[env-trinity] Salmon may be off limits

Josh Allen jallen at trinitycounty.org
Wed Mar 1 13:41:06 PST 2006

Salmon may be off limits


<mailto:metro at modbee.com?subject=Salmon%20may%20be%20off%20limits> 

Last Updated: March 1, 2006, 05:00:14 AM PST

If you have vivid memories of summertime treks to the coast to fish for
big, ocean chinook salmon - hang on to them.

The memories I mean. They may be hard to replenish this year.

Depending upon what happens next week when the Pacific Fisheries
Management Council meets in Seattle, you may not be able to catch salmon
out of the ocean at all in 2006, either commercially or for sport.

That's because of low numbers of chinook salmon returning to the Klamath
River to spawn for the past two years.

To make matters worse, this year's run, expected to reach 29,000 adults,
falls way short of the Council's mandatory 35,000 spawners they figure
are needed to sustain the Klamath fishery.

"And that's if there is a total recreational and commercial fishing ban
from now through August," said California Department of Fish and Game
Associate Marine Biologist Melodie Palmer-Zwahlen, a member of the
department's Ocean Salmon Project.

"There will be restrictions on California and Oregon salmon fisheries
this season," she said. "We just won't know how extensive they will be."

Palmer-Zwahlen said that when the Klamath's basic spawning levels aren't
met for three years in a row - which seems likely this fall - federal
law designed to sustain the fishery kicks in, potentially requiring even
further scrutiny and anti-overfishing regulations by the National Marine
Fisheries Service.

Meanwhile, commercial ocean salmon fishing is currently closed off
California pending a final decision on this year's season to be made in
April by the PFMC.

Recreational salmon fishing along the Central Coast is scheduled to open
on April 1 - before the final PFMC meet - from Point Arena in Mendocino
County and points south.

How long this year's recreational season lasts, however, depends once
again on the PFMC and remains anybody's guess.

"We just don't know what we are going to have," said Bob Strickland, the
San Jose-based president of United Anglers of California, and one of
three California members on the PFMC Advisory Panel, one each
representing commercial interests, and north and south state coastal
recreational anglers.

"We will know a lot more at the end of next week," said Stickland, who
plans to attend the Seattle conference.

Pretty much everyone agrees that at the heart of the matter lies the
Klamath-Trinity river system, which once regularly produced tens of
thousands of chinook salmon.

Like most other major salmon-producing rivers on the Pacific Coast,
however, dams, logging and agriculture have led to greatly diminished
spawning habitat.

In recent years, Klamath fish have suffered even heavier blows, like in
September of 2002 when more than 33,000 salmon died before they could
spawn after upstream waters were diverted by federal officials for
agricultural purposes.

Those chickens are now coming home to roost, or rather, not enough
Klamath salmon are coming back to spawn.

Unfortunately for Central Coast ocean fishermen, Klamath salmon travel
south in the salt water, mixing with other fish, in particular the much
more plentiful chinooks coming out of the Sacramento River drainage.

Those fish, whose numbers reached near record highs last year, continue
to be plentiful. But the fish cops don't want Klamath River fish to be
caught in the midst of the Sacramento fishery, hence the threat of
shortened or even non-seasons off our coast to protect them.

There could be, however, a silver lining for local salmon anglers
planning to fish the Sacramento River this fall, one almost as bright as
the great fish they seek.

Klamath salmon should be heading north when the fall spawning runs
commence, leaving the Sacramento, which is not expected to be closed, to
its own fish and fishermen.

"I'm not sure what the final numbers might be," said Palmer-Zwalenn,
"but if they close the season on ocean fishing, that's going to make
fishing in the Sacramento that much better since there are going to be a
lot more fish that never got caught out in the ocean."



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