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Peninsula Daily News
THE SALTWATER FISHING season for kings and cohos isn’t exactly around the corner, but that doesn’t mean it is too early to talk about it.
The salmon quotas for the coastal marine areas are being planned, and earlier this week the Pacific Fishery Management Council narrowed these quotas to three potential plans.
The management council establishes fishing seasons in the ocean waters 3 to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.
Of course, which of these plans is ultimately chosen will affect the salmon fisheries in LaPush (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4), including hatchery chinook retention during the May halibut openings.
Judging by the plans, anglers should anticipate that coastal catch quotas for chinook will be smaller this year, while the coho quotas should remain similar to 2012.
The reason for the chinook catch decrease is less of the all-important Columbia River kings are being forecast to make a run into the Pacific Ocean.
These kings and silvers from the Columbia River account for a significant portion of the ocean salmon catch.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is represented on the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, expects 126,000 lower Columbia River chinook to make a run into the ocean — approximately 65,000 fewer than last year’s forecast.
The coho run is supposed to be 183,000 fish higher than last year, up to 500,000 fish.
So, let’s get to the three plans and how they would affect the Neah Bay and LaPush salmon fisheries.
As a reference, last year’s quotas were 51,500 chinook and 69,720 coho, and both LaPush and Neah Bay opened to chinook fishing on June 16 and coho fishing on July 1.
■ Option 1 — 51,500 chinook and 75,600 coho.
Note that the chinook quota in this plan is equal to the 2012 quota. Go figure.
The hatchery chinook season in both Marine Area 3 and 4 would begin with two Friday-Sunday openings, May 10-12 and May 17-19.
Those two areas would then reopen for seven-days-a-week king fishing on June 15.
The daily catch limit would be two salmon.
On June 29, Neah Bay and LaPush would open for the traditional recreational salmon season of hatchery and wild chinook and wild coho.
The daily limit would remain two, but anglers would also be allowed one additional pink salmon.
■ Option 2 — 41,500 chinook and 71,400 coho.
The hatchery king season would open from May 17-19, then reopen June 15 through June 21.
As in Option 1, the daily limit would be two salmon.
The traditional salmon season would begin June 22 and last until Sept. 22, and be open seven days a week.
One chinook could be retained as part of the two-salmon daily limit, and anglers also would be allowed two additional pink salmon.
■ Option 3 — 30,000 chinook and 63,000 coho.
Of the three plans, this one calls for the most drastic quota decrease.
The traditional salmon season (chinook and hatchery coho) would be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from June 28 through Sept. 15.
The daily limit would be two salmon and could include one chinook. Three additional pinks could also be harvested.
Also included in this plan is the potential for anglers to retain wild coho beginning Sept. 1.
A public hearing on the three options for ocean salmon fisheries is scheduled for Monday, March 25, at 7 p.m. in Westport.
The meeting will be at the Chateau Westport at 710 W. Hancock.
Puget Sound Anglers
In place of its monthly meeting, the North Olympic Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers will also host a public meeting regarding other regional issues.
The club is slated to host the state’s only official North of Falcon public meeting held on the North Olympic Peninsula next Thursday, March 21.
This meeting will be the public’s opportunity to hear and comment on what the state, tribes, and federal government are proposing for the 2013-14 salmon seasons, with primary emphasis on the fisheries of the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Areas 5 and 6), the San Juans (Marine Area 7) and North Puget Sound (Marine Area 9).
An overview of the ocean proposals, as well as the rest of Puget Sound, also will be covered.
Input from the public comments at the meeting will be considered in setting the final salmon season rules through the North of Falcon process.
Additional information on the process can be found on the state’s website at www.tinyurl.com/northfalcon.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Trinity United Methodist Church located at 100 South Blake Ave. in Sequim.
Outdoors columnist Lee Horton appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.