State releases initial salmon run forecast; Coho, pink salmon runs look good

Fisherman try to hook salmon on Oyster Bay Estuary at the mouth of Kennedy Creek in fall 2008. The state released a positive forecast for salmon this year.
Fisherman try to hook salmon on Oyster Bay Estuary at the mouth of Kennedy Creek in fall 2008. The state released a positive forecast for salmon this year. The Olympian

Anglers should see strong runs of coho and pink salmon in Puget Sound, where wild chinook runs continue to struggle. Chinook fishing in the ocean and the Columbia River, however, should be good in the coming year.

That assessment came Tuesday from staff members of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife as they released the initial forecasts for salmon runs in the Sound and in ocean fisheries.

Tuesday’s meeting in Olympia kicked off an often-intense six weeks of negotiations that will culminate with the April 9-14 meeting of the Pacific Fishery Management Council in San Mateo, Calif.

At that meeting, state, federal and tribal fish managers will set salmon fishing seasons for Washington’s coast, Puget Sound and the rivers that feed the Sound.

Between now and then, state biologists and negotiators will meet with their tribal counterparts to discuss proposals for the upcoming fishing seasons. The discussions will be based on the just-released run forecasts of 5.98 million pinks, 143,450 coho and 398,000 chinook.

“I see some really good fisheries inside Puget Sound for coho, even in the South Sound,” said Pat Pattillo, the department’s salmon policy coordinator. “A month ago, the talk was all about pinks. Now it’s also about coho. It’s going to be a pretty good year for coho.”

“There is a shift in where the pinks are coming from,” said Steve Thiesfeld, the Puget Sound salmon manager for the agency. “Instead of the northern rivers (such as the Skagit, Stillaguamish and Snohomish), they are moving to the Green and Puyallup.”

The Green alone is expected to see a run of more than 2.1 million pinks. The Puyallup run is predicted to be about 900,000 fish.

Thiesfeld cautioned anglers not to expect the huge run that attracted anglers to hot spots such as Brown’s and Dash points two years ago, but added that the forecast is “still pretty darn good.”

The good news for chinook anglers comes from the Columbia River and ocean fisheries from Ilwaco to Neah Bay.

“We’re looking at a whopper run this year,” Cindy LeFleur, the department’s Columbia River policy coordinator, said of the forecast for upper river bright runs, which provide some of the best in-river fishing.

She said that if the forecast is accurate, it would be the second largest return on record. Overall, the total fall chinook forecast is the fifth highest since 1948.

A return of nearly 250,000 hatchery chinook and 362,500 coho will provide the bulk of fish for the recreational ocean fisheries.

“I think we’re looking at (seasons) similar to last year,” said Mark Cedargreen, who heads the Westport Charter Association. “I think we’ll see bigger chinook this year. Maybe not more fish, but bigger.”

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640

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