Salmon season on hold until federal findings are released
NEWPORT, Ore. (AP) — Oregon commercial trollers have decided to hold off on a decision about the opening of salmon season until federal fishery scientists present their findings this week.
More than 100 fishermen, mostly ocean trollers from ports south of the Columbia River, recently gathered at an industry meeting in Newport. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials presented a review of last year’s salmon season and gathered opinions for 2007.
State officials will take those ideas to the Pacific Fishery Management Council when it meets in Sacramento, Calif.
The 15th of March has long been the opening for Oregon coastal fisherman. But last year, the council rescinded the date on the books because of low forecasts of Klamath River fall Chinook returns.
‘‘I heard from a lot of people saying ‘Rescind the March fishery,’ ’’ said ODFW Assistant Fish Division Administrator Curt Melcher. ‘‘Others want to start.’’
Early start recommended
Newport troller John King recommended going ahead with the early start. It gets wild fish on the market sooner and gets consumers used to buying fish, he said.
Besides, other fishermen said, Oregon trollers can often get a premium price for their spring catches, when the season is closed in California and Washington. The price to fishermen drops as much as $1 a pound or more when a neighboring state’s salmon season opens and more fish are on the market.
‘‘The most important thing to me is the number of days I get to fish,’’ King said. ‘‘The sooner we get ’em, the more valuable they’ll be.’’
Last year commercial trolling was closed completely between Florence and the California border, and with only limited openings from Florence to Washington, because of low fish counts.
The one thing most fishermen agreed on was to delay the season if starting it meant sacrificing more days during the summer or fall, when the Chinook are more plentiful.
Melcher said biologists expect 12 times as many 3-year-old Chinook to return to the Klamath River this year as last. There may be fewer 4-year-old fish, which are the ones primarily targeted by commercial fishermen, but the combination of both ages should provide fishermen with more trolling opportunity this year.