California 2013 ocean salmon season gets under way this weekend

Anglers get their first shot at Chinook this weekend as waters south of Horse Mountain open for a two-fish limit. (Photo courtesy Executive Charters)

Golden State trollers and moochers will have their first shot at the Central Valley Chinook salmon Class of 2013 this weekend as the ocean season gets underway in waters south of Horse Mountain. Federal fisheries managers are calling (cautiously) for a productive season, but one with the possibility of in-season closures due to a shortage of winter-run fish.

In the fall of 2012, nearly 35,500 jack Chinook salmon returned to spawn in the Sacramento River and 21,500 returned to the Klamath-Trinity basins. While most Chinook salmon return to spawn after three years in the ocean, jacks are fish that return after just two years, making them a reliable predictor of the number of adult salmon remaining in the ocean. Fishery biologists estimate roughly 1.5 million Chinook salmon will be in California coastal waters through the summer.

“While ocean populations for Sacramento River and Klamath-Trinity basin Chinook salmon are predicted to be high, the potential for anglers to catch Sacramento River winter-run Chinook and California Coastal Chinook salmon, which are protected under endangered species laws, will be taken into consideration by the PFMC and the Commission when setting the remainder of the salmon season,” the California Department of Fish & Wildlife announced. “Fishery constraints to protect Sacramento River winter-run Chinook will mostly affect recreational anglers fishing south of Point Arena, while protections for California Coastal Chinook apply mainly to commercial anglers along the northern coast.”

Regulations: The daily bag and possession limit is two salmon of any species except coho. The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length between Horse Mountain and Point Arena. For areas south of Point Arena, the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length. For anglers fishing north of Point Conception, no more than two single-point, single-shank barbless hooks shall be used and no more than one rod per angler when fishing for salmon or fishing from a boat with salmon on board. In addition, barbless circle hooks are required when fishing with bait by any means other than trolling.

For complete ocean salmon regulations in effect during April, please visit the Ocean Salmon Web Page or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline (707) 576-3429.

Continuation of the season: Three alternatives are being considered by the PFMC and the Commission for recreational ocean salmon seasons in effect on or after May 1, including the ocean waters north of Horse Mountain. The range of alternatives north of Horse Mountain are from various dates in May through at least Labor Day weekend. The season south of Horse Mountain will extend through various dates in either October or November. For ocean areas south of Point Arena, alternatives include higher minimum size limits, mid-week closures, or short period closures during the summer months to avoid impacting endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook.

The alternatives can be found at

Final 2013 ocean salmon regulations will be decided next week by the PFMC (April 6-11) and the week following by the Commission (April 17,) and will be published in the CDFW 2013 supplemental fishing regulations booklet available in May at