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Klamath Salmon Outlook: 'Tempered optimism'

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By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

First indications of the upcoming Chinook salmon season for sport fishermen are that the year's allocation will be "much better."

The difference comes because so many 3-year-olds are in the ocean, said Jim, area marine advisor for California Sea Grant in Del Norte County.

The number of available fish, and prospective harvest levels for the fall Chinook season this year indicate 515,400 3-year-old fish.

The projections also show 26,100 4-year-olds and 4,700 5-year-olds.

Of the amounts, Waldvogel es-timated that "about 5,000-6,000" will be available in the Klamath River for sport fishing. That's about 15 percent of the available fish.

California Department of Fish and Game Dept. released the projected numbers Wednesday during a meeting at Humboldt State University. It met again Friday to discuss ocean fishing.

Last year, low fish numbers on the Klamath essentially erased commercial fishing off the Humboldt and Del Norte counties' coasts and seriously impacted it for hundreds of miles north and south.

Klamath fishermen could not keep any adult chinook salmon in the fall, and tribal fisheries were allowed only minimum numbers.

Jacks – 2-year-old Klamath fall Chinook – were plentiful, however.

"I think we may have more days for fishing during July than we had last year," Waldvogel said. "Last year we lost seven weeks."

Waldvogel is betting commercial fishing also will be better than last year's season.

He makes no predictions because no data has been released, yet.

"I think it will be better, but we don't know where it will be, or when," he said.

Waldvogel pointed out that this area has not had a good commercial fishery in its zone since 1985. Because of that, he said the commercial fishermen have opted to use their fishing allotment during past years "outside of the zone."

"It hurts the local fishing economy a lot," he said.

Kamp Klamath owner Aaron Funk is already getting inquiries about this year's fishing season.

"We're hearing tempered optimism," he said.

His business, along with many others in the Klamath area took double hits last year, first from the weather then from the seriously pared fishing season.

"The number of 3-year-olds is described as the highest on record, and the 26,000 4-year-olds reaches back into the fish kill that happened," Funk said. "We expected that."

Because of the outlook, the majority of fishermen he hosts this year probably will come for sport, not trophy fishing, he said.

"They're really looking for the bonding of fishing together, and the salmon steak on the grill," he said.

Funk is busy updating an interactive Web site for visitors considering coming here to check on Klamath fishing. It eventually will be updated daily with local guides' reports.

"We want people to come here and have a smile when they leave," he said. "If they're coming here for the fishing, they should come when the fishing is good."

It's welcome news to former Del Norte County Supervisor Chuck Blackburn.

"There's been enough gloom and doom about it," he said.

Blackburn worked as a river guide on the Klamath from 1956-1986. Based on his knowledge of the river, Blackburn said the latest information is "encouraging."

"The fishing guides there had a great season," Blackburn said. "The later part of the season is mostly jet boats fishing upriver from Klamath Glen, but the guides (downstream from there) had a good season because there were a lot of jacks last year."

Blackburn said the adult return on the Klamath was "better than the year before."

"The projection for 4-year-olds is not so good, but all the models (Fish and Game) ... are only models," he said. "Some folks at Fish and Game think so, too."

Decision Timeline

The last rounds of pre-season fishing season-related meetings are underway this week in Sacramento. Held at the DoubleTree Hotel, meetings today pertain to groundfish management, Pacific Halibut management and salmon management. Meetings continue about those fishing seasons through Friday. The timeline for a decision to be made is:

•March 20 – Pacific Fishery Management Council's salmon technical team

distributes its second preseason report. The first came out in February. The

series of three such reports discuss proposed regulatory options for the

upcoming ocean salmon fisheries. All contain analysis Pacific Fishery

Management Council makes about how many salmon are in the ocean.

•March 26 – The closest public hearing to Del Norte County to review the

council's proposed regulatory options will be held in Coos Bay, Ore.

•April 1-6 – The council and its advisory groups meet in Seattle to adopt

final regulatory measures.

•April 3 – The measures will be tentatively adopted by its salmon technical

team.

•April 15 – Final adoption by the council of its recommendations to National

Marine Fisheries Service — another source of input that the final decision

takes into account — is scheduled.

•April 7-12 – The salmon technical team completes its third Preseason

Report.

•April 20 – Council staff distributes its adopted ocean salmon fishing

management recommendations and makes its Preseason Report III

available to the public.

•May 1 – National Marine Fisheries Service implements is federal ocean

salmon fishing regulations.

SOURCE: Pacific Fishery Management Council

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