HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
Anglers fishing coastal waters can expect a lower catch quota for chinook this year, but the coho quota is expected to be the same as last year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced last week. Also last week, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, approved three options for ocean salmon fisheries. All three options anticipate a lower abundance of Columbia River hatchery chinook in the ocean, but an increase in coho. Last year, PFMC adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 51,000 chinook and 69,720 coho salmon. What the quotas will be this year is still being considered.
The three options under consideration are 51,500 chinook and 75,600 coho, 41,500 chinook and 71,400 coho, and 30,000 chinook and 63,000 coho.
WDFW anticipates the lower Columbia River hatchery chinook run to be about 126,000 fish – 65,000 fewer than last year. The coho forecast is about 500.000 fish, an increase of 183,000 more coho than last year’s forecast. Phil Anderson, WDFW director, said “The abundance of lower Columbia chinook is forecasted to be down from last year, but the expected return should be strong enough to allow a quality chinook fishery in the ocean, while a higher abundance of Columbia River hatchery coho is forecasted this year, the quota will likely be similar to 2012. Columbia River coho also account for a significant portion of ocean catch.”
PFMC is expected to approve final harvest guidelines for this year’s recreational ocean fishery in early April. More details on the three options are at PFMC’s web site.
Sizing up shrimp fisheries
This year’s spot shrimp sport fishery is set to begin May 4 and is expected to run from one day to several weeks longer in some areas of Puget Sound. Also, 70 percent of the non-tribal spot shrimp harvest is now allocated to the sport fishery. In past years, the non-tribal harvest was divided approximately evenly between recreational and commercial fisheries. This year, recreational shrimp fishers will see a real difference in the length of seasons, particularly in the San Juan Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish manager. Spot shrimp, also known as prawns, are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound and may grow to nine inches in length.
In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers will be limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. In the San Juans, the fishery share will increase from 15 percent to 80 percent, and to accommodate the change, WDFW split Marine Area 7 North into two sub areas – 7 West and 7 Sout,–each with its own season. Both areas were open six days last year, but this year, it is expected they will be open 13 days, Childers said.
In Hood Canal, fishers will have five days to fish – up from four days last year. The area will open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 4, 8, 15, 18 and 22; Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 and 11 will open May 4 and May 8 from 7 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quotas remain after the initial fishing days.
250,000 new rainbow trout for lakes
WDFW will be stocking lakes in western Washington this month with more than 250,000 rainbow trout. Averaging 10 to 12 inches in length, the fish will be released into 47 year-round lakes in Pierce, Grays Harbor, Thurston, Mason, Kitsap, Island, King and Snohomish counties. The weekly trout stocking information is available on the department’s web site.
Two sturgeon per year
The state Fish and Wildlife Commission has changed the annual catch limit for white sturgeon to two fish per year in Washington waters beginning May 1. The previous rule was one fish per year. The commission also has kept in place a new rule that prohibits retention of white sturgeon by anglers in the lower Columbia, below Bonneville Dam, in coastal waters, Puget Sound and their tributaries beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Catch-and-release will be allowed in those areas.