OLYMPIA – Despite a strong projected coho return to the state’s ocean waters, this year’s Washington salmon seasons largely reflect continued low runs of some wild Chinook and coho stocks, especially in Puget Sound, state fishery managers announced yesterday.
The state’s 2021-22 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers, were tentatively set Thursday at the end of a week-long Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting held via webinar.
“These are difficult times for salmon in Washington, which means it’s also a difficult time for fishing,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “Fortunately, there should still be some good opportunities available to anglers throughout the state. We’ll be monitoring returns closely to make sure we’re staying within our conservation objectives, and modify fisheries as needed.”
Managers made a late push Thursday to reach final consensus on potential fisheries for Queets River and Grays Harbor coho while staying within conservation objectives established under the Pacific Salmon Treaty, which pushed the PFMC meeting past its original adjournment time.
Season recommendations now move forward for approval by the National Marine Fisheries Service and final rulemaking, including additional opportunity for public comment and consideration of those comments.
Continued low returns of Stillaguamish Chinook and Snohomish coho, as well as Skagit spring and Skagit summer/fall Chinook, will again impact fishing in several Puget Sound marine areas. Winter salmon fishing will again be mostly closed in East Juan De Fuca Strait (Marine Area 6), the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7), Deception Pass and Port Gardner (areas 8-1 and 8-2), Admiralty Inlet (Marine Area 9), and Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), with some limited hatchery Chinook retention opportunity available in Marine Area 11 in November and December.
“Setting seasons for Puget Sound is always a challenge, with a few stocks that can restrict fishing throughout the area depending on the time of year,” said Kyle Adicks, intergovernmental salmon manager with WDFW. “We worked very hard this year to preserve fishing opportunity where we could, while recognizing that conservation concerns will always impact everything we do.”
Those conservation concerns include strict protections for Stillaguamish and Skagit fish, which are expected to reduce catch quotas for summer fisheries in Marine Areas 7 and 9. There will be no salmon fishing in the Stillaguamish River in 2021, and instead there will be a game fish fishery.
Most Puget Sound marine areas will once again open for the summer season beginning in July or August, with mid-June openers currently planned for areas 10 and 11.
The 2021-22 season also includes the return of pink salmon to Puget Sound; pink salmon will be part of the two-salmon daily limit in all marine areas, and many river systems have bonus daily limits of pinks depending on the expected return.
Many Columbia River fisheries are expected to offer expanded opportunity compared to 2020, beginning with an opportunity to retain sockeye and hatchery Chinook from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Highway 395 in Pasco starting in mid-June.
The lower river from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco is planned for an Aug. 1 opening for both Chinook and coho; Buoy 10 didn’t open until Aug. 14 last year. A strong coho forecast and increased Chinook run size should provide for good fishing opportunities.
Washington’s ocean waters
Initial ocean fisheries reflect increased coho quotas due to significantly higher projected returns of Columbia River coho in 2021; however, low projections for Washington coastal coho limited quotas there, particularly on the north coast.
All four of Washington’s marine areas are scheduled to open June 19 for a Chinook-only fishery, then transition to a Chinook and coho fishery beginning June 27 in Westport and Ilwaco, and beginning July 4 in Neah Bay and La Push. Daily limits and days of the week open to salmon fishing vary between areas.
Additional information about this year’s sport salmon fisheries and the North of Falcon process can be found on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/nof. Visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations to see statewide fishing regulations and download the latest fishing rules pamphlet, and https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ for emergency rule changes that may impact fisheries.
For information on tribal fisheries, contact the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (http://nwifc.org).
WDFW continues to ask anglers to practice responsible recreation amid continued concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington, and to check for potential restrictions/closures at their preferred destination before heading out.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish, wildlife, and recreational and commercial opportunities.