Westport salmon season set to start June 19

More fish than last year, but Queets coho hold numbers down

When the Westport salmon season opens June 19, sport anglers will be working with a Chinook quota a few hundred fish greater than last year’s, and about double the 2020 coho quota.

The state’s 2021-22 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and treaty tribal co-managers, were tentatively set last week at the end of a week-long Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting.

Managers made a late push Thursday to reach final consensus on potential fisheries for Queets River and Grays Harbor coho while staying within conservation objectives established under the Pacific Salmon Treaty, according to a Fish and Wildlife statement. A quota of just 20,440 marked coho for the Westport subarea is double what it was last year, but less than half that of the area south of Leadbetter Point in Pacific County, where the quota is 42,400 marked coho. That’s due to concerns over a Queets River coho return not expected to reach escapement goals that are set to ensure sustainable runs in the future.

“These are difficult times for salmon in Washington, which means it’s also a difficult time for fishing,” said Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind. “Fortunately, there should still be some good opportunities available to anglers throughout the state. We’ll be monitoring returns closely to make sure we’re staying within our conservation objectives, and modify fisheries as needed.”

Washington’s ocean waters

Initial ocean fisheries reflect increased coho quotas due to significantly higher projected returns of Columbia River coho in 2021; however, low projections for Washington coastal coho limited quotas there, particularly on the north coast.

All four of Washington’s marine areas are scheduled to open June 19 for a Chinook-only fishery, then transition to a Chinook and coho fishery beginning June 27 in Westport and Ilwaco, and beginning July 4 in Neah Bay and La Push. Daily limits and days of the week open to salmon fishing vary between areas.

Fishing out of Westport, the season opens June 19-26, seven days a week, with a limit of one Chinook, minimum of 22 inches. Starting June 27, it’s a five days a week fishery, Sunday through Thursday, through Sept. 15 or until the quota of 20,440 coho and 12,925 Chinook has been reached. The limit will be two fish a day, which can be a combination of one Chinook and one coho, or two coho.

The quotas for the Westport subarea are higher than 2020’s, especially the coho quota, which was only 9,800 last year. The Chinook quota is up by a couple hundred fish.

Columbia River

Many Columbia River fisheries are expected to offer expanded opportunity compared to 2020, beginning with an opportunity to retain sockeye and hatchery Chinook from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Highway 395 in Pasco starting in mid-June.

The lower river from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco is planned for an Aug. 1 opening for both Chinook and coho; Buoy 10 didn’t open until Aug. 14 last year. A strong coho forecast and increased Chinook run size should provide for good fishing opportunities, state fish managers said.

Season recommendations now move forward for approval by the National Marine Fisheries Service and final rule making, including additional opportunity for public comment and consideration of those comments.

More information

Additional information about this year’s sport salmon fisheries and the North of Falcon process can be found online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/nof. Visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations to see statewide fishing regulations and download the latest fishing rules pamphlet, and https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ for emergency rule changes that may impact fisheries.