2016 Puget Sound Salmon Season Might Not Happen


As of April 15th 2016,  after heated negotiations between tribal fisheries managers and WDFW there will not be any sport fishing for salmon in Puget Sound or the Strait of Juan de Fuca this coming summer and Fall. For the first time in over 30 years since co-managing Washington State’s fisheries,  Jim Unsworth, WDFW Director stood firm and did not cave into the tribe’s demands, which would have severely restricted what little sport fishing might have taken place in Puget Sound waters. By standing his ground and supporting sport fishing Unsworth sent a new message to the tribes — WDFW will not negotiate unfairly.

The North of Falcon meetings have ended, but the tribes and WDFW will continue to try and come to an agreement. If they do reach an agreement they will still have to convince NOAA federal fisheries managers to issue the required federal fishing permits. However, there will be a limited salmon season off Washington Coast.

Here’s a guest post by Ron Garner, President of PSA followed by the news release from WDFW.

North of Falcon Process

The North of Falcon negotiations for 2016 was one of the toughest ever. We had nothing left on the table to deal with. We were at the bottom of the barrel as this is where previous negotiations have left us. If agreed to, we would have very little fishing. We had 2 weeks of Chinook fishing in MA 9 and 10. With the way we are being managed right now using the required in season management, this could turn into a few days. Especially it being the only game in town, It would have a huge number of boats on it driving it down to days. There was alos a cap on the amount of fish. We are the only ones practicing in season management. NOAA does not require us to, but the tribes do. We cannot go forward with a plan without tribal approval, so if we disagree, we have no plan to take to PFMC.

The Puget Sound Sportfish Advisors for WDFW, Andy Marks for CCA, Dan Stauffer, Tom Drews, and I for PSA, “Tom Nelly” Nelson, Pat Pattillo working for the sports groups, had a unanimous vote yesterday to go forward with no agreement. We put a lot of pressure on the new Director to not take the agreement.

He and his staff stood tall and took their modeling sheet into the tribes for approval, they had added back some mark select fisheries that had been removed, the tribes said no. So that was the end. As of right now there has never been a no agreement at North of Falcon. For many years we have managed that ” a bad deal is better than no deal.” It has gotten so bad that no agreement is not much better than an agreement.

The director stuck his neck out for us and we have to protect him. We told him we would have his back if he carried the line for us. Now he is under intense pressure to make an agreement.

As soon as the final negotiations were done, the tribes put out their press release. It said the state was not being conservative enough.

NOAA has not done their job in this negotiation. There are timelines set.

The tribes missed the deadlines as they were supposed to turn in their performance review of the rivers that they went over on their Chinook impacts and their modeling. The performance review has never been turned in.

There will be more to come but we need to get this out there to counter the tribal press release,
Ron Garner

600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091
April 15, 2016
Contact: Ron Warren, (360) 902-2799

Salmon seasons set for ocean, CR;
state, tribes unable to reach agreement on Puget Sound

Olympia – Anglers will have opportunities to fish for salmon in the ocean and Columbia River this year, although recreational and non-tribal commercial salmon fisheries in Puget Sound may be closed through much of the season.

After lengthy negotiations, state and tribal fishery managers could not reach an agreement on salmon-fishing seasons in Puget Sound. An agreement must be reached in the next few weeks or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribes in western Washington will each need to secure separate federal permits required to hold fisheries in Puget Sound waters where there are protected fish stocks.

That decision was made yesterday at the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Vancouver, Wash. Salmon fishing seasons for Washington’s ocean waters and the Columbia River were adopted during the federal panel’s meeting. A summary of those fisheries is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/attach/apr1516a.pdf

Jim Unsworth, WDFW director, said potentially forgoing salmon seasons in Puget Sound isn’t a decision the department took lightly.

“We realize that closing salmon fishing in Puget Sound for the foreseeable future is not only disappointing but is detrimental to many communities across the region,” he said. “As we work to secure the necessary federal permit, we hope to continue discussions with the tribes. I believe co-management can work, and we will do our part to improve the process of setting salmon seasons in Washington.”

This is the first time the state and tribes have not reached an agreement on salmon fishing seasons while working as co-managers, which began about 30 years ago. In previous years, the co-managers have been authorized to fish for salmon under a joint federal permit.

Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s Fish Program, said the department will begin working with NOAA Fisheries to secure a federal permit for salmon fisheries in Puget Sound. However, it is uncertain the department will receive federal authorization in time to hold salmon fisheries this summer, he said.

“We knew setting salmon-fishing seasons would be challenging this year due to the poor forecast for coho,” Warren said. “Our staff worked really hard to put forward a set of proposed fisheries that met agreed-to conservation goals. Unfortunately, we were not able to reach an agreement.”

About 256,000 coho are expected to return to Puget Sound in 2016. That’s about one-third the size of run predicted in 2015.

During the salmon season-setting process, state fishery managers consulted with numerous members of the department’s Puget Sound sportfishing advisory groups, who supported the department’s decision.

Puget Sound marine and fresh water areas that currently are open to salmon fishing – including marine areas 5, 11, 12 and 13 – will close to fishing May 1, if not scheduled to close earlier in the 2015-2016 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.


About John L. Beath

John Beath is a writer, photographer, videographer, blogger, tackle manufacturer & Captain at Whaler's Cove Lodge in Southeast Alaska. He is also owner of www.halibut.net and host at Lets Talk Outdoors @ www.youtube.com/jbeath
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1 Response to 2016 Puget Sound Salmon Season Might Not Happen

  1. This is seriously messed up if we are shut down then they should also be shut down… this is not fair in any way shape or form… Is the State going to REFUND our LICENSES or are the Tribes going to refund them….I fish to provide for my family… I dont sell or trade it it is strictly for my family…What about the towns that will lose out on the tourism for the fishing season….some of the businesses rely on us when we go fishing.


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