By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
Area fishermen waiting for the Pacific Fishery Management Council to decide on salmon fishing rules early next month are leaning toward a proposed option that would give recreational fishermen a late May through early September season without closures.
"They're totally wide open up and down the coast, which is great," Melodie Palmer-Zwahlen, senior marine biologist supervisor at the California Department of Fish and Game's ocean salmon project in Santa Rosa, said of options for recreational fishermen. "They're real happy, they're excited."
Locally, in the that stretches from the Oregon border to Humboldt South Jetty, that option would allow only a local September season for commercial fishermen.
"(This) ... is still a step up from last year," Palmer-Zwahlen said.
Last year, the fishery management council closed the entire 700-mile coastline. Commercial fishermen totaled about 180 days on the water. This year's options could allow 295 to 341 days.
"It's a lot more time on the water this year," Palmer-Zwahlen said.
Management rules require that 35,000 salmon return to the Klamath River to spawn and fishermen can take no more than 16 percent of the river's four-year-old salmon from the ocean. Tribes get 50 percent of the allowed ocean harvest.
Area fishermen often target waters off the coasts of Oregon and California's Central Valley that host larger migrating salmon populations. With a smaller number of salmon coming from the Klamath River, that management zone often shuts down or sets stricter limits.
Under the proposed options, commercial fishermen could also fish in April, August and September near Fort Bragg and through much of the stretch from April through September along the Oregon border up to Humbug Mountain.
"Now all we need is the salmon to show up," Palmer-Zwahlen said.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet April 2-6 in Seattle to adopt regulations. The California Fish and Game Commission also will need to adopt rules, usually matching them to the council's.
"There's much more of a season this year than in years past," Crescent City Harbormaster Richard Young said.
Young prefers the council's second option that provides a local commercial season in September. It also allows a late-May through early September recreational season, with a limit of eight fish in seven consecutive days a familiar rule familiar for sportsfishermen, Young said.
"Folks can live with that," Young said.
Richard Young called the first option overly optimistic and the third too limiting with a fragmented recreational season.
"People don't want a closure," Young said.
The Klamath Management Zone Fishery Coalition, a group of mostly recreational salmon fishermen, plans to detail the options at a meeting Thursday in Crescent City Harbor.
"We're optimistic," coalition chairman Jimmy Smith said. "There's some latitude in developing what our final requirements will be."
Eureka-based commercial salmon fisherman David Bitts has leaned toward the second option, noting its August season near Fort Bragg.
"(It's) the preferred poison, if you will," Bitts said of the plan, noting Klamath River catch limits that restrict fishing in other areas as the fish travel. "Which is unfortunate, but there's not much that we can do about it."
A group of mostly recreational Pacific Ocean and Klamath River fishermen will discuss proposed salmon fishing options Thursday at Crescent City Harbor. The Klamath Management Zone Fisheries Coalition will meet at 10 a.m. in the harbor district office at 101 Citizens Dock Road.
A Pacific Fishery Management Council public hearing will take place Tuesday in Santa Rosa at Hilton Sonoma Wine Country at 3555 Round Barn Blvd.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet April 1-6 at the Seattle Marriott Hotel, Sea Tac, at 3201 S. 176th St. in Seattle, Wash.