The anxiously awaited 2015 run-size forecasts assembled by state and treaty tribe biologists for Washington’s myriad wild and hatchery salmon stocks were released Monday, Mar. 2 in Olympia.
This “reveal” initiates the roughly 45-day annual state, tribal and federal salmon fishing season-setting evolution for Washington inland and freshwaters waters known as North of Falcon in which the public may participate.
Of key interest to Nooksack and Skagit hook and line fishers are predictions for pink salmon returns to their favorite inland waters streams detailed in these forecasts.
By virtue of their relative return numbers in the fall of 2013 and fair incubation conditions that winter, this summer 268,979 wild humpies are expected to storm the muddy waters of the Nooksack.
The Skagit’s pink salmon bonanza is forecast to top a half million while the Snohomish should host 1.6 million of the diminutive salmon.
The Nooksack’s anticipated return is five times of the target escapement goal assuring there will be an in-river personal use fishery, but it’s likely to be attenuated or delayed in its start to protect a very small run of South Fork native (both cultured and wild) chinook.
The annual assemblage of run-size forecasts also set benchmarks for returns of wild and hatchery components for chinook, coho, chum and sockeye salmon in Puget Sound.
Once the estimates for 2015’s available salmon are put down on paper, a spate of meetings for briefings, discussions and negotiations begin that lead to finalization of treaty commercial, ceremonial and subsistence, non-treaty commercial and personal use (sport) fisheries set for various times and waters throughout the summer, fall and into winter.
When finalized by conferees these opportunities will be made public after their acceptance at the Pacific Fisheries Management Councils gathering in late April.
The state regulations describing the non-treaty personal use (sport) fisheries take on the force of law May 1.
THE MAJOR MEETINGS
As mentioned the salmon run prognostications are the precursor to a string of meetings that the public may attend to take in the deliberations. Among topics on the table or revisited are the run-size estimates, ocean fisheries quota options, fishery impacts and the application of federal wild stock protection mandates as well as proposals for possible fishing season scenarios.
Others of these gatherings have just a regional focus, are informational in nature and allow for some input.
But there are five formal plenary gatherings at both the state and federal level public that are key to the process and they occur as follows:
• March 7-12: Pacific Fishery Management Council Meeting at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth Street, Vancouver, WA. The PFMC adopts a range of ocean fishery options, including catch quotas for sport and commercial fisheries.
• March 18: First North of Falcon Meeting, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Office Building 2 Auditorium, 1115 Washington Street SE, Olympia. Parking is available in the visitor lot of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. SE. Discussion of management objectives and preliminary fishery proposals for Puget Sound, coastal Washington and Columbia River area sport and commercial fisheries.
• March 30: Public Hearing on Ocean Salmon Management Options, 6 p.m., Location in Westport to be determined. Public hearing, sponsored by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, to receive comments on the proposed ocean salmon fishery management options adopted by the council during its early March meeting.
• April 1: North of Falcon Meeting, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Embassy Suites Hotel, 20610 44th Avenue West, Lynnwood. 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.
• April 11-16: Final Pacific Fishery Management Council Meeting, Double Tree Hilton Sonoma, One Doubletree Drive, Rohnert Park, CA. PFMC adopts final ocean fisheries regulations and state-tribal fishing plans are finalized for all inside area commercial and sport salmon fisheries.
REGIONAL MEETING CALENDAR
In you’ve an interest in regional fishery deliberations, Washington managers hold a series of localized briefings on both expected salmon run-sizes and options for fishing on them.
Areas of focus as well as meeting dates and locations are:
• March 11: Grays Harbor Fisheries Discussion, 6 p.m.-9 p.m., Montesano City Hall, 112 N Main Street, Montesano. Public discussion of Grays Harbor salmon forecasts and fishing opportunities.
• March 16: Columbia River Fisheries Discussion, 10 a.m., Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth Street, Vancouver, WA. Public discussion of management objectives and preliminary options for Columbia River fall commercial and sport fisheries.
• March 17: Grays Harbor Advisory Group Meeting (Tentative), 6 p.m.-9 p.m., Montesano Public Library, 125 Main St. S, Montesano. Public discussion of Grays Harbor salmon forecasts and fishing opportunities.
* March 19: Strait of Juan de Fuca Recreational Fisheries Discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Trinity Methodist Church, 100 South Black Ave., Sequim. Public discussion of pre-season forecasts and possible marine areas 5 and 6 salmon fisheries.
• March 23: Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., WDFW Mill Creek Office, 15018 Mill Creek Blvd., Mill Creek. Public discussion of pre-season forecasts and possible inside saltwater salmon fisheries.
• March 24: Columbia River Fisheries Discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Walla Walla Community College's Main Lecture Hall, 1470 Bridge Street, Clarkston. Public discussion of management objectives and preliminary options for Columbia River fall commercial and sport fisheries.
• March 25: South Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. SE, Olympia. Public discussion of pre-season forecasts and possible salmon fisheries.
• March 25: Columbia River Fisheries Discussion, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Benton PUD, 2721 W. 10th Ave. Kennewick. Public discussion of management objectives and preliminary options for Columbia River fall commercial and sport fisheries.
• March 26: Puget Sound Commercial Fisheries Discussion, 10 a.m.-noon, WDFW Mill Creek Office, 15018 Mill Creek Blvd., Mill Creek. Public discussion of pre-season forecasts and possible salmon fisheries.
• March 26: Grays Harbor Fisheries Discussion, 6 p.m.-9 p.m., Montesano City Hall, 112 N Main Street, Montesano. Public discussion of Grays Harbor salmon forecasts and fishing opportunities.
• April 7: Willapa Bay Fisheries Discussion (Tentative). Public discussion of Willapa Bay salmon forecasts and fishing opportunities.
The Willapa Bay early meetings were postponed and the schedule for deliberation on them has not been finalized.
SALMON SEASONS CRYSTALIZE
The culmination of this lengthy and complex process happens April 11-16 in Rohnert Park, CA (50 miles north of San Francisco) at the final Pacific Fisheries Management Council sessions where everything (all finalized seasons) gets the seal of federal approval.
The federal panel will adopt 2015 ocean (under federal jurisdiction 3-200 miles) salmon catch quotas plus sport and commercial seasons will be agreed upon for Washington’s nearshore coastal waters, greater Puget Sound as well as river and streams throughout Western Washington.
Once cemented in stone look, first for Washington 2015 sport regulations on-line at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/, then in hard copy form available at any fishing and hunting license dealer.
Additional background information about the procedure for setting salmon fishing seasons are detailed at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.
Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald’s outdoors correspondent, since 1983, has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that now appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at http://pblogs.bellinghamherald.com/outdoors.