There was heavy disappointment but also optimism and calls to action as this year’s just-approved Washington salmon seasons were discussed on Puget Sound airwaves this morning.
Disappointment over the loss of most winter blackmouth fisheries and their associated derbies, a hard hit to eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands fisheries, ports and local fundraising.
There can be no doubt that this is a very dark moment to be an Evergreen State fisherman, what with Washington’s controversial fishing closure through at least May 4 due to Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order due to the coronavirus pandemic that has now killed 475 state residents and infected half a million Americans, and the fact that the North of Falcon process annually produces a piercing hangover.
Optimism that summer Chinook fishing might not be too bad on inside waters.
With the downturn in commercial seafood markets and restrictions on northern fisheries to help more Fraser kings get back, there is hope it may result in more kings returning through Areas 7, 9 and 10 — Admiralty Inlet, the middle marine area, has a substantially larger hatchery Chinook quota of 6,529 this year and an earlier start date of July 16 versus July 25 in 2019.
And a recognition that The Blob and habitat losses continue to drive fish returns and must be reversed quickly to help improve the runs, a call for change in November and a ballot measure to make fishing and hunting a constitutionally protected right, like in other states, and a plea for anglers to stay involved.
“I’ve been fishing since I was little. It is part of my blood to be able to do this, so I’m going to do everything on our part to make sure we are able to get these things fixed and get back to fishing the way it was. You can count on me not to give up. I’m not throwing up a white flag,” vowed Mark Yuasa of the Northwest Marine Trade Association during a lengthy post-North of Falcon debriefing on The Outdoor Line on 710 ESPN.
Yuasa, the former longtime Seattle Times fishing scribe who very closely follows the development of salmon seasons, wrote a touching and detailed report about the loss of the aforementioned blackmouth fisheries and much more about what will and won’t be open this coming summer, fall and winter in a great article posted here.
It primarily focuses on saltwater opportunities because generally speaking, that is what is most immediately available before freshwater breakouts are made public on WDFW’s website and the List Of Agreed Fisheries, or LOAF, is posted.
Poking around, some details on rivers are also beginning to emerge.
For starters, last year’s first-in-decades lower Skagit spring Chinook fishery is again a go, albeit with a May 16 opener versus May 1 due to the coronavirus closure.
What’s more, there’s a new springer season on part of another North Sound river, the North Fork Nooksack, with a daily limit of two hatchery kings from June 1-30.
Per a WDFW source, there hasn’t been a Chinook fishery on the North Fork listed in the regs back to at least 1954, with the last mainstem Nooksack springer season occurring in 1975.
On the flip side, the Cascade will be limited to Thursday-Sunday fishing to reduce conflict with a planned tribal fishery on the small stream.
There won’t be a Skagit River sport sockeye fishery, but a Baker Lake season is at least in the LOAF if enough return to the fish trap — the forecast is a decade-low 13,000 and change.
There are far more rivers across Washington that host salmon and salmon seasons when enough are available, and in the coming days I hope to report on them as well. For now, I apologize, but there are other things I need to attend to today. –AW NWS