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Ocean Salmon Season Will Open April 4
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Mar 26th, 2015 10:00 AM
While the Sacramento River fall run Chinook returns were relatively abundant, it is crucial to understand the heavy impact that the mismanagement of Central Valley reservoirs and rivers and the Delta pumps by the state and federal governments will have on the 2016 to 2017 seasons.
Ocean Salmon Season Will Open April 4

by Dan Bacher

The recreational salmon fishing season is slated to begin in the Fort Bragg, San Francisco and Monterey South regions of the California coast on Saturday, April 4, 2015. In spite of the record drought, the outlook for this year's season is promising, due to an abundance of both Sacramento and Klamath River Chinook salmon.

Charter boat captains and private boaters will depart in the early morning hours of opening day from a multitude of ports and landings, stretching from Shelter Cove in Humboldt County to Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, in pursuit of the iconic silvery fish, weather permitting.

On March 12, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) adopted three public review options for the 2015 recreational and commercial salmon seasons off the West Coast. The Council will select a final option at their next meeting in Rohnert Park, California on April 10‐16.

Central Valley fall Chinook numbers are forecast at over 652,000, providing ample salmon fishing opportunity while allowing estimated spawning escapements over 300,000, according to the federal and state fishery managers. The minimum conservation goal is 122,000 to 180,000 spawning adult salmon.

The ocean abundance forecast for Klamath River Fall Chinook is nearly 423,000, providing "reasonable sport and commercial harvest while meeting the minimum natural spawning goal of 40,700, and the 2015 management objective of an ocean harvest rate of no more than 16 percent," according to Dr. Donald McIsaac, PFMC Executive Director.

Options for Oregon ocean Chinook fishing in the Brookings area and Northern California in the Klamath Management Zone run from May through September. For the Tillamook, Newport, and Coos Bay areas, season options range from March to October.

“California ocean sport fishing options south of the Klamath Management Zone generally provide continuous fishing opportunity from April to October or November,” McIsaac noted. “However, one alternative for 2015 takes a precautionary approach due to concerns for future Chinook abundance, particularly Sacramento River winter Chinook.”

The Coastside Fishing Club is alarmed over that proposal by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to eliminate two months of the 2015 recreational salmon season. The CDFW advanced the proposal as one of three season options for public review and potential adoption by the PFMC.

"Excessive water exports and mismanagement by federal and state authorities in 2014 caused the loss of 95% of the out-migrating naturally spawning winter run Chinook," according to a statement from the Club. "Surviving offspring from this year class will return to the Sacramento River in early 2017, but will be too small to be affected by the fishery this year."

Dan Wolford, Coastside President and Council member, noted that there is justifiable concern over this brood of winter-run salmon, but these fish will not be seen in the fishery until 2016. “Closing the fishery in 2015 will confer no benefit on this struggling generation of fish, but it will exact a high price on fishing communities,” said Wolford.

Wolford said the 2016 recreational salmon fishing season will likely see "significant cutbacks" as a consequence of the outbound winter-run Chinook mortalities in 2014 because that generation of fish will likely be far less numerous than typical.

“Once again, anglers will be forced to pay for the greed of the water interests,” said Coastside Director Marc Gorelnik. “As painful as the potential closures will be in 2016, it is senseless to impose meaningless closures in 2015 when the fall-run Chinook are expected to be plentiful.”

Public hearings to receive input on the options are scheduled for March 30 in Westport, Washington and Coos Bay, Oregon; and for March 31 in Fort Bragg, California. The Council will consult with scientists, hear public comment, and revise preliminary decisions until it chooses a final option at its meeting April 10‐16 in Rohnert Park, California.

Coastside Fishing Club is encouraging recreational anglers to organize and make their justifiable concerns known at the April Council meeting in Rohnert Park, as well as at the earlier public hearing in Ft. Bragg.

To learn more about this and to stay on top of recreational salmon season developments in California, visit the organization’s website at

Detailed information about season starting dates, areas open, and catch limits for all three options are available on the Council’s website:

While the Sacramento River fall run Chinook returns were relatively abundant, it is crucial to understand the heavy impact that the mismanagement of Central Valley reservoirs and rivers and the Delta pumps by the state and federal governments will have on the 2016 to 2017 seasons.

"The most important thing now is to get busy making serious investments to get the wild spawners back," said Dick Pool, Secretary of the Golden Gate Salmon Association and Administrator of "It's clear that in the drought we have lost the majority of the wild fish. It will be very difficult to bring these fish back."

"Fortunately, there are a number of good habitat projects that can help if we move quickly. Plus, most of the hatchery fish survived. We will now have to lean on the hatcheries to help bring back the wild stocks. One promising technology is to inject selected surplus hatchery eggs into the gravel in the wild," concluded Pool.

It is also essential to understand that the winter and spring Chinook runs, both listed under the state and federal Endangered Species Acts, declined from the previous year, due to the mismanagement of Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs by the Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources during 2013 and 2014, record drought years.

The winter run return was only 3,015 fish, including 2,688 adults and 327 jacks. By contrast, the winter Chinook return was 117,000 in 1969.

A total of only 9,498 spring Chinook returned to the Sacramento and its tributaries. This number included 2,825 fish, including 2,163 adults and 222 jacks, from the Feather River Fish Hatchery.

The winter and spring run Chinook salmon populations, like the endangered Delta smelt, are the proverbial "canaries in the coal mine." An ecosystem where these once abundant fish species can no longer survive is an environment where human beings will be no longer be able to survive. If these species go extinct, due to abysmal management of Central Valley rivers and the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary by the state and federal governments, people will undoubtedly be next.

Below is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife news release announcing the opening of salmon season:

Recreational Ocean Salmon Season to Open South of Horse Mountain on April 4

California’s recreational salmon season will open in ocean waters on Saturday, April 4, 2015, from Horse Mountain (40° 05’ 00” N. latitude) south to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The daily bag limit is two Chinook per day and no more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit.

Between Horse Mountain and Point Arena (38° 57’ 30” N. latitude), the minimum size limit is 20 inches total length. For areas south of Point Arena, the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length.

For anglers fishing north of Point Conception (34° 27’ 00” N. latitude), no more than two single-point, single-shank barbless hooks shall be used, and no more than one rod shall be used per angler when fishing for salmon or fishing from a boat with salmon on board. In addition, barbless circle hooks are required when fishing with bait by any means other than trolling.

Additional ocean salmon fishing regulations for the 2015 fishing season will be decided next month by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) during its April 11-16 meeting in Rohnert Park, and by the Fish and Game Commission at its April 17 teleconference. Final sport regulations will be published in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) 2015 Supplemental Fishing Regulations booklet, which will be posted online in May at

Three alternatives are currently being considered for California’s 2015 commercial and recreational ocean salmon regulations, including season dates, size limits, bag limits and quotas. The public is encouraged to comment on any of the proposed alternatives, which can be found at the PFMC website at

CDFW reminds anglers that retention of coho salmon is prohibited in all ocean fisheries. For complete ocean salmon regulations in effect during April, please visit CDFW’s ocean salmon webpage at or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

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