Sitting for salmon

Jane Froment (left) and Alex Froment of Oak Harbor sit in July 2018 on the banks of the Skagit River hoping to catch a sockeye salmon.

State and tribal fishery co-managers reached an agreement Monday, setting the general salmon fishing seasons for the remainder of 2019.

The seasons include increased opportunity to fish for coho salmon but less opportunity to fish for chinook salmon, in part due to efforts to conserve fish for the endangered Southern Resident orca whales that eat chinook. Pink salmon fisheries will also be limited in Puget Sound.

Limiting salmon fisheries could also help the orcas by reducing the number of fishing boats, which create noise that interferes with the whales’ ability to communicate and hunt, according to a state Department of Fish & Wildlife news release.

Fishing will be closed around the San Juan Islands during a popular season in August, as well as in October and January. Fishing will also be closed in the area around Deception Pass in December and January.

Fish & Wildlife salmon policy lead Kyle Adicks said in the release that projected low returns of Puget Sound chinook prompted fishery managers to restrict fisheries in the region.

“We’re able to provide more opportunities to fish for coho in some areas, particularly in the ocean and Columbia River, than we have been able to do for several years,” Adicks said. “But continued poor returns of some chinook stocks forced us to make difficult decisions for fisheries in Puget Sound this year.”

Fish & Wildlife’s salmon return forecasts indicate returns to the Skagit and Samish rivers will be poor overall in the year ahead.

Chum, pink and coho salmon returns to the Skagit River, as well as coho salmon returns to the Samish River, are categorized as poor. Skagit River chinook and Baker Lake sockeye returns are categorized as neutral.

Still, a Baker Lake sockeye fishery is possible and coho fishing will open in the area around Deception Pass in October. That coho fishery was approved thanks to a 15 percent increase in the forecast returns compared to the 10-year average, according to Fish & Wildlife data.

The state Department of Fish & Wildlife and treaty tribes agreed to the seasons during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Rohnert Park, California.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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