Meeting in Tumwater, the commissioners voted to implement an option which gives recreational shrimp fishermen 70 percent of the state's half of the harvestable shrimp (tribes get the other half) as compared to the current 50 percent. Non-tribal commercial fishermen take the remaining 30 percent.
So does our additional Sound-wide 20 percent mean a major windfall when the pots drop this spring?
Well, yes and no, and it really depends on where you plan to fish.
Our local waters, marine areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 make up Shrimp Management Area 2, where the current allocation gives recreationists 60 percent of the harvestable non-tribal quota. That gave us two fishing days in 2010, three days in 2011 (bad weather kept participation low) and two days in 2012. The new plan gives sport shrimpers 100 percent of the non-tribal quota in SMA 2, and that extra poundage should allow a season of at least three days and possibly four, depending on turnout and harvest.
Nice, of course, but not sensational.
The San Juan Islands, however, are a different critter, and a fair number of our local sport shrimpers head north when SMA 2 is closed. The current recreational allotment in Shrimp Management Area 1, which encompasses most of the islands, is only 15 percent of the non-tribal harvest. That will increase to a whopping 80 percent under the new plan, and the season will jump from the current 6 days in 2012 to approximately 32 days.
Hood Canal, considered the state's premier spot shrimp producer, will remain under the current quota, 100 percent allocated to the recreational fishery.
"Recreational shrimpers should be pleased with this new allocation, and I hope they are," said commissioner Larry Carpenter, owner of Master Marine in Mount Vernon and an avid salmon fisherman. "We worked on it for six months."
State Fish and Wildlife Department shellfish manager Mark O'Toole, in the agency's La Conner office, said it was perhaps the sportfishing community's turn.
"The current plan was adopted back in 2003 and was supposed to be for five years," O'Toole said. "It favored the commercial shrimpers, and it has taken almost 10 years to get the issue back on the table. This time, the commission seemed to favor recreationists."
The new allocation is also for five years.
The sport shrimp fishery draws roughly 30,000 to 35,000 man-trips each year, according to O'Toole, and there are currently 18 non-tribal commercial shrimp licenses fishing inland waters.
Shrimp were badly overshadowed at the Friday-Saturday commission meeting by discussion and public input on whether Washington commissioners should vote to go along with Oregon in accepting the "Kitzhaber plan." The highly controversial issue drew such a crowd it had to be changed from Olympia to the larger venue in Tumwater.
Basically the proposal, put forward by the Oregon governor, would largely eliminate commercial non-tribal gillnets from the mainstem Columbia. Commercial fishermen who chose to keep using gillnets would be limited to certain estuaries and side channels where the catch would be substantially hatchery salmon and where few wild-stock fish would be caught incidentally.
Commercials who chose to continue fishing the Columbia mainstem would be required to use seines or other selective gear allowing the release of wild-stock salmon.
Governor Kitzhaber developed the plan as an alternative to a ballot initiative which would have eliminated all non-Indian gillnets from the Columbia.
The Washington commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its next meeting, Jan. 11-12 in Olympia. No one in Oly wanted to go on the record, but the general feeling was that the commission would likely vote to accept the plan.
Columbia salmon forecasts
If 2013 salmon run-size forecasts for the Columbia and its lower-river tributaries are accurate, and they often are nowhere close, spring chinook will be ho-hum, fall chinook on the Hanford Reach pretty strong, summer chinook up around Brewster not bad, and sockeye weak enough to put a season on Lake Wenatchee in doubt.
The springer forecast is for 141,000 fish, compared to an actual return in 2012 of 203,000 kings. Historically, that would be a fairly strong run, but it would be fewer fish than returned in any of the past five years. The 2012 season wasn't a good one, largely because the fish came in late under high, cold river conditions and so the turnout wasn't high. The Willamette run, which contributes to the Washington-side fishery in the Vancouver area, is expected to be about the same as last year.
The lower Columbia springer fishery put out one king for about eight rods in 2012.
The summer chinook forecast for 2013 is for 73,500 fish, compared to the actual return in 2012 of 58,300 fish. Summer kings are caught primarily around Wenatchee, Wells Dam and in the Brewster Pool.
The forecast for fall chinook is for a strong run, only a little below 2012.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse's blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.
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