The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), the federal body that oversees the management of ocean fisheries on the West Coast, on March 13 adopted three public review alternatives for the 2016 salmon seasons at their meeting in Sacramento.
The Council will select a final alternative at their next meeting in Vancouver, Washington on April 9-14. The sport salmon season south of Horse Mountain will start on April 2, according to a Council decision made in 2015.
Commercial, recreational and tribal fisheries will see restrictions this year due to salmon declines along the West Coast. The proposed seasons and regulations vary widely by region and type of fishery.
“This year will be very hard on commercial salmon fishermen in California,” said John McManus, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA). “However, sport fishermen south of Humboldt County ought to get a decent chance to catch salmon this year.”
Sport fishermen fishing from Pt. Arena in southern Mendocino County to Pigeon Point in southern San Mateo County are facing “relatively mild restrictions compared to others,” said McManus.
One of the proposals released by the Council calls for a one week closure. All three call for a 24 inch minimum size limit through, at least during the early part of the season, which is designed to avoid harm to winter run salmon.
“The mix of salmon runs this year is unusual,” said outgoing Executive Director Donald McIsaac in a PFMC news release. “In the north, the return of fall Chinook to the Columbia River is forecast to be exceptionally high again, but expectations for wild coho runs to the Washington Coast and Puget Sound areas can only be described as disastrous. In the south, the Sacramento River fall Chinook are healthy, but Klamath River fall Chinook are so poor that the Council’s policy calls for a low ‘de minimis’ catch in ocean fisheries.”
The two fish populations impacting the California ocean salmon fisheries most this year are the Klamath River fall-run stocks in the north and endangered winter-run Chinooks in the south.
Over 95 percent of the winter run juveniles in 2014 and 97 percent of the winter run in 2015 failed make it past Red Bluff on the Sacramento River because of lethally high water temperatures, spurred by poor management of Shasta Dam operations by the Bureau of Reclamation, fishing groups point out. Ninety-eight percent of the naturally-spawning fall run Chinook juveniles and eggs were lost over the past year.
Agency scientists estimate that there are approximately 299,600 adult Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon and 142,200 Klamath River fall Chinooks in the ocean this year, based on the returns of two-year-old salmon, called “jacks” and “jills.” The salmon from these two rivers make up the majority of salmon taken in California’s ocean and inland fisheries.
“California ocean sport fishing alternatives provide seasons that range from fairly continuous traditional seasons to more conservative alternatives with mid-season closures or shortened seasons to protect Klamath River fall Chinook or Sacramento River winter Chinook,” according to the Council.
Chinook directed Klamath Management Zone alternatives (Humbug Mt., Oregon to Horse Mt., California) generally open in May and run through Labor Day, except that one alternative closes August 31. All of the alternatives have closed periods to reduce impacts on Klamath River fall Chinook.
The salmon season proposals adopted each include three management alternatives. For example, below are the three recreational salmon season alternatives from Point Arena to Pigeon Point (San Francisco):
Alternative 1 • April 2 through May 31 and June 18 through November 13 (C.6).
Seven days per week. All salmon except coho, two fish per day (C.1). Chinook minimum size limit of 20 inches total length (B). See gear restrictions and definitions (C.2, C.3).
Alternative 2 • April 2 through May 31 and June 11 through November 13 (C.6).
Seven days per week. All salmon except coho, two fish per day (C.1). Chinook minimum size limit of 24 inches total length through May 31, 20 inches
Alternative 3 • April 2 through May 31 and June 18 through November 13 (C.6).
Seven days per week. All salmon except coho, two fish per day (C.1). Chinook minimum size limit of 24 inches total length (B). See gear restrictions and definitions (C.2, C.3)
Public hearings to receive input on the options are scheduled for March 28 in Westport, Washington and Coos Bay, Oregon; and for March 29 in Fort Bragg, California. The Council will consult with scientists, hear public comment, and revise preliminary decisions until it chooses a final option at its meeting April 9-14 in Vancouver, Washington.
“All of the options include sacrifices to be made by fishermen to preserve our salmon stocks” said Marc Gorelnik, recreational fishing representative for the Salmon Advisory Subpanel of the PFMC and President of the Coastside Fishing Club. “Once again fishermen have to pay the debt incurred by poor decisions by the water managers, particularly the way the Bureau of Reclamation operated Shasta Dam over the past two years, effectively cooking the salmon in warm water on the redds (nests) on the Sacramento.”
“I’m glad that we’ll have the opportunity to fish for salmon this year, but I’m not expecting a lot of success,” said Gorelnik
“Our fingers are crossed that our commercial salmon fishermen will find good stocks in waters where they’ll be allowed to fish this year,” said GGSA board member Tim Sloane, the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s’ Association’s. “Salmon that are landed by our fishermen will still be the best on the market and worth the wait.”
In a parallel process, the California Fish and Game Commission will adopt recreational salmon fishing seasons for the Sacramento and Klamath/Trinity River systems at its April meeting.
Detailed information about season starting dates, areas open, and catch limits for all three alternatives are available on the Council’s website at http://www.pcouncil.org or http://tinyurl.com/salmon2016