Salmon Forecast Looks Bleakby Greg Johnston
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 22, 2006
There will be moments, no doubt, but don't count on the summer of 2006 going down as one of the more memorable for salmon fishing in Washington.
State and federal fish managers are debating low catch quotas for coho and chinook on coastal waters due to weak forecasts for Columbia River coho and chinook, and the need to conserve depressed Puget Sound wild chinook will continue to restrict seasons on the inland marine waters.
The limited options for sport salmon seasons will be the subject of a public meeting March 30 in Lynnwood.
"The ocean has got some problems this year with Columbia River coho and chinook," said Pat Patillo, a Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist. "That's why the quota options are all lower than last year. This year chinook abundance is going to be way down."
The Columbia River historically produces a major portion of the ocean catch, so low forecasts limit the number of fish available, and the big river also is home to federally protected stocks that must be conserved. So ocean fisheries this year could produce slow fishing and/or a short season if the quotas are filled rapidly.
The popular "Buoy 10" fishery at the mouth of the Columbia River likely will take a hit this year, possibly being closed early when the limited catch ceilings are reached.
The most restrictive option for the coastal fisheries would allow a catch of just 17,500 chinook and 42,000 coho; the most liberal option would allow a catch of 32,500 and 92,400, respectively. On the inside waters, anglers can expect fishing seasons almost identical to last year.
The salmon scenario is not all bleak, however. Willapa Bay produced a good salmon fishery last summer, and the chinook forecast there is about 10,000 fish greater than last year, at just more than 30,000; there has been talk of a three-king limit.
The Lynnwood meeting is at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 20610 44th Ave. W., beginning at 9 a.m. The 2006 salmon seasons will be finalized at the April 3-7 Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Sacramento, Calif.
In other fishing news:
Razor clam digging on the ocean beaches has been given the green light for Saturday through Tuesday -- p.m. hours only -- after tests for marine toxins by the Department of Health. If surf conditions allow, digging should be good on all traditional beaches but Kalaloch, which did not produce well on earlier digs this year. However, weather forecasts Wednesday envisioned 14-foot seas on Saturday, easing through the weekend.
Only the Twin Harbors and Mockrocks beaches will be open Tuesday. Saturday through Monday, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Kalaloch beaches will be open. Low tides are 3:14 p.m. Saturday at plus-0.3 feet; 4:07 p.m. Sunday at 0 feet; 4:55 p.m. Monday at minus-0.2 feet; and 5:39 p.m. Tuesday at minus-0.1 feet.
Salmon fishing in the saltwater is still tough locally in the north Sound and Saratoga Passage north of Everett, but has picked up in the Tacoma region (mostly the Clay Banks and Slag Pile) and is still good in the San Juan Islands (Guemes Channel, south end of Blakely Island, Obstruction Pass, President's Channel and Salmon Bank). Port Angeles-area anglers also have had moments the past week. Note that the San Juans (marine area 7) close at the end of the month. Spring chinook fishing in the Columbia and tributaries is still slow, even worse than last year, but a few are being taken in the big river from Vancouver to Cathlamet, and slowly increasing catches are being reported in the Cowlitz, Kalama and North Fork Lewis.
Steelhead fishing has been fair to good on the coast, locally in the Skagit catch-and-release fishery, and in those three aforementioned Columbia tributaries, with the late stock appearing recently in the Cowlitz. Heavy rain on the coast put rivers there on the rise and in poor shape Wednesday. If the rain quits and rivers drop, many coastal rivers will be good bets this weekend, in this order: the Hoh, Sol Duc, Calawah, Queets, Bogachiel, Satsop and Wynooche.
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