Record rain and snowfall over the winter was not enough to save California salmon fishermen from yet another summer of limited fishing and closures on a large swath of the coastline.
On a good year. salmon trollers drop their hooks in the water in May, but an April 11 decision made by the Pacific Fishery Management Council will delay the start of the season for most fisherman until August. Of the three alternative proposals considered at the meeting, the PFMC chose the least detrimental to fishermen’s wallets.
"Thousands of commercial salmon fishing families on the West Coast are going to be hit hard by another significantly curtailed salmon season this year,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, in a prepared statement. “For California fishermen, the drought is far from over, and its lasting effects are sending a shudder through coastal communities today.”
Parched salmon streams over the past few years decimated projected Chinook and coho salmon runs this summer. A 200-mile stretch in northern California and southern Oregon, the Klamath Management Zone, is closed for the summer, leaving fisherman in Eureka and Crescent City, California, and Brookings, Oregon, forced to travel far from home to land their summer catch.
For the majority of the productive salmon waters in California, commercial fishing won’t take place until August, and fishermen in the Fort Bragg area will be limited to 3,000 fish for then season, and boats limited to 60 Chinook salmon per week.
But the wet winter that has taken most areas in the state out of the harsh five-year drought leaves some hope for strong runs in years to come.
“In this business we have to be optimistic,” said Oppenheim. “All the water we have right now should help stocks in the next few years."