"The fish are here, the anglers aren't"

"South Whidbey fishermen are watching glum-faced as the salmon swim by.This year, state regulations delayed the traditional Aug. 1 start of salmon season until September.Normally in August, anglers are lined up on the beach near the Possession Point Bait Company, buying herring and snacks and hauling in firm, shiny coho salmon. This year, the salmon are there but the anglers are not.Angie Cooper, part of the family that owns the Bait Company, said Monday that coho have been swimming by for the last two weeks. It looks like quite a bit, she said. We see 'em out there rolling. She said people are calling about coming to fish, only to be told that the season there doesn't open until Sept. 15. They want to know why, she said.Most of the coho in the area were raised in the Bait Company pond through a fisheries enhancement project supported by the Whidbey Island Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers. But when the 2000 salmon seasons were established in April, these returning coho were put off limits. It was Indian tribes, not the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, that wanted the area closed until mid-September. Dick Geist, Fish & Wildlife harvest manager, said the Tribes wanted the closure to protect other runs of fish returning at approximately the same time. Fisheries was disappointed, he said, because it encourages the sport harvest of hatchery coho such as those at Possession.Russ Ramsey, a member of Puget Sound Anglers, said Monday his group was hoping for a bubble fishery at Possession, aimed specifically at the hatchery fish. That wasn't possible this year, but maybe in 2001. There's a lot of fish coming by there, he said, promising a big lobbying effort from local sport anglers next year during the season-setting process.The scene is the same at Bush Point, Lagoon Point and Fort Casey, where the beaches are empty of anglers in August. All Admiralty Inlet waters, designated as Area 9, open on Sept. 1, but only for two weeks. Area 9 will be closed Sept. 16 to 30, before reopening Oct. 1.The Coopers won't see any fishing in front of their establishment until Sept. 16, which is opening day for Area 8-2. It will stay open until Oct. 31.The only area around Whidbey Island now open to salmon fishing is Area 6, which includes the west side of North Whidbey south to Partridge Point. It opened Aug. 1.Some of the hatchery coho may still be lingering around Possession when the season finally opens, according to Ramsey, but the bulk of the run likely will already have passed. Local anglers aren't too happy about it, he said. A lot of them have given up on Whidbey Island.Anyone wanting to help lobby for improved salmon seasons next year is welcome to call Russ Ramsey at 341-1783.Salmon openersHere are the late summer opening days of salmon season for areas around Whidbey Island.Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet): Sept.1 to Sept. 15.Marine Area 8-2 (south half of Saratoga Passage, Everett, Mukilteo, Langley): Sept. 16 to Oct. 31.Marine Area 8-1 (Deception Pass, Skagit Bay, north half of Saratoga Passage): Sept. 1 to Oct. 31.Marine Area 6 (east Juan de Fuca strait, including west side of North Whidbey): August 1 to Sept. 30.For a complete listing of salmon seasons and regulations consult the Fishing in Washington guide, available for free where fishing tackle is sold. "

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