There will be an ocean salmon fishing season this year and for the first time in years, it will be close to normal.
Three options for commercial and recreational fishing are being considered by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, or PMFC, and the one that allows the most days to fish is believed to be viable. Chinook salmon runs in the Sacramento River are expected to dramatically improve and stable Klamath River runs are forecasted.
A March 29 public hearing at Eureka’s Red Lion Inn gave fishermen a chance to lobby for the most permissive season option. In the Fort Bragg region, which includes Shelter Cove, all of the three options being considered have an April 2 season opening date and Alternative One, which is supported by fishermen, has the latest closing date, Nov. 13.
The other options close the season on Oct. 16 and Sept. 18.
In the region from Eureka’s south jetty to the Oregon border, recreational fishermen are supporting the season alternative that has the earliest opening date, May 7. The others set opening dates of May 21 and May 28. All the options have the same season closure date of Sept. 5.
Jim Yarnall, president of Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers, believes that opening the season early will send a message. “That extra time will allow local anglers to demonstrate that the fish are out there and with the high cost of fuel, we won’t get that travelling fishermen to come into the area unless we can demonstrate that there are fish out there.”
Dick Woolsey, a Humboldt Saltwater Anglers boardmember, said a greater allowance of fishing days is viable and will allow the region’s fishing-related economy to rebound. “We’ve lost a lot of our fisheries but this year, things look good,” he said. “We want to get charter boats back on the water so they can make money, along with tackle stores, restaurants, motels — every day we can fish, it’s going to help support the businesses.”
The commercial salmon season will also have substance, a change from the total closures of the recent past and last year’s minimal 10-day fishing window. In the Shelter Cove/Fort Bragg region, the option supported by fishermen would see one- to two-week fishing periods at the end of June and through July.
August and September would be completely open for fishing but areas north of Eureka would have periodic fishing windows.
In an interview, Aaron Newman, president of the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association, said commercial fishermen will be back in business this year.
A limiting factor for the year is an Endangered Species Act requirement that only 16 percent of four-year-old fish can be caught during the season, Newman continued, which will ensure returns in the less-managed Mattole, Eel and Mad rivers.
But Newman believes Alternative One, the option supported by fishermen, will be approved because it meets the 16 percent harvest rate condition and criteria for Sacramento and Klamath River returns. “There’s no reason for the (PFMC) not to accept Alternative One, especially with the support for it and the appearance that all of these runs are rebounding,” he said.
The PFMC will approve options for sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing seasons on April 13.