By Chase Gunnell
Are you ready for an exciting salmon fishing season in Washington? Well, get your fishing gear ready because anglers can expect some fantastic opportunities this year. State fishery managers have announced that the 2023-24 salmon fishing seasons will be similar to last year, with even better chances in the ocean thanks to improved Chinook forecasts and a strong return of coho salmon.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers worked together to develop these seasons during a week-long meeting of the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Their priority was ensuring the conservation of salmon populations, particularly those listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
WDFW Director Kelly Susewind expressed his enthusiasm for this year’s forecast, saying, “There are improvements in this season’s forecast, and we have developed a number of good fishing opportunities in Washington on healthy stocks.” This collaborative effort aims to strike a balance between providing sustainable harvest opportunities and protecting the future of salmon for the next seven generations.
Negotiations between WDFW and tribes were guided by the Puget Sound Harvest Management Plan, which will serve as a long-term guideline for fishing in Puget Sound. Approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, this plan emphasizes the importance of conservation and aims to restore salmon populations in the face of habitat loss, climate change, and marine mammal predation.
Puget Sound: A Haven for Salmon Enthusiasts
Salmon lovers will be thrilled to know that the pink salmon prediction for Puget Sound is about 3.95 million, similar to last year’s 3.77 million return. These delightful creatures will remain a part of daily catch limits in marine fisheries, while limits in freshwater areas will be specific to each watershed.
However, the forecast for Stillaguamish wild Chinook remains at historically low levels. As a result, conservation limits will impact fishing opportunities in the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7). Nonetheless, anglers can still target the robust returns of coho and pink salmon. Managers have proposed a three-day hatchery Chinook and marked coho fishery from July 13-15, with the possibility of extending it based on in-season monitoring. This will be followed by a coho-directed fishery starting August 1.
Kyle Adicks, the intergovernmental salmon manager at WDFW, emphasized the need for careful planning to ensure the limited impact on ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook. He stated, “We work with the public each spring to plan fisheries that spread the limited fishing opportunity available for Chinook and other species around the marine and freshwater areas of Puget Sound.”
For coho, the hatchery and wild forecasts have generally increased overall. In Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet), a marked coho opener is planned from July 30 to September 17, with a non-select coho season following from September 18 to September 30. In Marine Area 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), the non-select coho season is set for August 1 to September 24. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu-Pillar Point) and Marine Area 6 (East Strait of Juan de Fuca) will see a non-select coho fishery from October 1 to October 15.
Winter Chinook fisheries in Puget Sound will offer some retention opportunities in March and April of 2024 in Marine Areas 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island), as well as in April 1-30, 2024 in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu).
Most Puget Sound marine areas will open for a planned summer salmon season in July or August, with Marine Areas 10 and 11 planning to open on June 1.
Columbia River: A Gateway to Salmon Adventure
If you’re up for an exhilarating fishing experience, the Columbia River is the place to be. This year’s summer salmon fisheries are expected to be even better than last year. Starting from the Astoria-Megler bridge to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco, fishing will be permitted from June 16 to July 31. And here’s some exciting news: sockeye retention will be allowed starting from June 16.
Come August 1, fall fisheries from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco will open their doors to anglers. Different dates will be set for Chinook and coho fishing, accompanied by steelhead restrictions throughout the river. With another strong coho run expected and a better-than-forecasted Chinook run, be prepared for some unforgettable fishing opportunities.
Coastal Fisheries: A Bountiful Ocean Delight
Washington’s ocean salmon fisheries are looking promising this year. Fishery managers have agreed on recreational ocean quotas of 39,000 Chinook and 159,600 marked coho. Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) and La Push (Marine Area 3) will open for salmon retention starting from June 17, followed by Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) and Westport-Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2) on June 24. All areas will remain open until September 30 or until quotas are met. Please note that species and size restrictions will vary depending on the area.
In Grays Harbor (Marine Area 2-2), the Humptulips North Bay salmon season opens on August 1, allowing the retention of hatchery Chinook and coho. The East Grays Harbor fishery will open on September 16 for coho retention only. In Willapa Bay (Marine Area 2-1), the season for coho and hatchery Chinook begins on August 1. Excitingly, the Willapa Bay Control Zone will also open for salmon fishing in 2023.
Get Ready for an Epic Salmon Season in Washington!
Now that you know what awaits you in the incredible waters of Washington, it’s time to start planning your fishing adventures. For more details on this year’s sport salmon fisheries and the North of Falcon process, visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill. There you can find statewide fishing regulations and download the latest fishing rules pamphlet. Remember to also stay informed about any emergency rule changes that may impact your fishing plans.
As passionate fishermen and women, it’s our duty to preserve, protect, and perpetuate the fish, wildlife, and ecosystems of Washington. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is committed to providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities. So let’s enjoy this incredible salmon season while ensuring the future of our beloved salmon for generations to come.
For insights into the science behind salmon season-setting in Washington, check out the “Sound Management: Conserving Pacific Northwest salmon through cooperation” video on the WDFW YouTube channel. For information on tribal fisheries, visit the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission website.