Anglers will get a preview of this year’s fisheries when preliminary salmon returns are released at a public meeting Feb. 28 in Olympia.
The initial forecasts, compiled by state and tribal biologists, will be used to negotiate the 2017 salmon fishing seasons for recreational, commercial and tribal fishermen.
Of particular interest to South Sound anglers will be the forecast for pink salmon returns to rivers such as the Green, Puyallup and Nisqually. This species of Pacific salmon returns to Washington waters in odd-numbered years. In 2015, the preseason forecast called for a return of more than 2.4 million pink salmon to those three waters.
The run forecast meeting will be the first opportunity for the public to comment on possible fishing seasons, said Ron Warren, head of the fish program for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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“The public plays an important role in shaping salmon fisheries across the state each year,” Warren said in a prepared statement. “We encourage people to participate either by attending one of the many public meetings or by providing comments online.”
The negotiation process, called North of Falcon, will set seasons for Puget Sound and its tributaries and the Columbia River and its Washington tributaries. Seasons for the waters off Washington’s coast will be set during the same time frame by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Final decisions will be made during meetings April 7-12 in Sacramento.
Recreational anglers will be carefully watching the negotiations after last year’s talks failed to result in agreement in time for fisheries to begin on schedule. The state and tribal co-managers could not agree on how to hold fisheries while limiting impacts on chinook and coho salmon run in Puget Sound on endangered species lists.
Once the state and tribes reach agreement, it has to be approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“Last year, negotiations went into overtime, which delayed recreational salmon fisheries around Puget Sound,” Warren said. “To avoid a repeat, we’ve been communicating earlier and more frequently with our tribal co-managers and have been working together to make North of Falcon more efficient.”
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
Forecast meeting: Scheduled from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 28 in the auditorium of the General Administration Building, 210 11th Ave. SW, Olympia.
The process: More information about the annual salmon season-setting process, including the meeting schedule can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon.