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Three options set for ocean sport salmon fishing

Post by Jeff Mayor / The News Tribune on March 11, 2010 at 11:21 pm with No Comments »
March 12, 2010 7:48 am

Options for recreational ocean salmon fishing, approved Wednesday, includes an increase in catch quotas for chinook salmon this summer and a possible, albeit short, select fishery for salmon.

The options also reflect the expected lower return of coho, resulting in harvest guidelines for coho that will be lower than last year, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced.

Three ocean salmon-fishing options approved earlier Wednesday by the Pacific Fishery Management Council reflect the anticipated strong return of chinook along the Washington coast bound for the Columbia River this summer. But the three options also point to a decrease from last year in Columbia River coho returns.

The council, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, approved this year’s recreational ocean options:

  • Option 1 – 55,000 chinook and 92,400 coho
  • Option 2 – 47,500 chinook and 75,600 coho
  • Option 3 – 40,000 chinook and 58,800 coho

Last year the council set the recreational ocean fishing quotas at 20,500 chinook and 176,400 coho salmon. In 2008, the quotas were 20,000 chinook, 20,350 coho salmon.

Nearly 653,000 fall chinook are forecasted to return to the Columbia River this season, about 234,000 more chinook than the return last year. The increased numbers represent strong returns to Spring Creek and other Columbia River hatcheries, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery, said a department news release.

Under Option 1, the council proposed a recreational salmon fishing season this summer that would get under way June 12 in all ocean areas with mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook. The selective fishery would run from June 12-30 or until 19,000 hatchery chinook are retained.

Selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon. If implemented, the mark-selective fishery would be the first in Washington’s ocean waters for hatchery chinook.

For nearly a decade, the mass marking of hatchery-produced coho salmon has allowed anglers to fish selectively for coho in Washington’s ocean waters. Mass marking of lower Columbia River hatchery chinook – known as tules (pronounced two-lees) – has been under way since the mid-2000s and the council is considering using this management tool in ocean fisheries for chinook, said Fish and Wildlife director Phil Anderson.

Under Option 2, recreational salmon fishing would begin June 19 in all ocean areas for both hatchery and wild chinook salmon. That fishery would run through June 30 or until 7,000 chinook are retained. Option 2 does not include a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean this year.

Starting in early July, retention of chinook, as well as hatchery coho, would be allowed under both options 1 and 2.

Under Option 3, recreational chinook and hatchery coho salmon fisheries would begin June 27 in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) and June 29 in marine areas 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay). Like Option 2, this option does not include a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean this year.

While the chinook forecast has anglers excited, the Columbia River coho return is a different story. Nearly 390,000 Columbia River coho are projected to make their way along Washington’s coast this summer, compared to 1 million coho in 2009 – the largest return in nearly decade.

As in the past, all three ocean options are based on mark-selective fisheries for hatchery coho salmon.

Chinook and coho quotas approved by the council will be part of the 2010 salmon fishing package covers marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those fisheries.

The co-managers will complete the final 2010 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with the council process during its April meeting.

More information about the salmon-season setting process, as well as a schedule of public meetings and salmon run-size forecasts, can be found on the state agency’s North of Falcon Web site.

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