Sac River Salmon Forecast Should Be Higher Than Dismal 2021 Projections (Update)

CDFW photo

As concerns mount about the future of king salmon in California’s rivers, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the estimated projections for the Sacramento and Klamath Rivers, and while the projections look better – the 396,500 Sac River forecast is significantly higher than the 271,000 from what was a terrible inland 2021 season – as NorCal Guide and Sportsmen’s Association president James Stone said last month, in 11 of the last 15 years the Sac River system has failed to met escapement goals (we have a story running about the bleak water allocation forecasts in our soon-to-be-released March issue.

Here’s the CDFW press release:

At the annual Salmon Information Meeting held virtually today, state and federal fishery scientists presented updates on the numbers of spawning salmon that returned to California’s rivers in 2021 and shared the expected abundance for the upcoming fishing season. The 2022 ocean abundance projection for Sacramento River fall Chinook, a main salmon stock harvested in California waters, is estimated at 396,500 adult salmon, higher than the 2021 forecasts. The Klamath River fall Chinook abundance forecast also came in slightly above the 2021 value, with 200,100 adult Klamath River fall Chinook salmon predicted to be in the ocean this year, a value that remains well below the stock’s historical levels.

During the meeting, recreational anglers and commercial salmon trollers provided comments and voiced concerns to a panel of fishery managers, scientists and industry representatives. Stakeholder input will be taken into consideration when developing three season alternatives during the March 8-14 Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting. Final season regulations will be adopted at the April 6-13 PFMC meeting.

Following several years of poor returns to the Klamath River Basin, Klamath River fall Chinook salmon were declared overfished in 2018 and have not yet achieved a rebuilt status under the terms of the federal Salmon Fishery Management Plan. The PFMC may decide to take a conservative approach when crafting 2022 ocean salmon seasons to provide additional protective measures to this stock.

To access materials and information presented at today’s meeting or to learn more about the salmon season setting process, please visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Salmon Preseason Process web page. General ocean salmon fishing information can be found on CDFW’s Ocean Salmon Project web page or by calling the CDFW Ocean Salmon Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

Hatchery fish may be the lifeline salmon will need to survive the drought conditions, political fighting over water allocation water rights and other variables. Coleman National Fish Hatchery did announce a second release of juvenile kings released into the Sacramento River. But whether those fish will make it back to spawn remains a question mark.



Update: Golden State Salmon Association with a statement:
2022 Salmon Forecast Shows Uptick in Salmon Numbers
Klamath stocks likely to constrain 2022 season

San Francisco, CA — Today state and federal officials forecast there are 396,458 adult Sacramento Valley salmon in the ocean off the West Coast. This compares to 271,000 forecast last year at this time.  After fishing and spawning, the 2021 number was recalculated to be 322,137.

This year’s forecast suggests slightly better fishing prospects in 2022 except for concerns over low Klamath stocks.  The low number of Klamath River salmon will likely lead to constraints on both commercial and sport ocean fishing this year, especially in north state coastal waters.  In the month ahead, officials with the Pacific Fisheries Management Council will use this forecast and other information to set times and areas open to both sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing for 2022.

“We are hoping for a decent salmon fishing season this year, and there’s some reason for optimism, but there are several variables yet to be dealt with,” said GSSA president John McManus.

The number of adult salmon that returned to the Sacramento Valley to spawn in 2021 fell short of the targeted 122,000. Instead, just over 104,000 spawning adult salmon were counted.  More fish actually returned but died of heat-related causes prior to spawning due to low, warm, water conditions connected to drought and water management decisions. The inland sport fishery continued to be poor in 2021.

The National Marine Fisheries Service says it will advise that this year’s fishing seasons be structured so the number of salmon that evade fishermen and spawn is closer to the top end of the escapement target, which is 180,000 fish.

Although the 2022 forecasts will allow a fishery, the entire Central Valley is still deep in drought which has greatly reduced survival of natural spawning salmon there.

State efforts in recent years to increase the survival of its hatchery salmon through innovative release techniques have greatly aided the ocean fishery, a point illustrated by the data released today.  Hatchery-born salmon supplied 64 percent of the salmon caught in the ocean sport fishery and 48 percent of those caught in the commercial fishery in 2021.
“What’s needed is a few years of good returns and some water to help rebuild the natural spawning stocks,” said McManus. “GSSA is working overtime to get more river flows for salmon, coupled with habitat and hatchery improvements.”

Drought and over-diversion of the Central Valley rivers in years with less rainfall is a major reason for declines in the salmon population.  The State Water Resources Control Board is tasked with rebalancing how water is shared in the Central Valley but has failed to adequately protect salmon.  GSSA is working through the courts and state and federal governments to address the problems facing salmon communities and the fish they depend on.

About GSSA: The Golden State Salmon Association ( is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fishermen and women, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GSSA’s mission is to restore California salmon for their economic, recreational, commercial, environmental, cultural and health values.

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity and 23,000 jobs annually in a normal season and about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon. Industry workers benefiting from Central Valley salmon stretch from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This includes commercial fishermen and women, recreational fishermen and women (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and others.