Meandering Angler: Salmon season in jeopardy
It is a little too early to know for sure, but early reports of drastically lower salmon spawning runs on the Sacramento and Klamath River systems last year could mean a shortened salmon fishing season for both commercial and recreational anglers, even possibly no 2023 season at all.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) held its annual information meeting Wednesday, at which the estimates for the fall-run Chinook salmon on the Sacramento River were said to be way below previous estimates. The details were not available to me as we went to press this week, but I will try to include them in next week’s column.
In any case, those recommendations will advance to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which meets later this month and in April. From there, it will be up to the CDFW to set the final salmon regulations for this year.
Environmentalists and commercial and recreational fishing groups also pointed out that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s action last month to suspend two state environmental laws to benefit Central Valley farmers will make the salmon situation worse.
“The flow standard they relaxed is probably the most important regulation we have,” said Gary Bobker, program director at The Bay Institute. He said the rule is aimed at simulating natural runoff in rivers, which is critical for native fish to reproduce and thrive.
San Francisco Baykeeper Science Director Jon Rosenfield said this is the third year in a row, and the sixth time in 10 years, that the state has waived its rules that set basic flow standards in the Delta. The previous waivers were issued because of severe drought conditions, while the new waiver was triggered by the opposite: high-volume storm conditions.
“The governor is taking water from winter-run Chinook salmon, which just experienced their worst incubation season ever,” Rosenfield said. “The few that remain could be given a better chance of surviving to the ocean. Instead, they’re going to get worse conditions.”
Water that flows through the Delta and into San Francisco Bay helps young salmon complete their seaward migrations through the estuary, and it improves the estuary’s salinity conditions to the benefit of many species. This year’s higher flow helps, but most experts agree it won’t be nearly enough for the salmon to recover.
The good news is that the recent rains have done a lot to improve sturgeon fishing in San Francisco Bay says Keith Fraser at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael. Keith says when the weather allows it, anglers are getting out on the northern part of the bay near The Pump House and finding lots of salmon and striped bass. He also said sturgeon and bass action is excellent for anglers fishing form shore near China Camp State Park and McNear Park Pier in Marin County. Keith has plenty of live bait. Call him at 415-456-0321 for more information.
Tom Stienstra, the San Francisco Chronicle’s outdoor columnist emeritus, now retired and living near McCloud, California, is a cancer survivor, and it wasn’t just any cancer. It included numerous tumors, including several on his brain. His incredible story in the S.F. Chronicle recently about his brushes with death is well-worth downloading and reading.
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