State and tribal co-managers meeting in Seattle on Thursday agreed on a package of salmon fisheries that they says meets conservation goals for wild salmon populations, while providing fishing opportunities on healthy stocks.
Washington’s 2012 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and treaty tribal co-managers, were finalized during the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting. The fishing package defines regulations for salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, Washington’s ocean and coastal areas and the Columbia River.
In developing salmon seasons and catch quotas, WDFW fishery managers worked closely with advisers and members of the public to design state-managed fisheries that meet conservation goals for wild salmon and result in the fair sharing of harvest opportunity, said Phil Anderson, WDFW director.
"State and tribal co-managers worked hard to identify fisheries that were meaningful for both tribal and state fishers," said Anderson, who represents WDFW on the management council. "By using a variety of management tools, we were able to design those fisheries so that they are consistent with efforts to protect and rebuild weak wild salmon stocks."
Key to those efforts is repairing and protecting quality spawning and rearing habitat for salmon, said Lorraine Loomis, fisheries manager for the Swinomish Tribe.
"While effective harvest and hatchery management can help provide limited fishing opportunities, wild salmon continue to decline because their habitat is being lost and damaged faster than it can be restored. This puts our treaty rights at risk," Loomis said. "Habitat is the key to salmon recovery."
As in past years, recreational salmon fisheries in 2012 will vary by area:
-- Puget Sound: Most chinook and coho fisheries will be similar to last year’s seasons. That includes a closure of the sport fishery for chinook in inner Elliott Bay and the Green River to protect naturally spawning chinook, which are expected to return in low numbers this year.
Additional restrictions approved this year include shortening the summer salmon fishery on the Skokomish River and requiring anglers to release wild chinook during the fall salmon fishery in Hood Canal to help meet conservation goals for mid-Hood Canal wild chinook.
On the bright side, a new sockeye fishery will open this summer in the Skagit River. The river, from Highway 536 to the mouth of Gilligan Creek, will be open for sockeye fishing from June 16 to July 15 with a daily limit of three sockeye. Meanwhile, the Baker Lake sockeye fishery will open a couple weeks earlier this year. The lake will be open July 1 through Sept. 4 with a daily limit of three sockeye salmon. Anglers fishing Baker Lake will be allowed to use two poles, with the purchase of a two-pole endorsement.
The Tulalip Bay "bubble" salmon fishery also will open early this year. The fishery will get under way May 4, a month earlier than last year, and salmon anglers fishing the bubble also will be allowed to use two poles.
-- Washington’s ocean waters: The PFMC approved a recreational chinook catch quota of 51,500 fish, nearly 18,000 more than last year’s quota. The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, also adopted a quota of 69,720 coho for this year’s recreational ocean fishery, slightly higher than last year’s quota.
This year’s ocean fishery will begin with a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook opening June 9 in marine areas 1 and 2 and June 16 in marine areas 3 and 4. The fishery will run through June 22 in Marine Area 1, June 23 in Marine Area 2 and June 30 in marine areas 3 and 4, or until a coastwide quota of 8,000 hatchery chinook are retained. In all marine areas, the fishery will be open seven days a week with a daily limit of two salmon. All coho must be released.
Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho will continue June 23 in Marine Area 1, June 24 in Marine Area 2, and July 1 in marine areas 3 and 4. Anglers fishing marine areas 1 and 2 will be allowed to retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. Anglers fishing marine areas 3 and 4 will have a daily limit of two salmon. Fishing will be open seven days a week, except in Marine Area 2 where fishing will be open Sunday through Thursday.
Coastal bays and rivers: Strong wild coho returns expected this year should provide good fishing in many of Washington’s coastal streams, including the Queets, Quillayute, and Hoh rivers, as well as in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay area rivers. Anglers fishing Grays Harbor will also be allowed to retain chinook salmon for the first time since 2007. The fishery will run from Sept. 16 through Oct. 7 with a bag limit of three salmon, only one of which can be a chinook. In Willapa Bay (Marine Area 2-1), salmon anglers will be allowed to use two fishing poles, with the purchase of a two-pole endorsement, from Aug. 1 through Jan. 31.
-- Columbia River: The Buoy 10 fishery will be open for chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Sept. 3 (Labor Day) and Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. From Aug. 1 through Sept. 3, anglers will have a daily limit of two salmon, only one of which may be a chinook. From Sept. 4 through Sept. 30, anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery coho, but must release chinook. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, anglers can keep six fish, only two of which can be adults. North Jetty salmonid anglers may use barbed hooks seven days a week when Marine Area 1 or Buoy 10 salmon seasons are open.
The mainstem Columbia River from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open for chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Anglers will be allowed to retain one adult chinook as part of their two-adult daily limit through Sept. 9.
From Sept. 10 through Sept. 30, chinook retention will only be allowed upstream of the Lewis River, but up to two adult chinook may be retained. Beginning Oct. 1, up to two adult chinook may be retained throughout the lower river, from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam.
Specific fishing seasons and regulations for marine areas in Washington and a portion of the Columbia River will be available in the next couple of weeks on WDFW’s North of Falcon website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/ .