Outdoors

Days off meant to extend Area 7 blackmouth fishing

Washington’s most-northern inland waters in and around the San Juan Islands, known as Marine Area 7, are now open to salmon fishing only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Washington’s most-northern inland waters in and around the San Juan Islands, known as Marine Area 7, are now open to salmon fishing only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

An order issued by the state fish and wildlife department on Tuesday, Jan. 27, closed the sport fishing management zone Mondays through Thursdays until further notice.

State fishery managers say that as of the date the emergency regulation was announced, projected cumulative angler encounters with chinook salmon (the number of blackmouth or kings saltwater fishers had kept and/or released since October) in Area 7 were 120 percent of the pre-season guideline of 7,775 set for the zone.

The state fish and wildlife department is compelled under terms of its annual ESA permit, issued by NOAA Fisheries that sanctions this fishery, to monitor closely and make running (real-time) estimates through the course of the season of the number of chinook (among them wild or unmarked fish) that sport anglers bring to hand.

Native Puget Sound and Columbia River chinook stocks are protected under federal and state ESA laws. In the winter season in Marine Area 7 and most other open areas, personal use (sport) fishers are required to release all non-marked or wild chinook alive and unharmed. They may retain hatchery-origin fish identified by their missing or clipped off adipose fin up to daily bag limit.

It’s assumed, based on objective studies, that a percentage of the released wild fish die, inadvertently or incidentally, but die nonetheless. By federal management rule those mortalities or losses may not exceed a small set percentage in any given year of the protected stocks’ overall abundances. This is to ensure the protected salmon stocks stay on the road to recovery.

To keep this winter’s selective fishery for chinook in this zone open as long as possible toward its programmed end of April closing, state managers first lowered the daily bag limit (first week in January) and now have reduced the fishing days per week and made another decision based on the exigencies of the situation.

Anglers here with the hot hand, or in this case fishing rods, are now essentially playing on someone else’s “takes” in that state fishery officials, by management prerogative, are allowing the Marine Area 7 season to go on but are applying its ever-accumulating encounters to the overall allowable Puget Sound total.

San Juan waters anglers may have maxed out, and then some, this season’s 7,775 allowable retain/release decisions, but the overall Puget Sound sport fishery chinook encounter total, as of Jan. 25, was just 49 percent (15,625 of 31,813) of this year’s allowable interactions for the up to seven-month long period.

Winter blackmouth season openings in each marine management zone already vary in length in an effort to modulate angler interaction rates.

Since Marine Area 7 has the greatest activity and demonstrated angler success while winter salmon fishing in other Puget Sound zones has lagged, managers decided to adjust the management equation to keep the hot area’s season going.

Scheduled by permanent regulation to close April 30, it is likely that Area 7’s blackmouth fishery will still end prematurely due to its relative success this year. This is especially possible if angler/chinook introductions increase in any or all of the other Puget Sound management zones covered by the over-arching encounter guideline.

Going forward saltwater anglers bound for local waters from the Strait of Georgia south to the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca are strongly advised to check the department’s emergency regulations Web page each day before setting out to fish.

Mondays through Thursdays winter saltwater salmon seekers here 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, marine anglers may continue to fish for and retain forage (bait), bottom and game-fish species in Marine Area 7, for which other seasons are currently open. However, highly sought species such as halibut, lingcod, rockfish and cabezon may not be fished for or retained if brought to hand, since their harvest periods are closed.

ALL-FALL HUNT PERMIT LOTTERY TAKING NAMES

We’re at the halfway point in the longest drawing application period would-be Washington hunters have in which to seek a special permit.

At stake are 8,500 deer and 1,000 elk multi-season permits that will enable their bearers to pursue quarry this fall, under the applicable hunting rules of the day, from the first of September to end of December.

The four-month entry period for this drawing runs from December through March and hunters need buy only the $7.10 multi-season permit applications for one, the other or both species. It’s not necessary to buy a basic deer or elk hunting license and transport ahead of this submission.

While this permit does not increase annual deer and elk bag limits (the Washington rule is still one animal of each species) for the basic licensed hunter, it does enable a holder to transition by changing out his or her weaponry from one season opportunity (archery, muzzleloader or modern firearms) to the next.

Hunters are limited to exercising their permits and tags in units open at any given time for the individual weapon types and they must abide by all other rules governing those hunts.

These permits are not a substitute for a regular Washington deer and/or elk license and tag, which must eventually be purchased and they carry a price tag in and of themselves. The deer multi-season chit costs an extra $139.10, while the elk hunt extender adds $182 to the overall license bill.

This lottery has provisions for partnerships of up to two hunters who each must apply under a group designation.

Preference points, which affect the selection process, accrue at the rate of one per drawing if you are not chosen, but they can also be earned without actually being in contention for a permit by using a special hunt choice or ‘ghost’ number on the application.

Another perk attached to the elk multi-season permit is the ability to hunt both sides of the state. Under terms of a basic Washington elk tag, normally hunters may hunt on one or the other side of the Cascade Mountains but not the other.

The drawing takes place in April, with results posted on the department’s Web site. Winners will get a snail mail heads-up and have until the first of September to buy their permit. If they already bought a general season tag it must be surrendered.

There are three ways to buy this drawing application: over the counter at a hunting license dealer, on line at the department’s license buying Web portal or via a telephone.

For the numbers, visit the department’s Webpage at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/permits/ or see page 84 of Washington’s 2014 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet.

Also underway is the application period for Washington spring bear permits while the main controlled or special hunt permit drawing entries may be submitted starting in late April.

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