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Klamath allocation of chinook looks good

KBC NOTE: Huh? According to 26 groups supporting downsizing ag and dam removal, including tribal leaders, enviros, and gov't agencies, the dams and algae and farmers and commercial fishermen have killed most all the fish on the Klamath, driving them to extinction. What's this "2nd largest fishing allocation" all about?????

By Michelle Ma, Triplicate  July 11, 2008, Crescent City

Just as the state is finalizing the number of chinook salmon that can be caught in the Klamath River this fall, local leaders have launched a campaign to spread the word about the river's likely abundance of salmon for anglers.

The Klamath Chamber of Commerce recently started a "Got Fish?" campaign to emphasize the fact that the Klamath is one of the only rivers in California that will have a fall chinook sport fishing season this year.

"We're really in a pretty opportunistic, advantageous position up here," said Larry Hanson, a senior biologist with California Department of Fish and Game, speaking from his office in Redding. "This is the second-largest (fishing) allocation on the Klamath in the last 30 years."

Hanson, who spoke about the river's potential for anglers at a Klamath chamber meeting in May, said Thursday that the California Fish and Game Commission has approved the requested allocations. The official numbers are still tentative until the state's Office of Administrative Law enacts the regulations, he said.

Clearing the Fish and Game Commission was the big hurdle, Hanson said, adding that he doesn't expect the law office to change anything other than minor language details.

The fall chinook season on the Klamath and Trinity rivers will begin Aug. 15, and most of the fish returning will be large 4-year-old salmon. The commission has approved a catch allotment of 22,500 fall chinook salmon, and 11,250 of those would go to sport anglers in the Klamath below Weitchipec.

The Klamath above Weitchipec is allowed about 3,800 salmon, and the upper and lower segments of the Trinity River will each get about 3,700 fish.

The tribal allocation will be 27,000 salmon.

Elsewhere around the state, in-river sport fishing will be meager, officials said. A limited Sacramento River fishery starting Nov. 1 will target late-fall chinook, and the Smith River in Del Norte County will also be open for a regular season, fisheries biologists said.

In-river fishing restrictions that persist throughout the state reflect the Central Valley fall chinook fishery collapse that closed ocean salmon fishing coast-wide to protect that stock. But chinook returning to the Klamath River this fall are expected to be strong, and with no fish going toward an ocean allocation, the numbers available to anglers on the Klamath have skyrocketed.

"You can attribute (the generous allocation) to the fact that these fish are not being taken in the sea this year," Hanson said.

Still, the Klamath's meaty allocations have been generally overlooked elsewhere in California since ocean and other river fishing closures were announced this spring.

"The overriding perception is there's not a place to fish for salmon in the state of California," Hanson said.

And that's where the Klamath chamber's campaign comes in.

An advertisement for the "Got Fish?" initiative announces that the town has more than 1,500 RV and tent sites, as well as more than 90 lodging rooms to choose from. Local officials hope that a number of fishermen and guides from around the state will descend on Del Norte County for the fall season.

Steelhead Lodge in the Klamath Glen has seen regular numbers of guests in its motel and RV park, said owner Paula Zimmerman. She said more guests have booked lodging later into October, but that could be because last year's fishing during the first part of October was strong.

What Zimmerman is seeing, however, is numerous customers who think that, as with most of the state's rivers, there will be no fishing on the Klamath this fall, she said.

"They have no idea the Klamath is open for fishing," Zimmerman said. "It just kills me when they say that."

Still, Zimmerman said she has seen businesses in Klamath sprucing up and getting ready for what most people hope will be a busier-than-usual fall season.

"It seems like the community is showing a little more pride in our community," Zimmerman said.

Reach Michelle Ma at mma@triplicate.com.

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