Recreational fishing in Southern Oregon will have a 100-day season this year to take advantage of the fall Chinook salmon heading north to the Rogue River in Gold Beach.
The decisions to have an uninterrupted season from May 19 to Aug. 26 was announced Tuesday. That span of time includes Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, but not Labor Day, and was the most generous of the options considered by the Pacific Fishery Management Council this week in Portland. The seasons are scheduled to be finalized before the month is over.
The announcement is welcome news to West Coast fishermen who suffered a full closure of sport and commercial fishing last year and a crab season beset by closures due to domoic acid levels in the ocean.
The recreational fishing season off the Oregon Coast north of Humbug Mountain opened March 15 for Chinook and will close at the end of October. Fin-clipped Coho salmon season there will open June 30 to Sept. 3; if the 35,000-fish quota is met, the season will close earlier.
The commercial fishery here will be capped at 1,500 Chinook in June, 2,000 in July and 500 in August.
The council also announced it expects there to be fall recreation and commercial seasons off the mouth of the Chetco River. Those will be set next week by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The season will feature a two-Chinook per day bag limit. No Coho salmon fishing is permitted, however.
The fishery council also adopted a commercial trolling season for the summer. It is based on monthly quotas, with a maximum of 4,000 Chinook — another piece of welcome news for South Coast fishermen who saw no Chinook fishing last spring and summer.
The length and timing of the season is based around estimates that almost 463,000 Rogue fall Chinook are in the ocean — almost twice that of last year. Those fish made their way downstream during the drought years of 2014 and 2015, aided by water releases from Lost Creek and Applegate reservoirs.
Sacramento River-bound Chinook didn’t have that assistance, and were struck hard by a drought that involved political wrangling in California to divvy up water supplies for fish or the water-intensive farming in the Central Valley. Only 229,500 fish made it to the ocean, some 1,300 less than last year, the council said.
Down south …
The council didn’t deliver such good news to fisherfolk in California, where ocean salmon fishing seasons for sport was cut about a third and commercial by half, the council announced earlier this week.
Again, the drastic reductions are due to expectations that relatively few adult Sacramento fall-run salmon will be available this year, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
An estimated 95 to 98 percent of naturally-spawned eggs died in warm spawning beds during the drought in 2015, leaving very few to return this year as adults. Too little water was left in Lake Shasta — the water source of the Sacramento River — to cool the spawning beds. River temperatures were recorded in excess of 56 degrees, at which salmon eggs die.
“This could have been avoided if more water had been reserved to keep the Sacramento cool enough to support spawning salmon,” said Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA) President John McManus. “The state Water Resources Control Board is in a position to insure we don’t see a repeat in the next drought, and we hope they act to protect California’s unique salmon runs. Families and communities up and down the coastal and inland river areas depend on these salmon.”
The majority of salmon caught along the Northern California Coast in the past few years are from five salmon hatcheries in the Central Valley. During the drought the hatcheries ended up supplying the majority of fish to the rivers; usually the bulk of fish are supplied by natural spawning beds.
“Natural-origin salmon can vastly outnumber those contributed by hatcheries in years when our rivers get enough water for spawning and to deliver baby salmon to the ocean,” said GGSA board member Vance Staplin in an announcement Monday. “The natural areas can supply many times what the hatcheries produce when the rivers are correctly managed.”
Baby salmon need high-flow, turbid, rapid runoff in the spring to successfully migrate down Central Valley rivers to the ocean.
The region from Humboldt County to Oregon will have a sport fishing season, too, unlike last year.
Currently, California’s salmon brings about $700 million in economic activity to Oregon each year. In the two states, the industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to Northern Oregon, including commercial and recreational fishermen, processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry and Indian tribes.