The 2023 Salmon Forecast for Washington State
Washington fishery managers with the Department of Fish and Wildlife unveiled forecasts for salmon returning to state waters in 2023.
Developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as tribal co-managers, these forecasts mark the launching point for the annual North of Falcon process to develop Washington's salmon fishing seasons.
The forecasts cover expected returns of Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum salmon in Puget Sound, and the Columbia River.
According to WDFW Director, Kelly Susewind, "Every year, our primary goal going into the North of Falcon process is to meet our targets for salmon conservation while still offering as much fishing opportunity as possible."
She adds, "We continue to expand our recovery efforts in Washington, but we still have a lot of work to do, and that means some fishing may be impacted again in 2023."
The 2023 forecasts are based on the latest scientific modeling and a variety of data, including environmental indicators such as ocean conditions, numbers of juvenile salmon that migrated to marine waters, and numbers of adult salmon that returned in past years.
These are the summaries the WDFW has released.
Coho returns to Puget Sound and surrounding rivers are forecast to be up in '23, at about 760,000 wild and hatchery coho, which is above the 10-year average. Compared to last year's forecast, which called for 666,648 returning coho, the runs are looking healthy.
Pink salmon, which return to Puget Sound only in odd-numbered years, will be near the predicted number from last year at about 3.95 million fish.
Puget Sound Chinook are also expected to be up slightly, with about 259,000 forecast to return in 2023, compared to 250,440 in 2022. The return of hatchery Chinook is expected to be around 10,000 fish higher than last year, while the return of natural-origin, or "wild," Chinook is expected to be down slightly, which is likely to impact fishing opportunity.
"The outlook for Puget Sound Chinook is pretty similar to last year, meaning that we are still far from where we'd like to be in terms of recovery," according to WDFW's Intergovernmental Salmon Manager, Kyle Adicks.
He continued, "With the Chinook harvest management plan moving forward, we'll continue to use that as a guiding document to help set this year's fisheries and look forward to more progress on final approval, which should help streamline the North of Falcon process in future years."
About 84,800 Upper Columbia River summer Chinook are forecast to return in '23, representing about 120 percent of the 10-year average return, and higher than last year's 78,500 fish. The total return of fall Chinook to the Columbia River is expected to be similar to the recent 3-year returns, including around 272,400 upriver bright fall Chinook above Bonneville Dam.
Lower river hatchery Chinook stocks, also known as lower Columbia River "tules," are expected to be similar to the recent 3-year returns. Bonneville Pool Hatchery "tule" Chinook destined to waters upstream of Bonneville Dam are forecast to have another strong return with 136,100 fish, representing 149 percent of the 10-year average.
Forecasts for Columbia River coho are expected to see a slight improvement compared to the past two years' returns, with just over 886,000 early and late coho predicted to return in 2023. The 2023 forecast would be nearly double the 10-year average and an increase from the 2022 abundance of 685,000 coho.
And last, but certainly not least, 234,500 sockeye are predicted to return to the Columbia in 2023, higher than last year's forecast but well below the actual return of nearly 665,000 fish. Also, the Snake River sockeye run is forecast to increase slightly to 2,600, compared to last year's return of 2,329 fish.
Happy angling, and go rip some lips!