HIGH EARLY SEASON catch estimates have triggered an unusual suspension of the ocean salmon season off of Neah Bay today west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line and Tuesday east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line.
Anglers are still able to catch a daily limit of two salmon, including no more than one chinook of a minimum size of 24 inches. Hatchery coho must be at least 16 inches and wild coho must be released.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife made the move Thursday night, providing less than optimal (I’m being kind here) notice for those heading into the Fourth of July weekend with plans to stay and play on the North Olympic Peninsula.
According to Fish and Wildlife estimates, 45 percent (2,773) of a 6,110-chinook guideline for Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) had been eaten up as of last Sunday.
Excellent weather increased the number of anglers estimated participating in the fishery to 2,932 from June 20-26, but catch rates dipped from one king per angler average to a 0.69 king/per angler last week.
Fish and Wildlife believes that suspending king fishing in Marine Area 4 will preserve a portion of chinook quota until later in the season when more coho are in the mix.
La Push limit dips
The king limit has been trimmed to one at least 24 inches in length as part of a two-salmon daily limit in a corresponding move to slow eating up the quota in Marine Area 3 (La Push) while kings are moving through and fishing effort potentially increases with the Area 4 suspension.
Even-day fishery off Sekiu
A late-breaking rule change issued Friday afternoon will close Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) to salmon fishing on odd-numbered days beginning Tuesday and open the fishery on even-numbered days through July 31.
State fish managers said they made the change after just one day of chinook fishing off Sekiu in order to prolong the fishery through July.
Additional pressure is expected in the wake of the upcoming Neah Bay suspension and La Push’s move to a one-king limit.
The alternating-day fishing schedule in Marine Area 5 was supported by Puget Sound recreational fishery advisors.
Daily salmon fishing is currently scheduled to resume in Marine Area 5 beginning Aug. 1, and continue through Sept. 28.
It appears the forecast of returning chinook was either badly, badly underestimated by those in the know, or the kings are running thick now but won’t for much longer.
Area 6 no changes…yet
Marine Area 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) also opened Thursday with one hatchery king at least 22 inches able to be retained as part of the two-salmon daily limit through Aug. 15.
Chinook retention ends Aug. 16, with hatchery silver fishing open through Sept. 28. All chinook, chum and wild coho must be sent back down.
The 2022-23 fishing season started Thursday and an electronic version of the fishing regulations for the coming year is available at www.eregulations.com/washington/fishing/. Always double check with the official state regulations before going out to fish.
Halibut anglers had caught an estimated 159,341.7 pounds of the flatfish statewide (about 52.3 percent of the total) in estimates through Sunday.
Scheduled halibut dates ended earlier this week, but additional days are likely. Preseason proposals that didn’t see public release show additional dates are expected to be five days a week, Thursday through Monday from Aug. 18 to Sept. 30.
There are recreational anglers doing their best to try and move those dates forward a bit as well. Remaining quota in Puget Sound, including Sekiu is 39,394.9 pounds.
Remaining quota for the North Coast, Neah Bay and La Push, is 82,175.9 pounds.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at [email protected]