The outlook for the 2015-16 salmon fishing seasons is similar to those in recent years. Whether South Sound anglers take that as good news or bad is a matter of personal perspective.
On Monday in Olympia, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife released the forecasts for salmon runs in Puget Sound, Pacific Ocean and Columbia River. The meeting kicked off the process involving state, tribal and federal fishery managers that will culminate in April with the setting of the seasons for waters such as the Puyallup and Nisqually rivers, the South Sound and the ocean off Westport.
“I’m guessing it’s going to be fairly similar to recent years,” said Ron Warren, deputy assistant director of intergovernmental salmon management, when asked about the prospects for people who fish in the South Sound.
The best news came from forecasts for Puget Sound pink salmon, and chinook in the ocean and Columbia River.
Slightly more than 900,000 fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this year. That would be the third largest run on record since 1938, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator. The ocean abundance of Columbia River coho this year is expected to be nearly 777,000 fish, down from 964,000 last year.
Here is a look at some of the numbers for key South Sound fisheries:
Most pink salmon return to Washington waters in odd-numbered years.
The forecast for the Puyallup River is almost 838,000 pink salmon, down quite a bit from the forecast of 1.24 million in 2013.
The forecast for the Nisqually River is almost 980,000 pinks. The Hood Canal forecast is almost 313,000 pinks.
The Green River forecast is 626,000 fish, down significantly from the1.35 million fish forecast two years ago and 2.1 million in 2011.
The total forecast for Puget Sound is almost 6.78 million pink salmon, up from the forecast of 6.23 million in 2013. High water in 2013 likely hurt production in North Sound rivers, the Green and Puyallup, said Aaron Dufault, statewide pink, chum, sockeye salmon specialist.
Wild chinook forecasts are down across the board for South Sound rivers compared with 2014. The total Puget Sound chinook forecast is the lowest since 2001.
The Puyallup River forecast is 5,837 fish, of which 422 are expected to be wild chinook.
The total Green River forecast is 12,183 chinook, of which 1,634 are expected to be wild fish.
The Nisqually River has the strongest forecast, with 25,479 chinook expected to make it back to the river this year. That includes 977 wild fish. That is down from last year’s forecast of 32,799 fish.
On the Skokomish River, the run is expected to be 39,770 chinook, well below the 2014 forecast of 52,411 fish.
The Puyallup forecast calls for a return of 40,334 fish, nearly identical to the 2014 forecast. A majority of the run, 21,385 fish, are expected to be wild fish.
The forecast for the Nisqually is up from last year’s, with a run of 23,208 coho, compared with 20,322 fish expected to return in 2014.
The Skokomish return is expected to be 31,487 fish, up just a bit from the 2014 forecast of 30,424 fish.
Overall, Puget Sound rivers are expected to see a run of 891,000 coho, up about 20,000 from last year.
The forecast for Lake Washington is similar to the 2014 forecast, but the actual run last year was about half the forecast. With a forecast of 164,600 fish this year, it is unlikely there will be a fishery on the lake, with the threshold at 350,000 fish. Recreational anglers have been unsuccessful in getting that threshold lowered.