Heading into this year's talks to set salmon fishing seasons, Pat Pattillo knew not to expect a major growth in opportunities like last season.
“We really made quite a few changes last year with selective fisheries. We probably advanced our opportunities more than in recent years,” said the lead negotiator for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Our theme this year has been to keep what we had last year.”
With the approval last week of ocean and Puget Sound salmon fishing seasons, Pattillo said that goal was met.
Faced with concerns over dwindling chinook salmon stocks in waters like the Puyallup and Skokomish rivers, as well as the mid-Hood Canal area, “I thought we would be lucky to take a few curtailments to fisheries. In the end, we didn’t have to,” he said.
That’s not to say anglers will not see differences in when they can fish, Pattillo said.
“We did make some changes, such as the move to the mark select fishery for Skokomish chinook, but we were able to keep the entire season,” he said.
The Skokomish, from the mouth of the river to the U.S. 101 Bridge, will be open Aug. 1 through Sept. 30. There will be a two salmon-daily limit, but anglers must release wild chinook and chum.
There are also changes in the season for the Puyallup River, meant to avoid conflicts between recreational anglers and tribal fishermen.
The river upstream of Freeman Road will be open for recreational salmon fishing Aug. 1, about two weeks earlier than last year. But downstream of Freeman Road, the river will remain closed to recreational fishing until Aug. 16. After that point it will open for fishing seven days a week except it will be closed Aug. 22, 29, 30 and Sept. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14.
“We worked closely with the Puyallup tribe to develop fisheries on the Puyallup River that maintain opportunities for anglers and tribal fishers, and help increase safety,” said Pattillo.
There was a similar closure last year after four recreational anglers got caught in a tribal net.
“People got used to it last year. We didn’t have any problems with compliance, and don’t expect any this year,” Pattillo said.
On the positive side, the February closure in Marine Area 13 has been eliminated.
The area, covering Puget Sound south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, has been closed for several years to reduce impacts on spring chinook. “This year we thought we could remove that restriction. It’s not a big fishery, but at least it’s a small opening,” Pattillo said.
What will help ease the sting of any reduce fishing opportunities is better salmon runs, Pattillo admitted.
“I’m hoping it is a better fishery this year. Last year we were down a little year, not counting the pink salmon run,” he said.
“We were down on the Puyallup, Green and Nisqually. I’m hoping we’ll see a bit of an uptick this year.”
For ocean anglers, the emphasis will be in chinook this year after being on coho last year.
“It’s a flip flop of last year. Last year, coho were everywhere and chinook were difficult to find,” Pattillo said. “This year, we have a chinook quota that’s three times last year’s quota.”
The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which sets ocean fishing seasons, set the recreational Chinook quota at 61,000 chinook, compared to 20,500 fish last year.
The council set the coho quota at 67,200 fish, down from last year’s quota of 176,400.
Pattillo said the concern is the state doesn’t want to run out of one species before anglers catch the quota of the other. That could be an issue in Marine Area 1, the waters off Ilwaco.
“If we get through mid August, we’ll be lucky,” Pattillo said. “But Buoy 10 (fishery) opens Aug. 10 and should be real good by mid- Aug.”
Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and coho will begin July 1 off LaPush, Neah Bay and Ilwaco and July 4 off Westport.
All areas will have a two-salmon daily limit, only one of which may be a chinook. As in past years, only hatchery coho salmon with a clipped adipose fin can be retained in ocean fisheries.
The council also approved a pilot mark-selective fishery for ocean hatchery chinook. The fishery for hatchery chinook in marine areas 1-4 will run June 12-30. Anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook.
“This is the first season we will have a selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean,” said Phil Anderson, department director, in a news release. “By using this management tool we can meet our conservation goals and give anglers an additional opportunity to fish for hatchery chinook in the ocean.”
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
To learn more
Regulations for marine areas in Washington and a portion of the Columbia River will be available at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s North of Falcon website at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon.