Record Salmon Run Expected
“The Klamath River expects a record chinook salmon run this year, the most since 1978. Much like the abundant forage – such as sardines and squid – that live off California’s coast, the high numbers of salmon reflect both strong precautionary fishery management practices and good ocean conditions.
– California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA)
Epic forecast for fall run on Klamath River
Written by Adam Spencer, The Triplicate
The largest projected return of fall-run chinook salmon since 1978 is looming over the Klamath River.
Fishery managers project that roughly 380,000 adult chinook salmon will migrate up the Klamath this fall to spawn — three times the estimated run of 2011 adult chinook and 50 percent greater than the highest run on record (245,242 total fish in 1995).
Starting Wednesday, sport fishermen will be allowed to keep four adult chinooks per day, with a possession limit of eight adult chinooks.
The abundant forecast is a boon for sport anglers, tribal fishermen and the guides, hotels and restaurants that benefit from tourism dollars.
“I think it’s going to be the best season I’ve ever seen,” said fishing guide Gary Hix, who has already booked up much of his season on the Klamath.
“We haven’t had a four-fish quota since the quota era started,” said Wade Sinnen, senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Game.
Sinnen said it was a “tough sell” to convince the California Fish and Game Commission to adopt the four-fish limit, but the projections warrant it. “Even with a four-fish adult bag, it’s very unlikely we will obtain our quota,” he said. “This is a test year to evaluate the capacity of the sport fishery.”
It’s important to get as close as possible to the sport-fishing quota of 67,600 chinooks, because conditions are ripe for another event like the 2002 fish kill when tens of thousands of salmon died from diseases before spawning — partly due to more fish than usual.
An estimated 34,000 to 78,000 salmon died primarily from a gill-rotting disease known as “ich” (Ichthyopthirius multifilis).
“I was out there counting those dead fish; it was a smelly, disgusting mess — it was sad really,” Sinnen said. “People are nervous this year that the same thing could occur due to the record forecast of salmon and dry to average water conditions in the Klamath basin.”
To prevent a repeat fish kill, the Bureau of Reclamation started releasing additional water from the Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River to keep the flow of the lower Klamath River at 3,200 cubic feet per second throughout the peak of the fall run.
Mike Belchik, senior fisheries biologist for the Yurok Tribe, presented a case for higher flows for the fall-run chinook to the multi-agency Trinity River Fall Flows Workgroup, which was well received.
Maintaining a minimum flow of 2,800 cfs for an above-average run had already been established, but this run’s bigger than that.
Belchik emphasized to the group that excellent salmon fishing on the ocean provided reason to trust the predictions, and “in order to decrease the odds of fish kill happening we would like to increase the flow from 2,800 to 3,200,” he said.
Read the full article on Triplicate.com.