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Salmon season looks good for Wash. anglers

SEATTLE — Salmon anglers will have more fishing opportunities off Washington’s coast and in the Columbia River this summer, while most recreational fishing in the Puget Sound will be similar to last year.

Declining salmon populations prompted regulators to shut down California’s season, but there’s better news for sport and commercial fishing in Washington.

“We expect the fishing to be fantastic,” Larry Giese of Deep Sea Charters in Westport told The Aberdeen Daily World. “It’s going to be a nice long season with lots of fish.”

The brightest spot in this year’s season is the recreational quota approved for coho salmon: 176,400 fish, compared with just 20,350 last year.

“The coho limit is nine times what we caught last season,” Giese said.

Phil Anderson, interim director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the agency’s priority is to meet conservation goals to protect wild salmon.

“This year’s package of salmon fisheries accomplishes that goal while also providing anglers good fishing opportunities throughout Washington’s waters,” he said.

More than 1 million coho salmon are expected to return to the Columbia River this summer, the largest return since 2001, according to state fish officials.

Because Columbia River stocks are in good shape, commercial fishing off Washington’s coast should be about normal, industry leaders said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a great year, but for this year, Washington will have more or less a normal fishing year,” Glen Spain, Northwest regional director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, told The News Tribune of Tacoma.

The recreation ocean salmon season begins June 27 off La Push and Neah Bay, and June 28 off Ilwaco and Westport.

The recreation quota for chinook salmon is 20,500, which is similar to last year but still hovers near a record low, Anderson said.

The state’s salmon seasons were approved Wednesday by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which will forward its decision to the National Marine Fisheries Service for approval before May 1.

The council called off California’s commercial chinook salmon fishing season for a second year in a row, after a record low number of the fish returned to the Sacramento River to spawn last year. It also severely curtailed commercial salmon fishing in Oregon.

A 10-day sport season in California will be allowed from Eureka to the Oregon border from Aug. 29 to Sept. 7. Regulators will allow 11,000 coho salmon in Oregon waters to be fished in September, but chinook salmon can only be caught off the northernmost area of the Oregon coast near Washington.

Washington state and tribes negotiate fishing seasons in Puget Sound, where some Puget Sound salmon stocks are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

In Puget Sound, anglers will have expanded opportunity to catch hatchery salmon. The recreational season runs from June 1 through Dec. 31. The spring 2010 season was also extended by five weeks.

Art Tachell of Point Defiance Boathouse Marina in Tacoma said he had hoped for a year-round fishing season, but was happy to have more fishing opportunity.

“Any liberalization is good news,” Tachell told The News Tribune.

Anglers can also take advantage of abundant numbers of pink salmon expected to return to Puget Sound streams, including the Green and Puyallup rivers. About 5.1 million pink salmon are expected, nearly 2 million more fish forecast in 2007. Pink salmon, the smallest of Pacific salmon species, return to Washington wasters only in odd-numbered years.

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