In spite of the 2015 successful Whidbey Island Coho salmon fishing season, there won’t be one this year. Even if tribal and state leaders finally reached an agreement on Puget Sound fisheries, Whidbey anglers will have to wait another year.
Fishing for Coho or silvers is forbidden this year not only around the waters of Whidbey Island but also in all waters of Puget Sound. The reason is a huge drop off in the fish population that was expected to return this summer.
The fisheries co-managers anticipated that there will be low numbers of returning fish this year, so they tried to reach an agreement on Puget Sound fishing. The negotiations lasted a few weeks and with no agreement by May 1st resulting in many restrictions.
This agreement is crucial because, without it, the tribes and state are not able to obtain a joint federal permit to go fishing in Puget Sound waters where there are some species protected by the Federal Species Act. However, it is still good that salmon fishing will be allowed on hatchery Chinook to protect weak salmon stocks, including Coho.
Chinook season will last from July 16th until August 15th, and it will be in Marine Area 9, that includes Admiralty Inlet. Nevertheless, the season could close earlier if the 3,056 fish quota is reached. On the other hand, salmon fishing will remain closed until November in Marine Area 8-1, covering Skagit Bay, Hope Island and Deception Pass. Even so, only Chinook will be available for fishing as anglers must release Coho.
In Marine Area 7, which includes San Juan water, anglers are allowed to retain hatchery Chinook from July to September but release all other stocks. Hood Canal is the only place where Coho are expected to have sufficient numbers. No other fisheries in Puget Sound will be available this year.
Even Ron Warren, assistant director of the fish program for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, confessed that never in 36 years has he seen so many restrictions on Coho.
The Chinook situation is not so bright either as there is a drop off of 165,000 fish returning compared with last year. Also, the cause for the poor Coho return originates from drought in freshwater rivers and unfavorable ocean conditions.