All signs point to a robust recreational salmon season on the ocean this summer, but commercial salmon fishing is likely to remain severely restricted on the Del Norte coast.
opportunity for Del Norters to make public comments on the salmon season alternatives is tonight at 7 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka.
The Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which crafts season alternatives to be adopted by the federal government, is hosting the public hearing in Eureka. A week-long PFMC meeting to hammer out the final season recommendations on a range of fisheries on the West Coast starts Sunday in Seattle.
The PFMC’s 2012 salmon season alternatives for Crescent City, Brookings and Eureka outline a sport season that could be as long as May 1 to Sept. 9. The shortest adopted alternative would still allow sport fishing from May 26 to Sept. 3.
But commercial salmon fishing remains virtually non-existent for the boats that remain in the Crescent City Harbor’s fleet. Harbormaster Richard Young said 20–25 vessels still have commercial salmon licenses in the harbor, although their crews haven’t been able to fish much in recent years with restrictions.
The best-case season alternative recommended by the council for the California Klamath Management Zone (KMZ), which runs from the Oregon/California border to Horse Mountain in Humboldt, would only allow for commercial salmon fishing Sept. 16-30, or until 6,000 Chinooks are caught.
In that alternative, all salmon except coho would be fair game, with a minimum size limit of 27 inches and a possession limit of 15 Chinooks per vessel per day.
The two other alternatives don’t allow for any commercial salmon fishing.
In Oregon, the alternatives are more promising. The council’s commercial season recommendations for the Oregon KMZ (California border to Humbug Mountain) outline a more spread out season, and every alternative includes at least a 1,400-Chinook quota in June, a 1,100-Chinook quota in July and an 800-Chinook quota in August.
The KMZs in Oregon and California were established due to poor
conditions on the Klamath River.
This season, however, 1.6 million adult Klamath River fall Chinooks are estimated to be in the ocean — four times the amount last year (371,100) and 15 times the amount in 2006. The estimates are based on the 85,840 2-year-old salmon (jacks) that returned to the Klamath last year — the highest amount since record-keeping began in 1978.
The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors penned a letter to the PFMC (expected to be approved at today’s supervisor meeting) that calls for more commercial salmon fishing on the North Coast.
“The small fleet of commercial salmon trawlers that make their home in Crescent City do not feel the restrictions have been applied in a manner that allows the commercial trawlers in Crescent City the ability to sustain,” the letter states. “The primary issue is providing a real commercial season in the KMZ.”