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March 02, 2011

Strong runs of Columbia River, Puget Sound salmon projected

Anglers can expect fishing for chinook and coho salmon in Washington's ocean waters similar to that in 2010

Fishing prospects look bright this year for chinook in Washington's ocean waters and the Columbia River,  and coho and pink salmon runs in Puget Sound according to forecasts by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty Indian tribes.

Prospects vary by area.

About 760,000 fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this season, 112,000 more than last year, the fifth largest run since 1948, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for WDFW. The forecast of 362,500 Columbia River coho is similar to last year's projection.

More than half of the chinook, about 398,000 salmon, are expected to be "upriver brights" headed to the Snake River. That would be the second largest run of upriver brights since 1964.

Anglers can expect fishing for chinook and coho salmon in Washington's ocean waters similar to that in 2010, said Doug Milward, ocean salmon fishery manager for WDFW.

Coho and pink salmon returns to Puget Sound are expected to be strong. About 980,000 coho are forecast to return to Puget Sound streams, some 367,000 more fish than last year. In addition, nearly 6 million pink salmon are expected to return to Puget Sound this year, 3 million salmon below 2009's record return but still an abundant run, said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for WDFW. Most pink salmon return to Washington's waters only in odd-numbered years.

An additional 17 million pink salmon are forecast to return to Fraser River, British Colombia this year. A portion of these fish travel the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands boosting opportunities for Washington anglers.

Fishery managers have scheduled a series of public meetings over the next few weeks before finalizing seasons in mid-April. Forecasts for chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum salmon mark the starting point for developing 2011 salmon-fishing seasons in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington coastal areas.

A meeting schedule, salmon forecasts and information about the salmon season-setting process are available on WDFW's website at www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.