While West Coast ocean salmon fishermen are
gritting their teeth against an impending
disaster, Klamath River anglers may be set up
for one of the best seasons of the decade.
Ocean fishermen have for years been
prevented from fully tapping rich Sacramento
River stocks that make up the largest part of
the California, Oregon and Washington fishery.
Fish managers have tried to prevent too many
Klamath salmon -- which mix with other stocks
-- from being taken in an effort to leave
enough wild chinook salmon to spawn in the
From 2004 to 2006, the Klamath didn't reach
that target, and ocean and river fisheries
felt the pain. Because of that, the Pacific
Fishery Management Council was required to
craft a rebuilding strategy, which it will
consider along with a host of other issues in
As proposed, it calls for 5,700 more wild
chinook to be allowed to return to the Klamath
to spawn for two years in a row, or for at
least 35,000 wild fish to return in three out
of four years.
”If one of those two things happen, we're
out of the box and we start over,” said
council staff officer Chuck Tracy.
In a regular year, ocean fishermen can only
catch up to 16 percent of the 4-year-old
Klamath fish believed to be at sea. Remaining
available fish go into the river's tribal and
sport fisheries on the Klamath and its main
tributary, the Trinity River.
This year it's Sacramento River stocks that
have crashed, and there may be no ocean salmon
fishing at all. But the Klamath is expected to
see a strong return of big, 4-year-old fish
this fall. Since ocean fishermen will take few
or none of them, many more can be allocated to
the river fisheries.
In a year when lots of fish are expected to
run up the Klamath, fishermen may have their
There are likely to be lots if salmon for
the sport fishery in the Klamath basin, said
Willow Creek fishing guide E.B. Duggan.
In 2006, Duggan saw much of his business
evaporate during the crash of Klamath stocks.
People from out of town didn't bother to make
the trip, he said. In 2007, business came back
up to normal, and this year could be a boom.
In fact, Duggan expects there may be
conflicts worse than in 2007. He said there
were several accounts of fistfights over
The approximately 100 boats working the
Trinity alone might be joined by 50 or more
from Sacramento River fishermen not able to
fish their own river, he said. Even then,
liberal bag limits are likely to be set, he
”It's going to benefit the business people
tremendously,” Duggan said.
The California Fish and Game Commission
sets fishing regulations after the council
makes its decision on ocean fisheries in
Hotels, restaurants, guide services and
tackle shops along both rivers stand to
benefit from the increased visits.
It's part of the ebb and flow of salmon. If
it ebbed from 2005 to 2007 and flows in 2008,
it seems likely to ebb again in 2009.
Tracy said that the prognosis for Klamath
salmon in 2009 is weak, which will almost
certainly affect fishing along the coast and
in the river again.
”We could be looking at more slim times in
the Klamath again,” Tracy said.