Good news for salmon anglers

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SEATTLE — Salmon anglers could see another blissful summer and fall fishing season.

Fisheries officials are predicting a record 677,900 Columbia River fall chinook return, the highest since 2004 and greater than the 10-year average actual return of 547,900 and larger than 512,300 last year. The fall runs are split into six different stocks.

“I see the Columbia fall chinook forecasts as definitely being a good thing for our ocean and river fisheries,” said Pat Pattillo, the assistant to the state Fish and Wildlife director. “While things are still in the very preliminary stages, it does give us a little more breathing room, and triggers an allowance for a slightly higher harvest. The early spring ocean fisheries (where only hatchery-marked chinook may be kept) are driven by these stocks, and we had such a great season last year. Mark rates in June were in the 70 to 80 percent range.”

The Columbia River fall upriver bright stock is a record forecast of 432,500, and the highest actual return was 420,700 in 1987.

This stock tends to bite fairly well even when they arrive way up in the Hanford Reach area and as far as the Lower Snake River. Many are also caught in the Lower Columbia mainstem fisheries.

The hatchery portion of the upriver fall chinook return is also a record high forecast of 70,000. The actual return last year was 46,300 with a record high of 67,400 in 2003.

The lower river chinook forecast is 88,000, which is on par to the five-year average of 87,000 and the actual return last year of 84,800 (127,000 was the forecast).

The Columbia coho forecast of 716,400 (compared to a forecast of 632,700 last year, and an actual run of 306,100) was released a few weeks ago, and it’s also looking much stronger compared to recent years.

Some Puget Sound forecasts have come to light, and anglers could see another decent summer season not only for chinook and coho, but for an abundant pink return.

“I don’t have all the (forecast) numbers, but the Puget Sound fishing season might align well again,” Pattillo said. “It looks like we’ll have the same strength of chinook returns, and then it could roll right into coho plus pinks.”

The Skagit River coho forecast is 120,000 to 130,000, which is almost twice as large as last year’s prediction and higher than the actual return.

“I’m really excited about what I’ve seen so far, and you really need to grab ahold of all this optimism,” Pattillo said.

While the Baker Lake sockeye forecast of 22,000 will be down from last year’s prediction of 35,366, Pattillo says it should be enough to provide river and lake fisheries.

State Fish and Wildlife will unveil forecasts 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday at a public meeting in Natural Resources Building in Olympia.

Preliminary drafts of possible salmon-fishing seasons for the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound will be made March 15 at the Natural Resources Building in Olympia; and March 27 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Lynnwood.

Final seasons will be set April 6-11. For a list of meetings, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon.

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