Fish and Wildlife to release Grays Harbor, Willapa River salmon forecasts Wednesday

Whether you’re a commercial or recreational angler, you have the opportunity to voice your opinion to state fish managers at two meetings coming up later this month.

Willapa Bay biologist Chad Herring said there will be a meeting at the Montesano City Hall, at 112 North Main St., Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. There, he and Grays Harbor biologist Mike Scharpf will run through the presentations they shared Feb. 11 with Fish and Wildlife commissioners, detailing both systems’ 2016 salmon returns compared with expectations. They then will release their official forecast for salmon runs in 2017 and there will be a discussion regarding 2017 commercial and recreational salmon seasons.

The following Tuesday, the Department of Fish and Wildlife will release a preview of 2017 salmon runs and a list of potential fishing seasons. The meeting is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the General Administration Auditorium at the Natural Resources Building in Olympia, 210 11th Ave. SW, just north of the state capital building.

The state will present initial forecasts compiled by state and tribal biologists of 2017 salmon returns. This meeting is one of many opportunities to participate during the 2017 season-setting process, said Ron Warren, head of the state’s fish program.

“The public plays an important role in shaping salmon fisheries across the state each year,” Warren said. “We encourage people to participate either by attending one of the many public meetings or by providing comments online.”

The annual process of setting salmon fishing seasons is called North of Falcon and is held in conjunction with public meetings conducted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The council is responsible for establishing fishing seasons in ocean water three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast. North of Falcon typically takes place in March and April.

“Last year, negotiations went into overtime, which delayed recreational salmon fisheries around Puget Sound,” Warren said. “To avoid a repeat, we’ve been communicating earlier and more frequently with our tribal co-managers and have been working together to make North of Falcon more efficient.” It is hoped this early dialogue will mean an agreement on salmon fisheries can be reached when salmon seasons will be set April 6-11 in Sacramento, Calif.

A schedule of meetings is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.