Janell McCullough caught this good-sized hatchery chinook while fishing off of Sekiu over the Marine Area 5 salmon opener in July of 2022.

Janell McCullough caught this good-sized hatchery chinook while fishing off of Sekiu over the Marine Area 5 salmon opener in July of 2022.

OUTDOORS: State salmon forecasts released

Chinook down a bit; coho should be solid

A SIMILAR CHINOOK season as in 2023 and the potential for a better coho harvest are the takeaways from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s North of Falcon statewide salmon forecast meeting held Friday.

Recent ocean conditions have been relatively good for smolts entering the Pacific Ocean from 2021-23, even after a marine heatwave started up to the south last summer.

El Niño impacts have been minimal besides a significant lack of snowpack — which will cause low stream flows and warm summer water temperatures in rivers and streams.

A transition back to a La Niña weather pattern is hoped for this summer and could improve the survival of salmon rearing in the ocean.

Grading system

Return forecasts were graded relative to the recent 10-year average run size for each river, stream or body of water. Good returns are considered greater than 125-percent of that 10-year average, neutral are 75-to-125-percent and poor returns are less than 75-percent.

The fall coastal chinook forecast predicts a 7-percent decline in the amount of hatchery kings over the 10-year average, 13-percent down from 2023. Wild kings are expected to show a minimal 2-percent increase and a 5-percent drop from 2023. In total, chinook are down 3-percent over the past 10 years and 9-percent from 2023’s forecast.

A total of 73,181 chinook are expected back along the coast, 36,437 hatchery and 36,744 wild.

Puget Sound chinook are expected to return in total at a 17-percent increase over the 10-year average adult return and down 3-percent from last year’s forecast — 251,333 chinook (223,179 hatchery and 28, 154-wild).

Hatchery projections are at a 22-percent increase in the 10-year average, and wild are shown decreasing by six-percent.

Coho forecasts for 2024 range mostly from neutral to good across Puget Sound with a projection of 722,134 total silvers, of which 419,966 are hatchery and 302,168 wild. The 10-year historical runsize average is 556,000 for Puget Sound going back to 2012.

Coastal hatchery coho returns are expected to rise 52-percent and wild 15-percent over the recent 10-year average but down 22-percent from the 2023 forecast.

A total of 225,951 hatchery coho are expected to return along with 157,957 wilds.

Forecasts range from neutral to poor across the coast, with poor listings for the Quillayute River system and the Hoh River.

For more information on North of Falcon, visit https://tinyurl.com/PDN-NOF24.

Norden weighs in

Quilcene’s Ward Norden has retired from his tackle business, but still gets asked his opinion on salmon at every turn.

“The big El Niño didn’t have much effect up here in the Northwest last summer since it intensified on the Equator late last spring,” Norden said. “This years salmon returns were already set by then.

“We should have a good return of coho this year from the Pacific that may be a little better than last year. Hopefully, the coho will be bigger than last year’s which were eerily small when I observed them as they returned to the hatchery in Quilcene.

The size of the returning coho depends on the food supply in June and July. There should be plenty of resident coho.

“Chinook returns to the hatcheries will be similar to last year but that recreational fishery has been so reduced that the size that the return is hardly relevant anymore. If the return is bigger, the season will be even shorter. Chinook fishing should be especially good out in Neah Bay and Sekiu, however, where management is different.

Ridge is open for skiing

Hurricane Ridge Ski & Snowboard Area’s Facebook page announced the ridge will open for skiing and snowboarding for the first time this winter today.

“We will start with the 2 rope tows at 10 am tomorrow. Still uncertain about tubing, we will let you know when they finish moving snow around.”

The ridge road opens at 9 a.m. and the ridge itself will be open for shredding at 10 a.m.

Razor clam digs

Longer days and a switch to morning harvests will happen during the next razor clam digs on ocean beaches set Thursday through March 17.

Afternoon and evening low tides (noon to midnight only):

• Thursday: 4:15 p.m.; -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis.

• Friday: 5:00 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks.

• Saturday, March 9: 5:42 p.m.; -0.9 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks.

• Sunday, March 10: 7:22 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis.

• Monday, March 11: 8:00 p.m.; -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis.

Morning/early afternoon (4 a.m. to 4 p.m. only) low tides from March 12-17:

• March 12: 8:33 a.m.; -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Mocrocks.

•  March 13, 9:21 a.m.; -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Mocrocks.

• March 14, 10:12 a.m.; -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Mocrocks.

• March 15 11:08 a.m.; 0.1 feet; Copalis (Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival).

• March 16 12:10 p.m.; 0.5 feet; Copalis (Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival).

• March 17 1:23 p.m.; 0.9 feet; Mocrocks (Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival).

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Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at sports@peninsuladailynews.com.

Janell McCullough caught this good-sized hatchery chinook while fishing off of Sekiu over the Marine Area 5 salmon opener last weekend.

Janell McCullough caught this good-sized hatchery chinook while fishing off of Sekiu over the Marine Area 5 salmon opener last weekend.