PRINCETON-BY-THE-SEA -- Bay Area commercial fisherman unloaded the season's last haul of salmon Wednesday, bringing a close to what some trollers are calling the best Chinook fishing since 2005.
The king salmon fishery, one of the most valuable in California, continues to rebound after suffering through three shortened or canceled seasons between 2008 and 2010. Fishermen and regulators attribute the resurgence in part to favorable river and ocean conditions several years ago when the current generation of adults hatched and made their way out to sea.
"It was a good year," said Larry Collins, president of the San Francisco commercial fisherman's association. "Some guys did really well."
A preliminary estimate from the California Department of Fish and Game shows nearly 267,000 salmon were unloaded through Aug. 29. That would already be the most since 2005, when fishermen brought home roughly 341,000 over a full season. The fishery collapsed in 2006 partly because of environmental pressures, including the degradation of river habitat and Central Valley farmers' heavy demand for the water stored in the Sierra Nevada snowpack.
"It's all about how much water they get for going up and going down the river," Collins said.
The last day of fishing was Tuesday. Boats returned to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and Pillar Point Harbor near Half Moon Bay after dark and began selling the last catch in the morning.
Brad Wilcox was asking $12 a pound he was selling retail from his boat, Luna Sea, at Pillar Point. The fish were not only abundant this year, he said, but fat and tasty.
"My biggest fish this year was 44 pounds," said Wilcox, "which is about as big as it gets."