Environmental groups claim too much water is being diverted

By Fred Obee

Triplicate editor

The mouth of the Klamath River will remain open to fishing this year, saving the area from a devastating economic hit.

The decision was made yesterday by the California State Fish and Game Commission.

I have to be quite happy about this, said Del Norte County Supervisor Chuck Blackburn, who testified before the commission Thursday. The main thing is its going to keep people coming back to that river.

The fish and game commission had been studying closing the fishery at the mouth to allow more fish to make their way upstream.

Instead, Blackburn said, the commission agreed to keep the fishery at the mouth open by setting quotas for the number of fish caught there, and by imposing new gear restrictions that should eliminate snagging fish.

According to Blackburn, the new rules are:

Fishing at the mouth will be allowed until 600 fish are caught.

When the 600-fish threshold is met, buoys will be installed 100 yards above the mouth and fishing will be prohibited below the buoys.

Fishing will continue to be allowed above the buoys and below Coon Creek Falls until 2,100 fish are caught. The 2,100 number for the lower river includes the 600 fish caught at the mouth.

Another 2,100 fish can be harvested above Coon Creek Falls. The total catch allocation for the river is 4,200 fish.

Gear restrictions also are imposed. Lines can have a sinker drop of one foot and a trailing leader of no more than three feet.

That should eliminate the illegal snagging, Blackburn said.

Anglers should be happy with the rules, Blackburn said. The gear restrictions arent different from what most anglers have used on the river for decades. Snaggers, however, have used extremely long leaders to pull in salmon.

Business owners around the mouth who rely on the annual migration of anglers in August and September also should be sighing in relief.

Economically, it would have been disastrous for that area to close again, Blackburn said. We would have taken a major hit.