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Salmon season a hit despite closures

Chinook salmon cleaned and weighed await packing in ice on top of a tote at Hallmark Fisheries in Port Orford at the end of November. The Elk River fishery, one of the last state fisheries, closed this month. The federal fishing seasons have been closed since the end of October. Though the Elk River fishery has been slow and the federal season was disrupted during the summer, Oregon fishermen had one of the best seasons on record in terms of overall value thanks to higher prices.

Oregon commercial salmon trollers delivered a bounty of Chinook in 2005 for a total value of $8.4 million in 2005 - almost a record, despite some significant season closures on the South Coast.

Oregon trollers caught about 229,000 Chinook during the ocean season, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Craig Foster. Though the numbers are preliminary, they compare with 241,000 fish caught during the same period in 2004.

“Effort was down, too,” Foster said, referring to the summer closure this year that prevented many fishermen from leaving the dock. Federal managers eliminated fishing in June, July and August between Florence and Humbug mountain to ensure some returns of older Klamath River fish.

Last year, the department tallied about 12,200 fishing trips; this year there was little more than 10,000 commercial salmon trips, Foster said.

“The fishing was probably as good as it was last year for the days they were fishing,” he said.

More than 560 trollers participated in the 2005 ocean troll season, down by about 30 from the previous year.

“The 2005 Oregon salmon troll Chinook-only season was the second- best revenue generator since coho were removed from our fishery back in '93,” said Don Stevens, chairman of the Salmon Advisory Subpanel that reports to the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Most of the salmon was brought in after the season re-opened in September; the fish didn't really show up during the early season that opened in March and lasted through May, fishermen said.

But despite the missing middle months, fishermen made good money. The average price per pound for all sizes of Chinook during the whole season, except two weeks in which only the small fish garnered less, was above $2. At the season's end, in October, average prices for all sizes of fish were higher than $4 a pound and - for a couple weeks - higher than $5 a pound.

Charleston fishermen weren't left out. For all sizes of fish, the average price for the whole year was $3.03 a pound. Local trollers landed nearly one million pounds of Chinook - 992,405 pounds, according to preliminary numbers - for the whole year. That's more than $3 million worth of king salmon being delivered in 2005.


“The big slam came in September,” Stevens said in an e-mail. “Of course, all the fish were schooled up and trollers had been parked for a couple of months.”

The Chinook season will again open in 2006 on March 15, but fishery managers are in the process of establishing seasons and management measures for the rest of the season after April. One of the biggest factors that will affect commercial fishing is the number of Chinook returning to the Klamath River.

“I wish I could say it was going to be a lot better,” Foster said, “but it's too early to tell. We're still looking at Klamath River returns. They will be available in another month or so.”

The Oregon Salmon Commission likely will meet in early March, Foster said, to get input from fishermen about what kind of seasons they would consider for the remainder of 2006. The federal fishery council will meet March 5 to 10 in Seattle; one of the issues members will discuss is the salmon season.


On the Net:

Oregon Salmon Commission: http://oregonsalmon.org/

Pacific Fishery Management Council: http://www.pcouncil.org




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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