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State fisheries and Pacific Fishery Management Council have developed three ocean salmon fishing options at meetings that ended Monday in Vancouver.

While not all is rosy, and this is just the first step in a long negotiation process, it appears unlike last year – when a zero fishing option was on the table – that anglers will find time on the water. Now it’s just a matter of how much each of the four marine areas will get to catch once the pie is all divided up.

“We have a lot of work to do to get to a final deal as we address wild fish stocks of concern,” said Wendy Beeghly, the state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon manager. “We’re really concerned about Queets (River) wild coho (wild forecast is 5,600 and hatchery is 13,700).”

Karyl Beyerle of Olympia with a 20 pound king caught off Westport on Saturday, June 21. Credit photo to Tony Floor.
Karyl Beyerle of Olympia with a 20 pound king caught off Westport on Saturday, June 21. Credit photo to Tony Floor.

“It looks like at this point they’ll cause us to hit below the escapement floor (for Queets), and will create a lot of negotiations between the tribes and state on how we solve this,” Beeghly said. “We also have some tule chinook impacts to deal with depending on what happens south of Cape Falcon (in Oregon coastal fisheries). In Washington it looks like the only coastal stock of concern this year is the Queets so that is good news.”

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On the coast, fisheries managers are predicting a return of 198,115 coho (159,452 last year), and that doesn’t include a coho forecast of about 386,000 Columbia River coho, which is similar to last year’s forecast although only 223,000 actually returned.

A breakdown of coastal streams show 91,718 coho (67,609 last year) to Willapa Bay; 55,735 (36,921) to Quinault; 5,799 (2,066) to Hoh; 17,200 (8,000) to Queets; 4,844 (1,653) summer fish to Quillayute; and 33,427 (10,911) fall fish to Quillayute. Forecasts for wild coho weren’t available for the Grays Harbor, but the hatchery component is 36,400 (22,900).

Coastal chinook forecasts are 38,500 (39,500) to Willapa Bay; 2,700 (1,800) for fall fish to Hoh; 4,600 (6,600) for fall fish to Queets; 7,600 (7,500) summer/fall fish to Quillayute. Forecasts weren’t available for fall chinook in the Quinault.

Other salmon that play a big role in developing ocean fisheries will be a Columbia River fall chinook forecast of 582,600 (951,300 was forecast last year with an actual return of 643,300). The total return is similar to last year, which was the fourth largest on record, but substantially down from the huge returns from 2013 to 2015.

The lower river hatchery chinook stock of 92,400 and Bonneville Pool hatchery chinook stock of 158,400 – better known as “tule chinook” – are the most prized sport fish and a driving force in ocean fisheries off Ilwaco, Westport and at Buoy 10 near the Columbia River mouth.

The tule are a lower river hatchery run, which is close to recent five-year average, and Bonneville Pool hatchery run that looks to be the second highest return since 2004.

The all-time actual return record dating to 1938 was 1,268,400 adult chinook in 2013, which was 227 percent of the 2003-to-2012 average of 557,600 adult fish. In 2014, the actual return was 1,159,000, which was second-highest on record.

The Seattle Times fishing reporter holds a nice 18 pound king caught in summer of 2015 off Westport.
The Seattle Times fishing reporter holds a nice 18 pound king caught in summer of 2015 off Westport.

OCEAN SPORT FISHERY OPTION ONE

54,500 chinook (58,600 last year), and 58,800 hatchery-marked coho (37,800):

Early hatchery-marked chinook fishery is June 17-30 off Ilwaco and Westport only. Then open daily at Westport and Ilwaco during the summer fishery that would begin July 1 through Sept. 30. La Push and Neah Bay would be open daily from June 24 through Sept. 30. All areas could close sooner if catch quotas are achieved. There would also be a late-salmon season at La Push.

OCEAN SPORT FISHERY OPTION TWO

45,000 chinook (30,000 last year), and 50,400 hatchery-marked coho (14,700):

No early summer season for hatchery chinook, but provides summer chinook and hatchery coho fisheries in all four marine areas open daily starting June 24, and through Sept. 17 at Westport, and through Sept. 30 at Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay. All areas could close sooner if catch quotas are achieved.

OCEAN SPORT FISHERY OPTION THREE

40,000 chinook (closed last year), and 18,900 hatchery-marked coho (closed):

No early summer season for hatchery chinook. Westport chinook fishing would be open Sundays through Thursdays only from July 2 through Sept. 7; Ilwaco would be open daily from July 1 through Sept. 16; and La Push and Neah Bay would be open daily from July 1 through Sept. 10. Only area where hatchery coho would be kept is Ilwaco, and all other ports will be coho non-retention. All areas could close sooner if catch quotas are achieved. There would also be a late-salmon season at La Push.

CATCH LIMITS FOR OPTIONS

The bag limits for La Push and Neah Bay are two salmon, plus one pink daily; and two salmon daily during all species season, but hatchery coho in options one, two and three respectively. For Westport, the first two options are two salmon daily, only one of which can be a chinook, and in option three, it’s two salmon daily during all species season, but no coho. In Ilwaco, all three options are two salmon daily, and only one of which can be a chinook.

The Deep Sea Charters boat Slammer returns to the dock at Westport after an all-day fishing trip. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)
The Deep Sea Charters boat Slammer returns to the dock at Westport after an all-day fishing trip. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

State and tribes hope to avoid repeat of last season

During last year’s process poor coastal wild coho returns to the Queets, Quillayute and Hoh on top of the dismal Puget Sound coho stocks all played a big impact on how ocean fisheries were created, and was the first stumbling block in one of the most draconian Washington marine fishing seasons in recent history.

Last year, negotiations in setting Puget Sound salmon seasons hit a stalemate after the state and tribal fishery officials couldn’t come to terms on how to craft fisheries due to what was expected to be a very poor Puget Sound coho return.

Salmon fishing seasons were eventually set at the end of May – more than a month later than usual – and led to widespread closures in Puget Sound although it was later determined that coho returns weren’t as bad as thought and some fisheries were reopened in late fall.

When salmon forecasts were announced at the end of last month all parties were hopeful they could avoid last year’s debacle, and will come to a well balanced agreement in a timely fashion while ensuring poor wild salmon stocks are given top priority.

Inner-marine waterway fishery development meeting next

State Fish and Wildlife will discuss inner-Puget Sound salmon fishing options at the first “North of Falcon” public meeting 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday (March 17) at the General Administration Building, 210 11th Avenue S.W. in Olympia. Parking is available in the visitor lot of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E. in Olympia.

Fishing salmon seasons will be finalized April 7-12 during the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting at DoubleTree by Hilton Sacramento, 2001 Point West Way in Sacramento, Calif. For a list of meeting dates, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/. For a list of other preseason salmon forecasts announced late last month, go to http://www.seattletimes.com/sports/some-salmon-forecasts-like-puget-sound-coho-show-an-upswing-from-last-year/.