While ocean salmon fishermen are still reeling from the total closure of offshore Chinook fishing this summer in Crescent City, Klamath River salmon anglers have reason to celebrate.
During meetings last week in Seattle, the Pacific Fishery Management Council set a 22,500-Chinook quota for Klamath River sport anglers. The tribes will get another 27,000 salmon for their net fishery.
"That's double a good year's quota," guide Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips said about the large sport fishing allocation. "That's such a big number we won't even fill that quota. Last year we got 10,500 and we didn't fill that quota."
Two factors contributed to this year's generous Klamath fall Chinook quota, which still has to be approved by the California Department of Fish and Game.
Biologists were already expecting a big return to the Klamath. Two years ago, the hottest fishing on the West Coast occurred in the lower Klamath, when guides and other anglers were hooking 20 to 30 jacks a day. Now the adult salmon from that same run component will be returning to the river this fall.
Severe offshore salmon fishing restrictions, meanwhile, will lead to drastically increased ocean survival for the Klamath fall salmon, which are expected to return in large numbers.
The fall Chinook won't arrive until late this summer, but now anglers have something to look forward to. The Smith River's salmon run also will likely benefit from the reduced ocean fishing pressure.
Klamath spring salmon
While anglers wait for the fall run of salmon, some are already targeting spring Chinook in the Klamath.
"I heard there was one caught the other day," Thomas said. "The water conditions are excellent. As long as they don't start releasing water we'll probably have a good year for springers."
Most Klamath River spring Chinook anglers start getting serious in mid-May. Fishing is done from anchored jet sleds. Anglers will run spinners in the slower water closer to shore.
"Right now the river's a real nice green and it's perfect springer water," Thomas said. "But if they give us any kind of push of water, we'll have to wait a few weeks."
Klamath fall salmon
While springer fishing can be good at times on the Klamath, it also can be a hit-and-miss fishery. Fall salmon, meanwhile, come in much larger numbers and hold in the lower river before continuing upstream. The fishing is often good to excellent when a big run of fish arrives, like is expected this fall.
"Usually around Labor Day weekend is when it really kicks off," Thomas said.
Anglers will troll spinners in the lower estuary in August, and when a big push of fish comes in, fishermen will move above tidewater and boondog roe in the deeper holes.
"There is usually fish in just about every run for the first 20 miles," Thomas said. "It's pretty easy fishing."
The Klamath fall Chinook run from 15 to 30 pounds.
"Ten to 15 pounds is the average," Thomas said. "You get a few in the mid-20s and an occasional 30-pounder."
With the Sacramento River and its tributaries closed to salmon fishing this summer and fall, expect bigger-than-normal crowds on the lower Klamath.
Outdoors writer Andy Martin, a former editor of Fishing & Hunting News, runs a halibut charter boat in the Gulf of Alaska during the summer and guides on America's Wild Rivers Coast during the winter. His Web site is www.wildriver