Marine Area 7, Washington's most-northern inland waters including those in and around the San Juan Islands, will close to salmon fishing Thursday, Jan. 29.
Thereafter salmon angling in the sport fishing management zone off Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan counties will resume on a three-day a week schedule _ Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only. It will be closed to the taking of salmon Mondays through Thursdays.
As of Tuesday, Jan. 27, when this emergency order was announced, the projected angler encounter rate for chinook salmon (the number of blackmouth or kings anglers had kept and/or released since October) was 120 percent of the pre-season guideline of 7,775 set for Area 7.
Native Puget Sound chinook stocks are protected under federal and state ESA laws. In the winter season, personal use anglers are required to release all non-marked chinook alive and unharmed, but may retain hatchery-origin fish identified by their missing or clipped off adipose fin.
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To keep the selective fishery for chinook open as long as possible toward its normal end of April closing managers first lowered the daily bag limit (end of December) and now have reduced fishing days per week and have assigned the angler encounter overage to the Puget Sound total.
It is highly likely that Area 7's blackmouth fishery will end prematurely due to its relative success this year. So going forward saltwater anglers are strongly advised check the department's emergency regulations Web page each day before setting out to fish.
Mondays through Thursdays saltwater anglers seeking salmon may fish adjacent waters including marine areas 6, 8.1, 8.2 and 9 that remain open seven days a week, but encounters they have in those waters are likely to effect the duration Area 7's season.
Also, anglers may continue to fish for and retain forage (bait), bottom and game-fish species in Marine Area 7, for which seasons are currently open. Popular species such as halibut, lingcod, rockfish and cabezon may not be fished for or retained if brought to hand.