OLYMPIA - Anglers will get an early indication of this year's salmon-fishing prospects at a public meeting Tuesday, March 1, in Olympia hosted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Kicking off the annual season-setting process for salmon fisheries, WDFW biologists will present their initial forecasts for 2005 salmon returns at the meeting scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the auditorium of Office Building 2 at 1115 Washington St. on the Capitol Campus.

Those in attendance will have an opportunity to ask questions about the pre-season forecasts and participate in work sessions focusing on key salmon-management issues in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington coastal areas.

"We encourage anglers and others interested in our state's fisheries to get involved in the decision-making process," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "These preseason forecasts - which draw on information obtained through stream surveys, smolt traps and other data - really set the stage for developing our fishing seasons."

Koenings said anglers can expect another year of good fishing opportunities, although early forecasts indicate additional restrictions may be needed to protect wild salmon stocks listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

"Our first responsibility is to protect weak, wild salmon runs," Koenings said. "But, as in past years, we'll look for opportunities to provide salmon fisheries on abundant stocks wherever possible."

Public review of WDFW's pre-season forecasts kicks off the annual "North of Falcon" season-setting process, in which state, tribal and federal fisheries managers meet to establish salmon seasons for the Washington coast, Puget Sound and the Columbia River.

That process is held in conjunction with public meetings conducted by the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which determines fishing season in the ocean waters from three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

Final seasons for Washington's salmon fisheries are scheduled for adoption by April 8.

Information about the season-setting process is available on WDFW's North of Falcon website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon/), which will be updated to include the pre-season salmon forecasts after the March 1 meeting.

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