Fishing the North Coast:Huge abundance of ocean salmon forecasted for 2012
For the Times-Standard
March 1, 2012
If the Department of Fish and Game’s ocean abundance forecasts are true, there’s a whole lot of salmon swimming off the coast of Northern California right now. The D.F.G. held their annual salmon abundance meeting Tuesday in Santa Rosa, where discussions centered on in-river data from the 2011 season and to project the number of salmon swimming in coastal waters in 2012. And what the models kicked out – at least for the Klamath River – are pretty amazing. The agency projected an ocean population of more than 1.6 million adult Klamath River Fall Chinook salmon! To put that in perspective, last year’s abundance forecast was 371,100. Even scarier, if you add up the previous four years – they still don’t match this year’s forecast.
The reason behind these lofty projections – a huge return of two-year old salmon, or Jacks to the Klamath River in 2011. A record 85,840 returned, the most since they started keeping records back in 1978. Not only did a bunch return to the river, even more stayed out in the ocean. According to Wade Sinnen, Senior Environmental Scientist with the Klamath/Trinity Program, each Jack that returns to the river correlates to approximately 18 jacks that stayed in the ocean.
To be exact D.F.G. is forecasting there to be 1,567,660 now three-year-old Klamath salmon in the ocean. Add in 79,600 four-year-olds and 4,600 five-year-olds, and you’ve got yourself a hell of an outlook for 2012. The Sacramento River also saw a huge return of Jacks in 2011 and their ocean abundance is forecasted to be 819,400, which is up from a 2011 projection of 729,000. We’re talking over two million ocean salmon just from those two rivers. If I were to make a wager, I’d bet Humboldt County will have some of the best ocean salmon fishing in the state in 2012.
Next up, the Pacific Fishery Management Council is set to meet March 2-7 in Sacramento to consider its recommendations for the length of this year’s salmon season, with a final decision to come later in the spring. For more information, visit www.pcouncil.org/salmon/stock-assessment-and-fishery-evaluation-safe-documents/preseason-reports/2012-preseason-report-i/
The rain should be tapering off Thursday evening and according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the weekend looks like it will be dry. The next chance of rain is predicted for Monday night into Tuesday morning as a weak system will be moving through.
According to guide Val Early of Early Fishing Guide Service, the Chetco was very low and very clear as of Wednesday. “It started to rain on Wednesday evening and it is much needed. If the water predictions are correct then the river will probably rise a bit above driftable levels before dropping back into shape. The fish that are out there now are a mix of down-runners and fresh fish with “bluebacks” in the mix. The Bluebacks
are feisty steelhead that are 4-6 pounds and come in the river, spawn and head back out very quickly. They certainly don’t hang around. March is usually a great time for these fish as well as good weather,” Early added.
Wednesdays rain should put the Smith in good shape for the weekend reports Crescent City guide Mike Coopman. “Before yesterday’s rain, there was still some fish around, but it was all about being there when they wanted to bite. It’d been what I’d consider a real stingy bite. But now that we’ve got some water to work with, two things are going to happen. We’re going to see some new fish come in and we’ll see the early downrunners start to move down. The river should be plenty fishable by Friday,” Coopman said.
Eel River (main stem)
Fred Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods reports the main stem Eel was running bank to bank on Wednesday and is probably a week out if we don’t get anymore rain. “Up until this last storm, the fishing was red hot, with lots of fresh steelhead still making their way upriver. With the rise, we should start to see more downers as well as some Bluebacks start to show,” said Grundman.
Eel River (South Fork)
Darren Brown of Brown’s Sporting Goods in Garberville reports the South Fork is high and muddy in the Miranda area, and probably won’t fish until early next week. “According to the forecast, the river is predicted to peak Thursday evening and drop pretty quickly. My guess is above the East Branch could fish by Sunday,” Brown added.
According to Grundman, the Van Duzen was blown out as of Wednesday but was back on the drop. Forecasted to be back down to a fishable level by the weekend, but could still be off color from some of the bigger feeder creeks.
The Mad blew out on Wednesday, but should clear quick reports Gary Blasi of Mad River Bait, Tackle & Guide Service in Arcata. “With a lighter-then-normal snow pack, once the river peaks it should drop pretty quickly. There’s a chance it could be bait fishable by the weekend. The bite had been slow for the guys fishing bait, but the bead fishermen were doing well, so I know there’s quite a few fish in the river. For whatever reason, they just aren’t hitting bait right now. I did hear that a bunch of brand new fish came in with Tuesday nights rise and were already in the hatchery. It could be a good weekend,” Blasi added.
Spending his days in the Douglas City area, Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service reports the snow was falling on Tuesday night, but it shouldn’t affect the river above the South Fork. “The hatchery run is just about done and we’re seeing a lot of downers now. I did hear there was a bunch of wild steelhead in the Junction City area hanging around waiting for some water to head up the tributaries. The rise we’re seeing on the lower river and the Klamath should push some new fish up and could spark the fishing for a couple more weeks. The hatchery is releasing the smolts this week, so that will make it tougher to fish bait on the upper section,” Huber added.
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