Preliminary counts of coho salmon expected to make the return this fall up the Nisqually River are looking favorable, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say. And dates for the fisheries this season could be finalized within the coming weeks.
James Losee, WDFW fish biologist for the south Puget Sound, said the numbers of 2016-spawned Choho are looking favorable to produce an exciting run for anglers and fisheries along the Nisqually River.
Tentatively, 7,400 hatchery-originated coho are expected to make their way back up this year, Losee said; 4,800 wild, Nisqually-native coho are expected this year. Compared with the last few years, Losee said those numbers are an encouraging sign.
Losee said he expects the salmon to start their runs in August and go well into September.
“By all measures, we’re expecting a good run of hatchery coho,” he said.
The positive projections have been attributed to a greater numbers of parents that have spawned in the past few years and favorable marine waters for salmon out in the Pacific Ocean. Losee said warm waters brought on by El Niño winters within the last couple years haven’t fostered appropriate conditions for developing coho.
“The warm blob, that’s not favorable for juvenile salmon,” he said.
Dates for commercial and tribal fisheries could also be finalized soon, Losee said, as officials from the WDFW finish up talks with federal and tribal officials to publish the annual North of Falcon process.
Losee said that during the process, state officials take into account each industry’s needs and compare that with projected runs of fish species, also taking into account possible ecological and population repercussions. Those dates could be finalized within a couple weeks, he said.
While steelhead recovery efforts and runs the last few years on the Nisqually and Puyallup Rivers have been quite strong, Losee said there will be no opportunity for anglers to cast for them this year.
”(Around) all of South Puget Sound, there’s no opportunity to target Steelhead… we hope someday to target them,” he said.
Steelhead trout and Chinook salmon are still protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Losee said pink salmon and chum are expected smaller returns this year as well. Relative to the last decade, the numbers making up the pink salmon run this year are forecasted to be fairly small.
“Due to the concern of the return of winter chum, there may be limited opportunity to target winter chum due to conservation concern,” he said.
According to a report by the Centralia Chronicle, chum salmon runs on the Chehalis are expected to be more-than favorable for anglers.
For more information on public fishing, or see season regulations, visit the WDFW’s fishing regulation packet online or download the “Fish Washington” application on your smartphone.