Fishing has been better than expected in the San Juans this winter season. How much better?
As of April 7, the number of chinook salmon landed or released in Marine Area 7 exceeded pre-season projections, prompting the Washington state Department of Fish & Wildlife to scale back the number of chinook anglers can keep per day, from two down to one, through the end of the winter season, which closes April 30.
"Fishing picked up in late December and held steady through the remainder of the winter fishery," WDFW fishery biologist Ryan Lothrop said in a press release. "After reviewing the catch estimates, it was clear we needed to take action to control the fishery's impacts on stocks of concern."
The revised one-salmon-a-day limit went into effect April 12.
Anglers in Marine Area 7 must release any chinook not specifically marked with a clipped adipose fin as a hatchery fish. However, since some released wild chinook do not survive, they are counted toward the management guideline of 4,284 total encounters with legal-size chinook during the fishery.
According to preliminary estimates, anglers had kept or released 4,976 chinook, as of April 7.
The new catch limit will ensure compliance with conservation objectives and state-tribal management plans in Puget Sound, and WDFW will continue to monitor the Marine Area 7 fishery through April 30, Lothrop added.
Salmon season is expected to reopen July 1 in Marine area 7; it typically runs until the end of October. Anglers are generally allowed to keep two salmon per day in summer season, but only one of the two can be a chinook. While Marine Area 7 is closed for salmon in May and June, anglers can catch halibut, prawns and lingcod during those two months.
San Juan Island's Kevin Klein, a member of Puget Sound Anglers San Juan Islands Chapter board of directors, notes that pink salmon, which run every two years, will be back in Marine Area 7 this summer season.
For information on catch limits and fishing seasons, visit WDFW's Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) or the department's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/