Finally, outlook bright for Calif. king salmon


April Forristall, assistant editor

Published on
May 23, 2012

Alaska’s Copper River salmon fishery draws a boatload of attention when it opens in mid-May, and this year is certainly no exception. But California’s salmon fishery, which kicked off at the beginning of May, is also generating a lot of buzz. After four years of strict fishing restrictions and closures, the outlook for this year’s harvest is far brighter.

Last year, California fishermen caught 228,000 pounds of king salmon in a limited eight-day season in July. In 2007, 1.5 million pounds were harvested. And, in 2004, the last full season before populations started to decline, 6.2 million pounds were harvested.

According to David Goldenberg of the California Salmon Council, 3 million pounds of salmon are expected to be landed this year, compared to a projected 900,000 pounds last year.

“Abundance is up,” Goldenberg told SeafoodSource. “We’ve taken a blow the past three or four years, with abundance down due to ocean conditions and water management issues.”

So far this season, it’s been “touch and go,” said Goldenberg. Windy conditions have kept boats off the water, but when the weather is favorable catches have been strong.

“In the good days, fishermen would catch 100 fish,” he explained. “We’ve had a few of those days [this season] and a number where guys have caught around 50, but also a number where they caught 10 or 15. So it varies.”

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) didn’t adopt as many restrictions this year because Central Valley and Klamath River stocks have rebounded since last year. But Klamath stocks are still being protected in accordance with PFMC regulations, which have fishing fleets alternating times and areas to meet management objectives.

“There are lighter restrictions this year, but there is still a closure in our major production area for three weeks in June, which is one of our highest production months. But so is July is July is open,” said Goldenberg. “California king salmon is available in limited numbers. We know that next year will be even better, so we look forward to better days yet to come.”

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