Forecasting the salmon forecasts!

Football nuts have their NFL Combine and Draft, while us “salmon sickos” have the salmon run projections and the season setting process.

If you’re a football fan fisherman…you’ve got a whole lot of “pre-seasoning” to do.

So, in an effort to apply some “salmonid salve” to your off-season itch lets take a peek at the process of forecasting the runs and setting the salmon seasons that we all look forward to. 
C’mon in, take a seat and welcome to Aquatic Resource Management 101! 

Robbie Tobeck with a great reason to pay close attention to the salmon season setting process!

 

Before salmon seasons can be set, we must know approximately how many salmon are returning to each management area.

This is where the inexact science of run modeling comes into play. Each stock and species of salmon requires its own unique algebraic equation or “run model”. The variables that are plugged in to the run model include but are not limited to: parent stock abundance, numbers of fish in catches, natural spawner escapement, hatchery production, coded wire tag recovery data and carcass recovery numbers counted by biologists who walk or fly over spawning areas.

For additional insight, check out the Pacific Marine Fisheries Council website. or, my Alma Mater, the University of Washington’s School of Fisheries.
Feeding conditions on the vast oceanic pastures have a direct bearing on the numbers and health of the highly migratory salmon. Recently, these conditions are beginning to creep in to the salmon run assessment process. NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center  (this past season's La Nina notwithstanding) has the handle on the tremendously positive changes in the north Pacific.

Nelly and longtime fishin' buddy Clay Griffith with a fine example of a "north Pacific" chinook

In Washington State there are two managers or “Co-managers”: the State and the Treaty Tribes of Washington. The State and tribes both have biologists that must agree on the forecast numbers before negotiations can begin on how to slice the “salmon pie”. In other words, once the forecast is accepted by both parties, allocating the amount of salmon available to each of the user groups is the next step. By name the three user groups are: Sport Fishermen, Tribal commercial and non-Tribal commercial fishermen, and the process is called the North of Falcon (NOF) season setting process.

The term “North of Falcon” is a reference to Cape Falcon on the Oregon coast. Cape Falcon roughly bisects the state of Oregon and salmon management south of this landmark is yes, you guessed it, known as South of Falcon.

This year NOF begins February 28 with a presentation of 2012 Salmon Forecasts and Fishing Opportunities from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in the General Administration Building Auditorium, 11th Ave. & Columbia Street on the Capitol Campus in Olympia, Washington. Those attending the meeting will have an opportunity to talk to fishery managers about the pre-season forecasts and participate in work sessions focusing on key salmon-management issues in the region.

Final adoption of the 2012 salmon fisheries is scheduled for April 1-6 at the PFMC meeting in Seattle. Here's the complete WDFW news release 

My favorite NOF line: "If you’re not at the table, you’re on the table!" While it’s been said that the truest words are uttered in jest, nothing could be closer to the truth. Only by attending these meetings can you have an influence on the process.

NOF can be frustrating but it’s a great education in fisheries management and a wonderful way to get involved. And who knows: possibly, just possibly you could end up with a few more days to fish in your neck of the woods!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

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