Sports fishermen blamed tribal fish managers and new state Fish and Wildlife director Jim Unsworth for not allowing summer king salmon season on Central Puget Sound.
Sports fishermen attending the meetings that set the salmon seasons aren’t happy with a total summer closure for kings in central Puget Sound and a northern Puget Sound season that will likely last only a few weeks.
All salmon fishing seasons were finalized by state Fish and Wildlife, tribal and other co-fishery managers Wednesday at a meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif.
“The best analogy to describe what happened is like the end of the Super Bowl when the Seahawks got to the 1-yard line and were intercepted,” said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association and a state sport fisheries adviser.
Floor blamed tribal fishery managers, who asked this week to close central Puget Sound to king sport fishing this summer, and new state Fish and Wildlife director Jim Unsworth, agreed to their request.
“We fought hard just to keep what we had last year, and then to get the rug pulled out from under us is totally incomprehensible,” Floor said Wednesday by telephone.
Unsworth, who took over as in early January, said a lack of forecasted Puget Sound wild chinook put his department in a difficult situation.
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“We went into (this process) with 25 percent fewer chinook in the allocation than last year,” Unsworth said. “There was a conservation need to protect Lake Washington wild fish, and we looked for something to do as whole, and that was to close (central Puget Sound).”
Unsworth did point out that despite the closure in Seattle’s backyard, there will be some great fishing for coho and pinks, and the fall/winter chinook fishery in central Puget Sound will still be maintained.
A news release by tribal co-managers said the new fishing seasons fairly share the burden of conserving weak wild salmon stocks while providing limited harvest opportunities.
“Cooperation on both sides helped to ensure that everyone will be able to fish this year,” said Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.
Tribal fishery managers said this year’s process for setting seasons was difficult because drought, low water levels and higher water temperatures harm salmon.
“Because of these conditions we may see an increase in pre-spawning mortality of salmon this year, which required the tribal and state co-managers to be extra cautious in setting seasons,” Loomis said.
Sport anglers will still be able to fish for salmon in central Puget Sound from July 1 through Sept. 30, with a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pinks, but must release all chinook.
In northern Puget Sound, the hatchery king fishery will be open July 16 through Aug. 15 with a daily limit of two salmon, plus two pinks. The chinook catch quota is 2,483, compared to 3,218 last year.
Still, summer anglers will have decent alternatives in Puget Sound, and especially off the coast and Columbia River.
“We should see a strong chinook run off the coast, and that will likely lead to a good fishery,” said Doug Milward, a state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon manager. “The coho return is strong as well, and while not as large as 2014, it will be another good summer of opportunity.”
The sport chinook catch quota is 64,000, up from 4,900 last year; and a coho quota of 150,800, about 34,000 less than last year.
The selective fishery for hatchery chinook will be open daily off Ilwaco and Westport from May 30 through June 12. La Push and Neah Bay will be open May 15-16 and May 22-23, and reopen daily May 30-June 12. The fisheries could close sooner if the coastwide quota of 10,000 is achieved. Daily limit is two salmon, and anglers must release coho and wild chinook.
The traditional ocean salmon fishery for chinook and hatchery coho will be open daily at Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay from June 13 through Sept. 30. Daily limit is two salmon, plus two pinks at La Push and Neah Bay. On the Columbia River, fishing should be good this summer and fall.
About 900,000 fall chinook are forecast to return to the Columbia, and would be the third largest run since 1938. The Columbia coho forecast is around 777,000, down from 964,000 last year.