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Ocean Salmon Fishing Season Off NW Coast To Reflect Low Chinook, Coho Returns
Posted on Friday, April 13, 2018 (PST)

With low returns of chinook and coho salmon expected back to numerous rivers in Washington, state and tribal co-managers Tuesday agreed on a fishing season that “meets conservation goals for wild fish while providing fishing opportunities on healthy salmon runs,” said the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

 

In Oregon, “ocean salmon anglers can look forward to more opportunity this year based on recommendations made yesterday for federal waters (outside three miles) during a Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Portland,” said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Tuesday.

 

“While this won’t be a banner year for ocean salmon fishing, overall it’s an improvement from 2017. This is particularly true for communities on the southern Oregon coast, which were hit hard by 2017’s salmon closures,” said Chris Kern, ODFW Deputy Fish Division Administrator.

 

Low returns of wild salmon runs prompted state and tribal fishery managers to limit fishing opportunities in many areas to protect those stocks.

 

For example, “recreational anglers will have less opportunity to fish for chinook salmon in both the Columbia River and Washington's ocean waters compared to recent years. Tribal fisheries also will be restricted in certain areas to protect weak stocks,” said the WDFW in a press release.

 

A variety of unfavorable environmental conditions, including severe flooding in rivers and warm ocean water, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington's rivers in recent years, said Ron Warren, head of WDFW's fish program.

 

In addition, the loss of quality rearing and spawning habitat continues to take a toll on salmon populations throughout the region, where some stocks are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, he said.

 

"It's critical that we ensure fisheries are consistent with ongoing efforts to protect and rebuild wild salmon stocks," Warren said. "Unfortunately, the loss of salmon habitat continues to outpace these recovery efforts. We need to reverse this trend. If we don't, salmon runs will continue to decline and it will be increasingly difficult to develop meaningful fisheries."

 

The 2018-19 salmon fisheries, developed by WDFW and treaty tribal co-managers, were finalized during the Pacific Fishery Management Council's meeting in Portland.

 

Information on recreational salmon fisheries in Washington's ocean waters and the Columbia River is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/. The webpage includes information on Puget Sound sport fisheries, as well as an overview of chinook and coho fishing opportunities in the Sound's marine areas.

 

A bright spot in this year's salmon season planning process was a renewed commitment by Indian and non-Indian fishermen to work together for the future of salmon and salmon fishing, said Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

 

"No fisherman wants to catch the last salmon. We know that the ongoing loss of habitat, a population explosion of hungry seals and sea lions and the needs of endangered southern resident killer whales are the real challenges facing us today. We must work together if we are going to restore salmon to sustainable levels," she said.

 

In meeting conservation objectives for wild salmon, the co-managers are limiting fisheries in areas where southern resident killer whales are known to feed. The adjustments will aid in minimizing boat presence and noise, and decrease competition for chinook and other salmon in areas critical to the declining whales, said WDFW.

 

In Oregon, sport salmon fishing in the ocean off the Columbia River will open June 23 and is expected to run through Labor Day, Sept. 3, unless salmon quotas are reached earlier.

 

The area from Cape Falcon south to Humbug Mt opened for chinook on March 15 and will remain open until Oct. 31.

 

The forecast for coho is down this year for both the Oregon coast and Columbia River, largely due to poor ocean conditions, said ODFW in a press release.

 

Sport fishing for hatchery coho will be open from Cape Falcon south to Humbug Mt. from June 30-Sept. 3 or until the quota of 35,000 fish is met.  A small season for wild and hatchery coho in this area is also scheduled for Sept. 7-8 and each Friday and Saturday after until Sept. 29 or the quota of 3,500 coho is met, “which may happen quickly,” said ODFW.

 

Unlike the full closure to salmon fishing last year, the area south of Humbug Mt to the OR/CA border will be open to sport fishing for chinook from May 19-Aug. 29.  The strong forecast for Rogue River fall chinook is a bright spot for the coast this year.

 

Commercial troll fishing for chinook will be open intermittently along the whole Oregon coast from May through the summer. In 2017, all commercial salmon trolling was closed south of Florence.

 

“I want to thank the many advisors, tribal members, agency staff, and members of the general public, who all worked hard to ensure that conservation goals for salmon stocks are met while providing fishing opportunities for communities up and down the west coast,” said ODFW’s Kern. 

 

The PFMC recommendations will be forwarded to NOAA Fisheries for approval and implementation.  The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will be asked to adopt matching rules for state waters (inside 3 mi) at their April 20 meeting in Astoria.

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