Sans pinks, coho and kings will be angler main course

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 8, 2014 

Being that it's an even year, Puget Sound pink salmon won't be an option for anglers, but if state/tribal 2014 salmon run forecasts are accurate, they'll likely not be missed by most fishers.

Prodigious runs of humpies are an odd-year phenomenon here, except in the Snohomish River.

Overall, even year returns of coho and chinook, largely of hatchery origin, are expected to be the banner salmon runs coming back to Puget Sound river systems this summer and fall, according to state fisheries managers, who released their predictions at a Monday, March 3, presentation in Olympia.

The annual salmon run forecast presentation kicks off the public outreach and deliberative salmon fishing seasons-setting process that will lead to agreements on protective measures for salmon species and catch sharing plans that will enable state and treaty tribes to set salmon openings and other regulations for their respective constituents. Tying in with the state tribal effort is a concurrent catch and conservation initiative shepherded by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which will set salmon catch allocations in federal waters from three to 200 miles offshore.

Other positive elements in these annualized predictions for salmon runs are an expected fishable return of Baker River sockeye as well as a large contingent of Columbia River chinook.

On the down side of this year's salmon run ledger, according to pre-season calculations, continues to be the South Fork Nooksack's native spring chinook, which are expected to number just 98 fish.

Lake Washington's sockeye run also is expected to come in far below numbers necessary for allowing that popular fishery.

COHO SALMON

Anglers will have a smaller overall return of silvers coming back to Puget Sound this fall. The combined return to inland waters is expected to be 872,848 coho, which will include about 440,549 wild or natural-origin adults.

Nooksack River: Some 42,847 cultured-origin adults are expected to return this fall, up from 29,804 last year. Another 16,625 adults should return to Lummi Nation's sea pond program. The Nooksack's predicted wild coho return is 15,519 fish, down almost 10,000 from last year. In recent years, natural-origin or wild coho returns have been in the 6,000-8,000 range. It's likely that anglers will be allowed to keep wild fish this year.

Skagit River: Wild coho will again constitute close to 90 percent of the 2014 overall silver return to the Skagit, with the hatchery component of the run - 15,805 fish - coming back mainly to the state's Marblemount facility.

Other Puget Sound rivers: The Snohomish system coho returns are expected to top 228,192. From Seattle south, Lake Washington and lower sound fisheries are expected to be working on an anticipated run of 451,298 coho, up several thousand from 2013 numbers.

CHUM SALMON

North Sound river fall stock chum runs at 163,889 will again lag substantially behind the 908,278-fish strong dog salmon returns bound for Hood Canal and central and south Sound streams or hatcheries. The northern runs are mainly wild, while south Sound runs are predominantly hatchery produced.

Nooksack/Samish rivers: The 2014 forecast is for 59,908 wild or natural-origin fish bound mainly for the North Fork Nooksack, while another 6,518 hatchery-origin adults are expected. The Nooksack wild fish escapement goal, which feeds bald eagles, is 18,000 fish.

Skagit River: A dog salmon run of 16,505 fall chums is expected. Anglers will certainly see a ban on the retention of Skagit dogs yet again.

CHINOOK SALMON

While most Puget Sound chinook runs that reach fresh water are deemed off-limits to sport fishers, one recently added spring chinook fishery and an opportunity for fall stock kings are still likely to occur in 2014.

An expected return of 2,756 hatchery-origin spring chinook to Marblemount Hatchery this summer will probably enable the up-river June hook and line option to again take place.

The wild component of the Skagit-bound early kings heading to spawning grounds above Marblemount, as well as the Cascade, Sauk and Suiattle rivers, is pegged to be just 1,477 fish, up from last year.

The healthiest of the Skagit's five stocks, its lower river fall stock Chinook, are expected to return at 18,338 fish, below its numbers 20 years ago.

Fall stock chinook salmon returning to the Nooksack/Samish complex are expected to number 43,890. That likely will allow for a recreational fishery both in Samish and Nooksack bays, as well as a fishery in the lower Samish River, though that fishery continues to be under scrutiny because of trespassing and other unruly behavior.

SOCKEYE SALMON

A forecast return of 35,377 reds to the Baker system will allow managers to split the harvestable surplus between tribal netters and sport anglers, with the summer option likely to occur in Baker Lake and possibly in the river as well.

The Cedar River 2014 sockeye forecast of 166,997 fish is less than half the escapement goal. Therefore managers are not planning for a summer Lake Washington sport fishery.

With 345,900 sockeye expected to return to Lake Wenatchee and the Okanogan River, there is a possibility of a recreational fishery this summer on the Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam. The Wenatchee River stock must have an escapement of 27,000 reds to allow a fishery. The forecast is for 63,400 fish.

Large returns of Fraser River sockeye salmon also may prompt Washington managers to add a red salmon bonus to saltwater personal use salmon daily bag limits.

ON-LINE SALMON SEASON SOURCES

For the complete salmon run forecasts, more season-setting background information and pertinent details on the public meeting schedule, visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's North of Falcon website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Salmon quotas for waters off Washington's coast under federal jurisdiction will be set by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council in early April.

On May 1, Washington's 2014 fishing regulations, including the summer and fall fresh- and salt-water opportunities, will take effect.

Doug Huddle is the Bellingham Herald's outdoors correspondent. His weekly fishing and hunting column appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at bellinghamherald.com/outdoors-blog/.

2014 NORTH OF FALCON MEETINGS

With the state/tribal salmon run forecasts now public, the 2014 salmon seasons setting process shifts to the public outreach and participation stage with a full slate of meetings set to hammer out protections for federally listed runs, state/tribal catch-sharing agreements and fishing opportunities stemming from those accords.

The closest meetings to Whatcom County will be held March 22 at the WDFW Mill Creek Office and April 1 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites Hotel. A complete list of meetings is available online with this story at BellinghamHerald.com/outdoors.

Salmon Forecasts and Fishing Opportunities

When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, March 3

Where: Natural Resources Building (1111 Washington St. S.E. Olympia), room 172

Fishery management objectives and preliminary fishing opportunities for 2014 are discussed.

2014 Pacific Fishery Management Council

When: March 8-13

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Sacramento (Calif.)

The PFMC panel adopts a range of ocean fishery options, including catch quotas for sport and commercial fisheries.

Grays Harbor Salmon Advisory Group Meeting

When: 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Friday, March 14

Where: WDFW's Montesano office (48 Devonshire Road)

Public discussion of Grays Harbor salmon forecasts and fishing opportunities.

Columbia River Fisheries

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 17

Where: Vancouver Water Resources Education Center (4600 Southeast Columbia Way, Vancouver, Wash.)

Regional discussion of management objectives and preliminary options for Columbia River fall commercial and sport fisheries.

North of Falcon Meeting

When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. March 19

Where: Natural Resources Building, room 172

Discussion of management objectives and preliminary fishery proposals for Puget Sound, coastal Washington and Columbia River area sport and commercial fisheries.

Grays Harbor Fisheries

When: 6-8 p.m. March 19

Where: Montesano City Hall (112 North Main Street)

Regional discussion of Grays Harbor salmon forecasts and fishing opportunities.

Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries

When: 6-8 p.m. March 20

Where: Sequim Trinity Methodist Church (100 South Blake Ave.)

Regional discussion of pre-season forecasts and possible salmon fisheries.

Willapa Bay Salmon Advisory Group Meeting

When: 6-9 p.m. March 21

Where: Montesano Timberland Library (125 South Main St.)

Regional discussion of Willapa Bay salmon forecasts and fishing opportunities.

Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries

When: 6-8 p.m. March 22

Where: WDFW Mill Creek Office (16018 Mill Creek Blvd.)

Regional discussion of pre-season forecasts and possible salmon fisheries.

Public Hearing on Ocean Salmon Management Options

When: 7 p.m. March 24

Where: Chateau Westport (710 West Hancock, Westport)

Public hearing by the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council, to receive comments on the proposed ocean salmon fishery management options adopted by the council during its March meeting.

Willapa Bay Fisheries

When: 6-8 p.m. March 25

Where: Raymond Elks Lodge (326 Third Street)

Regional discussion of Willapa Bay salmon forecasts and fishing opportunities.

Pre-season Columbia Basin salmon forecasts and fishery outlook

When: 6-9 p.m. March 26

Where: Walla Walla Community College main lecture hall (1470 Bridge St., Clarkston)

Regional discussion of potential recreational and commercial salmon fisheries statewide.

South Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries

When: 6-8 p.m. March 26

Where: Natural Resources Building (1111 Washington St. S.E. Olympia), room 172

Regional discussion of pre-season forecasts and possible salmon fisheries in Hood Canal and south Puget Sound marine areas and rivers.

Pre-season Columbia Basin salmon forecasts and fishery outlook

When: 6-8 p.m. March 27

Where: Benton PUD (2721 West 10th Ave. Kennewick)

Regional discussion of potential recreational and commercial salmon fisheries statewide.

North of Falcon Meeting on Puget Sound

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 1

Where: Lynnwood Embassy Suites Hotel (20610 44th Ave. West)

Public meeting to present results of state-tribal negotiations and analyses of preliminary fishery proposals. With public participation, preferred options are developed for Puget Sound sport and commercial fisheries.

North of Falcon Meeting on Columbia River and Ocean discussion

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 3

Where: Natural Resources Building (1111 Washington St. S.E. Olympia), room 172

Public meeting to present results of state-tribal negotiations and analyses of Ocean and Columbia River fisheries proposals. With public participation, preferred seasons are developed for Ocean and Columbia River area sport and commercial fisheries.

Final Grays Harbor/Willapa Bay Fisheries

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Natural Resources Building (1111 Washington St. S.E. Olympia), room 172

Public meeting to reach final agreement on sport and commercial salmon seasons for Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay.

Final Pacific Fishery Management Council

When: April 5-10

Where: Hilton Vancouver, Wash. (301 W. Sixth Street)

PFMC adopts final ocean fisheries regulations and state-tribal fishing plans are finalized for all inside area commercial and sport salmon fisheries.

HATCHERY STEELHEAD REPORTS

As of Thursday, Feb. 20 coastal river system hatcheries have reported the following hatchery winter steelhead returns and egg-takes. The deadline for obtaining adult fish to spawn was Friday, Jan. 31. For reference there are comparisons to last year's escapements in the same time-frame.

Dungeness Hatchery (Dungeness River): 15 adults with 13,500 as of Thursday, Jan. 30. Same time last year: 58 adults and 43,000 eggs taken.

Bogachiel Hatchery (Bogachiel River): 880 adults with 316,400 eggs taken. Same time last year: 2,311 adults and 306,000 eggs taken.

Humptulips Hatchery (Humptulips River): 529 adults with 225,920 eggs taken. Same time last year: 395 adults and 229,750 eggs taken.

Forks Creek Hatchery (Willapa River): 358 adults with 204,000 eggs taken as of Tuesday, Jan. 21. Same time last year: 663 adults and 200,000 eggs taken.

Cowlitz Hatchery (Cowlitz River): 643 adults with no eggs taken. Same time last year: 878 adults, no eggs taken.

Merwin Hatchery (Lewis River): 96 adults with 86,200 eggs taken. Same time last year: 264 adults and 148,000 eggs taken.

Skamania Hatchery (Skamania River): 253 adults with 212,800 eggs taken. Same time last year: 228 adults and 231,000 eggs taken.

Wild steelhead retention began Feb. 16 in eight north coast river systems as hatchery runs wind down.

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