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http://www.oregonlive.com:80/business/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/business/1173498929113340.xml&coll=7
Salmon fleet setting out early

April 10 - Strong Klamath River chinook runs let the commercial trolling season open sooner and run long
March 10, 2007
PETER SLEETH
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Commercial salmon trollers who were largely shut out of last year's fall chinook season will go to sea as early as April 10 and be allowed to fish most of the year under plans approved Friday by federal authorities.

That's a huge improvement over 2006, when the season didn't start until June south of Cape Falcon, near Manzanita, and ended just weeks later. Fishermen all the way to Monterey, Calif., were affected by that shutdown, which threatened to bankrupt some operators.

This year is promising to deliver the days, if not the catch, to the fleet.
"This is not quite wide open, but it's pretty close," said Chuck Tracy of the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

State and federal authorities declared last year's season a disaster and are still working to obtain federal relief money for the fishing fleet.

This year's season is expected to be the opposite, with plentiful fish off most of Oregon due to surprisingly stronger runs in the Klamath River. That river, which empties into the ocean in Northern California, determines how many fish can be caught in the ocean north and south of its mouth, because of its imperiled runs of fall chinook salmon. Biologists were surprised when a strong return of 2-year-old "jacks" arrived in the river late last year. That means hundreds of thousands of now 3-year-old fish are out in the ocean, according to projections by fishery biologists.

Salmon typically return to their home streams to spawn when they are 4 or 5 years old.

But there is one big hitch: While scientists are sure there are hundreds of thousands of 3-year-old king salmon in the sea, no one is certain how many are big enough to catch. Federal law says keepers have to be 28 inches or longer.

"We know there is going to be a lot of age 3 Klamath fish out there, but we cannot predict abundance (in terms of the harvest)," said Curt Melcher, Oregon's representative on the council.


March 15 sport opener


Recreational fishing will be open beginning March 15 through October over most of the Oregon Coast. The sport fishing business is a key economic driver on the coast, as tourists fill hotels and restaurants in addition to charter boats.

While a disaster like last year's in Oregon and California is averted in 2007, commercial fishermen in Washington do face a drastic cutback this year.

Runs of Columbia River fall chinook are expected to be so poor that no more than 36,000 will be allowed to be caught by commercial trollers and recreational fishermen from Cape Falcon north all the way to the Canadian border. The number of fish is so low it could mean the popular recreational fishery off the mouth of the Columbia River will be cut short this summer, according to analysts for the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

How the late summer recreational season will progress will be measured by a quota based on how many fish are caught by commercial trollers.

The council met in Sacramento all week to begin setting fishing limits off Oregon, Washington and California for 2007. The commercial and recreational salmon seasons are divided into two areas: north and south of Cape Falcon on the Oregon Coast. For each of the sections, three options on the catch have been developed and now will be put out for public comment.

When the council reconvenes in April, final decisions will be made on who can fish where and when.



 
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