Commercial and sport anglers have received unwelcome news on the predicted return of Chinook salmon this year to California waters. State and federal fishery scientists presented updates on the numbers of spawning Chinook and the expected abundance for the upcoming fishing season at the annual Ocean Salmon Information Meeting held in Santa Rosa today.
Forecasts suggest there are 230,700 Sacramento River fall run Chinook adults in the ocean this year, along with 54,200 Klamath River fall run adults. Both forecasts are lower than those of recent years, with the forecast for Klamath fall run being among the lowest on record. Salmon from these runs typically comprise the majority of salmon taken in California’s ocean and inland fisheries.
“With a poor forecast for Klamath fall run and continued concerns over the winter run, California anglers will see reduced Chinook fishing opportunity as compared to last year,” said Brett Kormos, a senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
Chinook that will be harvested in ocean fisheries in 2017 hatched two to four years ago, and were deeply affected by poor river conditions driven by California’s recent drought.
CDFW and federal fish agency partners have expended millions of dollars on measures to minimize the impacts of the drought. These efforts have included trucking the majority of hatchery salmon smolts to acclimation pens in the lower Delta, improving hatchery infrastructure to keep juvenile fish alive under poor water quality conditions and partnering with sport and commercial fishermen to increase smolt survival. Though all of these efforts helped, other environmental factors – such as unusually warm water conditions in the ocean – were beyond human control.
The 2017 forecasts, in addition to information on endangered Sacramento River winter Chinook, will be used over the next two months by fishery managers to set sport and commercial fishing season dates, commercial quotas, and size and bag limits.
Season dates and other regulations will be developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council and California Fish and Game Commission over the next two months. For more information on the salmon season setting process or general ocean salmon fishing information, please visit the Ocean Salmon Project website or call the salmon fishing hotline at (707) 576-3429.