Scene in Edmonds: Salmon smolt introduced to net pen

About 30,000 coho salmon smolt from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Issaquah salmon hatchery were introduced to a net pen along the Edmonds waterfront Wednesday. It’s an annual event involving volunteers from the Puget Sound Anglers Association Sno-King Chapter.

The pen will be attached to cables anchored at the Edmonds Fishing Pier on Friday. Volunteers will feed pellets to the one-year-old smolts several times a week. After spending a few months in Edmonds waters for imprinting, the salmon will be released to mature. When it comes time to spawn, the hope is that the survivors will return to the Edmonds area to lay eggs or be caught by local fishermen.

— Photo by Brent Tugby
  1. The Dept of Fish and Wildlife clipped the adipose fin of these yearling coho salmon (as they do with other hatchery raised salmon so fishers can distinguish ‘hatchery fish’ from ‘wild’ salmon whose harvest may need to be restricted). When the coho return to the area in two years as adults, many of them are harvested especially by sport fishers off Edmonds. Those that are not harvested may lay their eggs and supplement the salmon populations in local creeks such as Shell Creek, Perrinville Creek, Northstream Creek, Boeing Creek and possibly further north in Lunds Gulch Creek in Meadowdale Beach Park. Prior to 2005, when the City extended the Marsh outlet pipe into very deep water, some salmon were also found in Willow Creek.

    The Edmonds Stream Team has found ‘adipose clipped’ adult coho salmon in Shell Creek every year since the surveys began in 2016 (as well as ‘wild’ coho), but we don’t know if the ‘clipped’ adult coho originate from the net pen or other hatcheries. Unfortunately, the salmon in Shell Creek have declined in recent years due to sediment from upstream stormwater erosion that is making the spawning areas in the creek unsuitable for salmon eggs (the sediment chokes and kills the eggs and alevin).

    1. That’s a question for the WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) as they are responsible for that. My understanding is all coho and Chinook salmon released from the State salmon hatcheries in Puget Sound have their adipose fin clipped so that they are distinguishable from ‘wild’ origin salmon.

      1. I just looked at the WDFW website at and it states “Today, virtually all coho and Chinook salmon produced in Washington hatcheries — including those raised in federal and tribal facilities — are mass-marked by clipping the small adipose fin near their tail.”

        So my comment should have said “virtually all” hatchery coho and Chinook are clipped as there are some minor exceptions.

      2. My vague understanding is many hatchery fish go unclipped I don’t know the percentage I do know I have personally caught a chipped fish that wasn’t clipped and have talked to a number of other fishermen with the same story so I wonder if anyone checked? I just bring this up because fishermen catch many fish we have to let go that that I and others suspect are hatchery leaving them to die because of high mortality rate or to be caught and kept by commercial or Indian fisheries. Seems odd you have to let 5 unclipped fish go for every one clipped fish to keep especially since most of our Puget sound salmon come from hatcheries.

  2. “These hatcheries produce the majority of all salmon caught in Washington waters, contributing to the statewide economy. According to one economic analysis, the state operated hatcheries alone generate nearly $70 million in personal income from fishing each year.”
    From your provided link. So if the majority of fish caught are from hatcheries how does this jive with so many unclipped fish caught? I know there are still some wild fish around and the purpose of clipping them I just question how good of a job is done cause there are way to many unclipped fish caught in relation to the number of wild fish left.

  3. On the other hand, catching lots of unmarked fish may be an indication that the clipping program with wild release is actually working to restore some of the wild runs. As long as you release a big fish without knocking off massive amounts of scales or trailing blood, the heavy odds are that fish is going to live. These are pretty tough fish just to have made it this far in their life cycle. If you are unethical and fail to play the fish down until you can observe whether there is a fin or not without putting it in a net or otherwise removing it from the water and/or you use an illegal barbed hook causing bleeding from the mouth you will probably create a dead fish or a fish that will get eaten by a marine mammal. I’ve released many large fish, mostly Kings, without ever removing them from the water or touching them. It does take some extra time and some effort to do that. And, you will lose some fish at the boat. If you must net all fish you hook, at least use a low abrasion rubber mesh type net. If you just want to take home fish flesh, go to Costco where it won’t cost you nearly as much.

  4. From what I have read native chinook are down about 90% couldn’t find a number for coho but I imagine they are way down as well also that recovery efforts have really only stopped the decline. Also mortality rates seem to vary widely but the best I could come up with best practices the rate is about 15% we try to identify the fish before netting “best practice” and try to slip the hook out while in the water but many a fish goes floating away. Last year twice we went out and caught coho limits but came home with no fish because they were all unclipped other times it was a mixed bag all cookie cutter size 3-5 pounds truth to be told I don’t think I have caught a native coho in the last couple of years even though many had fins. You could be right that it is a indication of increasing native runs of coho but more than likely they are just doing a poor job of marking the fish.

  5. Jim, this is a great and to me really interesting conversation we are having. I’ve long thought that a smarter approach, from the sport fishing viewpoint, to really saving our wild runs would be to make the Chinook rule the first obvious 22″ or bigger fish caught and netted must be retained with a season per person limit of say 5 to 10 fish depending on expert analysis of what the wild runs can sustain without impact. The Coho rule could be something like the first two fish over approx. 2 lbs. caught and netted must be retained up to say a 25 per season season catch limit. This approach would negate the releasing mortality substantially I would think and still keep wild fish retention to a minimum with all the hatchery fish now in the system. This would allow the sportsman to keep his really big trophy type fish catches while not adversely impacting the wild stocks. As you probably know, the rule now is that finned fish can be retained by our pier fisherman so this might even be a more equitable approach for everyone. There should be a no netting rule on all catch and release focused fisheries for salmon species. A few charter outfits only do catch and release.

    1. Yes Clinton how as a sports fishermen ideas around when where how and what nearly require a college education. I have about 20 years out of Edmonds mostly coho in September and it ain’t what it used to be. I do think allowing the recreational fishermen should get to keep their nice catches even if out of season area and species. Maybe a seasonal limit on natives as a example. I don’t know. But we are way of topic, please could we get a more accountable marking system for hatchery fish would be my point. Ask for my email and we can talk about prospects for 2024.

  6. All I know based on some of my usually reliable sources is that the tribes were not marking their Chinook by fin clipping them at their hatcheries for some years, and then making the state shut down sport fishing on winter Blackmouth because too many “wild” fish were being taken. This is after the sport fishermen had paid a $10.00 sir charge on their licenses to get this fishery in Puget Sound and then being denied the opportunity to do it. Rep. Norm Dicks confronted the tribes and the state about this and eventually put a stop to it and got them marking their fish. The tribes and the state get lots of federal monies for their hatcheries; or so I’m told. I sold my bay boat and no longer fish salmon unless I’m out in someone else’s boat so not up on all the most recent politics.

  7. We have had good luck fishing the king’s off the coast lapush and Westport but not much luck in the Edmonds area. Thinking about switching to trout gear for coho fishing it has been years since we caught one over 6 pounds. 20 years ago 10 plus pounds was common place in the last few years a 10 pounder would be a derby winner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.