Ocean Salmon Fishing Season
by Tom Paulu
Salmon fishing off the southern coast of Washington will likely end around the middle of August this year, with catch quotas far lower than in recent years.
Meeting in Sacramento, Calif., this week, federal salmon managers set a coho quota for the area off Ilwaco at 36,600, a 40 percent reduction from last year. Two years ago, the coho quota was 101,000.
The sport fishing seasons for the southern coast will start on July 3, the same as last year -- but will be stopped when the coho quota is caught.
"I hope we'll make it to at least the middle of August," said Milt Gudgell, an Ilwaco charter boat operator.
Ocean fishing will be allowed Sundays through Thursdays, with a daily limit of two salmon of which one may be a chinook. For most of last year's season, ocean fishing was allowed seven days a week with a two-chinook maximum.
"The economic loss at the mouth of the Columbia is going to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars," Gudgell predicted.
However, the Long Beach Visitors Bureau is putting a more positive spin on the news, taking out Seattle TV ads touting good sturgeon fishing in the Columbia.
"We're trying to remind people of all the other kinds of fish they can fish for," said Una Boyle, the visitors bureau executive director.
She pointed out that even with this year reductions, the salmon season is far better than those of the late 1990s. In 1998, the Ilwaco area coho quota of 7,000 was caught in five days.
The recreational fishing quota for the entire Washington coast is 31,000 chinook and 73,200 coho. A year ago, the sport quotas were 43,250 chinook and 121,800 coho.
The Columbia River hatchery fall chinook forecast is about 465,000, down nearly 185,000 from last year's forecast. But the main reason for additional restrictions this year are the recent listing of lower Columbia River wild coho salmon under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Though a quota for the popular Buoy 10 fishery in the lower 16 miles of the Columbia had been discussed, fishery managers decided it wasn't necessary.
As in past years, Buoy 10 is scheduled to be open for salmon fishing Aug. 1 through Sept. 30. "I don't expect the river to close but I don't expect there to be any coho there," Gudgell said.
He said federal officials need to increase hatchery production and control cormorants that feed on young salmon and sea lions that munch grown fish.
Fishing regulations for the Columbia upstream of Buoy 10 and its tributaries will be similar to those of a year ago, said Joe Hymer, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist. The rivre is likely to close to salmon fishing next Friday, then reopen in mid-May.
River rules will be published in the annual state fishing pamphlet which should be at license dealers by the end of the month.
Most of the fisheries in Puget Sound will look similar to last year.
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