Goskagit

Continued low returns of some key chinook salmon stocks are expected to limit numerous state salmon fisheries for the upcoming season, state fisheries managers announced Monday.

The state's 2020-21 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the state Department of Fish & Wildlife and tribal co-managers, were tentatively set during a Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting held via webinar because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Season recommendations now must be approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

In the Puget Sound, low returns of Stillaguamish chinook, mid-Hood Canal chinook and Snohomish coho limited a number of fisheries in 2019, and will likely create even more constraints in 2020.

That includes the likelihood of fishing closures for winter Chinook in East Juan De Fuca Strait (Marine Area 6), the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7), Deception Pass and Port Gardner (areas 8-1 and 8-2), Admiralty Inlet (Marine Area 9), Tacoma-Vashon Island (Marine Area 11) and Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), with some exceptions for chinook non-retention in Hood Canal in November and December.

Summer seasons in Deception Pass and Port Gardner will also likely be closed to protect coho.

State Fish & Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind said in a news release that the department recognizes many of these fisheries have seen continued declines in opportunities in recent years.

"This is never the outcome we hope for, but until these stocks rebound, this is an unfortunate reality," Susewind said in the release. “We continue working alongside the public and tribal, state and federal partners to address all the factors impacting these critical runs."

This summer, chinook fisheries are expected to be largely similar to last year, with most Puget Sound marine areas scheduled to open for chinook retention beginning in July or August. 

Summer chinook fisheries are expected to begin July 1 in marine areas 5, 6, 7, and 11.

The summer salmon fishery in the Columbia River will again likely be closed to summer Chinook retention (including jacks), though stronger forecasts allow for sockeye retention in 2020, which is a change from last year.

Fall chinook fisheries likely will be open under various restrictions.

Waters from Buoy 10 upstream to the Puget Island are scheduled to be open Aug. 16-27 for chinook, and afterward will remain open for coho. Most of the waters upstream will open Aug. 1, but Warrior Rock to Bonneville Dam will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Aug. 7 through Sept. 6.

Steelhead fisheries in the Columbia and Snake rivers this season are set to be limited as additional protective measures will be in place due to continued low returns.

Initial ocean fisheries reflect a reduced coho quota due to significantly lower projected returns in 2020.

All four of the state's marine areas are scheduled to open June 20 for a chinook-only fishery, then transition to a Chinook and coho fishery beginning June 29.

Daily limits and days of the week fishing is allowed will vary by area. 

Susewind said COVID-19 remains a factor going into the upcoming summer and fall fishing seasons and has the potential to continue impacting fisheries as the year continues.

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