Washington salmon fishing seasons tentatively set for 2023-24
by WA Department of Fish & Wildlife Staff
OLYMPIA – Anglers in Washington can expect similar salmon fishing opportunities this year compared to 2022, with some improved opportunities in the ocean driven by better Chinook forecasts and another large coho return, state fishery managers announced.
The 2023-24 salmon fishing seasons, cooperatively developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers, were tentatively set Thursday at a week-long Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting held in Foster City, Calif.
"These seasons were crafted carefully to ensure conservation goals are achieved for salmon populations, especially those listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)," said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. "There are improvements in this season's forecast, and we have developed a number of good fishing opportunities in Washington on healthy stocks."
Negotiations between WDFW and tribes this year were guided in part by the Puget Sound Harvest Management Plan, which is expected to provide long-term fishery guidance for Puget Sound. The National Marine Fisheries Service announced in February that the plan was sufficient to proceed with formal review.
"The treaty tribes and our state co-manager have the same goal—to provide sustainable harvest opportunities while meeting conservation objectives and ensuring there will be salmon for the next seven generations," said Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) Chairman Ed Johnstone. "Conservation is our guiding principle and more needs to be done on all fronts to recover salmon from historically low numbers. Tribes have done a lot of work to restore and protect habitat and rebuild salmon populations. All of our efforts now must focus on the effects of climate change, ongoing habitat loss and marine mammal predation on salmon."
Season recommendations now move forward for approval by the National Marine Fisheries Service and final rulemaking, including additional opportunity for public comment and consideration of those comments.
The Puget Sound pink salmon prediction is about 3.95 million and similar to the actual 3.77 million return in 2021. Pink salmon will remain part of daily catch limits in marine fisheries and limits in freshwater areas will be watershed-specific.
The Stillaguamish wild Chinook forecast is up from 2022 but remains at historical low levels and conservation limits for this stock continue to constrain Puget Sound fishery opportunities. Stillaguamish continues to be limiting to the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7), and the Chinook fishery will look similar to last year. Anglers will have opportunities to target forecast robust returns of coho and pink salmon. Managers have proposed a three-day hatchery Chinook and marked coho fishery from July 13-15 (additional days may be added based on in season monitoring of the fishery), followed by a coho-directed fishery starting Aug. 1.
"We must carefully plan and implement fisheries in Puget Sound to ensure that we limit our impact on ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook to allowable levels," said Kyle Adicks, intergovernmental salmon manager with WDFW. "We work with the public each spring to plan fisheries that spread the limited fishing opportunity available for Chinook and other species around the marine and freshwater areas of Puget Sound."
For coho, the Puget Sound hatchery and wild forecasts have generally increased overall. The Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) planned opener for marked coho is July 31-Sept. 17 and non-select coho is Sept. 18-30. The Marine Area 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) planned opener for non-select coho is Aug. 1-Sept. 24. In Marine Area 5 (Sekiu-Pillar Point) and Marine Area 6 (East Strait of Juan de Fuca) a non-select coho fishery planned for Oct. 1-15.
Winter Chinook fisheries will look similar to last year in Puget Sound, with some Chinook retention opportunity planned in March and April of 2024 in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu), Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) and Marine Area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island).
Most Puget Sound marine areas will once again open for a planned summer salmon season beginning in July or August, with June 1 openers currently planned for Marine Areas 10 and 11.
Summer salmon fisheries on the Columbia River are expected to be slightly improved compared to last year, with fishing planned from the Astoria-Megler bridge to Highway 395 bridge in Pasco and below Bonneville Dam scheduled to open June 16 through July 31. Sockeye retention is expected to be allowed in the daily salmonid bag limit beginning June 16.
Fall fisheries from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco is planned for an Aug. 1 opener, with different dates by area for Chinook and coho, and includes steelhead restrictions throughout the river. Another strong coho run is expected and the Chinook run size is better than the 2022 forecast but below the actual return and should provide for some good fishing opportunities.
Washington's ocean salmon fisheries reflect an improved forecast for some key Chinook stocks and a second consecutive year of large forecasts for hatchery coho. Fishery managers agreed during this week's PFMC meeting to recreational ocean quotas of 39,000 Chinook and 159,600 marked coho.
Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) and La Push (Marine Area 3) will open for salmon retention beginning June 17, followed by Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) and Westport-Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2) on June 24. All areas are scheduled to remain open until Sept. 30 or until quotas are met, with species and size restrictions dependent on the area.
In Grays Harbor (Marine Area 2-2), the Humptulips North Bay planned salmon season opens Aug. 1 for retention of hatchery Chinook and coho, and the East Grays Harbor planned fishery opens Sept. 16 for coho retention only. In Willapa Bay (Marine Area 2-1), the planned coho and hatchery Chinook season opens Aug. 1. The Willapa Bay Control Zone opens for salmon in 2023.
Additional details about this year's sport salmon fisheries and the North of Falcon process can be found on WDFW's website. Visit the WDFW webpage to see statewide fishing regulations and download the latest fishing rules pamphlet, and for emergency rule changes that may impact fisheries, go to the WDFW webpage. For information on tribal fisheries, visit the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission website.
For information about the science behind salmon season-setting in Washington, watch "Sound Management: Conserving Pacific Northwest salmon through cooperation" on the WDFW's YouTube channel.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.
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