WDFW is providing more details on what sparked last Friday afternoon’s announcement that the popular Hoodsport Hatchery Zone would close to sport chum salmon fishing as of today.
It’s the second year in a row of very low returns to Hood Canal, according to state Puget Sound fisheries manager Mark Baltzell.
“We knew entering 2020, chum were a concern. 2019 returns, especially to Hood Canal were historically low. We missed natural escapement by 33,000 fish and missed our 30 million hatchery broodstock goal by about half,” he said.
This year’s forecast called for somewhat fewer fall chums than last year, a total of 471,810, with nearly 281,000 of those headed back to WDFW’s Hoodsport and McKernan Hatcheries.
Reacting to the news posted on Facebook late last week, disappointed beach and boat anglers pointed to recent commercial fishing effort in the canal.
Had a large net catch left a big hole in the run?
“The state delayed its fishery by a week this year to fish on more of the historical peak of the run starting in the third or fourth week of October. Commercial catches were again historically low and the state decided to stop its commercial fishery starting on October 30. To date the non-tribal commercial fishery has caught around 53,000 fish,” Baltzell said.
That compares to 94,600 or so landed by roughly the same period last year, which also saw a conservation closure, according to WDFW.
The 2019 preseason forecast called for 518,645 fall chums – a “fairly typical” expectation over the past decade – with nearly 350,000 of those being hatchery fish.
According to WDFW chum, pink and sockeye specialist Mickey Agha, this year’s nontribal commercial catch is 43 percent of last year’s, which also was the lowest fall chum run in the canal in 20-plus years.
It’s all leading to concerns about 2020’s run.
“Returns to Hoodsport and McKernan Hatcheries have been extremely poor so far, with only about 10 percent of the egg take goals to date and we are about one-third of the way through the run based on historical run timing,” said Baltzell. “If the egg take goals turn around in the next short while, we will consider opening the area back up.”