Ocean salmon options look liberal in 2012

Southern Oregon's ocean anglers can expect a full summer chinook salmon-fishing season under proposals that call for saltwater salmon fishing from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council this week drafted three liberal options for the Southern Oregon/Northern California zone based on high estimates of chinook headed back to the Klamath River.

Released Wednesday, all three options up for public comment include holiday-to-holiday angling for chinook in the so-called Klamath Management Zone, with options calling for the season to begin as early as May 1.

"The goal down there always was Memorial Day to Labor Day, and we're going beyond that," says Eric Schindler, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's project leader for ocean-salmon management.

"I think all three (options) are livable," Schindler says. "This basically gives you a blanket summer season.

The PFMC will take public comments on the options and is set to adopt the seasons when it meets April 6 in Seattle.

The most liberal option calls for fishing to open May 1 and run through Sept. 9 and include fin-clipped hatchery coho during Oregon's open coho season, which also has yet to be set. The minimum chinook size for that option is 24 inches.

A second option calls for sport fishing to open May 12 and run through Sept. 9 but without hatchery coho in the mix. The final option shrinks the season from May 23 through Sept. 3, with a minimum chinook size of 22 inches.

The differences between the first two options are small as far as chinook fishing goes because there is little effort and action for chinook off the Southern Oregon coast in May, Schindler says. However, adding the coho during the mix in that season would be an added attraction, he says.

The coho proposal is for a July 1-31 fishery on fin-clipped cohos, with a 14,000-fish quota.

Under all proposals the limits will be two salmon per day.

The liberal seasons are possible because more than 1.6 million chinook are estimated to be headed toward Northern California's Klamath River, the highest number in more than 30 years. Seasons in the KMZ are based largely on ensuring that 36,000 chinook escape sport and commercial fisheries to spawn in the Klamath basin annually.

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

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