Guidelines for Season's
by Mark Yuasa
The salmon season setting process is coming into view, and details on the Columbia River spring chinook fisheries, the pilot run of migrating salmon, will be known soon.
The Washington commission was to meet Saturday to decide allocation guidelines for spring chinook, and the Oregon commission will meet Friday to make its decision.
The Oregon state Fish and Wildlife staff has already proposed that its commission allow sport fishing from the Interstate 5 Bridge up to Bonneville Dam six days a week through April 30; allow fishing from Bonneville to McNary Dam daily March 16-May 10; constrain commercial fishing to the area from I-5 Bridge up to Beacon Rock; open commercial select area fisheries mid-February to mid-June; and allow daily sport fishing in the Willamette River.
Early indications are the Columbia River spring chinook return could be a dandy, but after three consecutive years of bad predictions, most in the know are being cautious of what will happen.
The forecast calls for a large return of 269,300 upriver spring chinook, compared with the 86,230 last year (78,500 was the 2007 forecast).
However, the Willamette spring chinook forecast is 34,000 [40,468 last year] and appears to be a poor one.
Tributaries above Bonneville Dam will likely see a big jump in sport catches this spring. The Little White Salmon River [Drano Lake] forecasted return of 36,800 looks like it will smash the current record of 20,000 fish set in 2002. The Wind River return is also expected to be strong.
Washington and Oregon officials will finalize the spring chinook seasons Feb. 15.
The North of Falcon meeting dates have been released, and expectations in Washington's waters look good in some places and lousy in others.
North of Falcon refers to Cape Falcon in northern Oregon, which marks the southern border of active management for Washington salmon stocks.
"I think we'll have a better process, and we [including the tribal constituents] have learned some things from last year, so we're going into this season with more optimism," said Pat Pattillo of the state Fish and Wildlife's intergovernmental salmon policy group.
The general outlook for Columbia River fall and summer chinook looks better, but still not up to expectations.
As for the early coho outlook on the Columbia River some are saying it could look like seasons during the mid-1990s, when unprecedented fishing restrictions were imposed on coastal fisheries to protect struggling wild coho runs. Biologist are attributing the poor coho returns to bad survival in the ocean.
In Puget Sound, many are still buzzing about the successful selective summer hatchery-marked chinook fishery with a 7,000-fish quota in Marine Areas 9 and 10 (North and Central Puget Sound) during the first two weeks of July.
"We were very happy how the selective chinook fishery went, and fishing was quite good, with catch rates that we normally see only in the ocean," said Steve Thiesfeld, a state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager. "Clearly we were able to monitor it efficiently, and we saw very good compliance."
Thiesfeld said the fishery provided $3.7 million in economic benefit for businesses in the Greater Seattle area. The benefit was based on 27,000 angler trips taken and $137 spent per trip.
While the inaugural Puget Sound summer selective fishery went off without a hitch, those who participated in the salmon season setting process last year pointed out that the quota was just a sliver of what many had thought fisheries was going to pursue.
"The fact of the matter is, it was only a fraction of what we wanted last year, and yes, we were disappointed," said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association and a sport fishing advisory group member.
The sport fishing advisory group said the way to truly recover wild chinook is to lower the level of mixing between wild and hatchery fish on the spawning beds.
The group says selective fishing provides more fishing opportunities and gets hatchery fish off spawning grounds, but conservation is a top priority.
While nothing has been set in stone for the summer, it is possible that anglers could get the selective fishery again in July.
"There was a two-year agreement made for the summer selective fishery, but all that is pending just in case we have some conservation crisis where a run is in the tank, which then we might have to reconsider it," Thiesfeld said.
In upcoming meetings, Floor and others, such as Gary Krein, owner of All-Star Fishing Charters in Everett, said the advisory group will seek an extension of a selective fishery during the winter time in Areas 7, 9 and 10 (San Juan Islands, and Central and North Sound).
"While the Area 9 and 10 selective fishery is something people can probably bank on, as with all these negotiations process nothing is guaranteed, but we are hopeful to possibly seek out a summer fishery that is consistent with last year," Krein said.
Last year, things got so heated after the fishing seasons were set that Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks intervened. Dicks met with parties involved to establish calm, and he vowed to establish more meetings before the 2008 North of Falcon process.
In recent months, Dicks has had multiple meetings with the tribes and state, and met with them last week.
"We have been in discussion with the [congressman] on where we are with selective fisheries, and what we are going to do down the road," Thiesfeld said.
In a state Fish and Wildlife release last August, Dicks recommended expanding the number of mark-selective fisheries that allow anglers to identify and release wild fish and keep only hatchery fish. Dicks said he does not favor reducing hatchery production of salmon, and he supports continuation of a strong hatchery system to sustain fish recovery programs as well as produce fish for harvest.
Dicks has supported funding for mass marking all hatchery-produced salmon in facilities receiving federal funds. Mass marking removes the adipose fin of hatchery fish so they can be distinguished from wild fish.
Dicks praised new selective fishing opportunities for hatchery chinook salmon in several areas of central Puget Sound. New selective fisheries initiated in 2007 mark the first time in more than a decade that anglers have been allowed to catch and keep adult chinook salmon in the area from Admiralty Inlet to the northern end of Vashon Island.
State Fish and Wildlife will unveil salmon forecasts 9 a.m. March 4 at the General Administration Building, 11th Avenue and Columbia Street, Olympia. Seasons will be set April 6-11.
Meeting dates: March 4, state Fish and Wildlife salmon forecasts will be unveiled, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at the General Administration Building Auditorium,11th Ave. and Columbia St. in Olympia; March 5, Grays Harbor fisheries discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Montesano City Hall, 112 N. Main St. in Montesano; March 6, Willapa Bay fisheries discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Raymond Elks Lodge, 326 Third St. in Raymond; March 9-14, Pacific Fishery Management Council [PFMC], Doubletree Hotel, 2001 Point West Way in Sacramento; March 12, Puget Sound recreational fisheries discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., state Fish and Wildlife Mill Creek Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd.; March 17, Columbia River fisheries discussion, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Vancouver Water Resources Education Center, 4600 SE Columbia Way; March 18, first North of Falcon meeting, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., General Administration Building Auditorium in Olympia; March 28, Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay fisheries meeting, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave.; March 31, PFMC public hearing, 7 p.m., Ch‰teau Westport, 710 Hancock Street in Westport; April 1, second North of Falcon meeting, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Embassy Suites Hotel, 20610 44th Avenue West in Lynnwood; and April 6-11, final PFMC meeting, Seattle Marriot Hotel, 3201 S. 176th St. in Sea-Tac.
Research: Which Salmon Hit Hardest by Sea Lions and Seals by Columbia Basin Bulletin, Chinook Observer, 1/3/8
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