The PFMC makes its ruling on salmon: not this year

By: George deVilbiss Special to The Press-Tribune
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The Pacific Fisheries Management Council, meeting in Seattle, announced their ruling last week. It was a decision feared by all anglers, commercial and sport fishers alike. There will be no Chinook - or king salmon - fishing allowed. While the PFMC’s decision only affects federally controlled ocean waters, which range from three to 200 miles offshore, the State Department of Fish and Game is expected to follow suit by closing not only the near-shore areas to salmon fishing, but also all river systems. Coho, or silver salmon, have not been allowed in the catch for California anglers in ocean waters for many years. However, in Oregon, silvers are heavily hatchery raised and Oregon anglers will be able to pursue silver salmon but not kings. The impact of a complete closure is going to be widespread and totally devastating to others. Those who fish for a living, the commercial fishers, will not be able to pursue their business and the fish processors who purchase their catch will have nothing to process. Party boats, that target mainly salmon, will need to scramble to find the possibility of other type trips. Fishing guides on river systems will not be able to pursue salmon. Many will either go belly up or try and find other species to fish for. And those of us that fall in the sport anglers realm, who love fishing for, catching and eating fresh salmon, simply won’t. The bottom line then for anybody wanting salmon to eat, is to either purchase it in the market or make a long distance trip to Canadian or Alaskan waters. Market salmon alone will either be imported or farm raised and is expected to double in price. I’m expecting to vacation for a few days in British Columbia in August, where I already expect to go salmon and halibut fishing for at least one day. With the salmon fishery closed, it’s expected that fishing pressure for other species will rise dramatically. I have three weeks reservations at Fort Bragg in July where, instead of salmon fishing, my target fish will primarily be rock cod with maybe a Pacific halibut trip and even possibly an albacore tuna trip if the tuna come within fairly easy range. There are numerous reasons bandied about on the cause of the salmon population decline throughout the west coast. One thing is a known factor, however, and that’s the health of the rivers in which salmon return to spawn. Simply put, these rivers are heavily silted and the salmon just don’t have good, rocky areas in which to spawn. This is one of the reasons the DFG has recently announced a nearly $10 million grant to California Trout, monies that will be used for salmon and steelhead habitat restoration projects. While the affected waterways that Cal Trout will target have been named, it doesn’t include the American River. The DFG, however, is expected to add tons of gravel into the American to restore critical habitat there. Current fishing San Francisco Bay: The early halibut bite this year has many anglers excited. Private boats and party boats are hauling the flatties over the sides of the boats in good numbers. The Berkeley Flats, Southampton Shoals, and Paradise Beach, are all showing good rod bending action, while places like Angel Island and the beaches off San Francisco not showing much - yet. Be sure to watch the tides closely. Best bite is on a good outgoing tide and slows considerably on the slack or incoming. Some of the “butts” are hitting the 17 pound mark and there are many that are simply just two inches short of the 22-inch minimum. Take your own boat and don’t have a way to keep live bait? You can do well with even frozen anchovy bounced near the bottom or drift live shiners near the bottom. Just keep the shiners in a minnow bucket. Any questions, comments or concerns, you may contact George directly at GeorgesColumn@AOL.COM.