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Good fishing is good business

By Michelle Ma , The Daily Triplicate May 14, 2008, Crescent City

State fisheries biologists assured business owners, fishermen and community members gathered at Tuesday's Klamath Chamber of Commerce meeting that recreational salmon fishing on the Klamath River system will be abundant this year, even though other rivers in California will be severely restricted to protect the Central Valley fall chinook stock.

Officials and community leaders urged Klamath businesses to prepare for an influx of fishing guides and sport fishermen from the Sacramento River this fall who are banned from most of their in-river fishing opportunities in the Central Valley. These fishing restrictions reflect the Sacramento fall chinook fishery collapse that has caused coast-wide ocean salmon fishing closures to protect that stock.

But salmon returning to the Klamath this year are projected to be strong. That will provide for an in-river allocation of 22,500 fall chinook for recreational anglers, the second largest in 30 years. The tribal allocation will be 27,000 fish.

"Our stocks are not going to be exploited this year," said Larry Hanson, a senior fisheries biologist with California Department of Fish and Game. "They are going to return in really, really good numbers. We are, for the first time, in an enviable position."

The California Fish and Game Commission still has to approve these numbers at its meeting in late June, but Hanson said he is confident the allocations would be implemented as recommended. The fall chinook season on the Klamath and Trinity Rivers will begin Aug. 15, and most of the catchable fish will be large 4-year-old salmon.

For Klamath businesses, news of a likely abundant fall chinook fishery on the river couldn't come at a better time, said Klamath Chamber of Commerce President Paul Crandall. He said a number of Klamath business owners have been confused by regional and national media reports that say salmon fishing in all California rivers will be closed this year, which is incorrect.

The Chamber invited Department of Fish and Game biologists and representatives from the non-profit American Fishing Foundation to explain that fishing on the Klamath will not be restricted this year. Crandall said he expects local businesses to thrive from an influx of Central Valley fishermen who hear about the Klamath River's generous sport allocation.

"It's my sincere hope that Klamath realizes the economic boom they've been deprived of the last six years," Crandall said.

If the recommended allotment of 22,500 fall chinook salmon is approved by the California Fish and Game Commission, 11,250 of those would go to sport anglers in the Klamath below Weitchpec. The Klamath above Weitchpec will receive about 3,800 salmon, and the upper and lower segments of the Trinity River will each get about 3,700 fish.

"I had no idea we were going to have that many in the fishery this year," Hanson said at Tuesday's meeting. Last year's allotment for in-river sport anglers was about 10,000 fall chinook. Part of the reason for this year's steep increase is because no salmon are being caught in the ocean.

Along with basin-wide allocations, this fall sport fishermen will be able to catch three chinook salmon each day—two adults and one 2-year-old fish known as a "jack." They are allowed a possession limit of nine chinook, which includes six adults and three jacks, Hanson said.

Pending approval by the California Fish and Game Commission, a number of additional changes occur this year, including an increase in the daily catch and possession limits on hatchery steelhead and trout in the Trinity River.

Representatives from American Fishing Foundation headquartered in Klamath told chamber members about the Labor Day fishing derby on the river. Treasurer Mark Warner said a number of participants will travel to Klamath for the derby, which raises money for local fisheries projects.

Warner said he hopes to spread the word throughout the state that fishing will be strong on the Klamath this fall. He said he gets up to 20 calls each day from fishermen down south asking if there is a fall chinook season on the Klamath.

The answer is "yes" every time, he said.

Reach Michelle Ma at mma@triplicate.com.

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