The wild coho forecasts are way down this year mainly along the coast and inner-Puget Sound, but it appears fishery managers are hard at work trying to create salmon fishing seasons for healthy hatchery chinook and coho returns as well as other species like sockeye and chum.
The federal agency developed three options for ocean salmon fishing seasons this past week, and include a high option of 58,600 chinook and 37,800 coho; middle option of 30,000 chinook and 14,700 coho; and a no fishing option. It is unlikely that the no fishing option will be issued this summer based on the strong hatchery salmon returns.
The Columbia River will likely see late summer and fall opportunities for healthy returns of hatchery chinook and coho from Buoy-10 upstream. The Hanford Reach area will see a good return and has in recent years produced good fishing in September and October for fall chinook.
State fisheries and sport fishing constituents met Tuesday in Olympia to also begin their process for the Puget Sound marine and freshwater areas. The Puget Sound forecast is 87,359 wild coho (470,229 last year) and 168,585 hatchery coho (421,626).
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Everyone is in agreement that the top priority is getting as many wild coho salmon back to spawning grounds, but yet finding ways to carve out selective fisheries for particularly healthy stocks of hatchery-marked fish.
There will be some closures to get as many wild coho at rivers sheds like the Snohomish and Stillaguamish. It is also going to be hard to carve out any fisheries in the Skagit River basin.
One proposal being entertained is the option to convert marine areas like east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Area 8-2); northern Puget Sound (9); central Puget Sound (10); and south-central Puget Sound (11) to mark selective fishing, meaning only hatchery fish with a missing adipose fin (clearly identifying them as a hatchery stock fish).
The Skagit River bound sockeye run should be large enough to produce some type of fisheries mainly in Baker Lake during mid-summer. No other seasons have been drawn up yet, but will likely come to light before or during the March 30 public meeting 9:30 a.m. at the Lynnwood Convention Center.
Final seasons will be announced during the April 8-14 meeting in Vancouver.