HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is projecting this year’s salmon seasons will be better than last year. However, the department is hedging its bets by suggesting some runs will not be quite as good as last year.
Nothing new there, but there are some bright spots such as this year’s pink and coho salmon runs. About 6 million pinks and 880,000 coho are expected to invade Puget Sound this year, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational fishery manager for WDFW.
Approximately 1.2 million pinks are expected to return to the Puyallup River, 1.3 million to the Green River and 764,937 to the Nisqually River. The Nisqually and Deschutes River are expected to see a coho run size of 7,719 and 156 fish, respectively, and 38,888 coho are expected to return to the Squaxin Island area.
Lothrop said summer-fall chinook returns to Puget Sound are expected to total about 264,000 fish, which would be similar to the last few years. The Nisqually return is forecasted to be about 36,000 chinook, the Deschutes should see a return of 12,900 chinook, and the Puyallup 8,500.
Nearly 678,000fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this season, with about 80 percent being bright stocks of which a large portion are destined for areas above Bonneville Dam , including Hanford Reach and Snake River. Also, 501,000 coho are expected to return this year, which would be better than the five-year average and nearly three times as many fish as last year’s actual abundance.
Ron Warren, WDFW regional fisheries manager, said, ”For the second straight year, we are expecting a strong return of wild coho to many coastal streams, including the Queets, and Quillayute rivers, as well as into the Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. Last year, coho fishing started off slow – likely because of the lack of rain – but improved later in the season. If the weather cooperates this year and coho runs come in as forecasted, I expect fishing to be good throughout the entire season.”
The Pacific Fishery Management Council is expected to adopt final fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 6-11 meeting in Portland. The 2013 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters will be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the council’s April meeting.
Sturgeon rule takes effect May 1
Starting May 1, anglers will be limited to one white sturgeon per year in Washington waters. Starting Jan. 1, 2014, the new rule will also require anglers to release all white sturgeon in the lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam, the Washington coast, Puget Sound and their tributaries. However, catch–and-release fishing for sturgeon will be allowed in those areas. Also, the daily limit for channel catfish and the daily catch and size limits for bass and walleye in portions of the Columbia and Snake rivers and their tributaries have been removed.
In Marine areas 4-11 and 13 the daily catch limit for cabezon will be one fish May 1 through June 15. Also, it will be prohibited to retain cabezon measuring less than 18 inches.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the above rules and nearly 70 additional sport fishing rules during its March 1 public meeting in Moses Lake. Most new rules will take effect May 1. The commission also approved three land transactions. Summaries will be available on the department’s web site within the next two weeks.