Federal panel selects 3 quota options for ocean sport salmon fishing

The number of chinook salmon sports fishermen will be allowed to catch this year will be similar or slightly more than last year, while the coho catch quota will be 14 to 36 percent lower.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council Thursday approved three options for the salmon quotas that reflect a moderate increase in Columbia River chinook and a decline from 2014 in the forecast for Columbia hatchery coho.

The council, meeting in Vancouver, Washington, establishes fishing seasons in waters from three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

The chinook options range from 58,000 to 64,000 fish, while the coho options are 117,600 to 159,200 fish.

Last year the chinook quota was slight more than 59,000 fish and the coho quota was almost 185,000 fish. The fishing in ports like Westport and Ilwaco was some of the best in the last 5-10 years.

All three options include recreational fisheries for hatchery chinook in June. Called mark selective fisheries, they allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon while requiring sport fishermen to release wild salmon.

About 900,000 fall chinook salmon are expected back to the Columbia River this year. If the run comes in as forecast, it would be the third largest since record-keeping began in 1938. About 255,000 of those chinook are expected to be lower river hatchery chinook, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery, said Ron Warren, fisheries policy lead for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The forecast ocean abundance of Columbia River coho is to be about 777,000 fish.

A public hearing on the ocean salmon fisheries alternatives is scheduled for March 30 in Westport. The final decision will be made when the council meets in April in Rohnert Park, Calif.