The results of this year’s annual South Sound chum salmon test fishery show that the run is stronger than originally forecast. Now, those results are also getting to biologists and fishermen faster than before.
For 2012, the preseason forecast predicted roughly 200,000 chum salmon returning to South Sound. However, based on the first three weeks of the test fishery, the run is turning out to be much bigger than expected, said Bill Patton, NWIFC’s Sound Sound fisheries biologist. Fisheries managers have updated the run size estimate to 550,000.
“We had one set recently that was the third biggest since the program started in 1981, with 3,143 in one set,” Patton said.
The test fishery’s progress can be monitored through a website developed by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, at blogs.nwifc.org/test-fishery. The site shows the results of the weekly test fishery within 24 hours of the catches; Up until last year, it used to take at least a few days for the numbers to be released.
“The website has been something that people have appreciated since they can get information immediately and plan where they are going to fish, such as in Hood Canal or Areas 10 and 11,” Patton said. “It’s been a useful tool for everyone.”
The test fishery provides both tribal and state fisheries managers with accurate data about the run size of the chum headed for South Sound. In addition to counting fish, scale samples are collected for aging, and tissue are taken from about 200 fish each day for genetic testing. The test fishery extends from October through mid-November.