Anglers Facing Limited Salmon Seasons


The Pacific Fisheries Management Council announced tentative West Coast ocean and river fishing regulations for 2018 on Tuesday night.

Here are some decisions for California anglers, via the PFMC:

1. Sacramento River fall Chinook spawning escapement of 151,009 hatchery and natural area adults.
2. Sacramento Index exploitation rate of 34.2%.
3. Klamath River recreational fishery allocation: 3,490 adult Klamath River fall Chinook.
4. Klamath tribal allocation: 18,122 adult Klamath River fall Chinook.
5. CA/OR share of Klamath River fall Chinook commercial ocean harvest: 75% / 25%.
6. Fisheries may need to be adjusted to meet NMFS ESA consultation standards, FMP requirements, other management
objectives, or upon receipt of new allocation recommendations from the California Fish and Game Commission

OR/CA Border to Humboldt South Jetty (California KMZ)
? May 1 through the earlier of May 29, or a 3,600 Chinook quota;
? June 1 through the earlier of June 30, or a 4,000 Chinook quota;
? July 1 through the earlier of July 31, or a 4,000 Chinook quota;
? August 3 through the earlier of August 31, or a 4,000 Chinook quota (C.9.b).
Open five days per week (Fri.-Tue.). All salmon except coho may be retained (C.4, C.7). Chinook minimum size limit of 26 inches
total length (B, C.1). Landing and possession limit of 20 Chinook per vessel per day (C.8.f). Any remaining portion of a monthly
Chinook quota may be transferred inseason on an impact neutral basis to the next open quota period (C.8.g). See compliance
requirements (C.1) and gear restrictions and definitions (C.2, C.3).
All fish caught in this area must be landed within the area and within 24 hours of any closure of the fishery and prior to fishing
outside the area (C.10). Klamath Control Zone closed (C.5.e). See California State regulations for additional closures adjacent to
the Smith and Klamath rivers.

Humboldt South Jetty to Horse Mt.
? Closed.

A few more details from the PFMC:

California and Oregon South of Cape Falcon, Oregon

Fisheries south of Cape Falcon (in northern Oregon) are constrained primarily by Klamath River fall Chinook, Sacramento River fall Chinook and Oregon Coastal Natural coho. The commercial fishery consists of modest Chinook fisheries, particularly in California. Recreational fisheries in Oregon contain both Chinook and coho opportunity, with coho opportunity including both mark-selective and non-mark-selective fisheries.

Commercial Fisheries

Commercial fisheries from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. will open on May 4 and will and continue through August 29 with intermittent closures. This area will also be open continuously in September and October, with weekly limits and a depth restriction in October.

Fisheries from Humbug Mt, Oregon to Humboldt South Jetty, California will be open intermittently from May through August. Monthly quotas will be in place for the Oregon portion of the Klamath Management Zone (KMZ) from June through August. In the California portion of the KMZ, monthly Chinook quotas will be in place from May through August. The quotas all feature landing and possession limits, and the Californian portion of this area will be open five days a week.

Between Horse Mountain and Pigeon Point (Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas), the area will be open for a week in late July, most of August and all of September. From Pigeon Point to the Mexico border (Monterey), the Chinook season will be open during the first week in May and the last two weeks of June. There will also be a season from Point Reyes to Point San Pedro (subset of the San Francisco area), consisting of two five-day periods in October.

Recreational Fisheries

Recreational fisheries from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt will allow Chinook retention from now through October. Coho fisheries consist of a mark-selective quota fishery of 35,000 in mid-summer (compared to 18,000 last year) and a non-mark-selective quota fishery of 3,500 in September (compared to 6,000 last year).

Fisheries from Humbug Mt, Oregon to the Oregon/California border will be open from mid-May through late August. The area from the Oregon/California border to Horse Mountain, California will be open from June through Labor Day.

Fisheries from Horse Mountain to Pigeon Point (Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas) will be open from mid-June through October. The area from Pigeon Point to the U.S./Mexico border (Monterey area) is open now through early July.

For details on all seasons, please see the season descriptions on the Council website at

The Golden Gate Salmon Association also released a statement about the limited fishing opportunities available in Northern California:

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) has slashed ocean salmon fishing seasons for both sport and commercial salmon fishermen and women in 2018.  The reduction in fishing days, announced April 10, amounts to cuts of about a third for the ocean sport fishery and over half of the commercial fishery, compared to a regular season.  The drastic reductions are due to a forecast of relatively few adult Sacramento Basin fall run salmon, which constrains the season this year.  That forecast comes from the National Marine Fisheries Service based on a weighted return of sub adult salmon to the Sacramento Valley in 2017.

The number of adult Sacramento salmon in the ocean are believed to be fewer because an estimated 95 to 98 percent of natural spawned eggs died in overheated Sacramento River spawning beds during the drought in 2015.  This left very few surviving natural origin baby salmon that year.  Those salmon would have returned this year as adults.  Water managers at the time left too little water in Lake Shasta, the source of the upper Sacramento River, to cool the spawning beds.  River temperatures exceeded 56 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature beyond which salmon eggs die. 

“This year’s greatly shortened commercial and sport seasons are caused by losses we sustained during the drought,” said GGSA president John McManus.  “This could have been avoided if more water had been reserved to keep the Sacramento cool enough to support spawning salmon.  The State Water Resources Control Board is in a position to insure we don’t see a repeat in the next drought and we hope they act to protect California’s unique salmon runs. Families and communities up and down the coastal and inland river areas depend on these salmon.” 

The majority of salmon caught in the last few years and again this year are likely to be from one of the five salmon hatcheries in the Central Valley. Although they’re likely supplying the vast majority of this year’s fish, in other years they supply a minority, with the rest coming from natural spawning areas in Central Valley rivers.

“Natural origin salmon can vastly outnumber those contributed by hatcheries in years when our rivers get enough water for spawning and to deliver baby salmon to the ocean,” said GGSA board member Vance Staplin.  “The natural areas have the capacity to supply many times what the hatcheries produce when the rivers are correctly managed.”  

“Baby salmon need high flow, turbid, rapid runoff in the spring to safely migrate down Central Valley rivers and out to the ocean,” said Staplin. “We got that kind of runoff with last week’s storms which should help boost salmon survival.”

Sport ocean salmon fishing is already underway in Monterey Bay and points south.  Sport ocean salmon fishing is set to open off the San Mateo, SF, Marin, Sonoma and the Mendocino coasts on June 17.  In a welcome change from 2017, the far north of state ocean waters from southern Humboldt County to the Oregon border will have sport fishing, unlike last year.  

Commercial salmon fishermen will see a few days of fishing from Monterey Bay south in May and June.  From San Mateo County north, commercial trollers will be forced to sit mostly idle until late July, losing the normally valuable months of May, June and much of July.