Three salmon options, and they're all better than last year

BROOKINGS — Southern Oregon's recreational ocean fleet could see a full summer of salmon fishing this year.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council last week unveiled a set of options for this summer's season that includes the potential of chinook salmon fishing from before Memorial Day until after Labor Day off the Southern Oregon and Northern California coasts.

2010 chinook-season options

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is considering three options for chinook salmon fishing this summer off the Southern Oregon and Northern California coasts.

OPTION 1: Chinook fishing seven days a week from May 22 through Sept. 6. Two chinook per day, with a 24-inch minimum.

OPTION 2: Chinook fishing seven days a week from June 16 through Sept. 6. Two chinook per day, with a 24-inch minimum.

OPTION 3: Chinook fishing seven days a week from July 3 through Sept. 6. Two chinook per day, with a 24-inch minimum.

It's still possible the ocean chinook season won't begin until either June 16 or July 3, but even those options contain the July Fourth and Labor Day weekends coveted by coastal communities hit hard by sport and commercial fishing cutbacks in recent years.

Any of this year's options would give recreational anglers a longer season than any year since 2007, and would be far more expansive than last year's token chinook season around Labor Day weekend.

"Compared to the past couple of years, we'll be doing a lot of fishing one way or the other," says Richard Heap of Brookings, who serves on a PFMC advisory panel. "But we have to remember, these are just options now."

The PFMC set the options Thursday in Sacramento, culminating a week-long meeting to hash out how best to mete out available salmon among various sport, commercial and Native American fisheries. The pie of offshore salmon is distributed with the notion that enough adult salmon will return to spawn in key rivers, such as the Sacramento and Klamath.

Both rivers have minimum spawning targets, with ocean seasons crafted to take advantage of chinook in the ocean that are in excess of those targets.

"There should be enough fish to satisfy everybody," Heap says.

Returns to the Sacramento have been below minimum thresholds the past two years, triggering unprecedented chinook fishing shutdowns for the sport and commercial fleet in California.

This year's forecasts predict 245,000 chinook headed up the Sacramento should no fishing be allowed. Because the minimum conservation goal for the Sacramento is 122,000 spawning adults, PFMC members see wiggle room for the fishery to resume or expand this summer.

Forecasts, however, call for severe downturns in future Sacramento returns, according to the PFMC.

The Klamath is expected to reach its spawning goal of 35,000 fish, PFMC forecasts show.

Sacramento and Klamath salmon numbers drive the chinook seasons off Southern Oregon and Northern California, where they mix with chinook bound for the Rogue, Chetco and other rivers.

The options being considered include a summer season along the Oregon Coast for hatchery-bred coho salmon beginning either in June or July, with a catch quota ranging from 25,000 to 35,000 fish. That represents a drop from the 110,000-fish quota last year, which was Oregon's biggest clipped-coho season in 17 years.

The PFMC will collect public input on the options over the next two weeks, including a March 29 hearing at the Red Lion Hotel in Coos Bay and a similar hearing March 30 at the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka, Calif.

The PFMC will reconvene April 10-15 in Portland for a final vote. The vote is a recommendation to the Secretary of Commerce, who officially sets the ocean seasons.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.


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