The Pacific Fishery Management Council on Thursday adopted meager summer salmon angling seasons off the Washington and northern Oregon coasts — but avoided a complete closure.
State, federal and tribal officials in mid-March raised the possibility of closing all ocean salmon fishing in order to protect the extremely weak wild coho runs forecast for 2016 in many Puget Sound and coastal streams.
Two years of warm water in the north Pacific Ocean are considered the likely culprit.
“I have never seen a situation like this with such low coho numbers and yet healthy chinook stocks, primarily originating from the Columbia River,’’ said Phil Anderson, former director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and now a Washington representative on the PFMC.
Forecasters expect 380,000 coho to return to the Columbia River in 2016. While not a good run, it’s not a disaster.
The PFMC completed a weeklong meeting in Vancouver on Thursday.
The best ocean angling opportunity this summer will be for the Columbia River ports of Ilwaco, Astoria, Chinook, Hammond and Warrenton.
For the waters between Cape Falcon, Ore. (near Manzanita) and Leadbetter Point at the northern tip of Long Beach Peninsula, salmon fishing will open July 1 and is scheduled to continue daily through Aug. 31, or until 18,900 fin-clipped coho are caught.
The bag limit will be two salmon, but only one chinook.
Cape Falcon to Leadbetter Point is the only portion of the northern Oregon and Washington coast where coho fishing will be allowed. Columbia River-origin coho tend to congregate in this area.
“It’s the best we could hope for with all the constraints we had to contend with this year,’’ said Butch Smith, president of the Ilwaco Charter Association and chairman of the PFMC’s Salmon Advisory Subpanel.
Smith said he is reasonably optimistic the coho quota will last until at least late in August.
“I’d make my reservations for early,’’ he said.
Only chinook fishing will be allowed from Leadbetter Point north to Canada. Angling will not open until July 1 and close by Aug. 21, or when a chinook catch guideline is met.
A year ago, the Washington and northern Oregon ports had a coho quota of 150,800, in addition to their chinook.
Ocean salmon fishing is a key piece of the coastal tourism-based summer economy.
In 2015, there were about 108,000 ocean salmon angling trips in Washington. About 38 percent of those were from the Columbia River ports.
Anderson called the 2016 coastal seasons “some small level of fisheries in maintaining our communities.’’
Normally, fishing seasons for the lower Columbia River, including Buoy 10 in the estuary, are announced at the conclusion of the PFMC process to adopt ocean fisheries.
Chris Kern, a deputy administrator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he hoped the Columbia River seasons can be announced by late next week.
A monster run of 951,000 fall chinook is predicted to enter the Columbia River in August, September and October. Exceptional sport-fishing at Buoy 10 is expected, along with good catches upriver.