Salmon battle remains |

Salmon battle remains

The salmon fishing battle of 2006 continues. I outlined the problem in a column two weeks ago. At that time, the only alternative being spoken of was a closure of all salt water salmon fishing from the Monterey area north to the top of Oregon. This would halt all ocean fishing throughout the range of the Klamath salmon. The problem is that this is the same feeding range as Sacramento River salmon, which are abundant. Since that time, there has been a mobilizing of fishing interests with the Coastside Fishing Club taking the lead.

The most convincing argument that I have heard is that the problems with the Klamath River salmon run is not over-fishing at sea. The salmon losses are due to river conditions. In dry years, there is not enough water for both farms and fish. Penalizing ocean fishing to fix an inland water dispute is a band-aid, not a solution. The ocean fishermen did not cause the problem. Prohibiting them from fishing will not restore the Klamath run.

In the last few days, there have been a number of compromises proposed. The Pacific Fisheries Management Council now recognizes a variety of possible options to be considered for the 2006 season. For the purposes of fish management, the coast is cut into districts. Without getting into the specifics of options that may not be implemented, some of the proposals suggest opening limited fishing around the major holiday weekends in May, July and September. Other options would be to delay the season in districts farthest from the Klamath River until late summer and early fall. The theory is that Klamath fish would be staging close to their home river and not subject to fishing pressure closer to other rivers.

An important aspect to this battle is the fact that salmon is the largest economic fishery in the state. There are commercial, recreational and tribal components to the fishery in both fresh and salt water. For many aspects of this industry, a closure would mean selling their assets at fire sale prices or bankruptcy.

What this will come down to is a political battle. That the Pacific Fisheries Management Council now has three options for each district and differing options for the recreational, commercial and tribal fishers, says that compromise is in the wind. But this potential compromise will vanish if the fishermen do not continue to put on the pressure. Any of the three fishing groups that do not demonstrate political muscle will lose out. The decision will be made at the April meeting in Sacramento. For more info go to online.

Meanwhile, for those of us looking for fishing opportunities the immediate prospects are not promising. I fished the bass ponds Saturday in the Oroville Wildlife Area. Three of us fished and did not get anything. The river was up and the river level determines the pond levels. The ponds were high and cold. It is going to take a break in this weather pattern for the fishing and fishing access to get better. After checking with many of my usual fishing contacts, there are not a lot of us out on the water.

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. He may be reached via e-mail at

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