While the state and tribal co-managers are negotiating salmon fishing seasons in Puget Sound waters and the Columbia River, some of the discussions are focused on possible rule changes.
Some of the changes proposed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife would affect South Sound anglers if approved.
In Tacoma and Olympia area waters, the state is proposing allowing anglers to keep two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, from July 1-Sept. 30. This would give anglers a chance to catch and keep some of the estimated 1.8 million pink salmon expected to return to the Puyallup and Nisqually rivers.
The state also wants to allow saltwater anglers in the Tacoma area to fish for salmon with two poles from Sept. 1-Oct. 31. This would let fishermen catch more hatchery coho, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager.
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“It gives people a chance to try different lures, different depths,” he said. “But my friends and I, we try fishing with two poles for a half hour and then we quit because you get tangled up, or you’re reeling in the other rods when you hook a fish.”
Sport fishermen would have to purchase a two-pole endorsement, which costs $14.80 ($6 for seniors) including a surcharge and transaction and dealer fees.
Fishermen in Marine Area 13, the waters south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, may already fish with a two-pole endorsement year-round, and the Tulalip Bubble and Sinclair Inlet fisheries in the summer.
Possibly the most talked about proposal is a reduction in the minimum size of a hatchery chinook salmon before it can be kept. Anglers right now must release all hatchery chinook that measure less than 22 inches long. The state would like to reduce that to a 20-inch minimum.
All wild chinook must be released under current regulations.
State fishery biologists said such a reduction could translate into a 30 percent increase in the chance to catch a salmon during winter fisheries and a 10 percent increase during summer fisheries.
“Reducing the minimum size limit to 20 inches will allow for more successful trips,” Lothrop said. “It will allow anglers to access a greater fraction of the hatchery production that they help fund through license fees.”
Catching more hatchery fish means wild fish will have less competition for spawning habitat.
“We need to find creative ways to increase harvest of hatchery fish with little impact on wild fish,” he added.
Lothrop also pointed out there is no minimum size for pink, coho and sockeye salmon.
There is some opposition from sports fishermen, Lothrop said, arguing it will mean lost opportunities to catch a larger fish sometime down the road by keeping the smaller fish.
But given all the obstacles salmon face, “the odds of encountering that same fish are almost zero,” he said.
“The number of wild fish out there is so small, why not give someone the opportunity to keep that fish.”