Facing a record-low Klamath River salmon forecast, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council has moved to close 200 miles of coastal fishing in northern California and southern Oregon. Fishery managers expect to see less than 12,000 chinook returning to the Klamath this season.
Of course, this isn’t California’s first salmon setback. Brian Johnson, TU California Director, says, "These catastrophic salmon returns were triggered by the recent drought, but they are caused by decades of bad decisions by the state and federal government. If the drought taught us anything, it’s that we need to restore river habitat faster and better, and to dramatically improve our management of water to ensure adequate flows of cold, clean water when salmon need it most."
The Klamath dam removal project, beginning in 2020, is expected to remedy some of the issues by breaching four dams and restoring some 400 miles of upstream salmon and steelhead spawning habitat. [For background, read "Flowing Ambition" from the spring 2017 issue, here.]
While this year's small-batch run is partly a product of drought conditions, California broke precipitation records this winter. All the high water should benefit spawning and hopefully lead to stronger returns in a few years. For now, coastal sportfishing seasons will be closed from Humbug Mountain south of Port Orford, Oregon, to Horse Mountain in northern California
The lower Columbia spring chinook season, on the other hand, is so far faring better, and the Oregon/Washington Columbia River Compact has been taking a cautious approach to extending early season fishing.