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State fisheries agency staff will ask the California Department of Fish and Game Commission on Friday to consider a change that would give Klamath River sport fishermen no less than 15 percent of the season’s allowable salmon take.

As it stands now, Klamath River area tribes receive 50 percent of the season’s harvestable salmon catch, while the remaining 50 percent is divided between the ocean commercial, ocean recreational and river recreational fisheries.

The staff proposal was among several updates presented to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on DFG matters Tuesday by DFG fisheries biologist Sara Borok.

The proposal was initiated, in part, to address the in-river recreational allotment, which dipped to 3 percent in 2006 when federal fisheries managers severely restricted commercial and recreational salmon seasons as a result of record-low numbers of returning spawning fish.

The historical average for the Klamath River sport take is around 15 percent, according to DFG.

Board members said they were grateful that DFG presented the information ahead of the commission’s meeting being held in San Diego.

But Supervisor Jimmy Smith on Wednesday repeated his previous day’s concerns that DFG’s presentation and discussion of an important local issue so far away creates distrust, which DFG officials defended as an unfortunate by-product of meeting schedules finalized years in advance.

Smith said he plans to bring the matter before regional fishery groups and is also requesting a meeting with DFG’s regional manager to gauge DFG support for a minimum allotment that is based on estimating salmon stocks in the ocean, tracking juvenile fish leaving the Klamath River and counting the fish returning to spawn.

“That is a very complex and ever-changing target,” Smith said.

Although it isn’t a problem most years, Smith said river sport fishermen and recreational ocean fishermen are pitted against each other when there is a low abundance of returning salmon.

“In normal years, (the river sport fishery) will surpass the 15 percent — and that is fine,” Smith said.

Smith said it is important that the allotment numbers be discussed and are negotiable based on the product of all the known variables.

“All of the user groups should be able to adjust to that,” Smith said.

Larry Hanson, senior biologist supervisor for the Klamath and Trinity rivers, is presenting the recommendation to the commission Friday.

Hanson said Wednesday he is adamant that it’s only a request to consider the idea — not a demand from staff or any interest group.

As a user group that pays licenses and fees, Hanson said he wants to let the commissioners know that recreational river fishermen deserve their share of the allocation.

“The resource should be used and there should be no discrimination between the user groups,” Hanson said.

Based on what happened in 2006, Hanson said the river sport fishery is at a disadvantage of being reduced disproportionately.

When and if a harvestable surplus exists, Hanson said he wants the DFG to look at the allotment percentages as a formula process.

“The average has been around 12 and 17 percent, but it has been as high as 29 percent,” Hanson said.

Michael Mirk, owner of Arcata Tackle and Guide Service, guides several hundred clients on the Klamath and other North Coast rivers as many days each year that the regulations and weather allow.

While he hasn’t heard any details, Mirk said Wednesday he’s aware that DFG was proposing the river sport allotment changes.

Just how any potential changes could impact his business is unclear.

“As long as people are fishing it’s a good thing,” Mirk said.

If the changes to the quotas means there are more days to fish, more people visiting from outside the area and more hotels filled, Mirk said that is even better.

“Especially if it is predictable,” Mirk said.

Fishermen who must travel from other parts of the state to the area tell Mirk that it’s hard to plan around uncertain fishing seasons.

DFG officials indicated that the public will have many opportunities to let the commission know what they think about the recommendations.

Public hearings on the matter are scheduled for the DFG Commission’s March meeting in Stockton and again in April in Bodega Bay.

The adoption hearing is scheduled for May in Monterey.



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