Washington's 2014 salmon seasons were figuratively set in stone with the final gavel of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council's annual salmon season-setting session Thursday, April 10.
State and tribal negotiators sealed a comprehensive catch-sharing agreement that together with PFMC action on the federal offshore (from 3 to 200 miles out) salmon fishery set the stage for harvesting salmon in Washington waters and off the coast over the next nine months.
The suite treaty and non-treaty sport and commercial fisheries springing from this effort includes restrictions or limitations on each designed to minimize impacts to federally listed salmon stocks governed by NOAA Fisheries mandates.
The annual nine-week process that leads to the setting of salmon seasons, including the so-called North of Falcon Process, culminated in these binding agreements out of which state and tribal authorities will announce the metes and bounds of seasons for fishers under their respective jurisdictions.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will announce a fully detailed slate of personal use recreational fisheries in time for the May 1 transition to new regulations for marine and freshwaters.
Concurrently, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission after consultation with its constitutent tribes will publish and present an agreed-upon-fisheries document collectively detailing the various Puget Sound, terminal area and in-river ceremonial/subsistence and commercial fisheries for treaty fishers.
WDFW officials say they will first post the full set of freshwater and marine regulations in e-form for the upcoming seasons detailing opening dates, bag limits and restrictions on each on its websites in a couple of weeks, according to Thursday's announcement.
The 2014-15 angling year regulations take effect May 1, and unless some unexpected issue crops up, the usual hardcopy pamphlet version should be on hunting and fishing license counters immediately before that date.
Both state and tribal negotiators say that anglers should expect some changes in this year's fisheries due to the continued weak performance of Puget Sound chinook stocks.
They do, however, point to some bright spots in the non-pink salmon return year to which anglers will be able to look forward, including what's termed a strong showing of Baker and Fraser river sockeye salmon.
From the portion of the Fraser's expected 23-million red bounty coursing through Washington waters, marine area 5-7 anglers will be able to keep a bonus of two reds during the summer months in addition to their basic daily catch of two saltwater-caught salmon.
The Baker's red run also is strong enough to allow for a daily take of sockeye from both a section of the lower Skagit as well as up in Baker Lake.
Whatcom County fishers also can count on the largesse of Samish Hatchery fall chinook returns enabling an in-river fishery for fin-clipped kings in the Nooksack and a Bellingham Bay terminal area opportunity as well.
Also slated to be in the books for upper Skagit River hook and liners again this year will be a hatchery spring king option probably starting in June.
Coho runs, predominately hatchery-origin in the Nooksack and wild in the Skagit, will provide additional fall quarry for anglers in both streams.
However, there will be a differential approach in those two rivers for similarly-timed chum salmon returns.
The Skagit's lagging run of dogs will be off the keeper list, while the more abundant Nooksack chums may be retained by fishers if they so desire.
Off the Washington Coast in 2014, hook and line fishers will enjoy an 11,000-fish increase in their chinook allocation from last year's catch cap.
The coast-wide catch quota for kings will be 59,100 fish with the concurrent fishery for coho working on a catch cap of 184,800 silvers. Selective fisheries for salmon in certain coastal waters will begin in May.
Columbia River second half (July-December) seasons for chinook, hatchery coho and sockeye also are planned and there will be a sturgeon retention fishery above Bonneville Dam in June.
PSA GUESTS TALKS ABOUT NOOTKA FISHING
Halibut, chinook salmon, coho salmon and now albacore tuna - there's a lot for anglers to like in the waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
John and Cathy Falavolito, owners of Westview Marina at Tahsis, B.C., will discuss this array of angling options open to anglers in their home fjords and ocean bay waters at the Wednesday, April 16, evening meeting of the Bellingham Chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers.
While salmon and halibut have been the mainstays of the in-shore westside personal use and charter fishery for decades, there's been a surge in the interest in catching temporate water tuna found in strong numbers further off shore.
Salmon migrations off the west coast of Vancouver Island are expected to be quite good this year, and the Falavolitos can provide answers for a lot of first-timer questions
To do a little previewing for Falavolito's visit, got to www.westviewmarina.com.
You don't need to be a member to attend Bellingham PSA meetings and they would welcome your further participation in preparations for this July's chapter salmon derby.
The group gathers about 6:30 p.m. for dinner before its business meeting and the guest speaker presentation at 7 p.m. at Nicki's Bella Marina Restaurant at Squalicum Harbor's old boat basin accessed via Coho Way and Harbor Loop Drive off Roeder Avenue.
For more about Bellingham Puget Sound Anglers log on to www.bellinghampsa.com/index.htm or call Chapter President Gene Gilbertson at 360-543-9079.
COLUMBIA SPRING KING FISHERY EXTENDED
Washington and Oregon conferees agreed to an extension of this spring's lower Columbia River personal use fishery for early kings Monday, April 7 to Monday, April 14.
In this scenario, managers also included a one-day sport closure set for Tuesday, April 8, to allow commercial nets to be briefly set.
Evaluations of sport catch data to date found the hook and line fishery is well behind the project catch rate that was cause for the previous closure date. The catch total as of April 7 was expected to have been 12,000, but estimates are that anglers actually have landed only 3,000 chinook.
Higher, muddier-than-usual flows are blamed for the lack-luster angling result, but with water conditions getting better, they expect catch efforts and encounter rates to increase.
During the extension, the daily bag limit is one hatchery chinook (adipose fin-clipped), also shad may be kept, as can hatchery steelhead. If the catch allocation of early kings is not taken in this new six-day stretch and the run strength is as forecast, managers say there will be another opening later in this spring.
Wild kings and steelhead possessing an intake adipose fin must be released unharmed without being removed from the water.
This fishery rule applies to Columbia waters from Buoy 10 upstream to Beacon rock allowing both bank and boat fishing. Bank anglers also may ply the Columbia reach from Beacon Rock upstream to the closure zone line below Bonneville Dam.
Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald's outdoors correspondent, since 1983, has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at bellinghamherald.com/outdoors-blog/.