Ocean Salmon Fishing Seasonsby CBB Staff
Sport and commercial salmon-fishing seasons set for Washington's waters this summer reflect the continued strength of many chinook and coho salmon stocks from Puget Sound to the Columbia River, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Thursday.
The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), meeting April 7-11 in Vancouver, Wash., adopted final recreational catch limits of 225,000 coho and 59,600 chinook for waters 3-200 miles off the coast from a point at Cape Falcon on northern Oregon north to the Canadian line.
By comparison, coastal recreational fishery catch limits in 2002 were 109,630 coho and 60,252 chinook. The North of Falcon zone includes the area off the mouth of the Columbia River.
WDFW and its salmon co-managers, the Pacific Northwest treaty Indian tribes, set fisheries for "inside" waters off the Washington coast in conjunction with the PFMC action. Much of the recreational fishing opportunities this year will again focus on strong hatchery chinook and coho stocks, as well as an expected abundance of pink salmon.
"The co-managers have developed a comprehensive fisheries package that provides significant fishing opportunities throughout the state, while at the same time allowing for the continued protection and recovery of weak salmon stocks," said Phil Anderson, WDFW intergovernmental resource management lead.
One significant new fishing opportunity in 2003 is a "mark-selective" fishery for hatchery chinook in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The chinook fishery in the Strait of Juan de Fuca will run from July 5 to Aug. 14, or until 3,500 chinook have been landed. Only chinook with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar in its place can be kept. Fish that can't be retained because they are either wild or undersized must be kept in the water and safely released.
"It is absolutely essential that anglers who participate in this fishery comply with all fisheries regulations and take great care in releasing unmarked fish," Koenings said. "The alternative to a mark-selective fishery in areas where strong and weak stocks are mixed together is to have no fishing at all."
Some Puget Sound chinook salmon stocks are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Any fishing plan that includes the incidental catch of ESA-protected salmon stocks must receive approval from federal fisheries managers to ensure recovery efforts are not impeded.
The expected bonanza of pink salmon returning to northern Puget Sound rivers such as the Skagit and Snohomish systems translates into additional fishing opportunity throughout the region. Fisheries managers have increased bag limits to allow more pink salmon to be retained in fishing areas from the northern coast Puget Sound through northern Puget Sound.
Biologists believe that there will not be sufficient numbers of sockeye salmon returning to the Lake Washington system to support a recreational fishery this summer.
A complete list of 2003 recreational salmon fishing package for Washington marine waters can be found on WDFW's web page.
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