Washington wildlife officials expect more than three million Columbia River Chinook and coho salmon to return to the state, making for one of the best fall forecasts in recent decades. Anglers are already anticipating the highest number of chinook salmon in the Columbia River since 1938—over 1.6 million. According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), the strong surge of salmon could boost ocean fisheries and elevate summer fishing to the best anglers have seen in well over a decade. The ocean abundance for coho is also expected to reach just below a million fish, more than three times that of last year’s.
“This certainly could be a banner year for summer salmon fisheries, particularly off the Washington coast and in the Columbia River,” DFW fisheries policy manager Ron Warren said back in March.
The forecast has not changed since then and if anything, the anticipation among anglers has heightened.
“We’ve got close to twice the Chinook abundance as last year, and that’s going to make a big difference,” Doug Milward, the state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon resource manager, told The Seattle Times. “It will absolutely be one of the most significant seen in years, and there will be no better place to be than the coast.”
Although Washington anglers already have their favorite spots, the DFW suggested Westport, Neah Bay, and LaPush as early summer fishing haunts that traditionally do well. Going into July, Columbia River chinook will be migrating south and can be seen first at Cape Flattery. From there, they will make their way to Elliot Bay and the Sinclair Inlet. Ocean chinook will head towards the Columbia in early August while Willapa Bay, Puget Sound, and San Juan will also be very productive for anglers.
However, officials said there likely will not be a sockeye fishery in Lake Washington this year. The current sockeye forecast of 167,000 is well below the minimum threshold of 350,000 fish needed to open a fishery in the lake.
Image courtesy Tess McBride/US Fish and Wildlife Service