Coastal fishing seasons tentatively set; similar numbers as 2023 season

Anglers in Washington can expect similar salmon fishing opportunities in 2024-2025 compared to last season, announced Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fishery managers.

The salmon fishing seasons were tentatively set Thursday at the week-long Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting held in Seattle.

“These salmon fishing seasons were crafted carefully to ensure conservation goals are achieved for salmon populations, especially those listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “We’ve worked carefully with treaty tribes to ensure there will be sustainable salmon fisheries and developed a fair number of fishing opportunities in Washington while protecting weaker salmon stocks.”

Continued low returns of some key Puget Sound Chinook salmon stocks are expected to limit some salmon fisheries in the upcoming season. They include the Nooksack, Skagit, Snohomish, and Stillaguamish rivers.

Negotiations between WDFW and tribes this year were guided in part by the Puget Sound Harvest Management Plan, which is expected to provide long-term fishery guidance for Puget Sound. In February of 2023, the National Marine Fisheries Service found that the plan was sufficient to proceed with a formal review.

“This year we had to make difficult decisions because of the limiting numbers of Quillayute coho, Nooksack spring Chinook, Stillaguamish Chinook, Snohomish Chinook, and Skagit summer/fall Chinook,” said Ed Johnstone, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission chairman. “Warming temperatures in oceans and natal streams are also an increasing threat to salmon populations. We know harvest management alone won’t recover salmon—we also have to restore habitat and continue to focus on hatchery production. We need more active partners, including our Canadian counterparts, to work together to ensure Washington’s salmon are here for the next seven generations.”

Season recommendations now move forward for approval by the National Marine Fisheries Service and final rule making, including additional opportunity for public comment and consideration of those comments.

Coastal fisheries

The ocean salmon fisheries reflect forecasts for Columbia River Chinook that are similar to 2023. The number of hatchery coho expected to return to the Columbia River is lower than 2023 but should provide good opportunities. WDFW fishery managers agreed during this week’s PFMC meeting to recreational ocean quotas of 41,000 Chinook and 79,800 marked coho.

Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco), Marine Area 3 (La Push), and Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) will open for salmon retention beginning June 22. 

Marine Area 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores) opens June 30-July 11 on Sundays through Thursdays only, and then open daily beginning July 14. 

Marine Areas 2, 3, and 4 are scheduled to remain open until Sept. 15 or until quotas are met. Marine Area 1 is scheduled to remain open until Sept. 30 or until quotas are met. Species and size restrictions are dependent on the area.

Puget Sound

“Low abundance of several Puget Sound Chinook stocks continues to limit fisheries this year,” said Kyle Adicks, intergovernmental salmon manager with WDFW. “We work with the public every year to plan fisheries that meet all of our conservation objectives while providing fishing opportunity for marine and freshwater anglers.”

WDFW fishery managers aligned several Puget Sound marine area summer Chinook fisheries to begin on the same date to spread out fishing pressure. In Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet), Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Area), and Marine Area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island), the hatchery Chinook fishery is open Thursdays to Saturdays only beginning July 18 with area-specific catch guidelines. Marine Area 11 is open Wednesdays to Saturdays only from June 5-30 with area-specific catch guidelines.

In Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point) and Marine Area 6 (East Strait of Juan de Fuca) opens daily beginning July 1 for hatchery summer Chinook with specific catch quotas. In all marine area summer fisheries, WDFW will analyze the weekly fishery data collected via test fishing and creel sampling throughout the season.

For coho, the Puget Sound hatchery and wild forecasts have generally seen improvements in recent years to provide additional opportunities. In Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point) and Marine Area 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), coho fishing remains open during August and September with non-selective opportunities beginning Sept. 27 to Oct. 15 with an increased daily limit of two coho. In Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), hatchery coho is open during the July Chinook fishery and starting seven days a week in August. Non-selective coho opportunity runs from Sept. 1-29 with a daily limit increase of two coho.

The overall Puget Sound chum salmon population has seen an improvement compared to the past couple of years. WDFW has Puget Sound chum salmon recreational fishing opportunities in Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Areas) and Marine Area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) from Oct. 1 through Nov. 15. Any proposed chum fishing in Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound) will be based on in-season management.

The 2024 sockeye forecast for the Baker River is 56,750 – more than 65,000 returned in 2023 – and the harvest split on sockeye for Baker Lake and the Skagit River is 75/25 percent respectively. The Skagit River from Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Bridge to the Dalles Bridge at Concrete opens for sockeye June 16 through July 15 with a four sockeye only daily limit. Baker Lake is open is July 6 through Aug. 31 with a four-sockeye daily limit. Fishing opens July 6 regardless of the number of sockeye present in the lake.

Columbia River

Summer Chinook salmon fisheries on the Columbia River are expected to have fewer retention opportunities than 2023, with fishing planned to be open June 16-19 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Bonneville Dam. Bonneville Dam to Priest Rapids Dam will open June 16-30, and closed to retention thereafter. Sockeye retention is expected to be allowed in the daily salmonid bag limit from June 16-July 31 for waters downstream of Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco.

Fall fisheries from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco are planned for an Aug. 1 opener, with different dates by area for Chinook and coho. This includes steelhead restrictions throughout the river. The coho run size is expected to be lower than in recent years but should provide similar fishing opportunities. The Chinook run size is less than last year’s return but is still expected to provide good fishing opportunities.

The 2024 Columbia River sockeye forecast of 401,700 is up 16% over the recent 10-year average. The Okanogan River sockeye forecast of 288,700 is up from 187,400 and an actual return of 179,655 in 2023.

The Lake Wenatchee sockeye salmon forecast is 97,000 up from a 44,300 forecast in 2023 and the actual return was 146,875. The management objective is 23,000 sockeye at Tumwater Dam. The lake could provide a late-summer sport fishery if the objective is met.

Additional information

While in-river fisheries are also tentatively set, WDFW fishery managers say that they are concerned over the current low mountain snowpack, which brings the potential for drought conditions, high water temperatures, and low water level issues in rivers. These conditions could impact freshwater sport fisheries and salmon migration in late summer and early fall timeframe. Winter flooding also has the potential for impacts on future salmon runs.

WDFW will monitor impacts and may need to adopt in-season management changes to address these conditions.

For salmon season setting process materials and video presentations from all the meetings, refer to the NOF public meeting webpage. Visit our WDFW North of Falcon FAQs and Glossary Information for helpful key terms and suggested resources. For information about the science behind salmon season-setting in Washington, watch “Sound Management: Conserving Pacific Northwest salmon through cooperation” on the WDFW’s YouTube channel.

Additional details about this year’s sport salmon fisheries and the North of Falcon process can be found on WDFW’s website. Visit the WDFW webpage to see statewide fishing regulations and download the latest fishing rules pamphlet, and for emergency rule changes that may impact fisheries, go to the WDFW webpage. For information on tribal fisheries, visit the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission website.