Denis Peirce: Return of salmon season still up in the air |

Denis Peirce: Return of salmon season still up in the air

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) has released its options for the 2010 salmon seasons at the conclusion of their Sacramento meeting last week.

These are the options for the federal zone from 3 miles off the coast to the 200-mile limit. 

The 3-mile zone is California jurisdiction. California usually follows the federal rules.

The California coast is divided into four areas. They are Eureka, Fort Bragg, San Francisco and Monterey areas. I have simplified the descriptions, but if you want the exact details go to the web site: For each of these four zones there are three options presented. The final decision will be made in mid April by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The options are:

Option #1: Eureka, May 22 – Sept. 6; Fort Bragg, April 3 – Nov. 14; San Francisco April 3 – Nov. 14; Monterey April 3 – Oct. 3.

Option #2: Eureka, June 16 – Sept. 6,; Fort Bragg April 3 – Nov. 14; San Francisco April 3 – April 30 & July 1-Nov. 14; Monterey, April 3 – April 30 & July 1 – Oct. 3.

Option #3: Eureka, July 3 – Sept. 6; Fort Bragg closed; San Francisco closed; Monterey closed.

In addition to the date options, the minimum size requirements will be raised in most options from 20 inches to 24 inches. These options are based on historical quantities of salmon caught during these time frames. These options were constructed to harvest specific target quantities of salmon.

The April 3 start date was set in 2009, because the decision date is later in the month of April. The sport fishing operations at Emeryville and Bodega Bay are preparing for a salmon opener on April 3. David Ortman, chairman of the Council is quoted as saying, “It is unlikely that salmon will be closed completely.”

Each year a salmon abundance number is estimated for the Sacramento River system. Last year, there was a prediction of 122,000 salmon returning. The actual number was 39,500. The prediction for 2010 is 240,000. The minimum target is 125,000 returning fish. My best guess is that there will be a salmon season with monitoring. If or when the monitoring signals an over harvest or a lack of fish the season will be curtailed.

On an optimistic note, the three-year fish due to return this year will be the first age class that had the benefit of the remediation measures such as the net pens to keep them away from predators as they were acclimating to the saltwater in the bay.  Hopefully these efforts will pay off.

I recently had a conversation with a retired commercial salmon fisherman who had been based at Half Moon Bay. His contention was the decline of the salmon was simultaneous with the arrival of the giant Humboldt Squid. He believes that the squid are fish predators and that it is no coincidence that the salmon have declined as the squid populations arrived off our coast. 

This is anecdotal evidence, but it does support my theory that in addition to water quality and quantity issues in the Sacramento River system there are saltwater conditions that also have been affecting the salmon survival. 

Our current weather pattern will turn the fishing on. 

The combination of warmer air temps, longer days and the sun higher in the sky will raise water temps. Lake Oroville  surface temps have increased by 5 degrees in the last 10 days.  I had good reports from the Feather River, Lower Yuba and Pyramid Lake over the weekend.

Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via e-mail at

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