Commercial and sport anglers received mixed news this past week regarding the status of Sacramento River fall Chinook and Klamath River fall Chinook – California’s two largest Chinook salmon populations. While adult returns of both stocks were well below minimum escapement goals in 2017, and projected abundance for both stocks is modest compared to historic averages, state and federal fishery scientists reported an increase in the number of jacks (two-year-old Chinook) that returned to spawn in 2017. Higher jack returns, as seen in 2017, can indicate the potential for increased abundance of adult (three years old or older) Chinook for 2018 fisheries.
Forecasts presented at the annual Salmon Information Meeting suggest there are 229,400 Sacramento River fall Chinook adults in the ocean this year, along with 359,200 Klamath River fall Chinook adults. While the Sacramento River fall Chinook forecast is comparable to last year, there are greater numbers of Klamath River fall Chinook projected to be in the ocean in 2018. Fall Chinook from these runs typically comprise the majority of salmon taken in California’s ocean and inland fisheries.
The effects of the recent drought are still impacting California’s salmon populations. Outbound juvenile Chinook suffered unusually high mortality because of low flows and high water temperatures in both the Sacramento and Klamath watersheds in 2014 and 2015. Unsuitable river conditions, coupled with persistently poor ocean conditions during the same period, resulted in very low numbers of adult Chinook returning to spawn in both the Klamath and Sacramento River basins in 2017.
Over the next two months, the Pacific Fishery Management Council will use the 2018 fall Chinook ocean abundance forecasts, in addition to information on the status of endangered Sacramento River winter Chinook, to set ocean sport and commercial fishing season dates, commercial quotas and size and bag limits.
At the same time, fishery managers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will be working to develop a suite of recommendations for the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) to consider on 2018 fishing seasons, size limits and bag limits for Chinook salmon river fishing in the Klamath/Trinity and Sacramento River basins. For more information, visit the FGC Sport Fishing Regulations website.
For more information on the process for setting the California ocean salmon season or for general information about ocean salmon fishing, visit the Ocean Salmon Project website. For the latest ocean salmon season regulations, call the CDFW ocean salmon hotline at (707) 576-3429 or the National Marine Fisheries Service salmon fishing hotline at (800) 662-9825.
For the latest inland salmon season regulations in the Klamath/Trinity basin, call (800) 564-6479, and in the Central Valley, visit the CDFW Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations website.