Ocean Salmon season May come early

By Larry Ellis, fishing columnist February 28, 2014 10:33 pm

Tom Owens of Brookings was fishing with Paul Lefebvre and Larry Ellis on the Rogue River on Saturday when he read this hatchery steelhead his last rites.

I just read the preseason 1 report for this year’s projections of salmon in the ocean - all 140 pages. While some people might be a little down in the dumps about the lower-than-average expected returns to the Klamath Management Zone, I still feel positive enough about it to keep buying green bananas.

While it is true that the ocean projections of Sacramento and Klamath River fish are down from last year and the year before last, you have to really look at this year’s predictions in relation to the past two years to really appreciate what anglers in the Brookings vicinity should expect.

At first I was going to give the report an M.M. rating (Moderately Mediocre). Then gleaning through it a second time I began to see things much more clearly. That’s when I give it the F.O. rating (Fairly Optimistic).

So let’s put things in perspective. Without a doubt, the entire KMZ has enjoyed the best 2 years of fishing its ever experienced. Even the old timers in Eureka couldn’t remember ocean salmon fishing this good in their entire lives. It was not uncommon last year to head out of the Port of Brookings Harbor at 6 a.m. and be limited out and back to the dock by 8 a.m. Doubles and triple hookups were seen with abandon.

So before the preseason 1 report came out yesterday, I was saying to myself that even if the fishing was one-fourth as good as it was last year, it would still be like receiving manna from heaven - perhaps even better.

To fully appreciate what is going to be given to us this year, you have to look at the overall picture. So let’s take a look at the rivers where this little nook called the KMZ derives their ocean salmon.

The Salmon Technical Team is predicting that the Sacramento Index (SI) of fall Chinook will be 634,700 adult salmon.

Last year, the SI called for 834,200 salmon in the 2013 preseason 1 report. So this year’s projection for Sacramento River fish is almost precisely 3/4 the amount of fish that were projected for last year. Follow where I’m going with this? I originally said I’d be happy if the fishing was only one fourth as good as last year.

Now there’s the Klamath River which makes up the other part of the Klamath Management Zone. This year, the amount of salmon swimming in the ocean of Klamath origin has been projected to be exactly 299,300 salmon. Last year’s projection was 727,700 salmon. So this year’s projection is less than half of last year’s prediction, or approximately 2/5 of last year’s prediction. Again, I originally stated that I’d be happy if the fishing was only one fourth as good as last year.

Then factor into the equation that the Columbia River will be getting back 983,100 hatchery coho (silvers). On the southern Oregon coast, we catch a lot of those fish, primarily the early run coho, which total 526,600 coho. My guess is that there will also be plenty of fin-clipped coho opportunity to be had as well.

My ultimate sense is that we’re going to have a good season, not fairly good, nor very good, but just a good season expectation. The final decision for making up the different salmon options will be taking place in Sacramento next week. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be, but I think everyone should be optimistic enough to go out and think about buying those green bananas - and maybe pick up a loaf of manna on the way home.