Expansion of Salmon Fishing in 2005-06?by Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times, June 27, 2004
While the height of this summer's salmon-fishing season is just on the horizon, many anglers are also looking toward the future.
In recent weeks, state Fish and Wildlife has drafted early proposals to expand salmon fishing in the 2005-06 season where healthy stocks of hatchery-marked chinook tend to congregate.
"We've discussed three initial chinook-selective fishing proposals to be considered for 2005-06, and these talks are just in the early stages," said Pat Pattillo of state Fish and Wildlife's intergovernmental salmon policy group.
"It's like we're just putting the ornaments on the tree, but the gifts haven't arrived yet from Santa," Pattillo said. "We don't know what to expect, but these types of discussions between recreational fishers and the tribes get us started early because we know how fast a year can go by."
Last year marked the first time that state Fish and Wildlife was able to implement a two-year pilot-marine chinook-selective fishery off Sekiu and Port Angeles in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This summer's selective season at both places gets underway Thursday.
A selective fishery means that anglers may target only salmon with a missing adipose fin (located on back of the fish near the tail).
While this is a first for marked chinook in the Strait, selective fisheries have become more of the norm for other marine and freshwater areas. Over the past few years there have been more than 50 selective fisheries for salmon and steelhead statewide.
"The selective fisheries that occurred last (and this) summer was a laborious process with the tribes," said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs with Northwest Marine Trade Association and state Fish and Wildlife sport-fishing advisory board member. "We went in with six proposed items and got the two-year deal to have a selective-chinook fishery off Sekiu and Port Angeles."
The most complicated part of the puzzle is allowing these types of selective fisheries without harming wild-salmon runs that are in dire straits.
The winter-blackmouth fishery for selective marked chinook from southcentral Puget Sound north into the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 to 11) got the most merit from sport-fishing advisors and state Fish and Wildlife based on impacts of wild salmon being less than status quo.
The proposal would allow anglers to have a selective winter-blackmouth (chinook) salmon fishery from Oct. 1, 2005, to April 30, 2006.
"I am beyond thrilled that the department has embraced in discussion with the tribes on that proposal," Floor said. "What we want and what we get are two different things, but that kind of an opportunity to see the blackmouth fishery restored would be something else. And why not since the mark rate of fish is known to be over 50 percent."
Floor pointed out the two major salmon derbies this winter — at Roche Harbor and Discovery Bay — revealed the hatchery-mark rate on chinook was nearly half the fish caught.
"The current mark rate along with new marking programs going into place at Hood Canal should inject a greater mark rate amongst fish," Floor said. "The recreational board members that I have talked to are more than enthusiastic about this proposal."
Since 1994 sport anglers have paid a $10 surcharge when buying fishing licenses, which helps to produce nearly 2 million blackmouth annually.
The other proposals include a summer selective-chinook fishery from July 1 to Aug. 15 in Marine Catch Area 9 (North Puget Sound-Admiralty Inlet); expanding the Sekiu-Port Angeles summer selective chinook with an increased catch quota; opening more places within the area or lengthening the season.
In order to create these types of selective fishing seasons, factors come into play such as giving up other fishing opportunities, fairness issues with tribes and other non-tribal fisheries and cost and effectiveness to enforce the fisheries.
"We will support the department in any way possible to make that happen," Floor said.
The sport-fishing advisors and state Fish and Wildlife will meet this summer to discuss the proposals with the tribes.
By October, the sport-fishing advisory group hopes to provide a proposal to the Pacific Salmon Commission and other fishing constituents to review.
The first public meeting will be held sometime in February or March 2005, when state Fish and Wildlife will unveil salmon forecasts and take input on fishing seasons.
Through June 17, 31,746 adult chinook, 27,459 sockeye and 10,338 Skamania steelhead have passed Bonneville. The chinook count represents the third-largest cumulative count through June 17 since at least 1981, and over twice the 10-year average.
This suggests that the run is tracking well to come within the range of the runs in the last three years, which were from 76,000 to 127,000 at Bonneville.
The cumulative sockeye count represents the largest cumulative count through June 17 since at least 1975. The 2001 return, which totaled 114,000, only had 22,500 past Bonneville by June 17.
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