When it comes to salmon fishing season, the state believes Lake Washington and several rivers may see a repeat of closed or minimal opportunity again this year.
Fish management officials with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife held the annual salmon forecast meeting in Olympia on Tuesday.
The following rivers or fisheries in the Puget Sound region are forecasted to have wild Chinook returns that concern wildlife officials: Nisqually, Nooksack springs, Dungeness, White River springs, and Lake Washington
For wild coho, the fisheries of most concern are the Nooksack/Samish, Skagit and Stillaguamish rivers.
Last year, coho was predicted to return in historically low numbers. Though wildlife officials later learned the returns weren’t as dire as they’d originally thought, the fish are trending downward.
In 2015, WDFW predicted a run size of 891,854 wild coho. The final numbers only showed 215,081 returned.
In 2012, 732,363 wild coho were forecasted to return to the Puget Sound area fisheries. This year, the forecast is down to 559,045.
The pink salmon forecast is down considerably as well, with 1.1 million estimated to return compared to 6.7 million forecasted in 2015.
The forecast meeting begins the North of Falcon process, a series of annual negotiations between state and tribal representatives that are held in private. Those meetings set the rules for salmon fishing each year.
Recently, a petition began circulating to open the North of Falcon meetings to the public, as thousands of fishermen believe a lack of transparency is resulting in decisions that don’t protect fish. The movement to open the meetings continues to divide non-tribal fishermen.
The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission points to the sovereignty of tribal governments, and argues they are not subject to statewide open meetings laws. The Washington State Attorney General's Office and the Washington State Supreme Court have upheld that right.
The NOF process typically ends in mid-April. Last year, the state and tribes could not reach an agreement, forcing the closure of fisheries around Puget Sound.
Many recreational fishing charters and related businesses have complained of hundreds of thousands of dollars in loss over the last few years.