Tag Archives: sockeye

SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (7-2-19)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS FORWARDED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River mainstem

During Saturday’s flight 66 salmonid boats and 203 Washington bank anglers were counted from Cathlamet upstream to Bonneville Dam.

Shad:

Monday’s (7/1) count was just over 60,000 fish, which pushes the season total over 7.1 million shad passing Bonneville Dam.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 12 bank rods kept 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  12 bank rods kept 2 steelhead.  32 boats/108 rods kept 34 steelhead and released 1 steelhead, 2 Chinook and 2 jacks.

SOME STEELHEAD ARE BEING CAUGHT IN THE COLUMBIA AROUND LONGVIEW — WHERE JASON LUCAS AND ADAM DADDINO TEAMED UP TO LAND THIS ONE SEVERAL SEASONS AGO — BUT PRIMARILY FROM SHORE. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Tacoma Power employees recovered 22 spring Chinook adults, three spring Chinook jacks, 71 spring Chinook mini jacks, and 62 summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released five spring Chinook adults into the Cispus River located near Randle.

To date, Tacoma Power employees have recycled 130 summer-run steelhead to the lower Cowlitz River.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,970 cubic feet per second on Monday, July 1. Water visibility is 10 feet and the water temperature is 50.8 F.

Kalama River – 11 bank anglers had no catch.

Lewis River – 16 bank anglers had no catch.  4 boats/9 rods kept 1 steelhead and released 5 jacks.

Wind River – 1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Drano Lake – 1 boat/1 rod released 1 steelhead.

Klickitat below Fisher Hill Bridge – No anglers sampled.

Klickitat above #5 Fishway – 2 bank anglers had no catch.

 

  •       Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

Lower Columbia Mainstem Sport June 24-30

Salmon and steelhead:

Bonneville bank: 12 anglers with nothing
Camas/Washougal bank: 1 angler with nothing
I-5 area bank: 23 anglers with 2 steelhead kept, and 1 steelhead and 2 sockeye released
Vancouver bank: 32 anglers with 1 adult Chinook and 1 sockeye released and 1 steelhead kept
Woodland bank: 14 anglers with nothing
Kalama bank: 17 anglers with 1 steelhead kept and 2 steelhead and 1 sockeye released
Longview bank: 140 anglers with 1 adult Chinook, 9 steelhead, 1 sockeye and 1 “other” fish released, and 26 steelhead kept
Cathlamet bank: 26 anglers with 1 jack Chinook and 1 steelhead released, and 3 steelhead kept
Private boats/bank: 11 anglers with 1 steelhead kept

Bonneville boat: 2 anglers with nothing
Camas/Washougal boat: No report
I-5 area boat: No report
Vancouver boat: 4 anglers with 1 steelhead kept
Woodland boat: No report
Kalama boat: 5 anglers with nothing
Cowlitz boat: No report
Longview boat: 19 anglers with 2 steelhead kept
Cathlamet boat: 12 anglers with 1 jack Chinook and 3 steelhead released and 10 steelhead kept
Private boats/bank: 6 anglers with 1 steelhead kept

Shad:

Bonneville bank: 76 anglers with 151 kept and 12 released
Bonneville boat: 9 anglers with 13 kept
Camas/Washougal bank: No report
Camas/Washougal boat: No report
I-5 area bank: No report
I-5 area boat: No report
Vancouver bank: No report
Vancouver boat: No report
Woodland bank: No report
Woodland boat: No report
Kalama bank: No report
Kalama boat: No report
Cowlitz bank: No report
Cowlitz boat: No report
Longview bank: No report
Longview boat: No report

Sturgeon:

Bonneville bank: No report
Bonneville boat:
Camas/Washougal bank: No report
Camas/Washougal boat:
I-5 area bank: No report
I-5 area boat:
Vancouver bank: No report
Vancouver boat:
Woodland bank: No report
Woodland boat:
Kalama bank: No report
Kalama boat: 2 anglers with nothing
Cowlitz bank: No report
Cowlitz boat:
Longview bank: No report
Longview boat: 3 anglers with 6 sublegals and 6 oversize released
Cathalmet bank: No report
Cathlamet boat: No report
Chinook/Elochoman bank: No report
Chinook/Elochoman boat: No report
Ilwaco bank: No report
Ilwaco boat: No report
Ilwaco charter: No report

Walleye: No report

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Unexpected Culprits May Be To Blame For Most Chinook Smolt Losses In Lake WA Ship Canal

Quick, name the nonnative fish species you think is most responsible for chowing down on Chinook smolts trying to make it through a bottleneck near the Ballard Locks?

You’re wrong.

Well, you are if you said either smallmouth or largemouth bass, and if some preliminary work by WDFW’s lead Lake Washington fisheries biologist holds water.

ONE YELLOW PERCH CAPTURED IN THE LAKE WASHINGTON SHIP CANAL BY STATE FISHERY BIOLOGISTS HAD THREE CHINOOK SMOLTS IN ITS STOMACH. (WDFW)

“We are finding that large perch are responsible for most of the predation on juvenile Chinook smolts, at least across the few sites we are monitoring,” said the agency’s Aaron Bosworth this week.

He says that yellow perch and burgeoning populations of recently illegally introduced rock bass are “doing way more damage” than bass are in the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

That’s based on netting Bosworth and his crews have been doing this and the past two years.

They’ve been setting and tending nets in the Montlake Cut, Portage Bay, Fremont Cut and Salmon Bay to figure out roughly how many piscivorous fish are in that stretch, and how much of their diet is comprised of young salmon trying to get to Puget Sound in spring.

A WDFW BUOY SITS OFF GASWORKS PARK ON JUNE 4. (BRAD HOLE)

One perch they recently caught was digesting three Chinook smolts.

That fish might have been an outlier, and there’s clear evidence that smallmouth also prey on salmon.

But between those stomach contents and the fact yellowbellies and rock bass make up a surprising 50-plus percent of the net catch, it’s pointing towards unexpected culprits that may be strong and increasing factors depressing salmon survival and thus state and tribal fisheries.

“This is an important — and preliminary — finding, and is slightly different from many existing ideas about which nonnative species are responsible for most of the smolt predation in the Lake Washington system,” Bosworth says.

Where yellow perch were introduced into the Lake Washington watershed a century ago, rock bass are a recent entrant and are originally from the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds.

Bosworth says they were “virtually nonexistent” in the ship canal 10 years ago, but are now “very common” at sampling sites.

CATCH DATA FROM SPRING 2018 BREAKS DOWN SPECIES CAUGHT IN NETS IN THE SHIP CANAL. (WDFW)

This isn’t the only effort trying to gauge predator populations in the basin. Earlier this year we reported on the Muckleshoot Tribe’s warmwater test fisheries in Lake Sammamish, also meant to figure out if directed gillnetting on spinyrays could be a “commercially viable” enterprise there.

It was scheduled to wrap up June 15. Initial data from March and April showed that just over 53.5 percent of the overall catch of 2,849 fish was comprised of native largescale suckers, followed by introduced smallmouth bass (20 percent) and fellow transplant black crappie (9 percent).

But that was also largely before the release of Chinook and coho from the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. The percentages and diet may have changed in May and the first half of this month.

(It’s circumstantial, but the mid-May Lake Sammamish Perch Derby catch of just 94 compared to 686 last September may have been related to the flood of young salmon available for the species to eat instead of anglers’ baits.)

AARON BOSWORTH (LEFT) AND OTHER WDFW STAFFERS LIFT A NET FULL OF YELLOW PERCH CAUGHT OFF GASWORKS PARK. (WDFW)

The state’s study in the ship canal and the Muckleshoots’ in Sammamish are both included in what’s known as the LOAF, the 2019-20 List of Agreed Fisheries signed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission coming out of the annual North of Falcon salmon-season-setting process.

“The comanagers believe that many of the salmon smolts produced at our hatcheries and in natural spawning grounds around the basin are eaten by piscivores as they migrate through the Lake Washington system to marine waters,” states Bosworth.

According to Larry Franks of the Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, or FISH, just 8 to 10 percent of Chinook make it from the facility’s outlet to Shilshole Bay.

WDFW BIOLOGIST DANNY GARRETT DISPLAYS A ROCK BASS, CAUGHT IN 2017. WHERE THERE WERE FEW IF ANY IN THE SHIP CANAL 10 YEARS AGO, THEY’RE NOW FREQUENTLY CAUGHT, AND THE BIGGER ONES LIKE TO EAT SALMON SMOLTS. (WDFW)

To a degree that’s natural as the young of any species are the most vulnerable to getting eaten, but low numbers of returning finclipped adult Chinook are also increasingly constraining the fishing seasons we can have in Puget Sound and the lakes.

That’s leading to fewer days on the water and growing discontent among anglers.

Bosworth calls the ship canal a “predation gauntlet” filled with “lots of over-water structures that attract a number of piscivorous fish species.”

He says its warm waters could also boost the metabolic rates of the predators, meaning they eat more young Chinook, coho and sockeye as the little fish head for the salt.

THE SHIP CANAL CONNECTS LAKE WASHINGTON WITH PUGET SOUND. (WDFW)

Bosworth does allow that not all known salmon snarfers are showing up in the nets. Set for an overnight soak near the bottom, with all the traffic in the ship canal, they are limited to shoreline areas, not the offshore waters where cutthroat trout may lurk.

Cutts are a strong predator of salmon smolts, as are northern pikeminnow. They’re the primary bane of Lake Washington sockeye.

Again, these are initial results but it builds on a City of Seattle paper citing a 2000 USGS study that listed pikeminnow, smallmouth and largemouth as the primary predators in that order in the ship canal back then.

HUNGRY PREDATORS INCLUDING TROUT GATHER AT THE SOUTH END OF LAKE SAMMAMISH IN MIDSPRING TO SNARF DOWN JUST-RELEASED SALMON SMOLTS LIKE THESE COHO THAT SPILLED OUT OF THE BELLY OF A TROUT CAUGHT BY FAUSTINO RINCON THIS YEAR. (FAUSTINO RINCON)

Bosworth says he views this new effort as “an important monitoring program that may help us get a better understanding of why we are seeing such low return rates for salmon in the Lake Washington watershed.”

“I’d really like to expand this type of work in the future to see if this is happening in other areas of the lake as well,” says Bosworth.

The only problem? You guessed it.

Money — it’s tight and getting tighter these days around the biologist’s office.

WDFW had hoped that state lawmakers would approve both its license fee increase and General Fund request this past session for a big $60 million infusion, but in the end there was no hike, it received less than it needed to even maintain fishing and hunting opportunities — and was saddled with added costs without matching funding to boot.

It also must honor commitments it has made with the tribes through past North of Falcons, like continuing the ship canal predator study this year, and hiring more staff “to produce more timely catch estimates from catch record cards,” according to Nate Pamplin, the agency’s policy director.

It has all led to a budget shortfall for monitoring Puget Sound’s hugely important salmon fisheries in the coming two years, but WDFW hopes legislators will fix that with a $1.7 million request they want to include in a supplemental budget request for 2020’s session in Olympia.

So that leaves Bosworth and his project gauging abundance of Lake Washington piscivores and what they’re eating in a bit of limbo.

“I need to figure out how to get other people to help me with the money part.  We’ll see how far I get with that idea,” Bosworth says.

Ideally in his mind, it involves a “regional partnership” with other governmental entities and groups with a stake in improving salmon survival.

YELLOW PERCH AND CHINOOK SMOLTS. (WDFW)

Hell, it could also include anglers.

While there is a consumption advisory out, it sounds to me like Gasworks Park is a pretty damned good place to fish for fat and sassy yellow perch.

With smolts clearing the area soon if not already, I’ll bet they’re getting hungry too.

Columbia Sockeye Run Downgraded Sharply

Columbia salmon managers have downgraded their expectations for this year’s sockeye run by nearly 42 percent, and it could come in as the smallest in a dozen years.

The Technical Advisory Committee now believe only 58,000 will return to the mouth of the big river, well below the preseason forecast of 99,400.

A FISH PASSAGE CENTER GRAPH CHARTS THIS YEAR’S SOCKEYE COUNT AT BONNEVILLE (RED LINE) AGAINST LAST YEAR’S (BLUE LINE) AND THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE. (FPC)

It’s the opposite direction of last year’s run, which was initially forecast at 99,000 but came in above 210,000.

So far 31,889 sockeye have been counted at Bonneville, and if a Fish Passage Center graph based on daily counts at the first dam on the Columbia is any indication, this year’s run has peaked and is on the downhill slide.

It’s a far cry from just a few years ago, when 512,455 and 651,146 sockeye entered the river, but this year’s run’s parents were also poached by the Blob’s very warm waters in early summer 2015, with large numbers likely dying in the reservoirs and Okanogan and Wenatchee Rivers well before they reached their spawning grounds.

In 2007, just 26,604 returned to the Columbia before runs mushroomed following habitat work and better flow management on the Canadian side of the Okanogan River.

There is no scheduled recreational sockeye (or summer Chinook) fishery on the mainstem this season. Preliminary figures from today’s fact sheet show a tribal platform, ceremonial and commercial catch of just under 800 sockeye so far.

Meanwhile, Lake Washington’s sockeye are also coming in low. After several 0-fish days that made the graph look not unlike a rock skipping across the water, the count has picked up, but the best case scenario is that the all-time-low forecast of 15,000 and change is topped.

Right now 1,124 of the salmon have gone through the Ballard Locks.

LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE COUNTS. (WDFW)

That system’s issues are largely linked to smolt predation in the lake and poor adult survival due to disease after the salmon swim through the warm ship canal.

But to the north on the Baker Lake system the count is tracking fairly tightly to the five-year average of just under 21,000 to the Baker River trap.

This one will be watched closely in the coming days and weeks.

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Support For Lake Washington Sockeye Restoration Assessment At Meeting

With a show of hands last night in Renton, anglers and others asked a longtime Lake Washington sockeye advocate to request WDFW look into what it would take to recover the salmon stock and restore the fabled metro fishery.

ANGLERS AND SOME CEDAR RIVER COUNCIL MEMBERS RAISE THEIR HANDS IN SUPPORT OF HAVING FRANK URABECK (STANDING AT LEFT) ASK WDFW TO ASSESS WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO RESTORE LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It’s a long-shot proposition with seemingly all factors now lined up against the fish, and two of the people who’d gathered in the Red Lion conference room supported just throwing in the towel instead.

But nobody was in favor of the status quo, which is modeled to lead to the extinction of the run in 40 years time — perhaps as few as 30 with this year’s lowest-ever forecast of just 15,153 back to the Ballard Locks is any indication, according to the local state fisheries biologist.

“The reality is, it’s going to be very, very, very tough to get all the players to do something,” acknowledged Frank Urabeck before calling for the vote from the 40 or so members of the public and 10 members of the Cedar River Council.

Not everyone held up a hand for any option, but Urabeck’s plan is to approach WDFW Director Kelly Susewind and ask that the agency conduct a feasibility assessment on what can be done and how much it would cost to bring sockeye back to fishable numbers.

Urabeck said it would likely require “a massive effort, a huge amount of money.”

But even as predation on smolts in the lake grows and more and more adult sockeye are dying between the Ballard Locks and the Cedar River, there are still some glimmers of hope.

The meeting followed on a similar one last year but which did not include Seattle Public Utilities.

Last night, SPU was at the table in the form of watershed manager Amy LaBarge, who gave a presentation about the utility’s Landsburg mitigation hatchery, completed in 2012 with a capacity of 34 million sockeye eggs, but which has only ever been able to collect 18 million due to low returns.

And since that 2018 gathering, Urabeck indicated that there had been talks going on behind the scenes too.

“I can’t say if I’m optimistic, but there has been dialogue,” he said near the end of the two-hour meeting.

Other players in the issue include the Muckleshoot Tribe and WDFW, the latter of which operates the sockeye hatchery for SPU.

Brody Antipa, the regional hatchery manager for the state agency, was in house and he talked about how he began his career as the guy who “lived in a trailer down by the river” at the old temporary facility on the Cedar, which was opened in the early 1990s over concerns that the run at the time was faltering.

The system produced reliably high returns of as many as 400,000 spawners into the river in the 1960s and 1970s, at the end of the era when Lake Washington was thick with blue-green algae that hid the smolts from predators.

Following cleanup efforts, water clarity went from as little as 30 inches in 1964 to 10 feet in 1968 to up to 25 feet in 1990, according to WDFW district fisheries biologist Aaron Bosworth.

Native cutthroat and northern pikeminnow primarily but also nonnative bass, yellow perch and other species suddenly had the advantage over the young sockeye.

The years of 400,000 reds on the redds were over just as anglers had figured out how to reliably catch sockeye in the lake with just a plain old red hook.

In the 1990s, Antipa said that testing at the hatchery determined that feeding the young sockeye was helpful before turning them loose to rear in the lake a year to 14 months.

By the early 2000s, fisheries went from once every four years to once every other year — 2002, 2004, 2006.

But since then there’s been nothing but a string of increasingly bad years, with last fall seeing just 7,476 of the 32,103 sockeye that went through the locks reaching the Cedar, despite no directed fisheries and only a small biological sampling program operating at Ballard.

IF WE DON’T GET OFF OUR COLLECTIVE ASS, THAT FLAT LINE REPRESENTS THE FUTURE OF LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE, BUT A FEW ARE READY TO THROW IN THE TOWEL WITH THE ENORMITY OF THE JOB AND CHALLENGES THE FISH FACE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The rest died from prespawn mortality caused by fish diseases that may have become more deadly and prevalent due to warmer water in the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

During last night’s question-and-answer period, the audience and Cedar River Council members focused on tweaking the hatchery operations — whether or not Baker and Fraser sockeye could be used to reach full eggtake capacity; if the facility was able to hold the fry longer for a feeding and later-release programs that show promise; and if it could be used to just raise coho and Chinook instead.

The short-term answer to all that was “no” — the current management plan that the hatchery operates under doesn’t allow it.

So, asked a member of the council, how do we change that plan?

LaBarge, the SPU staffer, said that would need to go through stakeholders to get buy-in.

“The conversation is starting about that,” she said.

Another issue is all the predators in Lake Washington.

Antipa said that where once just getting 40 million fry into the lake all but guaranteed a fishery a few years later, the 70 million that swam out of the Cedar in 2012 didn’t result in anything.

Partly that’s due to the circular feedback of PSM issues affecting how many eggs are available at the hatchery and in the gravel , but rock bass have joined the suite of piscovores, along with walleye and at least one northern pike.

A bill on its way to Gov. Inslee’s desk would require WDFW to drop daily and size limits on largemouth and smallmouth in Lake Washington, along with all other waters used by sea-going salmonids in the state.

Realistically that won’t do diddly to bass populations, but gillnetting efforts the Muckleshoots have begun more seriously next door in Lake Sammamish might.

TWO THUMBS UP FOR SEATTLE SOCKEYE FROM THIS ANGLER DURING THE 2004 SEASON. (RYLEY FEE)

Before the show of hands, Max Prinsen, the chair of the Cedar River Council, recalled how in 1979 he came north from California at a time when bald eagles and condors were “gone” in the Golden State.

“But with changes we made as a society we brought those species back,” he noted.

After Urabeck’s vote, he spoke again.

“These fish aren’t just important as a fishery, but as a part of Northwest life,” Prinsen said. “I think it’s important to conserve this resource. It’s great to see this much interest.”

I would quibble with his use of the word “resource” — by chance this morning on the bus while proofing our Alaska magazine I read a quote from the author Amy Gulick about a Tlingit woman in Sitka who taught her that “The word ‘resource’ implies an end product, a commodity. But ‘relationship’ is so much deeper and multi-faceted. If you have a relationship with salmon, then you also have a relationship to a river, a home stream and the ocean. And you probably have relationships with people in your community connected to each other by way of salmon. We show gratitude for healthy relationships because they make our lives richer.”

But Prinsen was also among those who’d raised their hands, and I’ll bet something along the lines of a relationship with the sockeye was what he meant anyway.

Lake Washington, Cedar River Sockeye Subject Of Tuesday Night Meeting

Lake Washington and Cedar River sockeye are on the agenda of an “important” Tuesday night public meeting that may help figure out where the troubled program goes from here.

With increasing inlake predation on smolts and more and more returning adults dying before they can even reach the spawning grounds or hatchery, there hasn’t been a season on the big lake since 2006 and this year’s forecast of just 15,153 is the lowest ever.

LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE FACE AN INCREASING HOST OF PREDATORS, INCLUDING NATIVE SPECIES SUCH AS CUTTHROAT TROUT AND NORTHERN PIKEMINNOW, AND NONNATIVE ONES SUCH AS SMALLMOUTH, LARGEMOUTH AND ROCK BASS, YELLOW PERCH, AMONG OTHERS, WHILE RETURNING ADULTS ARE FAILING TO MAKE IT TO THE GRAVEL DUE TO RISING PRESPAWN MORTALITY. (MIKE PETERSON, IDFG VIA NMFS, FLICKR, CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0)

The “godfather” of the fishery, Frank Urabeck, says he’ll be asking anglers whether to just throw in the towel, maintain the status quo or request WDFW assess what could be done to restore the runs to harvestable levels.

That show of hands will follow presentations on the fish and hatcheries by WDFW’s Brody Antipa and Aaron Bosworth, and Amy LaBarge of Seattle Public Utilities, which operates a sockeye production facility on the system.

They will be speaking before the Cedar River Council, and during last year’s meeting on sockeye issues state research scientist Dr. Neala Kendall said that if nothing is done, her models said that the run could peter out in 20 years or so.

She said that restoring the fishery would be hard but it also wasn’t impossible.

Among the problems to overcome are smolt predation by native cutthroat trout and northern pikeminnow, as well as nonnative species such as largemouth, smallmouth, rock bass and yellow perch. Walleye and at least one northern pike are also in the lake and represent some level of threat to the young salmon.

Ocean conditions have been poorer for Lake Washington sockeye since 2006’s year-class enjoyed “insanely high” survival at sea, with one out of every two smolts that went out returning that year for an estimated Ballard Locks count of 472,000.

And in recent years a high percentage of sockeye have just disappeared between the locks and the Cedar — 77 percent last year, 80 percent in 2016 — likely victims of prespawn mortality.

The combination of too-warm water in the relatively shallow ship canal the fish have to transit before reaching the cool depths of the lake and preexisting diseases appear to be a one-two punch many aren’t surviving.

Potential solutions might include increased focus on removing piscivorous fish and trucking returning adults from the locks to the lake, but those would likely face headwinds from fans of those species and the cost.

Still, for how popular and productive the fishery once was, it would be interesting to know whether it’s feasible or not.

The April 23 meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Renton Red Lion, 1 S. Grady Way, which is exit 2 on I-405.

Recovering Lake Washington Sockeye Runs Subject Of Upcoming Meeting

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE

The Cedar River Council will host an important meeting on Tuesday, April 23. at 7 p.m. at the Renton Red Lion Hotel and Conference Center (1 South Grady Way) about the very popular Lake Washington sockeye fisheries which had been largely supported by the Cedar River sockeye run produced by natural spawning and a temporary Cedar River hatchery that began operation in 1991 followed by a permanent hatchery constructed by Seattle Public Utilities in 2011.

ANGLERS PREPARE TO NET A SOCKEYE DURING THE LAST LAKE WASHINGTON FISHERY, IN 2006. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

No Lake Washington recreational sockeye fisheries have been allowed since 2006 when more than 50,000 sockeye were taken by sport anglers over an eighteen day season. That year the number of sockeye surging through the Ballard Locks exceeded 400,000.

The 2019 run is forecast at only 15,000, the lowest forecast ever. There have been no directed harvest fisheries for the last 13 years.

The public meeting will include presentations by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Seattle Public Utilities on the history of the introduced sockeye run, fabulous periodic sport fishing from the early 1970s until 2006, and the likely reasons the run has collapsed.

The role of the sockeye hatchery will be covered. What might be done to restore the run to harvestable levels and the possibilities this could happen will be discussed.

Puget Sound Anglers and other organizations have worked hard over the years to secure recreational sockeye fisheries, and engaged as strong advocates for the permanent Cedar River sockeye hatchery.

Coastal Conservation Association was instrumental in securing funding for a Lake Washington juvenile sockeye predation study that provided important scientific data.

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

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

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

April 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salmon season setting meetings ongoing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for trout to generate prime spring options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll see you on the water!

WDFW Outlines 2019 Puget Sound Salmon Fishery ‘Ideas’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But another Stilly stock is going to cause real headaches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southern resident killer whales

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

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

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

Public meetings and comment opportunities

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

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

Upcoming meetings include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(WDFW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://player.invintus.com/?clientID=2836755451&eventID=2019021004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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