If this year was supposed to produce one of
the best salmon runs in recent history as
experts predicted, someone forgot to tell the
The recreational salmon season, which
opened Saturday, has been a major
"We held a party and the salmon didn't
come," said Linda McIntyre, Moss Landing
Scientists with the Pacific Fishery
Management Council estimated that close to 2
million chinook salmon from the Sacramento and
Klamath rivers awaited recreational fishers,
more than twice last year's prediction and the
highest since the council began making annual
forecasts in 1985.
If they're there, local charter boat
skippers said, they've either gone deep or
they aren't biting. And they aren't biting
anywhere else, either.
Todd Arcoleo, manager of Chris' Fishing
Trips in Monterey, said the fishermen up and
down the coast, from Bodega Bay to Morro Bay,
have reported the same dearth of salmon. In
fact, Monterey Bay has been more generous than
In Bodega Bay, he said, the entire charter
fleet brought in three salmon on opening day.
In Half Moon Bay, 65 anglers on charters
brought in six fish, he said, and Morro Bay
charters reportedly had one catch.
Arcoleo said Chris' fleet brought in about
25 salmon that day. Bill Williamson, a charter
skipper for Randy's Fishing, said that fleet
brought in 45 opening day, but the numbers
have dropped since.
There are a number of theories explaining
the slow start to the season: the water's too
warm; the number of bait fish, like anchovies,
too few; and the barometric pressure too low.
Fish don't eat when the pressure's low, some
And it may just be that the hundreds of
fishing boats on the bay over the weekend
spooked the fish to deeper depths.
But things may be looking up. The weekend
anglers from Fresno are gone and Williamson
and Arcoleo said Monday afternoon the
barometric pressure was moving up and the bait
fish were moving back into Monterey Bay.
None of that will help commercial fishers,
who are waiting for the hammer to fall when
the Pacific Fishery Management Council decides
this week whether it will abbreviate the
commercial salmon season, which begins May 1.
The council is meeting in Tacoma, Wash., today
and is expected to announce by Thursday when
the season will end.
At issue is the number of chinook that
spawn on the Klamath River. The river
experienced a massive die-off of fish in 2002
after the federal Bureau of Reclamation gave a
full allocation of Klamath water to local
farmers despite an ongoing drought.
If the population that is left is
overfished, authorities fear, the fishery
could be permanently devastated. Because
Klamath salmon and Sacramento river salmon
intermingle, the council is considering
halving the commercial season, even though the
Sacramento salmon population is burgeoning.
The Bureau of Reclamation blames the
die-off that led to the crisis on a number of
natural causes. The commercial fishing
industry blames it on mismanagement by the
"They took all the water and gave it to the
farmers. It heated the water and killed
thousands and thousands of salmon," said Roger
Whitney, owner of Bay Fresh Seafoods in Moss
Landing. "That's all thanks to our federal
If the season is shortened, he predicted,
it means a record number of Sacramento
chinooks will be returning up the river to
spawn, overtaxing the river's oxygen supply
and causing another die-off. And there's no
guarantee the bureau won't repeat its
allocation to Klamath farmers.
"It's just a mess," Whitney said. "We're
supposed to protect (the salmon) and then they
kill them when they go back up the river."
Fishing enthusiasts aren't the only ones
who were unhappy with the weekend's opener.
Friends of the Sea Otter put out an emergency
call for volunteer observers to report to Moss
Landing Harbor on Sunday after members
reported seeing boaters speeding in the harbor
and aiming their vessels at rafts of otters.
William Brooke, of Friends of the Sea
Otter, said Monday that he put out the call
for volunteers after witnessing otters having
to dive to avoid being hit by boats in the
McIntyre, the harbormaster, said she wasn't
aware of any such incident, but did receive a
report of an otter that had beached itself and
died. She said no speeding citations were
issued over the weekend, but conceded that she
did not have enough staff to handle basic
management of the harbor on opening day, let
alone patrol for speeders.
"If I knew that was the case, I would be
really upset with any fisherman doing that,"
she said. "They're not doing themselves any
favors at all. It's almost like