Hoping for longer salmon seasons

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate March 06, 2013 05:59 pm

Members of a group that lobbies for lengthy salmon seasons on California’s North Coast and in Southern Oregon are optimistic that the sport fishing season will last all summer on the ocean.

The Klamath Management Zone Fisheries Coalition held a meeting Monday in Smith River to discuss its recommendations for federal fishery managers. 

The coalition will send a representative to the five-day meeting of the Pacific Fishery Management Council in Tacoma, Wash., which starts Wednesday, to advocate for seasons in the Klamath Management Zone, which includes the ports of Crescent City, Brookings, and Eureka. By next Monday, the council will issue upcoming ocean salmon season alternatives for public review.

“From the recreational side, it’s a cakewalk,” said Richard Heap, coalition chairman, regarding the likelihood of favorable fishing seasons for the region this summer.

From the commercial side, it’s unlikely there will be significant quotas allotted to the region, according to Ben Doane, the coalition representative at the upcoming council meeting. 

The banner ocean and in-river recreational season last year and a limited commercial season in the KMZ was enough to motivate more interest at this year’s coalition meeting. The group has largely focused on recreational fishing interests in recent years because of the drastic decline of the commercial season.

Jim Day, a commercial salmon fisherman out of Brookings, came to the meeting to represent commercial interests and “try to get as good of seasons as possible for the commercial guys,” he said. 

There were also more businesses dependant on recreational and commercial salmon fishing in attendance at this year’s meeting.

“We’re starting to get a more comprehensive set of interests,” Doane said, adding that was the intent of the group from its inception.

Commercial and recreational ocean salmon fishing used to have a much larger impact on the local economy.

Crescent City Harbor’s outer boat basin used to have a line of cars hundreds of feet long of fishermen waiting to launch their boats. The outer boat basin was filled with sport boats. 

As recently as 1998, the harbor raked in $74,217 in slip fees for the outer boat basin, which is primarily used by sport fishermen. In 2006, that number had dropped to $21,856.

Last year, from the California/Oregon border to the Humboldt south jetty, the commercial season ran from Sept. 15 to 30 with a 6,000-chinook quota, while north of the state border to Humbug Mountain had a similar quota for chinook, but with the fishing season spread out through the summer.

The PFMC pre-season report estimated that there will be more than 1.5 million chinook salmon in the ocean this year, including 727,700 Klamath River fall chinook. That figure is much lower than the 1.6 million Klamath River fall chinook predicted last year, but still the second-highest estimate of Klamath chinook since 1996. For Sacramento River chinook, 834,208 are expected to be in the ocean.

Once the PFMC’s season alternatives are released, there will be an opportunity for public comment at the Eureka Red Lion hotel on March 26.

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