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Pacific Northwest Saltwater Fishing

Updated on October 25, 2014

Saltwater Fishing in the Pacific Northwest of North America

This page discusses saltwater fishing in the Pacific Northwest region of North America.

This includes recreational and commercial fishing in the states of Oregon, Washington and Alaska in the USA and B.C. Canada.

Pacific Northwest anglers fish for a variety of species including Pacific halibut, lingcod, black cod, salmon sharks, Chinook, king, keta, pink and sockeye salmon and other saltwater fish.

photo credit: NOAA

Pacific Northwest Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater fishing is a popular form of recreation and for some a career in the USA Pacific Northwestern states and parts of Canada. These include Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Alaska and California.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries 3-200 miles offshore of the United States of America coastline.

Fishes of the Pacific Coast: From Alaska to Peru
Fishes of the Pacific Coast: From Alaska to Peru

From the Back Cover

"These attractive, pocket-sized guides for fish watchers have been carefully written by Goodson and profusely illustrated in striking water colors by Phillip Weisgerber. Although designed for divers, fishers, aquarists and other nonprofessionals, these little books will undoubtedly find their way on to the shelves of many ichthyologists who will value them as quick references and for providing life-like, color renditions of many fish species found in American coastal waters."-Copeia

sockeye salmon
sockeye salmon

Pacific Northwest Salmon

Pacific salmon are anadromous; they hatch in rivers, creeks, and hatcheries; migrate to the ocean for several years; and then return to the rivers of their birth to spawn.

Chinook or King salmon is Alaska's state fish and is one of the most important sport and commercial fish of the Pacific Coast. Chinook are the largest of the Pacific salmon, often weighing 30 pounds or more.

Coho are among the most popular Pacific salmon. Adult coho average around 8 pounds although trophy fish may measure more than 2 feet in length and weigh up to 36 pounds. Coho salmon are abundant in much of Alaska but are listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the Central/Northern California and Southern Oregon watersheds.

Pink salmon are the smallest of the Pacific salmon found in North America with an average weight of about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds and average lengths around 20-25 inches.

Sockeye salmon support one of the most important commercial fisheries on the Pacific coast. Sockeyes are also sought after by recreational anglers.

Chum salmon weigh 8 to 12 pounds and are typically 24 to 30 inches in length. They are the most abundant commercially harvested salmon species in arctic, northwestern, and Interior Alaska.

Salmonid species on the west coast of the United States have experienced dramatic declines in abundance during the past several decades as a result of human-induced and natural factors.

The National Marine Fisheries Service sets Pacific salmon seasons beyond the three-mile limit out to 200 miles. Members of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) present data and information for review during its season setting process. The PFMC makes recommendations to the National Marine Fishery Service for ocean salmon seasons. Once the federal season setting process is completed the states normally adopts a similar set of regulations for their waters.

The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) was established by Congress in FY 2000 to protect, restore, and conserve Pacific salmon and steelhead populations and their habitats. Salmon recovery funds support tribal and state projects in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, and Alaska.

For more information about the The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, see:

NOAA Lists Pacific Smelt as Threatened Species

On March 16, 2010, NOAA's Fisheries Service announced the listing of Pacific smelt as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Under the ESA, a "threatened" species is in danger of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future. An "endangered" species is one in danger of extinction in all or part of its range.

Pacific smelt, known officially as eulachon, are small ocean-going fish that historically ranged from northern California to the Bering Sea in Alaska. They return to rivers to spawn in late winter and early spring.

This little fish is so high in body fat during spawning that it can be dried, strung on a wick and burned, hence the common name of candlefish.

There is a small and widely dispersed commercial and recreational fishery for pacific smelt.

Arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias)
Arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias)

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    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 9 years ago from Idaho

      Another great lens, Daybreak! Very well done. It will be featured on our Exploring Oregon Group too!