It was inevitable.
After two "out of this world" salmon seasons for the coastal waters off of Eureka and Crescent City -- as well as the Klamath River -- the numbers had nowhere to go but down. And that seems to be where they're headed.
The confirmation came at Wednesday's PFMC salmon abundance meeting in Santa Rosa, where discussions centered on in-river data from the 2013 season and to project the number of adult salmon swimming in coastal waters in 2014.
What the data revealed -- at least for the Klamath -- is a dramatic decline in the number of adult salmon swimming in the ocean. The PFMC projected an ocean population of 299,282 Klamath River salmon, compared to 727,700 last year.
In 2012, the number of Klamath fish swimming in the ocean was projected at 1.6 million! The Sacramento river system is in much better shape, but their numbers are down as well. 634,650 adult fall-run Chinook salmon are predicted to be in the ocean this year, compared to 862,525 in 2013.
According to the PFMC, fishing restrictions are unlikely in the Bay Area and on the Sacramento River.
The North Coast could well have a different fate when the PFMC makes its regulatory recommendations in March.
The preliminary numbers -- and these will likely change -- indicate that of the 299,282 Klamath fish in the ocean, 76,952 will return to the river. Take away 40,700 needed for escapement, and you're left with 36,252, of which 50 percent will go to tribal allocations. That leaves roughly 18,000 adult salmon to be divided amongst the Klamath Basin.
To put the numbers in perspective, 165,125 adults returned to the Klamath in 2013, which turned out to be only 60 percent of the preseason forecast.
The lone bright spot could be the number of 2 year-olds or "jacks" coming back to the Klamath this year from the record 2012 run, in which 291,877 adults returned.
These numbers are very preliminary and there will be some give and take between the ocean commercial and sport anglers before they become final. For more information on the 2013 salmon abundance report, visit www.pcouncil.org/salmon/stock-assessment-and-fishery-evaluation-safe-documents/review-of-2013-ocean-salmon-fisheries/
CDFW to Host Public Meeting on Klamath River Salmon Sport Fishery
The Department of Fish and Wildlife invites the public to attend an information meeting to review regulatory options for the 2014 fall Chinook Klamath River sport fishing seasons, areas closures and bag limits. Information used to formulate current fisheries management options will be discuss along with the 2013 Klamath fall Chinook run estimates. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 3 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, rooms 211-212, 921 Waterfront Drive, in Eureka. The public is encouraged to provide input on potential fishing season options at the meeting.
PFMC set to meet March 8-13
The Council will determine if any in-season action for fisheries scheduled to open in April is needed. They will also adopt three regulatory alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries in effect on or after May 1. Final Alternatives for public review will be decided on March 13. The meeting will be held at the Double Tree Hotel, 2001 Point West Way, in Sacramento.
Expect on and off showers through the weekend according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka's National Weather Service. "It looks like a better system will arrive sometime Monday afternoon dropping up to an inch in Humboldt and possibly a inch and a quarter in Del Norte County. The next big system will move in on Wednesday, with this one potentially packing a little bit more punch," Kennedy added.
North Coast rivers low flow regs extended through April 30
On February 19, the OAL approved the extension of low flow regulations to April 30 for North Coast rivers. The low flow closure hotline (707 822-3164) has been updated and will continue to provide current open/close status reports concerning the regulated areas of the Smith River, Redwood Creek, the Mad River, the Van Duzen River, the main stem Eel River, the South Fork and Middle Fork Eel River, and the Mattole River.
According to guide Alan Borges of Alan's Guide Service, the Chetco was starting to clear but fishing remained good. "The level is good, but we could use some color. It doesn't look like we're going to get a bunch of rain, so it should remain fishable. The fishing has been a little up and down, with a lot more downrunners starting to show. We've also seen a good number of 4 to 5 pound steelhead enter the river," Borges added.
The bite has been a little tougher now that the river has cleared. Boats are getting between 2 to 4 fish per trip, with some downers starting to show. Some decent amounts of rain will begin Sunday, keeping the river on the rise through Tuesday. Expect the fishing to be excellent when it drops back in.
Eel River (main stem)
Paul Grundman of Rio Dell's Grundmans Sporting Goods reports the main stem Eel was starting to color up on Thursday and it looks like it may be out for some time. It's predicted to peak on Saturday at just over 15 feet then rise again with the rain that's coming Monday. Could be late next week or the weekend before it's fishable.
Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork was on a pretty good rise Thursday, but it predicted to drop through the weekend. Whether it clears that quickly remains to be seen. Another steep rise is predicted for early Monday morning. Depending on how much rain we get next Wednesday, could fish late next week or by the weekend.
According to Grundman, the Van Duzen was still fishable as of early Wednesday, but was on the rise. Forecasted to be up and down through Sunday, followed by a pretty good rise through Tuesday. Like the Eel, probably won't fish until late next week or the weekend.
The Mad was starting to rise as of Wednesday and it looks like it will be blown for awhile reports Justin Kelly of Redwood Marine in Eureka. "The fishing had been getting tougher by the day, I think the river needed a good flushing to push some of the old fish out and hopefully bring in some new ones. Based on next week's rain, it may be late next week before it turns green again," Kelly added.
According to Steve Huber of Steve Huber's Guide Service, the river needs a push of water to keep the new group of the steelhead moving. "Most of the fish around now are wild and looking to get back to their home waters to spawn. With the water clearing earlier in the week, our best action was coming on the plugs. Also this week we caught our first down runner of the season. Action will stay good through March with a new group of fish nowhere ready to spawn yet. After this storm, I'll start fishing roe a little more," Huber added.
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