Salmon season OK’d for Pacific Ocean and Columbia River

Fishermen congregate on the Columbia River during the annual Buoy 10 salmon fishing season. Details for the 2016 season will be announced this week.

OLYMPIA — Anglers will have opportunities to fish for salmon in the ocean and Columbia River this year, although recreational and non-tribal commercial salmon fisheries in Puget Sound may be closed through much of the season.

Salmon fishing seasons for Washington’s ocean waters and the Columbia River were adopted Thursday during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Vancouver, Wash.

Here is a summary of those fisheries:

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council approved a recreational Chinook catch quota of 35,000 fish, which is 29,000 fewer than 2015’s quota of 64,000 Chinook. The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, also adopted a quota of 18,900 coho for this year’s recreational ocean fishery — about 131,900 fish fewer than last year’s quota (150,800 coho).

Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for Chinook will be open daily beginning July 1 in all four marine areas. Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) will close Aug. 31 while the other three marine areas will close Aug. 21. The areas could close earlier if the catch quota is met.

Anglers will be required to release coho salmon in marine areas 2-4 but can retain hatchery coho in Marine Area 1. Anglers will have a daily limit of one salmon in Marine Area 2. In Marine Area 1 anglers can retain two salmon, only one of which can be Chinook. Areas 3 and 4 have a two-salmon daily limit.

The popular Buoy 10 fishery near the mouth of the Columbia River will be announced early next week. Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are still working out the details of the fishery, which is expected to benefit from a large run of Chinook salmon to the river this year.

For the third-straight year, during fall fisheries, anglers fishing from the same boat may continue fishing for salmon until all anglers have reached their daily limits in the following areas:

• The mainstem Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Lewis River will be open for hatchery coho from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Anglers will be allowed to retain one adult Chinook as part of their two-adult daily limit from Aug. 1 through Sep. 14. During Sep. 8 through Sept. 14, adult Chinook retention is restricted to hatchery Chinook only. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, anglers can retain two adult Chinook daily.

• The Lewis River upstream to Steamboat Landing Park dock/Marker #50, near Washougal, will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 for Chinook and hatchery coho, with a daily limit of two adult salmon.

• Columbia River anglers are reminded that retention of sockeye and chum salmon is prohibited during the fall season. The summer season on the mainstem Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open from June 16 through July 31 for hatchery summer Chinook and sockeye. The daily limit will be two adult salmonids (Chinook and steelhead must be adipose fin-clipped). All sockeye are considered adults in the daily limit.

The summer season from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge will be open from June 16 through July 31 for hatchery summer Chinook and sockeye. The daily limit will be two adult salmonids (Chinook and steelhead must be adipose fin-clipped). All sockeye are considered adults in the daily limit.

After lengthy negotiations, state and tribal fishery managers could not reach an agreement on salmon-fishing seasons in Puget Sound. An agreement must be reached in the next few weeks or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribes in western Washington will each need to secure separate federal permits required to hold fisheries in Puget Sound waters where there are protected fish stocks.

Jim Unsworth, WDFW director, said potentially forgoing salmon seasons in Puget Sound isn’t a decision the department took lightly.

“We realize that closing salmon fishing in Puget Sound for the foreseeable future is not only disappointing but is detrimental to many communities across the region,” he said. “As we work to secure the necessary federal permit, we hope to continue discussions with the tribes. I believe co-management can work, and we will do our part to improve the process of setting salmon seasons in Washington.”

This is the first time the state and tribes have not reached an agreement on salmon fishing seasons while working as co-managers, which began about 30 years ago. In previous years, the co-managers have been authorized to fish for salmon under a joint federal permit.

Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s Fish Program, said the department will begin working with NOAA Fisheries to secure a federal permit for salmon fisheries in Puget Sound. However, it is uncertain the department will receive federal authorization in time to hold salmon fisheries this summer, he said.

“We knew setting salmon-fishing seasons would be challenging this year due to the poor forecast for coho,” Warren said. “Our staff worked really hard to put forward a set of proposed fisheries that met agreed-to conservation goals. Unfortunately, we were not able to reach an agreement.”

About 256,000 coho are expected to return to Puget Sound in 2016. That’s about one-third the size of run predicted in 2015.

During the salmon season-setting process, state fishery managers consulted with numerous members of the department’s Puget Sound sportfishing advisory groups, who supported the department’s decision.

Puget Sound marine and fresh water areas that currently are open to salmon fishing — including marine areas 5, 11, 12 and 13 — will close to fishing May 1, if not scheduled to close earlier in the 2015-2016 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

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