Feature Report: PFMC Salmon Season

PFMC salmon season options out, major salmon returns expected!

BY BUD NEVILLE/WON Staff WriterPublished: Mar 13, 2012

SACRAMENTO — Heralding the expected return of more adult, spawning king salmon in years, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council published their salmon season options March 8 following their meeting in Sacramento Feb. 29 through March 7. In the case of the Klamath River, managers expect more salmon to return since 1978 when they began keeping records of the returns.

According to the PFMC website (, biologists expect 1.6 million fall run king adults to return to the Klamath River. That estimate is determined from the amount of “jack” or immature kings that returned in 2011. Good water conditions in the river and even better ocean conditions, at least for king salmon, were cited as the reason for the big return estimate.

Even the Central Valley River stocks are expected to return in good numbers, nearly 100,000 more in the estimate over the 2010 return. The total 2011 fall run adult return for the Sacramento Valley system is forecasted at 819,400.

For sportfishing businesses struggling in the poor economy with few options to offer customers in the winter and early spring months, the forecasts promise a robust ocean salmon season. Following the positive outlook, the PFMC options for salmon season are liberal. For the far north coast particularly, ocean salmon will offer one of the longest seasons in years.

Option one for the “Klamath Management Zone,” the waters above Horse Mountain in Humboldt County to the Oregon Border, offers a season starting May 1 to run seven days a week through September 9. The minimum size of kings will drop to 20 inches. Option two offers a May 12 through Sept. 9 season, minimum size 22 inches. Option three offers a May 26 through Sept. 3 season with a 24-inch minimum size.

For Horse Mountain to Point Arena, including Shelter Cove, Fort Bragg and Albion, all options allow an April 7 opener  (set in 2010). Option one allows a Nov. 11 close. The option two season runs until October 28, and option three closing date is October 14. All three options allow for a 20-inch minimum size.

From Point Arena to Pigeon Point including Bodega Bay, San Francisco Bay ports and Half Moon Bay, the same three season options are presented as for north of Point Arena. The size minimum starts at 24 inches, then in option one, a 20-inch minimum after July 5. In option two, the minimum drops to 20 inches after July 31. In option three, the minimum size drops to 20 inches after June 30.

South of Pigeon Point, the same minimum size options are offered as Point Arena to Pigeon Point. The season dates are from April 7 through Oct. 7 in option one, from April 7 through Sept. 23 in option two, and April 7 through Sept. 9 for option three.

The minimum size management options are designed to take advantage of the smaller jack salmon which are so abundant while taking the pressure off the bigger adults, as well as minimize mortality of smaller fish that otherwise would have to be released.

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