Ocean and Inland Water Salmon Season Regulations Adopted

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The California Fish and Game Commission adopted recreational ocean and inland salmon season regulations as presented by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on April 18, according to a CDFW news release issued on April 26.

The adoption took place during the same meeting in the Santa Rosa where the Commission voted to move forward with a plan to postpone scientific assessments of “marine protected areas,” created under the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, from every five years to every ten years.

Ocean salmon season dates and management measures are set to coincide with the alternatives adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council for federal waters off the California coast. “Inland river seasons adopted by the Commission are identical to the 2015 seasons with the exception of a reduction in the allowable harvest of Klamath Basin Chinook salmon,” according to a release.

“Reduced fishing opportunity in the ocean and inland areas are a reflection of lower abundance for some California salmon stocks as compared to recent years, likely as a result of extended drought and generally unfavorable ocean conditions for salmon survival,” said Jennifer Simon, an environmental scientist with CDFW’s Marine Region Salmon Team. “The 2016 seasons are intended to allow limited fishing opportunity on stocks that can support them while providing increased protection for the most vulnerable of stocks.”

While “extended drought” and “generally unfavorable oceans conditions” definitely play a role in the lower salmon stock abundance, Simon failed to mention the abysmal management of Central Valley reservoirs and Delta pumping facilities during the drought by the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources that resulted in the death of over 95 percent of the winter run Chinook and fall run Chinook salmon fry before making it downriver over the past couple of years.

Simon said an expected ocean abundance of roughly 300,000 Sacramento River fall Chinook (compared to 650,000 last year) will support recreational and commercial opportunities for ocean salmon fisheries off portions of California and Oregon. A projected return of 151,000 spawning adults allows for an inland river recreational harvest of 24,600 adult Chinook.

The Klamath River fall Chinook ocean abundance forecast of 142,200 adults is substantially lower than recent years and the primary reason for ocean fishery constraints. A projected return of 30,909 natural area spawning adults allows for an inland river recreational harvest quota of only 1,110 adult Chinook salmon greater than 22 inches. By comparison, in 2015 the harvest quota was 14,133.

The resulting bag and possession limits and seasons adopted by the Commission are as follows:

Central Valley Rivers:

Daily limit of two fish per day and a possession limit of four fish. On the American and Feather rivers the general season opener is July 16. On the Sacramento River below Keswick Dam to the Red Bluff Diversion Dam, the season opens Aug. 1 and closes Dec. 16. From below the Red Bluff Diversion Dam to the Carquinez Bridge, the season opens July 16 and closes Dec. 16. Please see the 2016 Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for openings and closing of specific sections of each river, as well as gear restrictions.

Klamath River:

Daily limit of two fish per day of which only one may be greater than 22 inches, and the possession limit is six fish of which only three may be greater than 22 inches. The Klamath River fall Chinook season opens Aug. 15 and closes Dec. 31, while the Trinity River opens to salmon fishing on Sept. 1 and closes Dec. 31.

Ocean Salmon:

Ocean salmon recreational fisheries include a daily limit of two adult Chinook salmon with four in possession on land with varying size restrictions depending on the area. Season dates include openings in May, June, July, August and the Labor Day weekend in the Crescent City/Eureka area.

Fisheries further south opened on April 2 and will continue through Nov. 13 in the Fort Bragg area, through Oct. 31 in the San Francisco area, through July 15 from Pigeon Point to Point Sur, and through May 31 south of Point Sur. For a more in-depth look at ocean salmon seasons and restrictions, please see www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon.

The CDFW claimed, “Long-running drought conditions, coupled with suboptimal ocean conditions, have raised serious concerns for Sacramento River winter Chinook salmon, which are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and have experienced very low survival as juveniles in 2014 and 2015. Fisheries south of Point Arena, particularly recreational fisheries in the greater Monterey Bay region, continue to experience late-season reductions in 2016 to minimize interactions with winter Chinook.”

Again, the CDFW again failed to mention that bad management of Central Valley rivers during a drought by the state and federal water agencies and State Water Resources Control Board played a key role in the catastrophic loss of winter-run Chinook salmon fry in 2014 and 2015.

As Marc Gorelnik, recreational fishing representative for the Salmon Advisory Subpanel of the PFMC, said in March after the PFMC adopted the salmon season alternatives:  “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.”

Recreational and commercial fishing groups and Tribal leaders have strongly criticized the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources for emptying Trinity, Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs during the drought in order to export Delta water to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods in Kern County. The draining of the reservoirs resulted in lethally warm water conditions for winter-run and fall-run Chinook salmon on the Sacramento River over the past two years.

Salmon and steelhead are not only are threatened by the mismanagement of Central Valley reservoirs by the state and federal water agencies during a drought and changing ocean conditions, but by Governor Jerry Brown’s California Water Fix project to build the Delta Tunnels and a federal plan to raise Shasta Dam. Both plans are opposed by the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and other Tribes, environmental organizations and fishing groups.