Pink salmon forecast could leave anglers feeling blue

For anglers who look forward to relatively easy catches of salmon from Whidbey Island shores every other year, the early word out of Olympia might not be what you’d like to hear.

Pink salmon aren’t expected to arrive in great numbers this summer.

“I’d say pink salmon are probably going to be the lowlight of this year’s salmon forecast,” said Mark Baltzell, Puget Sound Recreational Salmon Fishery Manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The preliminary indication is we’re not going to have a good pink return, especially in a lot of those normal rivers like the Skagit and Stillaguamish.”

Environmental conditions in rivers in 2015 such as drought, then flooding, coupled with poor returns, lead fish managers to anticipate a bad result two years later.

And the news for coho might not be significantly better, Baltzell said.

The state issued a rare closure of coho fishing in nearly all Puget Sound waters last year to help replenish stocks.

Coho, also called silvers, also are a late summer fishery through September.

“The preliminary indication for coho is things are looking a little better than last year, yet they’re still not really great,” Baltzell said. “We’ve seen a little better marine survival.”

“My guess is we won’t have any great, amazing numbers (for either species),” said Ryan Lothrop, state fisheries manager. “We’re developing the forecast now.”

Baltzell said it could be a couple weeks until the state has a better idea of how many coho and pinks are expected to return to Puget Sound.

When asked if there was a possibility that there might not be any season at all this summer for pinks or coho, he couldn’t give a definitive answer.

“I really hate to make those kind of predictions this early,” he said.

“I would say that it’s always our goal to offer as much opportunity as we can. It kind of hinges on us getting agreement with co-managers (tribes), and we have to get the federal fishing permit under the Endangered Species Act. They have to approve our fisheries.”

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