Do you feel like there's some magic in the air? Or perhaps there's been an unexplained tremble in the forest? For salmon anglers, those intensive waves of energy transpired last week when the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) met from March 7-13 with various fish and wildlife agencies and representatives of California, Oregon and Washington in Sacramento. The annual meeting was the second of three climactic steps in determining the quotas and dates for this year's ocean salmon seasons.
The first step of the process always involves the tortuous waiting for the PFMC's Salmon Technical Team (STT) to put together their Preseason Report 1, which describes this year's forecast for ocean abundance of Chinook and coho. It was also presented in the March 1 column of On The Water in the Curry Coastal Pilot.
The third and final step, which hasn't happened yet, will determine the precise dates of all the state's various salmon seasons.
But it's really the second step of the process that always gets my adrenaline pumping. That's when the hearts of all salmon anglers unite in one cohesive unit as three alternative options for the ocean salmon season are put together by the STT, and will be finalized at the third PFMC meeting which will be occurring in the not-too-distant future.
This year, the second meeting was allowed to be heard in a listen-only mode by anyone owning a computer. I was privileged to take part in some of those very illuminating and explanatory sessions, and I can say with certainty that the STT worked well into the wee hours of the morning to come up with three alternative options.
All three options are well worthwhile seasons but, as an avid salmon fisherman in the entire state of Oregon from the Port of Brookings Harbor's Klamath Management Zone (KMZ) all the way up to the Columbia River, I give alternative option I an irrefutable two thumbs up. It's what I consider the very best of all worlds in the salmon kingdom.
So it comes as no surprise to me that, with the immense return of hatchery coho that are expected to return to the Columbia River this year, that the range of the mark-selective (hatchery; fin-clipped) coho season was recommended to extend all the way from Cape Falcon to the Oregon/California border from June 21 through the earlier of August 10, or until a landed catch of a very liberal quota of 80,000 marked coho is attained.
Remember that last year, the coho fishing for the Brookings area lasted only from July 1 through July 31, and only from Cape Falcon to the Oregon California border.
Even though anglers had to put up with bait-stealing pesky coho last year when they wanted to catch big bruising Chinook, this year's lengthy coho season might mean putting a few larger coho in the fish box in August. It is also worth mentioning that, back in 2008, some fairly large coho were caught during the last two weeks of June.
There also should be a much more substantial amount of hatchery coho swimming around in the KMZ this year, which translates into a much higher ratio of hatchery-to-wild coho caught than usual. Just remember that you can buy an unlimited supply of hatchery harvest cards, and all those fin-clipped coho can be marked down on those cards. Hatchery harvest cards are the closest things to free fish as you can get.
Coho have often gotten a bad rap over the years as being inferior salmon, but I can say with fervor that a fresh coho caught in the ocean eats just as well as a Chinook. Some people even prefer coho because of their leaner body mass.
Alternative option I also advised that another very liberal salmon season transpires for Chinook in the Oregon KMZ, specifically from Humbug Mountain to the Oregon/California border, with a lengthy season lasting from May 1 through September 7.
The scope of this article does not permit discussing alternative options II and III, but suffice it to say, alternative option I gives salmon anglers the best bang for their buck.