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Suquamish Tribe looking to expand chinook season in Sinclair Inlet

Gorst Hatchery technician Doug Nolan and citizen volunteer Colin Bell count a sample of juvenile chinook at the Gorst Hatchery before releasing them into Sinclair Inlet. The Suquamish Tribe released nearly 2 million juvenile chinook that are expected to return to the Gorst watershed in several years as adults, providing fishing opportunities for all. - Courtesy photo
Gorst Hatchery technician Doug Nolan and citizen volunteer Colin Bell count a sample of juvenile chinook at the Gorst Hatchery before releasing them into Sinclair Inlet. The Suquamish Tribe released nearly 2 million juvenile chinook that are expected to return to the Gorst watershed in several years as adults, providing fishing opportunities for all.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

In a few years, fishermen might be able to hit the water for chinook in Sinclair Inlet a month earlier than they can now.

Hatchery chinook generally return to the inlet near Gorst in August and September. An effort to expand the run timing would have fish swimming into Sinclair Inlet in July.

As part of its annual spring release of juvenile chinook from the Gorst Hatchery, the Suquamish Tribe recently released 900,000 juvenile chinook, which are expected to return in July and August 2012. The tribe also released another 900,000 juvenile chinook that will return in August and September 2012.

The early returning fish are from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Minter Creek hatchery on Carr Inlet in South Sound; the later returning fish are from the tribe’s Grovers Creek hatchery in Indianola.

“When these fish return in three years, we want to see if we can have a longer fishing season in Sinclair Inlet by bring in an early-returning fish,” said Mike Huff, Gorst Hatchery manager. “We have experienced good survival from the Grover’s Creek-timed fish we have been releasing for years — so some studies will be necessary to determine how well the Minter-timed fish perform at this location.

“These fish are for everyone, tribal and non-tribal fishermen,” he said. “The more we have, the better opportunities for all.”

Like all hatcheries that produce fish specifically for harvest, the Suquamish Tribe marks their hatchery chinook so they can be distinguished from their wild cousins. Puget Sound chinook and Hood Canal summer chum are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“Isolated terminal fisheries in places like Sinclair Inlet, where abundant hatchery fish are not intermingled with natural runs, allows for the opportunity to take advantage of our enhancement efforts,” said Jay Zischke, the tribe’s fisheries management biologist. “By focusing our hatchery efforts in locations where wild fish are not, we can benefit from our investment while protecting weak wild runs.”

“By expanding the run timing, we’re hopefully going to be able to give both sport and treaty fishermen a longer season overall, and more opportunity for chinook fishing,” he said.

The Gorst facility is a partnership between the Suquamish Tribe, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the city of Bremerton and volunteer efforts by the Kitsap Poggie Club.

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