Strong coho salmon return expected on Nisqually River

Part of salmon forecast released Monday includes possible record run of Columbia River chinook

Staff writerMarch 3, 2014 


Anglers lined the banks of the Nisqually River in search of salmon on Sept. 7, 2011.

DEAN J. KOEPFLER — Staff photographer file, 2011 Buy Photo

A coho run to the Nisqually River forecast to be nearly three times bigger than last year should make South Sound anglers eager to get on the water, especially when combined with record forecasts for Columbia River chinook.

The 2014 Nisqually coho forecast is 20,322 fish, well above the 2013 forecast of 7,719 fish.

“Nisqually coho is one of the bright spots for the South Sound,” said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager.

The Nisqually forecast was part of the Monday release by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife of 2014 forecasts for Puget Sound, Columbia River and ocean salmon stocks.

The Olympia meeting serves as the kick off of the North of Falcon process involving state, federal and tribal managers that will conclude April 5-10 with the establishment of salmon fishing seasons.

“The runs seem to be shaping up as similar to last year, which wasn’t a great year” said Art Tachell, who works at Point Defiance Boathouse Marina.

He did express some optimism, pointing out that chinook fishing in the South Sound seems to improve during those years when there is a not a pink salmon run. Pinks return to much of Puget Sound only during odd-numbered years.

“I think it’s a somewhat optimistic outlook,” said Auburn angler Frank Urabeck.

“As far as our season structure, it will be pretty similar to last year,” Lothrop said.

On the Columbia, the upriver bright stock is forecast at 973,300 fish, above the 2013 forecast of 432,500 fish and actual return of 784,100 fish. That is the largest component of a fall chinook forecast of more than 1.6 million fish. The coho forecast is almost 1 million fish as well.

“This is the one everyone is excited about,” said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator. “That is, by far and away, bigger than anything we’ve ever seen, and last year was the biggest return we had seen.”

He also noted that the bulk of the chinook returning last year were 3-year-old fish. This year, the stock will be mostly 4-year-old fish.

“So, not only should there be more fish, but there should be bigger fish,” Roler said. “Any one who fishes the Columbia should be smiling.”

Here is a look at some other fisheries of note:

Nisqually: The chinook run is forecast at 32,799 fish, including 1,317 wild fish.

Puyallup River: The coho run could be slightly larger this year, with a forecast of 40,301 fish. That is up from the 2013 forecast of 36,444 fish. The chinook forecast is 9,683 fish, including 872 wild fish.

Skokomish: The coho run is expected to be well above last year’s forecasted level. The 2014 forecast is 30,424 fish, up from the 2013 forecast of 17,786 fish. The chinook forecast is 52,411 fish, including 2,971 wild fish.

Deep South Sound: For the Squaxin Island net pens, the 2014 coho forecast is 43,649 fish, up from 38,888 fish in the 2013 forecast. For chinook, the forecast for the Deschutes River is 12,814 fish. Lothrop said the state is considering requesting a limited chinook fishery in Capital Lake that would be for juvenile and disabled anglers.

South Sound/Hood Canal chum: The forecast for fall chum in the South Sound is 312,057 fish and 442,308 fish in Hood Canal. For winter fish returning to the South Sound, the forecast is 84,263 fish.

Lake sockeye fisheries: Unless the threshold is lowered, it is unlikely there will be a recreational sockeye fishery this year on Lake Washington. The forecast is 166,997 fish. A minimum return of 350,000 sockeye is needed to consider opening a recreational fishery. The 2013 forecast was about 97,000 fish, and the actual count was 178,422 sockeye. On Baker Lake, the forecast of 35377 fish, well above the threshold of 8,000 fish needed to hold a fishery, said fish biologist Aaron Dufault.

What’s next: The agency will hold a series of meetings through the rest of the month looking at more specific fisheries, starting Tuesday with discussions on Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet Saturday through March 13. The council, which sets ocean fishing quotas, will approve three options for this year’s chinook and coho catch quotas and season setups.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640

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