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Ocean salmon season looks to be a winner

BROOKINGS — Ocean anglers will get almost everything they could have hoped for out of what is poised to be a long and fruitful summer salmon season.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council on Wednesday adopted a recreational chinook season for the South Coast that gives Brookings anglers another chance to become the state's top summer chinook port.

Meeting all week in Vancouver, Wash., the council also gave the majority of the Oregon Coast a fin-clipped coho salmon quota that's more than eight times larger than last year's allowable catch.

The PFMC's recreational seasons include a chinook season for the Oregon portion of the Klamath Management Zone between Humbug Mountain near Port Orford and the California border, which includes the ports of Brookings and Gold Beach.

The chinook season will open May 10 and run through Sept. 7 with no quota, offering chinook opportunities during all summer holidays. The season, which includes a two-chinook daily limit, could have started as early as May 1 under the most liberal option before the PFMC, but Brookings advocates see the nine-day wait as a wash because chinook are rarely caught off Southern Oregon in early May.

The chinook caught off Brookings typically are making their way up the California coast at that time, filling coolers in Eureka, Calif., while Oregon anglers are still focusing on lingcod.

The season will closely mirror last year's framework.

Even after a relatively fish-less May for Brookings last year and a windy July that kept most Oregon ocean anglers at bay much of that month, anglers brought back 10,426 chinook over the Chetco River bar last summer, accounting for 35 percent of Oregon's recreational chinook landings.

That was by far the top catch for any Oregon summer port. It fell short of the season tally of 11,778 chinook landed at Winchester Bay, but the statistics can be misleading. Winchester Bay is in the Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain zone, which has its chinook season starting in mid-March and running into October, and it saw a mammoth September chinook bite.

While the PFMC sets the timing of seasons based on chinook abundance, those predictions don't guarantee good catches.

As expected, the PFMC adopted the most liberal fin-clipped coho season on the table for all of the Oregon Coast except off the Columbia River mouth.

The season will open June 21 and stay open as late as Aug. 10. That's a wide window, considering last year it was relegated to July days. Also, the 80,000-fish quota will mean anglers won't have to pound the ocean early to ensure they get fishing days before others fill the quota and end the season.

Last year, Oregon anglers landed just 6,580 fin-clipped coho, largely because July was such a weather bust.

It will be tough for Oregon ocean anglers to catch this year's full quota, but they have a better chance to get two fin-clipped coho in a day than in past years, when anglers were releasing as many as nine wild coho before getting one fin-clipped hatchery coho.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.