Recreational salmon fishing came to an unexpected end on Willapa Bay and many of its tributaries this week. The impromptu closure came on the same day that a public meeting took place in Raymond regarding poor returns of Chinook salmon.
The public meeting was called by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife earlier this month in order to address the future of Chinook smolt releases in the face of insufficient broodstock reserves. The sudden wave of closures announced on Tuesday is intended to address the current dearth of returning coho in the system.
In a press release, the WDFW noted that this season’s return of coho has so far come in at rates that are “significantly lower than preseason predictions.” That preseason forecast called for 157,467 coho to return through Willapa Bay.
By closing all salmon fishing, the WDFW hopes to be able to meet assorted escapement goals. Although the closure is slated to last indefinitely, the WDFW press release left open the possibility of reopening the fishery later, noting that, “Managers will continue to assess coho returns and re-open if warranted.”
Locations now closed to salmon fishing include Marine Area 2-1 (Willapa Bay), Bear River, Forks Creek, Naselle River, Nemah River (Middle, North, and South forks), North River, Smith Creek, Willapa River, and the Willapa River South Fork.
One location that is well known in the salmon angling community for it’s nearly never-ending recreational fishery is South Puget Sound. Since Tuesday, however, that common knowledge has been factually inaccurate as parts of Marine Area 13 were closed to all salmon fishing along with several other marine areas and inlets.
Sport salmon fishing is now closed in the Green (Duwamish) River, along with Minter and Kennedy creeks. Salmon fisheries are also shuttered in Marine Area 10, and the portion of South Sound (Marine Area 13) from the southernmost point of Devil’s Head (southern end of Key Peninsula) to the eastern boundary of Tolmie State Park, including Case Inlet, Henderson Inlet, Budd Inlet, Eld Inlet, Totten Inlet, and Oakland Bay.
In a press release the WDFW blamed those closures on a poor returns of chum salmon in South Puget Sound waters that failed to live up to preseason expectations. The closures are intended to help attain conservation and escapement goals.
Recreational salmon angling remains open in the eastern portion of Marine Area 13. That area exists east of a line that extends from the southernmost point of Devil’s Head to the eastern boundary of Tolmie Park. There is a two salmon daily limit. Chinook must measure at least 22 inches in length. All chum, wild Chinook, and wild coho must be released.