Sport salmon-fishing season opens

April 09, 2007 11:00 pm

The Associated Press

MOSS LANDING — California's sport -fishing season opened this weekend, but many amateur anglers hopeful of landing a wild chinook came back disappointed.

"I've never seen it this slow," said Moe Morrison, 72, who went on his first fishing trip in 1964. The retiree from Mountain View gathered with hundreds of sport fishers gathered at the Moss Landing Harbor as early as 3 a.m. Saturday to buy tackle and pick up permits. But like many compatriots, he never even had to get his net wet.

The slow start was an ominous omen to superstitious anglers after a dismal 2006. Last year, commercial fishers faced restrictions on how much they could catch because of dangerously low salmon populations on the Klamath River, which begins in Oregon to become one of the longest rivers in California. Biologists blamed the dearth of chinook in part on unusually warm water, which killed some plankton on which salmon feed.

This year, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council has decided to allow as much fishing off the Oregon and California coasts because of improved runs, said Chuck Tracy, salmon staff officer for the council.

"Last year, the area of central Oregon and the California fishers were very constrained. This year, the Klamath Falls chinook has made a turnaround. They have basically as much fishing time as possible," Tracy said Friday.

But fishers who headed out this weekend said they'd hope for better days in the months ahead. The sport-fishing season lasts through October. The commercial season is expected to begin in May.

"I've been going out on these boats for 20 years, and I have to say I'm worried about the fishery," said Lala Llacuna of Concord, who went fishing Saturday aboard Wacky Jacky, which departed from San Francisco's Fishermen's Wharf and traveled south to the waters off Half Moon Bay.

After several hours, fishermen aboard Wacky Jacky had hooked two immature salmon that had to be released. The California Department of Fish and Game imposes a minimum size limit of 20 inches.