essential as we move forward to ensure our iconic Pacific Northwest salmon runs will be around for generations to come. Even more so as we carry the torch of a long-term Puget Sound Chinook Management Plan to the federal fishery agency’s table later this year, which will dictate how we fish from 2019 to 2029 and beyond.

“Now that we’ve finished this process we need to work on being responsible with conservation, habitat issues and simply change our philosophy to create a long-term management plan,” Ron Warren, the WDFW salmon policy coordinator said at conclusion of Portland meetings.

While being mindful of that briny future, let’s go over highlights of our fisheries at hand.

A positive are extended seasons – something that hasn’t happened for several years – for hatchery coho in northern Puget Sound (Area 9) from July through September, and non-select coho in central Puget Sound (Area 10) from June through mid-November. The Puget Sound coho forecast is 557,149.

Another shining star is a South Sound hatchery chinook forecast of 227,420 up 21 percent from 10-year average and a 35 percent increase from 2017.

The northern Puget Sound summer hatchery chinook catch quota is 5,563 – a similar figure to 2017 – and is expected to last one-month when it opens in July.

The elevated forecast is a blessing when south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) opens June 1 especially in popular Tacoma-Vashon Island area. A central Puget Sound hatchery chinook fishery starts July 16 with a cap of 4,743. Area 10 has a coho directed fishery in June at popular places such as Jefferson Head-Edmonds area.

A hatchery king season opens at Sekiu on July 1, and Port Angeles on July 3. Both switch to hatchery coho in mid-August through September.

A summer king fishery in San Juan Islands (Area 7) opens July to August, but September is chinook non-retention.

Late-summer and early-fall coho fisheries will occur in Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 11, 12 and 13.

On coast, Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay open daily starting June 23, and Westport opens Sundays to Thursdays beginning July 1. Hatchery coho quotas are same as 2017 although chinook quotas are down a decent amount. The popular Buoy 10 salmon fishery opens Aug. 1.

On freshwater scene, a sockeye forecast of 35,002 to Baker River is strong enough to allow fisheries in Baker Lake from July 7-Sept. 7, and a section of Skagit River from June 16-July 15.

The Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie open Sept. 16 for coho. Sections of Skykomish, Skagit and Cascade open for hatchery chinook beginning June 1. For details on seasons, visit WDFW at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Bounty of May fishing options

There’s nothing more exciting than pulling up a pot loaded with prawn-size spot shrimp during a season that begins May 5.

“I am more positive this year on our spot shrimp projections than the last couple of years,” said Mark O’Toole, a WDFW biologist who is retiring May 18 after an illustrious 36 years with the department, and many thanks for your valued input on shrimp and other fish policies!

BIG PRAWN-SIZE SPOT SHRIMP COME INTO PLAY IN THE MONTHS AHEAD AROUND THE PUGET SOUND REGION. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“In general, last year was another good season with relatively high abundance,” he said. “The catch per boat ended up being higher for all areas.”

Look for good shrimping in Strait; San Juan Islands; east side of Whidbey Island; central, south-central and northern Puget Sound; and Hood Canal. Test fishing conducted this spring showed marginal abundance in southern Puget Sound.

Hit pause button on spring chores since trout fishing in statewide lowland lakes is now underway.

Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist says 460,000 trout went into Puget Sound region lakes on top of 500-plus statewide lakes planted with 16,840,269 trout – 2,171,307 of them are the standardized size averaging about 11 inches compared to 8-inches in past seasons.

If you prefer a large-sized halibut then head out on May 11. The Washington catch quota is 225,366 pounds down from 237,762 in 2017, and a bump up from 214,110 in 2016, 2015 and 2014. Dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Strait/Puget Sound are May 11, 13, 25 and 27. Depending on catches other dates are June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30. Ilwaco opens May 3 with fishing allowed Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Once you get your halibut fix add some black rockfish and lingcod to the cooler. Ilwaco, Westport, Neah Bay and La Push are open for both, and some Puget Sound areas are open for lingcod.

NW Salmon Derby Series hits pause button

While we take a break from a spectacular winter derby series be sure to keep sight of the PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15.

2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES GRAND PRIZE BOAT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

More great news is Edmonds Coho Derby on Sept. 8 and Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 22-23 – the largest derby on West Coast – are likely back on “must do” list. In mean time, check out derby’s grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp motor and 9.9hp trolling motor at Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show on May 17-20 at Cap Sante Marina. The $65,000 boat also comes on an EZ-loader trailer, and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’m sprinting out the door with rod in hand so see you on the water!

Sportfishing Leaders React To 2018 Salmon Seasons

Northwest salmon anglers are digesting news from the just-concluded season-setting process, which brought — as it always does — a mix of tasty, so-so and stomach-turning results.

Puget Sound and Southern Oregon anglers should be happier than in recent years, Washington Coast and Buoy 10 fishermen will be somewhat disappointed, and Skokomish River egg drifters are gnashing their teeth — again.

SILVER SALMON ANGLERS FISH AMIDST A BLIZZARD OF SEAGULLS AT POSSESSION BAR DURING 2014’S EVERETT COHO DERBY. THE PAST TWO YEARS’ DERBIES HAVE BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO RESTRICTED FISHERIES, BUT THIS YEAR’S LOOKS TO BE BACK ON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Those are very broad brush strokes and we’ll all be able to drill deeper into the details of Chinook and coho seasons as the days and weeks go by and the LOAF, or list of agreed-to fisheries, is posted, singling out our waters for their 2018 opportunities or looking elsewhere for different ones.

In the meanwhile, there’s some reason for optimism in the sportfishing community, including from Gabe Miller, who says there’s “a lot to look forward to this season, particularly in the Puget Sound region.”

“We are looking at substantially more coho opportunity than we have the past few years, especially in North Puget Sound,” says Miller, who works at Sportco in Fife and is vice president of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “Another bright spot is South Sound Chinook, which should provide anglers with plenty of harvest opportunity this summer and through the fall.”

He said that in the wake of 2016’s and 2017’s fishery restrictions, which affected coho the hardest, 2018’s seasons “should look a little more like what anglers were used to seeing in the past.”

A WDFW CHART OUTLINES MARINE AREA FISHERY TIMING FOR CHINOOK AND COHO. (WDFW)

Mark Yuasa, the boating and fishing director for the Seattle-based Northwest Marine Trade Association, said that these days salmon anglers need to be mobile with their boats.

“I’m pretty happy about what’s in store for anglers in late-summer and early-fall for coho fishing in Puget Sound, which is something we haven’t had for several years. We’ll also have some decent summer Chinook fisheries in certain areas,” he said.

While Puget Sound salmon are rebounding from the Blob, Columbia River Chinook are still in a bit of a rough patch, with this year’s Washington and North Oregon Coast quota dropping by 40 percent.

That’s not the best of news for Astoria, Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay, but there will still be good numbers of salmon caught out here, thanks to a coho quota of 42,000, the same amount as last year and which held up into early September.

“We are cautiously optimistic with the seasons set for Marine Area 1 and the Columbia River,” says Liz Hamilton, NSIA’s executive director. “The managers did a good job at getting close to management objectives, and we are hoping the seasons proceed as planned. The numerous stock constraints this year were challenging. With any luck, the upriver brights will show enough strength by mid-September to provide some extra fishing time to the river above Buoy 10.”

“Fingers crossed,” she added.

GUIDE BOB REES NETS A CHINOOK AT BUOY 10. THIS YEAR’S FISHERY WILL BE A DEPARTURE FROM RECENT ONES, WHAT WITH ITS ONE-SALMONID LIMIT FROM AUG. 1-24 DUE TO ONE OF THE SMALLER RETURNS OF THE PAST DECADE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Well south of the mouth of the big river, Chinook anglers will be able to get back on the ocean between Humbug Mountain and the California border, which was closed last year, and ODFW is touting a “strong forecast” of fall kings back to the Rogue as one of the coast’s “bright” spots.

Oregon Coast coho are down, but there’s still enough for a 35,000 hatchery silver quota, with limited September fishing for wild and clipped coho.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the biologists and run modelers and fishery managers are breathing a collective sigh of relief that, finally, it’s all over, and the whole pile of paperwork is now headed for the feds’ desk for them to, hopefully, make faster work than they have with the Skagit-Sauk steelhead sign-off.

At least one state source says that this year’s extraordinary “plenary session,” which brought Washington and tribal fisheries leaders together last week, was a “huge success” and played a key role in helping the comanagers reach an agreement on schedule.

THE STILLAGUAMISH TRIBE’S SEAN YANNITY SPEAKS DURING THE PLENARY SESSION. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

In 2016, talks between the state and tribes dragged on for a month and a half before a deal was struck.

“This year there was a feeling of unity among all parties involved in a process that has long been a bitter battle filled with arguments, cultural indifference and over who was going to catch that ‘last salmon’ dating back to the Boldt Decision,” said NMTA’s Yuasa. “It was a good feeling to get everyone for the most part on the same table to address issues for the upcoming fishing seasons and save salmon populations, which are an iconic piece of Northwest history. We all need to swallow a bitter pill from time to time, but in the end you’ll find some exciting fishing this year.”

He was on hand during that one-hour say-what-you-wish confab in which sport and tribal fishermen talked about the importance of salmon habitat, heritage and the problems of pinnipeds.

So too was Tom Nelson, cohost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line. He expressed mixed feelings about what he heard in that packed Lynnwood hotel room and what eventually came out of another in Portland.

THE OUTDOOR LINE HOST TOM NELSON (RIGHT) LISTENS AS NWIFC’S LORRAINE LOOMIS SPEAKS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“I’m disappointed that the nontribal part of the allocation took the biggest part of the cut and the Makahs will keep fishing at the same level as last year,” he said on a last-minute Chinook hangup yesterday. “Even a token movement on their behalf would have given something to the feeling of the plenary session.”

Essentially, impact rates on low mid-Hood Canal Chinook stocks put Puget Sound fisheries in jeopardy, so state managers reduced the coastal king guideline and there were losses in Areas 8-1 and 9.

“That said, we’re going coho fishing in Admiralty Inlet in September,” Nelson said.

That’s the best place, by catch stat, to put out herring strips or cast from the beach for silvers in late summer. Last year it wasn’t even available to boaters, and only through Labor Day for shore fishers, due to very low forecasted Skagit and Stillaguamish coho returns.

And while Nelson called losing September Chinook fishing in the San Juan Islands “brutal,” he noted it would help address starving orca issues, as Fraser-bound kings are a key feedstock for the marine mammals.

The Makah Tribe’s Russ Svec was among those who spoke during the plenary session, saying, “Today is a good day to see everyone talking with one voice.”

But one person who wasn’t buying the good feels was longtime sportfishing advocate Frank Urabeck, who was angry that there still is no resolution to the Skokomish River problem, which leaves recreational anglers unable to access state-hatchery-reared Chinook and coho in the southern Hood Canal stream.

“What is a shame is that the other Puget Sound tribes let this happen, making a mockery of the recent NOF state/tribal ‘Kumbaya’ plenary session,” Urabeck said.

A SIGN POSTED ALONG THE SKOKOMISH RIVER BY THE SKOKOMISH TRIBE WARNS ANGLERS AWAY FROM THE BANKS AS 2016’S RETURN OF CHINOOK TO THE STATE HATCHERY FILL THE RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

He also laid blame at the feet of WDFW Fish Program Manager Ron Warren and other state officials for failing to get the fishery restarted, and expressed doubt that it’s all about a reservation boundary dispute for the Skokomish Tribe.

“It is more likely there are other self-interest reasons and the tribe is just using the land ownership claim to significantly increase their harvest of Chinook salmon, including ESA-listed natural origin fish,” Urabeck said.

He’d gone so far as to call for a new nontribal commercial fishery in Hood Canal, where fall Chinook can otherwise be difficult for recreational anglers to catch, to access the state share.

Urabeck claimed that some observers feel the river has been lost to sport fishing and said that many anglers don’t feel public money should fund WDFW’s George Adams hatchery.

FRANK URABECK, LEFT, CHECKS HIS NOTES DURING A RALLY HELD AT THE STATE OF WASHINGTON’S GEORGE ADAMS SALMON HATCHERY THE FIRST SUMMER THAT THE SKOKOMISH WAS NOT OPEN FOR SPORT FISHING DUE TO A CLAIM THAT THE ENTIRE WIDTH OF THE RIVER WAS PART OF THE SKOKOMISH RESERVATION. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Radio’s Nelson might have summed up the whole months-long salmon-season-setting process best for all parties.

“Every North of Falcon you’re sort of left with that kissing-your-sister feeling,” he quipped.

He reiterated his support for working with the tribes on a host of problems facing Western Washington salmon.

“Now let’s move forward from here with the tribes,” Nelson said. “Let’s reach out to the Stillys [Stillaguamish Tribe] and stand shoulder to shoulder with them” on a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner’s recent proposed conservation hatchery and marine predation issues.

Sport, Tribal Fishermen Speak As One On Salmon Habitat, Recovery Issues

Yesterday was a “historic” and “unprecedented” day at North of Falcon in the words of two longtime recreational angling observers of the annual salmon season-setting negotiations.

In a Lynnwood hotel conference room packed nearly to the gills, tribal and state fishermen spoke out on the importance of habitat and working together on key issues affecting Washington Chinook, coho and other stocks.

WDFW’S RON WARREN AND NWIFC’S LORRAINE LOOMIS ADDRESS A CROWD OF ABOUT 100 DURING YESTERDAY’S STATE-TRIBAL PLENARY SESSION,  A NEW CONFAB ADDED TO THIS YEAR’S EDITION OF THE ANNUAL NORTH OF FALCON SALMON SEASON NEGOTIATIONS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Ron Garner, president of Puget Sound Anglers, one of if not the state’s most important salmon fishing organizations, said that if all fishermen worked cohesively, we could “move mountains.”

All in all, it was not what you might have expected when these historically at-odds groups get together, and one of the final speakers referenced that history of animosity.

“It’s a bit weird,” the Lummi Nation’s G.I. James said. “It’s the first time I’ve been with a bunch of (sport) fishermen and haven’t heard, ‘Why are the nets all the way across the river?'”

Indeed, many outstanding issues remain unresolved — the Skokomish and the state-reared hatchery salmon we can’t access in the river because of the boundary claim of the tribe there; the hold-up on the Point No Point ramp; the state’s challenge of the culvert case.

But with the ESA listings, the runs’ continued struggles, pinniped predation on salmon and steelhead a real problem not only for the fish and fishermen of all fleets but also starving southern resident killer whales, and the human footprint on the region only growing over the coming decades, Tuesday afternoon marked what might one day go down as a watershed moment.

“The time for fighting over allocation is over. It’s time to focus on habitat. It’s time to fight the people and the animals that are killing more fish than we are,” said Tom Nelson, cohost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line, afterwards.

WDFW STAFFERS PREPARE TO OUTLINE POTENTIAL 2018-19 SALMON FISHERIES EARLIER IN THE DAY AT THE LYNNWOOD EMBASSY SUITES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

HE WAS AMONG THE AUDIENCE TUESDAY AFTERNOON AS tribal fishermen and others filed into the room where state salmon managers had been discussing potential fisheries with recreational anglers earlier in the day.

Billed as a “plenary session,” it came out of calls by some in the sportfishing world to open the closed-door state-tribal negotiations over the harvestable surplus of fish, but in fact ended up allowing both sides to hear the other.

After a brief introduction, Ron Warren, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Fish Program manager, handed the microphone over to Lorraine Loomis, who heads up the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission as well as the Swinomish Tribe’s Fisheries Department.

Loomis reflected on her long involvement in North of Falcon, which essentially arose out of the Fish Wars and Boldt Decision of the early 1970s.

At one time splitting the fillets was easier, at least relatively, but with the Blob and allocation issues of the past three years, things have become increasingly heated.

“Right now, we’re fighting over the last fish and that’s not going to work,” Loomis said, adding that more salmon habitat is being lost than recovered.

NWIFC’S CRAIG BOWHAY AND LORRAINE LOOMIS LISTEN AS FORMER WDFW BIOLOGIST AND SPORTFISHING AND HABITAT ADVOCATE CURT KRAMER MAKES A POINT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Loomis left it to NWIFC fisheries director Craig Bowhay to answer questions from the public, the first of which came from a face that would be familiar to him, Pat Patillo, the retired WDFW salmon policy advisor and current sportfishing advocate.

Patillo wanted to know how the tribes felt about increasing hatchery production and how could NWIFC and the state work together towards that end?

Bowhay pointed back to budget cuts at Patillo’s old agency (Warren noted that the 1999 Endangered Species Act listing also played a role in the reduction of state releases from the 73 million range of the 1980s to today’s 38 million in the Sound and coast; the tribes report releasing 34 million last year), and while he said “We’d like to reverse” that trend, noted the challenges of tailoring production to harvest and realistically addressing salmon populations that can and can’t be rebuilt.

But he said that with the plight of orcas, there’s “more acceptance” from the feds of increased releases.

In fact, Governor Jay Inslee recently requested WDFW begin working on that, and it sounds like extra coho eggs were taken last year as a bridge stock for fisheries as more Chinook and areas may be allocated to the whales.

Curt Kramer, the retired North Sound state fisheries biologist and regional manager, stood and called for a “drastic change” in how recovering habitat is talked about. It’s primarily spoken of in terms of relation to salmon and steelhead, but he proposed couching it as “recovering rivers.”

“The Stilly is unraveling from the headwaters down. We need to figure out how to talk with a very loud voice,” Kramer said, drawing applause.

Much is made of tribal connections to the land and salmon but Kramer pointed out that we fishermen have those too, and we should all take advantage of that.

PSA’s Garner said his organization had the same outlook.

“I want to see no more fighting between us,” he said.

Garner pointed to issues all fishermen can work together on, namely seals’, sea lions’ and cormorants’ insatiable appetites for salmonid smolts.

A bit later Bowhay addressed that, saying NWIFC was trying to get more funding to build on the science that’s really beginning to show how much of a predation problem we face.

“Our collective harvest is less than what the marine mammals are taking,” he said, leaving “orcas last in line.”

Bowhay and others made several calls for fishermen to talk to their Congressional representatives, but he also acknowledged that the public at large “is in love with that brown-eyed seal.”

“There’s a lot of education (that needs to be done) to get over that,” he said.

Prompted by Kramer’s comments on the scale of lost habitat in the Central and North Sound over just the past dozen years and whether a better success metric was needed, Bowhay added that more land managers — counties, cities, the agriculture industry, state Departments of Transportation, Natural Resources and Ecology — should include salmon recovery in their core missions.

KING COUNTY LAKE WASHINGTON WATERSHED SALMON RECOVERY MANAGER JASON MULVIHILL-KUNTZ SPEAKS AS WDFW’S WARREN LOOKS ON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

As it turned out, there was an actual land manager in the room, Jason Mulvihill-Kuntz, who works on salmon recovery in the Lake Washington watershed for King County. He said he appreciated the focus on habitat and essentially wanted more tools for implementing actions. Warren promised to get in contact with him.

THEN A QUARTET OF TRIBAL FISHERY MANAGERS IN the audience rose to speak, led off by Sean Yannity of the Stillaguamish Tribe, who recalled how his uncle had closed Chinook fishing on the system 30 years ago.

“He saw the disaster coming,” Yannity said.

He decried that Stillaguamish River kings were still being caught in the saltwater and likened telling his five last tribal fishermen they couldn’t catch any in the 14 miles of the Stilly they can fish for a funeral to “telling a Catholic they can’t take communion.”

Yannity said that the tribes had been “mocked” by the public for their insistence that lost habitat was a big problem and that the Stillaguamish were considered “evil ones” for acquiring 1,000 acres in the watershed for restoration.

THE STILLAGUAMISH TRIBE’S SEAN YANNITY SAYS “EXTINCTION IS NOT AN OPTION FOR US.” (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Saying that “extinction is not an option for us” and that “We have a lot more in common than differences,” Yannity added, “I hope you in Washington state don’t end up like the Stillaguamish Tribe.”

With Russ Svec of the Makah Nation and the Lummi Nation’s James standing by his side, Ed Johnstone of the Quinault Indian Nation said the plenary session was a “first.”

“This is the start if you wish to build a coalition,” Johnstone said, and that dancing around the issues wasn’t going to get us anywhere.

Speaking to the culvert case between the state of Washington and the tribes and which goes before the U.S. Supreme Court later this spring, he asked, “Who is against us? Such And Such Builders Association, Such And Such Builders Association, Such And Such Builders Association … there’s like ten.”

While Johnstone said numerous other states have also joined with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and other angling groups earlier this week filed a SCOTUS brief supporting the tribes’ side.

Svec said he hadn’t seen tribes, recreational and commercial fishermen coming together like this before.

“Today is a good day to see everyone talking with one voice,” he said.

James pointed out that even as local governments fought the state Supreme Court’s Hirst Decision on water and development, they have residents who like to fish, potential allies in the grand cause.

“We can’t ride the fish to zero so there are no problems for developers,” he said.

NORM REINHARDT OF THE KITSAP POGGIE CLUB MAKES A POINT WITH STATE FISHERY MANAGERS EARLIER IN THE DAY. ALSO IN ATTENDANCE WERE MANY PUGET SOUND ANGLERS MEMBERS AND REPRESENTATIVES FROM THREE MAJOR PUGET SOUND MARINE AND TACKLE STORES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

AS THE SESSION CAME TO A CLOSE SO FISHERY MANAGERS could get to the rest of their afternoon salmon meetings, Loomis and Warren had some final thoughts.

“I have to tell you, this is the first meeting I’ve been to at North of Falcon that so many words were spoken about habitat,” said a pleased-sounding Loomis.

Warren, who joked that it was rare for him to get the last word over his counterpart with the tribes, began to choke up slightly.

“I grew up in the agency trying to do the right thing for resources and I’m proud to stand with you,” he said.

I’ll readily admit that I don’t have the North of Falcon-trenches experience that others in our world do, and so I looked for insight on whether what I’d just witnessed was real or just smoke and mirrors.

Mark Yuasa, the former Seattle Times fishing reporter and who currently runs the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Grow Boating and Salmon Derby Series fronts, had sat a row in front of me, and later in the afternoon tweeted a photo of himself and Loomis posing for a selfie.

“A historic day at NOF meetings that would’ve had Billy Frank Jr. smiling down on this blessed earth! Time to build a new path toward salmon recovery and habitat restoration by all parties. ,” Yuasa wrote on Twitter.

When I got home, I called Nelson the radio show host for his take. He called the meeting “unprecedented and wonderful” and said, “For the first time our real culprit has been pointed out.”

He talked about reducing the predatory effectiveness of pinnipeds, of redefining impacts on salmon to include development and to credit new building that helps the fish.

And if we get a season someday, Nelson promised me a recipe for cormorants.

It would be better than eating crow, which is what we’ll get if all we do is sit and argue and let the salmon dwindle to nothing instead.

Correction, 9:20 a.m., April 6, 2018: The last name of Ron Warren, WDFW Fish Program manager, was misstated in the cutline for the first image as Loomis. It has since been corrected. Apologies for the error.

Yuasa: Salmon Fisheries, Fishery Planning Mark April Doin’s

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 2018

This is a very busy time of the year with plenty of salmon fishing options, and many are also making summer plans as 2018-19 seasons are being finalized this month.

Before we chomp away at what the crystal ball has in store for us, let’s focus on spring-fling fishing plans that involve lots of chinook fishing fun. The San Juan Islands and eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca have been the main focal point for hatchery chinook especially at places like Coyote, Partridge, Hein, Eastern, Middle and McArthur banks.

KYLE MADISON SHOWS OFF A DERBY-WINNING BLACKMOUTH CAUGHT IN MARCH. THE 16.85-POUNDER TIED FOR FIRST AT THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA SALMON DERBY AND SCORED THE PORT ANGELES ANGLER $2,000. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

In the San Juan Islands fish are biting at Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Speiden Island; Spring Pass; Clark and Barnes Islands; Parker Reef; Point Thompson; Doughty Point; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.

The San Juan Islands in Area 7 are open through April 30; and depending on which side of the outer banks you’re fishing on the closing date is either April 15 in Area 6 or April 30 in Area 7.

Even more exciting is the fact that Strait of Juan de Fuca has awakened from its winter slumber.

I love the throwback feeling you get when you drive into the town of Sekiu, and this is by far one of my favorite places to target in spring with options to fish on both sides of a tidal exchange. The doors on this fishery remains open through April 30.

On a low tide, look for baitfish schools and hungry chinook nipping on their heels at the Caves just outside the Olson’s Resort jetty, and then point your boat west to Eagle Point and Hoko Point.

On the flood tide, head east to Slip Point buoy – then mooch or troll – your way down toward Mussolini Rock, the Coal Mine and even further to Pillar Point.

Those who don’t want to travel that far should wet a line in northern Puget Sound, which is open through April 15. Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, Possession Bar, Double Bluff off south Whidbey Island, Point No Point and Pilot Point have been the go to places.

Another locale quietly producing decent catches is south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) in Tacoma. Hood Canal (Area 12) is open through April 30, and southern Puget Sound is open year-round.

Other great spring-time options are Columbia River spring chinook, bottom-fishing for lingcod and black rockfish or razor clam digging off the coast, and statewide trout and kokanee fishing.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

We’ve hit the pause button on derby series with March ending on a high note!

The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 9-11 saw one of the largest number of tickets sold in some years – 857 compared to 739 last year, plus 232 fish weighed-in.

A tie for top fish was Micah Hanley of Mount Vernon and Kyle Madison of Port Angeles with a 16.85-pound hatchery chinook worth $10,000 and $2,000 respectively. Top prize in a tie-breaker goes to whomever caught the fish first. The total fish weight was 1,891 pounds and fish averaged 8.15 pounds.

The Everett Blackmouth Salmon Derby on March 17-18 saw 125 boats with 383 participants hitting the water and 130 weighed-in. First place went to Sam Shephard of Tulalip with a 11.82-pound fish, which earned a prize of $4,000.

Next up is Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15 hosted by the Bellingham Chapter of PSA.

Be sure to check out grand prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat at the PSA Monroe Sportsman Show on April 20-22 (http://monroesportsmanshow.com/). It is powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader trailer, and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo. Drawing for the boat will take place at conclusion of derby series. For details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

2018 salmon season setting process update

Final salmon seasons will be adopted at Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting on April 6-11 in Portland, Oregon.

After six weeks of this setting process, negotiations between the state and tribes seem to paint a brighter picture on what anglers can expect in 2018-19 although chinook and coho returns are still in recovery phase after several years of poor ocean and weather conditions.

As of press time for this publication, there was some very early concepts of possibilities, and if all the stars align we could see Puget Sound coho fishing coming back into the mix during late-summer and early-fall from Sekiu clear into Puget Sound. Summer chinook fishing options will closely resemble last year’s package with a few expansions.

Ocean fisheries also came to light, and it could be leaner for chinook and coho although sometimes abundance doesn’t relate to ocean availability so there’s a lot of guessing in terms of what will pan out.

Tentative opening dates at Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay will either be June 23, June 24, June 30 or July 1. A general closure date is Sept. 3 or however long it takes for quotas to get eaten up at each port. The popular Buoy 10 salmon fishery will open Aug. 1.

One hot topic is the killer whale situation as WDFW and federal agencies deal with human interaction on local waterways. WDFW is looking for ways to avoid this, and has proposed various ideas like a sport-fishing closure along the west side of San Juan Island in the summer that has drawn some resistance by those attending the North of Falcon meetings.

Many find the whole process befuddling, and while it’s easy to get discouraged I take the approach to be mobile with my tow vehicle and boat; actively take part in the season-setting process; and be an advocate for salmon recovery.

You can groan about what isn’t happening in your neck of the woods or you can high tail it to where the fishing is good albeit the coast, Puget Sound, Strait or connecting inner-waterways.

Meeting conservation objectives and getting the right folks at WDFW to spearhead the policy front is also of upmost importance as well as maximizing selective salmon fisheries to provide opportunity while protecting poor wild chinook and coho runs.

I’ll get off my soap box as it’s time to go fishing. See you on the water!

2018 Washington Salmon Season Proposals Available For Comment

The latest state salmon season proposals for Puget Sound and its rivers are now available and up for comment.

The options reflect revisions from WDFW’s March 20 meeting with fishermen in Olympia and take the form of a month-by-month matrix by marine area and species and a five-page rundown on freshwater options.

A WDFW MATRIX SHOWS POTENTIAL CHINOOK AND COHO SEASONS IN WASHINGTON’S MARINE WATERS DURING THE 2018-19 SEASON. THE AGENCY IS TAKING COMMENT ON IT OVER THE NEXT WEEK. (WDFW)

Per WDFW, highlights include:

  • Extending the opening for hatchery chinook in Marine Area 10 into late August.
  • Increased fishing for hatchery chinook in Green River.
  • Coho retention (and catch-and-release fishing for other salmon) in Marine Area 10 in June.

Area 9 would also reopen in August and September for coho, though hatchery only, a relief after last year, when following the close of the summer Chinook fishery, angling was essentially limited to bank only through Labor Day and then closed.

Silver fishing would also be nonselective to the south and in the protected waters of the 8s, which were almost entirely closed in 2017.

The San Juans would also be open for any Chinook in August and September.

However, WDFW has dropped several other ideas, including March blackmouth fishing in Marine Area 10, adding Chinook days on Elliott Bay, running the coho season north of Hood Canal’s Point Ayock into July, and a directed fall chum fishery in Area 9.

The latter two were scuttled because of impacts on other weaker salmon stocks.

On the river front, a Skagit coho season is possible, but things on the Stilly are “TBD.”

Hatchery Chinook would be available on the Puyallup, Carbon and Nisqually.

As for the Skoke, it’s marked “Closed, TBD.”

The proposals will also be the subject of a public meeting next Tuesday morning at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites, and subsequent negotiations with the treaty tribes before final seasons are set when North of Falcon wraps up in mid-April.

To find out more and comment, go to WDFW’s North of Falcon page.

Comments are being taken through April 8.

Also available are the latest proposals for Columbia River salmon seasons, which are the subject of an April 2 meeting in Ridgefield.

State, Tribal Fishery Managers To Talk Salmon, Answer Questions At April 3 NOF Meeting

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

Anglers, commercial fishers, and others interested in salmon in Washington can take part in an informal discussion with state and tribal fish managers on April 3.

The public meeting is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites, 20610 44th Ave. W., Lynnwood.

The plenary session takes place during the annual salmon season-setting process known as North of Falcon, which includes a series of public meetings involving federal, state, tribal and industry representatives as well as other concerned citizens.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will meet with the public earlier in the day on April 3 to consider proposals for potential recreational and non-treaty commercial salmon fishing seasons this year. Those discussions will continue in the late afternoon.

Representatives of the state’s treaty tribes will join state fish managers after lunch to discuss with the public a variety of salmon-related issues including conservation objectives for Puget Sound chinook salmon, habitat restoration efforts and salmon fisheries. The public will be invited to ask questions after brief opening remarks by the state and tribal co-managers.

The annual process of setting salmon fishing seasons is held in conjunction with public meetings conducted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The council is responsible for establishing fishing seasons in ocean water 3 to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

The PFMC is scheduled to adopt final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 6-11 meeting in Portland, Ore. The 2018-19 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters is expected to be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC’s April meeting.

Information about the salmon season-setting process, as well as a list of other meetings, is available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

 

WDFW Schedules 3 Meetings On 2018 Eastside Salmon Seasons, Plus Regs Simplification

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

Anglers have three opportunities in March to meet with state fishery managers to talk about salmon fisheries in the mid- and upper Columbia River and lower Snake River before this year’s seasons are set.

WASHINGTON SALMON MANAGERS WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS YEAR’S EASTSIDE SEASONS AT A SERIES OF MEETINGS COMING UP IN LATE MARCH. SCOTT FLETCHER CAUGHT THIS SUMMER CHINOOK LAST YEAR NEAR CHELAN FALLS. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has scheduled three public meetings to discuss pre-season salmon forecasts and upcoming spring, summer and fall fishing seasons – particularly those proposed for salmon upstream from McNary Dam.

Additionally, fishery managers plan to discuss with the public ways to simplify salmon-fishing regulations at these meetings. Over the last two years, WDFW has been working to simplify regulations after hearing from the public that the state’s fishing rules are too complex.

The upcoming public meetings are as scheduled:

These meetings are part of the salmon season-setting process known as North of Falcon, which involves representatives from federal, state and tribal governments and recreational and commercial fishing industries. Additional public meetings have been scheduled through early April to discuss regional fisheries.

Final salmon fishing seasons for 2018-19 are scheduled to be adopted at the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting April 6-11 in Portland, Ore.

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

Comments about salmon fisheries, as well as salmon rule simplification, can be submitted online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/2018/ or at the meetings.

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.

2018 Columbia Fall Chinook Forecast Out

Columbia salmon managers say around 365,000 fall Chinook will come back to the big river in 2018, a dropoff from last year’s forecast and actual return.

GUIDE BOB REES THUMPS A COLUMBIA RIVER FALL CHINOOK CAUGHT IN THE BUOY 10 FISHERY DURING 2014’S SEASON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The annual prediction from state, tribal and federal biologists is about half of the average run we’ve seen over the past decade. They say that lingering bad ocean conditions — damn you, Blob! — are probably the reason why.

As for the stock breakdown, as usual the strongest segment will be upriver brights, which spawn in the free-flowing Hanford Reach as well as Snake River and other inland tribs.

A total of 200,100 are predicted, down from last year’s actual run of 297,100 and forecast of 260,000.

Returns of Lower Columbia hatchery stocks are forecast at 62,400, which actually is about where the 2017 run came in, though lower than last year’s predicted 92,400.

Last year’s forecast was for 582,600 fall kings of all stocks, but only 475,900 returned.

The forsoothery builds on the outlook managers put out in December and will be used during the North of Falcon salmon-season-setting process for all of Washington and northern Oregon.

Latin Lessons, And Other Thoughts On Puget Sound Fishing, Circa 2017

Editor’s note: The following is Tony Floor’s monthly newsletter and is run with permission.

By Tony Floor, Fishing Affairs Director, Northwest Marine Trade Association

I learned a new phrase a few weeks ago which is a Greek saying called “Carpe diem.”

It’s very strange; however, I like the meaning. Carpe diem means to seize the day and put little trust into tomorrow. When I think about the recent outcome a few weeks ago at the annual North of Falcon salmon season setting process, it causes me to want to head to a tattoo shop to have Carpe diem welded on my shoulder!

For those who know me, my attitude towards sport salmon fishing is to focus on what we can do, versus what we can’t do. And, for the second time in as many years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has delivered a semi load of ‘can’t dos’ to the 2017-18 sport salmon fishing season, with emphasis on marine waters from Sekiu to Bellingham.

On the flip side, and to be fair to the North of Falcon outcome, there are a decent amount of ‘Can dos’ which are highlighted by significant improvements in central and northern Puget Sound catch quotas, especially for hatchery-produced Chinook salmon.

So, while you gather information on whether this year’s salmon season package is good or bad, it very much depends on where you like to fish, whether it’s the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, Puget Sound, or all of the above. While you look for a smoking gun, you do not need to look beyond the end of your nose to find good ‘ol Mother Nature holding the gun. The El Niño of 2015-16, with the warm water mass of “The Blob”, caused havoc to salmon survival rates. Last year was the first year anglers were whacked with conservation-based restrictions delivered by Mother Nature. And 2017 will be the second consecutive year of paying the conservation price, which will likely be carried forward through 2018.

May means prawns in most Puget Sound waters as the season opens May 6. Shellfish biologists say this year’s test fisheries showed healthy numbers of spot prawns in most areas. Bob Cannon, Westport, pulled this pot loaded with spot prawns in the San Juan Islands during last year’s opener.

BELLA ANDERSON SHOWS OFF SEVERAL NICE SPOT SHRIMP BROUGHT OUT OF THE DEPTHS OF MARINE AREA 12 ON A PAST OPENER. SHE WAS OUT WITH HER GRANDMA AND GRANDPA, NANCY AND GENE BURDYSHAW. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Back at the turn of the 21st century, many saltwater salmon anglers, including this cat, believed mass marking of Chinook and coho salmon (removal of the adipose fin at salmon hatcheries) would lead anglers to target hatchery-produced fish in expanded seasons while releasing and protecting wild fish. That isn’t necessarily the case today, as expanded closures and sport fishing restrictions have resulted in reducing fishing opportunities in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands for the upcoming seasons despite the evolution of selective fishing for hatchery-produced fish.

Releasing wild Chinook and coho salmon isn’t good enough anymore, especially in the tribes view, which was agreed to by WDFW and witnessed by participants in the discussions between the two parties. Sport salmon fishing closures are becoming the choice of salmon managers in these annual negotiations versus relying on selective fishing. Just ask the sport salmon fishing community in Port Angeles and Sequim as their winter and spring blackmouth fishery for hatchery-produced fin-clipped Chinook salmon went from a five month season to six weeks.

Now that the 2017-2018 salmon season (May 1 through April 30) is set, I recommend careful examination of where you intend to fish for Chinook, coho and pink salmon in the months ahead. Similar to many other years, planning is critically important to opportunity and success.

And by the way, if I’ve left you scratching your head to this writing, HB 1647 is alive in the legislature which proposes to increase your sport salmon fishing license fees beginning April 1, 2018. The Northwest Marine Trade Association and other sport fishing advocacy groups have been working with WDFW, the legislature, and the governor’s office to see if a fee increase is really necessary. If the answer is yes, depending on who you ask, it is our priority to ensure sport fishing priorities and benefits are realized.

Here Comes the Spot Prawn Season

May 6 is just a few days away as serious prawn fishers should be putting the final touches in becoming gear ready for this annual blast. The tides on the opener are unbelievably fantastic as many of us who dig this fishery finalize our prawning plans. The Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, central and northern Puget Sound, along with Hood Canal look good as the result of test fishing by WDFW shellfish biologists. Even south Puget Sound has a robust population, according to the tests, however, there are ongoing challenges by some south Puget Sound tribes who do not support a sport fishery. Get over it.

I warmed up my prawn pots a few weeks ago in Esperanza and Tahsis Inlet on Vancouver Island where the season is open most of the year with a 200 prawns per day limit. Just like home but different.

Trailering a boat to Vancouver Island, or the Gulf Islands from Olympia is not a cake walk in time or expense. However, in my experience, Canada does a great job hosting thousands of Pacific Northwest anglers and the quality of fishing opportunities for salmon, marine fish and shellfish gives anglers an impression that we are welcome in their fisheries.

For several recent decades, Canada has recognized the economic importance of sport fishing which is very refreshing. As a result, they have adjusted their allocations between the troll and the sport fishing fleet increasing opportunity for anglers. And, with the current exchange rate favoring the strength of the U.S. dollar, why not add that card to your hand while developing your fishing strategy in the months ahead.

Sooke, Port Renfrew, Barkley Sound, Tofino, Nootka Sound, and Esperanza Inlet, to name a few. For the last 13 years, I have made the trek to Tahsis in early July to fish coastal waters including the north facing shoreline of Ferrer Island. All day long trolling naked herring off the kelp beds in 50-80 feet of water, down 30 feet on the downrigger, the king salmon go crunchie-munchie. Two kings per angler per day, four in possession. It’s a slam dunk! Sign me up for 2017!

Sort it out, Vernon, the summer salmon fishing season is coming and it’s time to finalize your plans. Carpe diem baby! See you on the water!