OLYMPIA — Fishery managers estimate higher numbers of coho salmon will return to Washington’s waters in 2019 compared to 2018.
Forecasts for chinook, coho, sockeye, chum, and pink salmon, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and treaty Indian tribes were released Wednesday during a public meeting in Olympia.
The forecast meeting marks the starting point for crafting 2019 salmon-fishing seasons in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington coastal areas. The annual process for setting salmon fisheries is known as "North of Falcon." Fishery managers have scheduled a series of public meetings through early April before finalizing seasons later that month.
Kelly Susewind, WDFW director, said fishery managers will look to design fishing seasons that not only meet conservation goals for salmon but also minimize impacts on the region’s struggling southern resident killer whale population.
“In the coming weeks, we’ll be working with tribal co-managers and constituents to make sure that we meet our conservation objectives while providing fishing opportunities where possible,” Susewind said. “It’s complicated, but important work.”
The forecasts are based on varying environmental indicators, such as ocean conditions, as well as surveys of spawning salmon, and the number of juvenile salmon migrating to marine waters.
Increased returns of coho salmon should provide anglers with some good fishing opportunities including in areas in mid and south Sound, said Kyle Adicks, salmon fisheries policy lead for WDFW.
Roughly 670,200 wild and hatchery coho are expected to return to Puget Sound this year, up 15 percent of the 10-year average. However, the total forecast for wild and hatchery chinook is down slightly from 2018.
“We’re again expecting extremely low returns in key stocks such as Stillaguamish and mid-Hood Canal chinook, which will again limit salmon fishing opportunities,” Adicks said.
Meanwhile, this year's run of pink salmon, which mostly return to Washington's waters only in odd-numbered years, is expected to be 608,400 fish. That’s roughly 10 percent of the 10-year average of 5.7 million fish.