Thursday, July 31, 2014

Anglers fishing along the Washington coast will likely see a lower catch quota for chinook salmon this year, while the quota for coho is expected to be similar to last season, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

Three options for ocean salmon fisheries approved today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) anticipate a lower abundance of lower Columbia River hatchery chinook in the ocean, but an increase in Columbia River hatchery coho. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

The three options establish a framework for developing fishing opportunities on healthy wild and hatchery stocks while meeting conservation goals for weak salmon populations, said Phil Anderson, WDFW director.

"The abundance of lower Columbia River chinook is forecast to be down from last year, but the expected return should be st rong enough to allow for another quality chinook fishery in the ocean," said Anderson. "While a higher abundance of Columbia River hatchery coho is forecast this year, the quota will likely be similar to 2012 because of the need to meet conservation objectives for naturally spawning stocks."

Anderson, who represents WDFW on the management council, said two of the three options include recreational mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook in June for the fourth straight year. Mark-selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, but require that they release wild salmon. Hatchery fish are marked for identification with a missing adipose fin.

The options also include allowing hatchery chinook retention in the LaPush and Neah Bay areas during short halibut openings in May.

About 126,000 lower Columbia River hatchery chinook are expected back this season, about 65,000 fewer fish than anticipated last year. Those salmon, known as "tules," are the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

The abundance of Columbia River coho is forecast to be about 500,000 fish, about 183,000 more fish than last year's forecast. Columbia River coho also account for a significant portion of the ocean catch.

The PFMC is expected to approve final harvest guidelines for this year's recreational ocean fishery in early April. The three options announced today establish parameters for state and tribal fishery managers in designing this year's fishing seasons.  The recreational fishing options are:

Option 1 – 51,500 chinook and 75,600 coho.Option 2 – 41,500 chinook and 71,400 coho.Option 3 – 30,000 chinook and 63,000 coho.

The PFMC last year adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 51,500 chinook and 69,720 coho salmon.

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