The estimated number of salmon expected to spawn in the Sacramento River is up from last year, however, the mood among many in the fishing industry is a negative one, says Damon.
The number of chinook salmon expected to return to the Sacramento River system is forecast to be up 52 percent over last year. But that may not mean more fish in the river in the north state.
Salmon typically return to the stream where they were hatched, but the fish returning this year may not find it easy to find their way back, because instead of releasing the fingerlings directly from Coleman National Fish Hatchery, they were trucked from the hatchery to the Bay Area.
Jim Stone, president of the NorCal Fishing Guides and Sportsmen’s Association, said many of those fish are likely to disperse to different streams as they head inland rather than return up the Sacramento River to the Coleman hatchery.
The bottom line: Salmon fishing may not be so good, he said.
In 2014, during the drought, the river was running low and hatchery officials were worried the young fish would be easy prey for birds and larger fish.
No decision has been made on whether to restrict salmon fishing this year.
The California Fish and Game Commission met to set recreational salmon fishing seasons in the Central Valley. At that meeting the commission also considered closing all fishing in a 5.5-mile section of the Sacramento River in Redding.
State officials are so concerned about the survival of the winter-run chinook, which spawns mostly in the Redding area, that they don’t want any fishing in a stretch of river from the Highway 44 bridge to Keswick Dam.
Back when salmon populations were higher, such as 2012, fish and wildlife officials predicted 819,400 fall-run chinook would return to the river.
While the number of salmon expected to return to the Sacramento River is up this year, the outlook for the Klamath River is grim, officials said. Only about 18,700 fish are expected to return from the ocean to the Klamath River, the lowest number on record, according to Wade Sinnen, a senior environmental scientist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in Arcata.
Only four years ago, the number of fish estimated to return to the Klamath was 320,000, the highest on record, he said.
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