SALMON SEASON LOOKS PROMISING

March 02, 2001 11:00 pm

CRESCENT CITY The abundance of 4-year-old salmon should guarantee at least as much fishing opportunity this year as last year, said officials at the Klamath Management Zone Fisheries Coalition Thursday.

Members of the bi-state coalition approved three options for the summer chinook salmon recreational season to present to the Klamath Fisheries Management Council.

One option would result in a season at least as long as last years 85 days. Like the last season, it would also allow two fish a day, up to four fish a week, during the second half of the season.

Option two would add more days to the season, up to a total of 100. The season could start as early as May 12. It would also allow two fish a day for both halves of the season.

Option three would include all the features of option two, but would allow two fish a day, up to six fish a week, in the second half of the season.

Two commercial options were also approved. The first option would be the same as last year, with a 1,300 fish quota at 30 fish a day per boat.

Option two would raise the quota. It would run from May 1 to June 15, and reopen the same day the sport fishery does in July and remain open until the quota is reached.

Humboldt County Supervisor Paul Kirk, the California representative in the coalition, said the options are not a done deal.

He said the options will go into the Klamath Ocean Harvest Model now. The Klamath Fisheries Management Council will then tell the coalition what comes out. Public input will be taken.

Kirk said the whole process will go back and forth, mixing elements of all options, until a final option is approved.

Jim Welter of Brookings, a board member of the coalition, said the good news is that the 2001 season should include at least as many opportunities to fish as the 2000 season.

Welter and Kirk had recently returned from the management council meeting in Weitchpec, Calif.

Kirk said California officials were happy with the fishing opportunity in the Klamath Management Zone last year. He said 13,200 salmon were landed in California and 11,800 in Oregon.

He said that was as close to parity as the two sides of the management zone had experienced.

The 2000 season also produced more fish than predicted. Kirk compared the 25,000 fish total with the 10,000 caught in the zone in 1999.

He said Crescent City was apparently out of the pocket, because there was better fishing both north and south of it.

Kirk said the huge 4-year-old salmon component should mean an even better season this year.

Gold Beach fisherman Scott Boley agreed that 4-year-old abundance would be strong. He said Endangered Species Act constraints would limit the ocean harvest, however.

Welter said coho salmon are listed as threatened in the Klamath zone. The California Department of Fish and Game upped the ante by switching coho in streams from threatened to endangered. Fall chinook have also been listed as threatened south of the Klamath zone.

California will have some real restraints on their ocean harvest this year, said Welter.

He also warned that drought conditions this year will impact salmon in following years.

Boley said the restraints could mean a large number of fish that cant be caught in the ocean. Kirk said that could mean more fish for the in-river fishery on the Klamath.

He said the tribes are currently playing hardball with each other over who gets what percentage of the in-river fish.

The topic of foreign fleets also came up, but most officials agreed those fleets have been pushed back from the Pacific coast. They said the foreign fleets off Alaska dont impact the chinook runs here.

Predator impact was also discussed. Sea Grant Agent Jim Waldvogel said the harvest model figures predators into natural mortality. He said that figure is assumed to be constant, even though everyone knows it is not.