Blackmouth and blackfish in Seattle

J, K, and members of L pod have been down in central and south Puget Sound quite a bit thus far this November and December.  The nice sighting maps at Orca Network show they’ve been sighted as far south as Seattle and Vashon on 12/2 and 12/7.  In comparison, here are the days in past Decembers when SRKWs were detected near Vashon Island: 0 days 2007,  2006;  12/15, 12/17, & 12/20 in 2006; 12/2 &12/16 in 2005;  11 days in 2004 (as late as 12/31); and 7 days in 2003.  They came into northern Puget Sound 8 times in November (Admiralty Inlet down to about the southern end of Whidbey Island), which is about normal compared with November ’06 and ’07.

Will they keep hanging around this fall?  And what are they eating?  It will be fascinating to learn what is revealed by the fecal and prey sampling that NOAA has accomplished in Puget Sound recently…

The following note from WDFW suggests they could be picking off some of the blackmouth Chinook that human fishers are catching.  Does anyone have handy some near-real-time escapement numbers for Chum in the southern Puget Sound rivers?

Excerpt from the WDFW Weekender Report: December 10, 2008 – January 6, 2009:

On Puget Sound, the blackmouth  fishery is under way, and the catch rate could increase as additional marine areas open for salmon.

“We’ve seen a drop in effort in the marine areas since the holiday season began,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “But those anglers who did get out on the water have found some fish in the last several days.” Creel checks in the region show fair fishing for blackmouth – resident chinook – in Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton). At Shilshole Ramp, 26 anglers were checked with two chinook Dec. 5, while 48 anglers took home eight chinook the following day.

Those fishing Marine Area 10 can keep two hatchery chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit. They must, however, release wild chinook, which have an intact adipose fin.

Beginning Jan. 1, options will increase for blackmouth fishing, when marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) open for salmon. Anglers in those two marine areas will be allowed to keep two hatchery chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit.

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