OUTDOORS: Sekiu switching to silvers

Cooler weather may have impact on bear hunting

TODAY MARKS THE final day of hatchery chinook retention in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) as anglers are expected to meet the preseason “legal chinook encounter threshold” by the end of today.

Anglers will be able to target hatchery coho off Sekiu from Friday onward, with a two-fish daily limit and no minimum size. Release all chinook, chum and wild coho.

A blisteringly hot start to the chinook season carved out much of the area’s chinook catch guideline of 7,032 fish.

Through last Sunday, anglers had encountered 6,662 hatchery kings, 95 percent of the guideline.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife uses the terms guideline and quota to manage saltwater salmon fisheries off the coast and in Puget Sound.

I was curious about the difference in the terminology.

“None, it’s just semantics really,” Puget Sound Recreational Fishery Manager Mark Baltzell said. “We could infer there is more flexibility with a guideline, but that’s not how we treat it.”

And I was curious about why Marine Area 5 is managed to a guideline, while Marine Area 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), which borders Marine Area 5, is managed to a full-season schedule each year.

The answer I received focused on effort, geography and final destinations.

“We’ve been doing mark-selective fisheries for chinook since 2003 in areas 5 and 6,” Baltzell said. “For a long time, up until 2010 or 2011, we were doing in-season management and fishery projections. What we discovered is the impact on Area 6 fisheries is much less than in Area 5. We are able to use that historical data on Marine Area 6 and run it as a season each year.”

Baltzell said there’s a big difference in the number of anglers that fish in each area.

“Any given July through September we see 40,000 angler trips leaving out of the Sekiu/Area 5 area,” Baltzell said. “It’s about effort. Those trip numbers are much higher than we see out of Area 6.”

Geography also plays a role in making Sekiu a salmon hotspot.

“Hatchery fish are tagged with coded wire tags that can provide information on which stocks are impacted and by how much,” Baltzell said. “Predictive modeling shows that Area 5 is kind of that first step as fish are entering Puget Sound, and the area also gets fish that dip in that are headed to the Columbia.

“Sekiu is one of our biggest mixed stock areas, so there are impacts to Puget Sound chinook stocks and Columbia River chinook stocks [both stocks are protected under the Endangered Species Act] and Canadian stock heading to the Fraser River mix in as well.”

Important reminders

With the town and marina at Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) still closed to outside visitors, Sekiu will remain the closest launch location for anglers fishing for kings or hatchery coho and for Marine Area 4-bound halibut anglers once the ocean halibut season gets underway Thursday, Aug. 6.

Anglers are reminded that if chinook are caught legally in adjacent marine areas they can be transported through and landed in Marine Area 5.

However, anglers may not fish in Marine Area 5 with a chinook, or any other fish not legal to harvest in that area, onboard their vessel.

So if anglers fish Neah Bay for kings, limit out and want to fish for silvers off Sekiu, they must return to Sekiu and offload any kings on board before heading back out for silvers.

Friday marks the end of chinook retention in Marine Area 4B, east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh Line, which runs from the western end of Cape Flattery to the Tatoosh Island Lighthouse and then in a straight line across to Bonilla Point on Vancouver Island.

Bear season

Cooler weather earlier in the year’s impact on berry production and logging operations in eastern Jefferson County may have a significant impact on bear hunting this late summer and fall, according to Quilcene tackle manufacturer and former fisheries biologist Ward Norden.

Fall bear season opens Saturday across the state.

“This year will be a different one, requiring many hunters to think of new strategies,” Norden said.

“In many areas, the ripening of wild berries is several weeks behind schedule, if there are many berries at all, due to the cool, wet month of June.”

Norden also has seen alterations to timber lands near Quilcene.

“The biggest change is in Jefferson County’s lowlands that have always been quite rich with bears,” Norden said. “The extraordinary logging of Pope Resources lands over the last eight months has turned well-known, bear-rich areas south of state Highway 104, along Center Road near Quilcene, and especially around Tarboo Lake, into virtual prairies with little cover or food for bears.”

Pope Resources is now part of Rayonier, an acquisition officially announced May 8.

Norden said other hunters will benefit, but not those looking for black bear.

“This will be good for future deer hunting but bleak for bear hunting for a couple years,” Norden said. “Recent logging will likely concentrate the bear onto unlogged state Department of Natural Resource lands near [Rayonier] land or force the bears to higher elevation federal lands. Good luck to all my neighbors on the North Olympic Peninsula who aspire to bear hunting. ”

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or at [email protected].

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