Monthly Archives: April 2018

Pete Heley Outdoors 4 / 24 / 2018

Spring chinook fishing has improved somewhat on both the Umpqua and Rogue rivers but no genuine lunkers have yet been reported on either river. Bank anglers casting large spinners for springers at Winchester Bay have yet to report any salmon taken. In the last two weeks most of the Umpqua River springers have been taken between Wells Creek and Elkton. Fishing is improving as the river drops and clears and shad could start biting at any time.

Smallmouth bass should start biting on both the Umpqua and Coquille rivers and muddy water can be both a blessing and a curse – limiting which lures are effective, but warming up much quicker than clear water. Smallmouths in Woahink Lake should be gradually moving into shallow water over the next few weeks as their spawn approaches.

With about half the bass in Woahink Lake now being smallmouths, it seems inevitable that some of them will leave the lake via the Woahink Creek outlet and end up in Siltcoos Lake – which doesn’t seem that suitable to them, but also reach the Siltcoos River outlet stream which is suitable for them. The same travel path has resulted in fair numbers of northern pikeminnows in the 100 yard stretch of stream immediately above the dam on the Siltcoos River – which is about three miles below the lake.

It looks like its going to be two to four weeks before the coastal largemouths get serious about spawning, but largemouth fisheries in the Medford area should be in their immediate pre-spawn stage, while spawning largemouths in the Roseburg area will lag their Medford-area brethren by about a week. Last week, two anglers fishing the upper end of Loon Lake, while using large rainbow trout-imitating lures accounted for six largemouth bass weighing at least five pounds. Warmer temperatures this week should allow for improved fishing in virtually all the bass and panfish lakes.

Numerous lakes in our area were planted last week and cool weather limited fishing success, so there should be plenty of stocked trout left. The only lake in our area stocked this week is Upper Empire Lake which received 2,000 trophy trout and will receive 2,500 legal rainbows next week. Other Coos County waters being stocked next week include Bradley Lake (3,000 legals); Eel Lake (3,000 legals) and the West Fork of the Millicoma River (500 legal rainbows).

Also stocked next week, Bluebill Lake gets its first trout stocking of 2018 – a plant of 3,000 legal rainbows. Other waters receiving trout next week include: North and South Tenmile Lakes with 3,000 legal rainbows each; Butterfield Lake (3,000 legals and 400 trophies) and Saunders Lake (3,000 legals). Florence-area lakes slated to be stocked next week include: Carter Lake (750 trophies); Cleawox Lake (345 legals and 1,477 trophies); Munsel Lake (1,650 trophies) and Sutton Lake (1,000 trophies).

Redtail surfperch were first reported in the Umpqua River last year during the last week in April – but then disappeared for nearly two weeks before they resumed their spawning run in earnest. Presently, anglers fishing the surf near the second parking lot south of Winchester Bay have been enjoying fair to good fishing while using two to three-inch pieces of Berkley sandworms in the camo color pattern.

With a slightly lower quota than last year, all-depth halibut for the central Oregon coast is set to begin its 3-day openers this year on May 10th. The openers for the spring season will be on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and the first four fixed or locked-in openers will be: May 10th – 12th; May 24th – 26th; June 7th – 9th and June 21st – 23rd.

As usual, every spring I write about the unfairness of the spring all-depth halibut season. People that work a regular Monday through Friday work week only get to fish one day per spring opener – if they can get out and actually fish. There are other ways the ODFW is being obviously unfair. When a separate halibut quota was being considered for the southern portion of the central coast subarea they used fish-catch data rather than fish-population data to decide how the central coast subarea quota would be divided up. Quotas that are based upon previous years’ catches heavily favor Newport which has a more friendly bar and a large halibut fleet.

However, a quota based on the actual halibut population in each portion of the central coast subarea would be fair to each portion and would likely extend the season on the southern portion of the central Oregon coast subarea.

While I am at it, I would like to repeat my annual gripe about the upper section of Mill Creek being included in the Mill Creek closure. The stream was closed because of anadromous fish snagging, but the upper 2+ miles of it are unreachable by anadromous fish – and the section between Loon Lake and Mill Creek Road, when it was legal to fish, offered very good angling for small to medium-sized largemouth bass.

A visit to the Coos County Courthouse’s Assessor’s Office indicated to me that some of the “No Trespassing Signs” between Hauser and North Bend have little validity. There doesn’t seem to be a downside to illegally posting property and actually may be a rather effective way to avoid sharing your favorite fishing spot with other anglers.
I truly wish such activity was pursued as zealously by law enforcement agencies as actual trespassing is.

Pete Heley works parttime at the Stockade Market & Tackle, across from A’ Dock, in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

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Southwest Oregon Smallmouth Bass Update – Excluding the Medford-area waters.

COQUILLE RIVER – The Coquille now has a strong smallmouth bass population. While most of the fishing takes place on the main river near Myrtle Point, smallies are in the lower reaches of all the river’s forks including the South Fork Coquille all the way up to Powers. Because the river is often somewhat murky, many anglers opt to use larger crankbauts for the smallies in the hopes od hooking an incidental striped bass.

COTTAGE GROVE RESERVOIR – Has small numbers of of smallmouth bass of good average size. Smallies weighing more than five pounds are possible. Try the rocky riprap along the dam – especially when the reservoir is drawn down.

COW CREEK – This major South Umpqua tributary forms a large circle entirely within Douglas County. The best fishing seems to be between the town of Riddle and where it enters the South Umpqua

DORENA RESERVOIR – Has small numbers of smallmouth bass of good average size. Smallies weighing more than five pounds are possible.

EEL LAKE – Less than ten percent of the bass in Eel Lake are smallmouth bass, but some of them are good-sized with multiple 18-inch plus smallies taken the last few years.

FORD’S POND – Located less than two miles west of Sutherlin adjacent to Highway 138, this shallow weedy lake doesn’t seem suited to smallmouth bass, but has fair numbers of them near the short rocky shoreline adjacent to the outlet.

GALESVILLE RESERVOIR – Smallmouth bass are the dominant fishery in this multi-species reservoir with lots of smallies measuring more than a foot in length, but very few weighing more than three pounds. A good early season spot is the shoreline below the boat ramp.

MILL CREEK – Unfortunately the entire stream was closed due to salmon and steelhead snagging in the lower reaches near the Umpqua River. Presently has good numbers of smallies in the lower three miles above the Umpqua River. Hopefully, future regulations will allow these bass to be fished for.

SMITH RIVER – Unlike the Umpqua River, the Smith River only has a small population of smallmouth bass. Some of them are at least 18-inches long. They seem to reside from about seven miles above Highway 101 up to Smith River Falls.

SOUTH UMPQUA RIVER – This large stream is a delight to float with a kayak, canoe or one man pontoon boat – midsummer water levels usually prohibit using anything larger. The pools are almost the same size as those on the mainstem Umpqua River – but much shallower. By early summer, anglers can almost sightfish the entire river.

UMPQUA RIVER – Possiby Oregon’s best smallmouth stream for numbers. Small bass dominate to the point of being a nuisance, but smallies weighing more than five pounds are taken every year. The best numbers of smallmouths reside above the head of tidewater at Wells Creek and smallies extend downstream as far as milepost 8 east of Reedsport and the average smallie taken in tidewater is slightly longer and heavier than those caught upriver.

WOAHINK LAKE – A sleeper for smallmouths, Woahinks bass population is about evenly split between smallies and largemouths. Most of the smallies are small, but fish to 19-inches and more than three pounds were caught last year A good lake to fish topwater lures.

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WDFW News – 100’s of Lowland Lakes to Open Saturday, April 28th.

Trout fishing in Washington reaches full speed April 28 when hundreds of lowland lakes – stocked with millions of fish – open for a six-month season.

To prepare for the opener, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) fish hatchery crews have been stocking more than 12 million trout and kokanee in lakes statewide.

“Although many lakes are open year-round, the fourth Saturday in April marks the traditional start of the lowland lakes fishing season, when hundreds of thousands of anglers are expected to turn out to fish,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW’s inland fish program manager.

This is also the first lowland lakes opener in which those anglers can use the new Fish Washington mobile app to help find a fishing hole near them.

“The Fish Washington app is a planning tool that should be on every Washington angler’s smart phone,” said Thiesfeld. “It is designed to convey up-to-the-minute fishing regulations for every lake in the state.”

To obtain the new Fish Washington mobile phone app, anglers just need to visit WDFW’s website (https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington/mobile_app.html), the Google Play store or Apple’s App store.

To participate in the opener, Washington anglers must have an annual freshwater or combination fishing license valid through March 31, 2019. Licenses can be purchased online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov; by telephone at 1-866-246-9453; or at hundreds of license dealers across the state. For details on license vendor locations, visit the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/.

April 28 also marks the start of WDFW’s annual lowland lakes fishing derby, which runs through Oct. 31.

Anglers who catch one of 1,000 green-tagged trout can claim prizes provided by license dealers and other sponsors located across the state. The total value of prizes is more than $38,000. For a list of lakes with prize fish and details on how to claim prizes, visit https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/Home/FishingDerby.

Fish stocked by WDFW include some 2.1 million catchable trout, nearly 125,000 larger trout averaging about one pound apiece, and millions of smaller trout that were stocked last year and have grown to catchable size.

Fish stocking details, by county and lake, are available in the annual stocking plan on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/statewide/

Of more than 7,000 lakes, ponds and reservoirs in Washington, nearly 700 have WDFW-managed water-access sites, including areas accessible for people with disabilities. Other state and federal agencies operate hundreds more. Details on water access site locations can be found on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/water_access/.

Anglers parking at WDFW water-access sites are required to display on their vehicle the WDFW Vehicle Access Pass that is provided free with every annual fishing license purchased—or a Discover Pass. Anglers who use Washington State Parks or Department of Natural Resource areas need a Discover Pass. Information on the pass can be found at https://discoverpass.wa.gov/

Before heading out, anglers should check fishing regulations on WDFW’s webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ or consult the Fish Washington app.

WDFW employees and their immediate families are not eligible to claim fishing derby prizes.

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Pete Heley Outdoors 4 / 18 / 2018

There was some good news last week regarding ocean salmon fishing. The ocean chinook season, which normally runs from March 15th through October 31st, but this year was only slated to run from March 15th through April 30th has been extended to its normal October 31st closing date. As for ocean coho salmon, the quota for finclipped cohos was increased to 35,000 from last year’s 15,000. There will also be a nonselective ocean coho season which will run on Fridays and Saturdays beginning on September 7th and run until September 29th or when the quota of 3,550 cohos is reached.
The ocean finclipped season will start on June 30th and run through September 3rd – if the 35,000 finclipped coho quota has not been reached.

Generous quotas and seasons will not ensure good ocean salmon fishing – only the opportunity to fish. The ODFW forecast for coho is down this year for both the Oregon coast and Columbia River, – largely due to poor ocean feed conditions.

Ocean salmon anglers can look forward to more opportunity this year based on recommendations made last week for federal waters (outside three miles) during a Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Portland.

The PFMC recommendations will be forwarded to NOAA Fisheries for approval and implementation. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will be asked to adopt matching rules for State waters (inside 3 mi) at their April 20 meeting in Astoria.

Unlike the full closure to salmon fishing last year, the area south of Humbug Mt to the OR/CA border will be open to sport fishing for chinook from May 19-Aug. 29. The strong forecast for Rogue River fall Chinook is a bright spot for the coast this year.

Commercial troll fishing for Chinook will be open intermittently along the whole Oregon coast from May through the summer. In 2017, all commercial salmon trolling was closed south of Florence.

Winchester Bay’s South Jetty continues to provide fair fishing for striped surfperch, greenling and rockfish and good fishing for lingcod. Muddy Umpqua River water can best be dealt with by fishing near high tide when the clearer ocean water is most evident. Fishing for redtail surfperch in the surf has been fair to good at Sparrow Park Road, near the second parking lot south of Winchester Bay – and also at Horsfall Beach near North Bend.

Trout plants this week in the Florence area include Alder Lake (850 legals, 511 trophies); Dune Lake (850 legals, 711 trophies); Perkins Lake (325 trophies); Siltcoos Lagoon (881 trophies); Siltcoos Lake (1,000 trophies) and Sutton Lake (1,500 trophies) Trout plants in Coos County include South Tenmile Lake (3,000 legals); Powers Pond (3,000 legals; and Lower Empire Lake (2,000 trophies). Upper Empire Lake is slated to receive 2,000 trophy rainbows next week. Garrison Lake, in Port Orford, was also stocked (3,000 legals, 200 trophies).

Normally, April is a productive month to catch striped bass. Because of low striper numbers in the Umpqua River-Smith River system and muddy water in the Coquille River there have been no recent reports. The small striper population that once existed on the Rogue River above Gold Beach seems to have disappeared with colder water releases from Lost Creek and Applegate reservoirs.

Recent cool temperatures has put the “kibosh” on warmwater fishing success. Spawning crappie have yet to show up at the upper end of Loon Lake or the lower end of Eel Lake.

If and when the Umpqua River clears and drops there should be fishable numbers of shad in the river.

Police are asking for the public’s help after three bald eagles were found shot to death near Albany on March 16. An Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division trooper responding to tip discovered three dead eagles in the Tangent area south of Albany. Gunshot wounds were found on each bird.

An angler that recently posted a picture of a lower Cowlitz River spring chinook on a popular online fishing site was met with numerous posts filled with anger, scorn and even derision – to the point where the angler posted even more detailed information on the catch and promised to continue to do so in the future.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) debuted a new mobile app on April 9th that promises to make determining fishing regulations for Washington waters easier and more convenient. The free “Fish Washington” app is available on Google Play, Apple’s App store and WDFW’s website (https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington/mobile_app.html), and is designed to convey up-to-the-minute fishing regulations for every lake, river, stream and marine area in the state. The exception, for now, is the app does not yet include information on shellfish and seaweed collection rules. The app release comes ahead of the season’s lowland lakes fishing opener Apr. 28, the state’s biggest fishing day of the year.

The application contains these features, among others: Interactive map-based rules to help anglers find fishing near them.;
Details on harvest limits and allowable gear for fishable species in each body of water. Links to the Fish Washington website and instructional videos designed to convey when, where and how to fish in Washington; Locations of boat launches and other fishing access points; Ability to add waypoints on maps, and report poaching in progress.

The app also features downloadable updates and offline capacity designed for those who may not have cell service in remote areas or on the water.

It is with deep regret that I received news of the passing of Patrick McManus. He once wrote me a very encouraging letter to me regarding one of my attempts at a humorous article decades ago. I consider McManus to have had the zaniest sense of humor of any outdoor writer in my lifetime – with the possible exception of Ed Zern.

Pete Heley works parttime at the Stockade Market & Tackle, across from A’ Dock, in Winchester Bay where he is more than happy to swap fishing info with anyone.

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Sturgeon Fishery Set in Columbia River Estuary Downstream From Wauna Powerlines.

Action: Allows a limited recreational retention fishery for white sturgeon in the Columbia River estuary. White sturgeon from 44-inches minimum to 50-inches maximum fork length may be retained.

Effective Dates: Monday, Wednesday, and Saturdays: May 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28, 30, and June 2, 4, 2018. Sturgeon angling, including catch and release, closes at 2 p.m. on each open day.

Species affected: White sturgeon.

Locations: The Columbia River from the Wauna powerlines to the mouth at Buoy 10, including Youngs Bay and all adjacent Washington tributaries.

Reason for action: Increased legal-size population over the past few years has allowed for a conservative retention fishery within the lower Columbia River.

Other information: Catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon will continue to be allowed on all non-retention days.
Daily white sturgeon limit: One fish.
Annual white sturgeon limit: Two fish.
Retention of green sturgeon is prohibited.

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Sport Sturgeon Retention Season Set in Bonneville and Dalles Pools.

Action: Allow retention of white sturgeon for one day within the following slot limits:

Bonneville Pool: between 38-inches and 54-inches fork length.
The Dalles Pool: between 43-inches and 54-inches fork length.
Effective dates: Friday June 15, 2018
Species affected: White sturgeon

Locations: Fishing will be open in the Columbia River within the Bonneville Pool, The Dalles Pool, and adjacent tributaries, except within the spawning sanctuary closure areas:

Bonneville Pool: From The Dalles Dam downstream 1.8 miles to a line from the east (upstream) dock at the Port of The Dalles boat ramp straight across to a marker on the Washington shore.
The Dalles Pool: From John Day Dam downstream 2.4 miles to a line crossing the Columbia at a right angle to the thread of the river from the west end of the grain silo at Rufus, Oregon.
Reason for action: There are sturgeon available for harvest within the established guidelines for both reservoirs.

Other information: Catch-and-release will continue to be allowed, except in the spawning sanctuary closure areas.

Daily white sturgeon limit: One fish.

Annual white sturgeon limit: Two fish.

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WDFW News – Recreational Bottomfish Changes

Coastal recreational bottomfish limit changes

Actions: Increases the daily limit for canary rockfish to two fish (from one) in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport).

Establishes a daily limit of three flatfish (excluding halibut), such as sole, flounder or sanddab, in all coastal marine areas west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (marine areas 1 – 4). The new daily limit of flatfish does not count toward an angler’s overall limit of nine bottomfish per day.

Effective date: Immediately

Locations and species affected: As a result of the changes listed above, daily limits for ocean bottomfish are as follows:

Marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport): Anglers can keep any combination of nine bottomfish per day including:

Up to two lingcod;
Up to two cabezon; and
Up to seven rockfish (as many as two of which may be canary rockfish).
In addition to the daily limit of nine bottomfish, anglers may keep up to three flatfish (excluding halibut), such as sole, sanddab, and flounder, per day.

Marine Area 3 (La Push): Anglers can keep any combination of nine bottomfish per day including:

Up to two lingcod;
Up to two cabezon; and
Up to seven rockfish (canary rockfish retention is prohibited).
In addition to the daily limit of nine bottomfish, anglers may keep up to three flatfish (excluding halibut), such as sole, sanddab, and flounder, per day.

Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line: Anglers can keep any combination of nine bottomfish per day including:

Up to two lingcod;
Up to one cabezon; and
Up to seven rockfish (canary rockfish retention is prohibited).
In addition to the daily limit of nine bottomfish, anglers may keep up to three flatfish (excluding halibut), such as sole, sanddab, and flounder, per day.

Reason for action:

At its March meeting, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) approved changes to the Washington coastal recreational bottomfish fishery for 2018 as recommended by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Canary rockfish retention was allowed in 2017 with initial allowance limited to one fish per day in marine areas 1 and 2 only. WDFW’s recommendation to increase the sublimit from one fish to two fish per angler was based on 2017 recreational catch information. Analysis showed that canary catch was well below the federally established harvest quota and sufficient to consider changes for 2018. Retention of canary rockfish in marine areas 3 and 4 remains prohibited.

WDFW also recommended, and the Council approved, a daily limit of three flatfish (excluding Pacific halibut) per day that would not be subject to the daily aggregate bottomfish limit, which would remain at nine.

Both of these changes are intended to provide some additional recreational fishing opportunity to Washington recreational anglers.

These rules conform to action taken by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC).

Information contact: Heather Reed, (360) 902-2487

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WDFW News – Catch-and-Release Steelhead Fishery to Open on Skagit, Sauk Rivers.

A catch-and-release fishery for wild steelhead will get underway April 14 in sections of the Skagit and Sauk rivers, which have been closed to wild steelhead fishing for several years.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) made the announcement today after receiving approval from NOAA Fisheries on a proposed five-year steelhead fishery plan, developed by state and tribal co-managers to meet shared conservation objectives.

Fishery managers have scheduled openings beginning April 14-15, and continuing April 18-22, and 25-29. The fishery includes the following areas:

Skagit River, from the Dalles Bridge in the town of Concrete to the Cascade River Road Bridge in Marblemount. Fishing from a boat that is under power is prohibited.
Sauk River, from the mouth to the Sauk Prairie Road Bridge in Darrington. Fishing from a boat equipped with an internal combustion motor is prohibited.
WDFW is taking a conservative approach to the trial fishery by limiting time on the water and requiring anglers to use single-point barbless hooks to reduce injury to steelhead as the fish are released. Anglers should be aware that night closures are in effect and the use of bait is prohibited. More details on the fishery rules are available online at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=2110.

The season is based largely on the number of wild steelhead forecast to return to the basin as well as the level of monitoring and enforcement required for the fishery, said Edward Eleazer, regional fish program manager for WDFW. The fishery could close early or have additional restrictions, so anglers should check the website listed above before heading out.

“Anglers have an incredible opportunity to fish for wild steelhead on one of the renowned rivers of the west coast,” Eleazer said. “To ensure there will be steelhead fishing in the basin for years to come, we’re asking anglers to comply with all fishery rules and to help keep the river free of litter.”

Eleazer noted the cooperation of the Skagit River tribes was essential in the development of a fishery plan and securing federal approval for this year’s recreational fishery. The approved plan includes tribal fisheries, but the tribes have not scheduled steelhead fisheries this year in order to limit fishery impacts.

Puget Sound wild steelhead have been listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 2007. Lacking an approved fishery management plan, WDFW closed the Skagit Basin to wild steelhead fishing in 2010.

Ongoing efforts by WDFW and the tribes to protect habitat, remove fish passage barriers and improve steelhead survival in Puget Sound have resulted in increasing numbers of wild steelhead returning to the basin in recent years.

“It’s critical that this work continues in order to fully restore wild steelhead – our state fish – to the Skagit Basin,” Eleazer said.

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WDFW News – Chinook Fishery Below Bonneville Dam Will Reopen This Saturday for One Day.

– Anglers will have an opportunity to fish for spring chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River this Saturday (April 14) for one day only under an agreement reached Wednesday by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.

Fishing regulations will be the same as those in effect before the initial chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam closed April 7 for a fishery assessment.

Under those rules, anglers can retain one adult hatchery chinook salmon as part of a daily limit of two adult fish that can also include hatchery coho salmon and hatchery steelhead. Boat anglers can fish from Buoy 10 up to Beacon Rock, while bank anglers can fish all the way up to Bonneville Dam.

All anglers fishing the Columbia River are required to use barbless hooks, and must release any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin.

Bill Tweit, a fishery manager at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the one-day fishery this Saturday is designed in part as a “make-up day” for the last Saturday of the initial opener, when stormy weather kept many anglers off the water.

Tweit said fishery managers from both states are taking a cautious approach to extending the fishery given the low number of spring chinook observed passing up the fish ladders to date at Bonneville Dam.

“We’re taking this a step at a time,” Tweit said. “We know more fish are moving into the river, but we need to see signs of higher numbers of fish passing the dam before we consider reopening the fishery again.”

According to the preseason forecast, approximately 166,700 upriver spring chinook salmon are expected to return to the Columbia River this year. Based on that forecast, fishery managers set an initial catch guideline of 7,157 upriver chinook for the sport fishery below the dam, but so far anglers have caught only about half that many fish.

“If the run meets or exceeds expectations, we can give anglers more time to fish below the dam,” Tweit said. “But right now, we need to make sure we can meet conservation requirements and our obligations to fisheries farther upriver.”

Anglers age 15 and older are required to have a valid 2018-19 fishing license to fish in Washington state waters. A Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement (https://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/crss_endorsement/) is also required to fish for salmon or steelhead on the Columbia River or its tributaries.

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WDFW News – Washington’s Salmon Fishing Seasons SetFfor 2018.

With low returns of chinook and coho salmon expected back to numerous rivers in Washington, state and tribal co-managers Tuesday agreed on a fishing season that meets conservation goals for wild fish while providing fishing opportunities on healthy salmon runs.

The 2018-19 salmon fisheries, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers, were finalized during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Portland, Ore.

Information on recreational salmon fisheries in Washington’s ocean waters and the Columbia River is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/. The webpage also includes information on some notable Puget Sound sport fisheries, as well as an overview of chinook and coho fishing opportunities in the Sound’s marine areas.

A variety of unfavorable environmental conditions, including severe flooding in rivers and warm ocean water, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington’s rivers in recent years, said Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program.

In addition, the loss of quality rearing and spawning habitat continues to take a toll on salmon populations throughout the region, where some stocks are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, he said.

“It’s critical that we ensure fisheries are consistent with ongoing efforts to protect and rebuild wild salmon stocks,” Warren said. “Unfortunately, the loss of salmon habitat continues to outpace these recovery efforts. We need to reverse this trend. If we don’t, salmon runs will continue to decline and it will be increasingly difficult to develop meaningful fisheries.”

A bright spot in this year’s salmon season planning process was a renewed commitment by Indian and non-Indian fishermen to work together for the future of salmon and salmon fishing, said Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

“No fisherman wants to catch the last salmon. We know that the ongoing loss of habitat, a population explosion of hungry seals and sea lions and the needs of endangered southern resident killer whales are the real challenges facing us today. We must work together if we are going to restore salmon to sustainable levels,” she said.

Low returns of some salmon stocks prompted state and tribal fishery managers to limit opportunities in many areas to protect those fish.
For example, recreational anglers will have less opportunity to fish for chinook salmon in both the Columbia River and Washington’s ocean waters compared to recent years. Tribal fisheries also will be restricted in certain areas to protect weak stocks.

In meeting conservation objectives for wild salmon, the co-managers are limiting fisheries in areas where southern resident killer whales are known to feed. The adjustments will aid in minimizing boat presence and noise, and decrease competition for chinook and other salmon in areas critical to the declining whales.

Details on all recreational salmon fisheries will be provided in the 2018-19 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in late June.

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