By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
This year's Chinook salmon fishing season probably will face severe restrictions for a fourth consecutive year, a regional biologist says.
"It's likely that an overfishing declaration will happen in April," said Chuck Tracy, salmon staff officer for the Portland, Ore.-based Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Both the commercial and sport fishing season is based on the number of 4-year-old fish that reach the ocean, also known as "escapement."
"It's not particularly good news that there aren't very many 4-year-olds and that the forecast for Sacramento Basin is down," Tracy said.
Fishing regulations mandate that no more than 16 percent of the 4-year-old fish may be caught.
Local tribes are entitled to an equal share of the number of salmon caught by non-American Indian fishermen to meet the tribes' subsistence and religious needs.
Jim Waldvogel agrees that fishing this year on the Klamath River doesn't look good. Both he and Tracy are still waiting for all the data to become available, however.
"We didn't meet the floor," he said, referring to the data that's available now. "The escapement statistics don't look good. The 4-year-olds are a small number. It looks like a dismal year this year."
That the Sacramento stock also is low means not many fish can be taken from that area, Tracy said. Too few 4-year-old Klamath salmon limits fishermen's access to the Sacramento Basin stock.
In the Klamath River Management Basin which runs from Humbug Mountain north of Port Orford, Ore., south to Horse Mountain, just below the mouth of Eel River the Yurok tribe typically is entitled to half of the fish that can be taken. Ocean sports fishermen typically can take 17 percent of the share with another 17 percent to sports fishermen catching salmon on Klamath River.
Last year marked the third consecutive year that Klamath salmon did not meet the federal escapement goal of 35,000.
On the brighter side, however, both Tracy and Waldvogel said statistics compiled so far indicate the highest number of 2-year-old salmon also known as jacks counted in a long time.
"It's the highest number of jacks we've seen since the early 1980s," Waldvogel said.
A meeting to present results of the data compiled this winter will be held Feb. 21. It is followed by a March meeting, then this year's fishing or non-fishing declaration to come in early April.