Danny Snyder, a fisheries technician for the Squaxin Island Tribe, checks coho salmon that were caught in the tribe's fishery.

Danny Snyder, fisheries technician for the Squaxin Island Tribe, checks coho salmon that were caught in the tribe's salmon fishery.

ARCADIA – The Squaxin Island Tribe is closing its coho fishery at a popular tribal fishing site to protect a unique run of wild chum salmon.

Coho fishing is closed at Arcadia Beach, a tribally owned boat launch that is one of the easiest spots for tribal fishers to access. The beach also is situated on the migration route of chum salmon returning to Kennedy Creek at the same time tribal fishermen are targeting coho in the area. The normal tribal coho fishing season will remain open throughout South Sound.

“Usually, chum and coho migrate during different time windows, but Kennedy Creek chum tend to show up early, so they can be caught during coho season right around Arcadia,” said Joe Peters, the tribe’s fisheries management biologist.

An unusually high number of chum were caught at Arcadia during coho season last year. That led the tribe to close its chum fishery for a couple of weeks in November to ensure enough fish made it back to Kennedy Creek to perpetuate the run. Benefits to the chum outweigh the loss of fishing opportunity for coho, Peters said.

In addition to closely monitoring tribal harvest, spawning surveys are conducted by the tribe on area creeks to determine how many fish have returned to reproduce.

Restricting fishing in a particular area is a common method of fisheries management. Squaxin Island Tribe fishers only harvest coho outside South Sound inlets. “The outside-the-inlet fisheries method ensures we are only targeting healthy stocks of hatchery coho,” Peters said. “More than 90 percent of our catch consists of hatchery fish when we harvest outside of the inlets.”

Like most South Sound chum stocks, the Kennedy Creek chum run is strong, with more than 30,000 fish returning annually, Peters said. “Still, we want to boost the overall run to be as certain as we can that enough fish get back to the creek every year,” he said. “Our extensive monitoring of harvest and escapement allows us to adjust our fisheries quickly, even in mid-season.”

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For more information, contact: Joe Peters, fisheries management biologist, Squaxin Island Tribe, (360) 432-3813. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, eoconnell@nwifc.org