Article from CalMatters.
“Most summer mornings at first light, Jared Davis is a few miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge, motoring his charter fishing boat Salty Lady over the Pacific Ocean. His eyes sweep the horizon, looking for diving birds, but mostly he watches the screen of his dashboard fish-finder for schools of anchovies — a sure sign that salmon are near. When the signs look good, he throttles down to trolling speed and tells his customers to let out their lines.
“Drop ‘em down!” Davis calls out the window. “Thirty to 40 feet!”
“When the bite is steady, the Salty Lady may have 20 customers on board, each spending $200 for the chance to catch salmon. On the best days, fishing rods bend double the moment the lines go down, and a frenzy of action ensues, often amid a hundred or more other boats. Hooked Chinook thrash at the surface, and the deck becomes strewn with flopping fish.
“Last year, California’s commercial and recreational fishing fleet, from the Central Coast to the Oregon border, landed about 300,000 salmon.
“But this year, Davis and other salmon anglers won’t be fishing for salmon at all.
“In response to crashing Chinook populations, a council of West Coast fishery managers plans to cancel this year’s salmon season in California, which will put hundreds of commercial fishermen and women out of work in Northern California and turn the summer into a bummer for thousands of recreational anglers.
“Last year, the industry’s economic value was an estimated $460 million for fish sales and related businesses, including restaurants, tackle shops, private fishing guides, campgrounds and other services. Salmon season usually runs from May through October.
“The closure, Davis said, “is going to be devastating to my business.” He said he will “try to scrape together a season” by targeting other species, like rockfish, lingcod, halibut and striped bass, but generating interest in catching these fish will be a challenge.
“Our customers want salmon,” he said, adding that last year, his customers caught roughly 2,000 Chinook.
“Davis, 53, who has fished all his life, said the thrill of salmon fishing never grows old. “There’s nothing else like a wide-open salmon bite,” he said.
“Only in two previous years — 2008 and 2009 — has California’s salmon season been shut down completely. That closure came as the numbers of spawning fish returning to the Sacramento River, the state’s main salmon producer, crashed to record lows.
“Now California’s Chinook runs have collapsed again.
“Just 62,000 adult fall-run Chinook returned last year to the Sacramento River to spawn, the third lowest return on record and only half of the fishery’s minimum target.
“Runs on the Klamath River, in far-northern California, also have plunged, hitting 22,000 spawning adult fall-run Chinook last year, the fourth lowest return in 40 years. Native American tribes rely on the Klamath River’s salmon for traditional foods and ceremonies.
“What’s ailing the fish, scientists and state officials say, is a variety of factors, primarily in the rivers where salmon spawn. Large volumes of water are diverted for use by farms and cities. Combined with drought, this causes low flows and high water temperatures, which can kill salmon eggs and young fish. Vast tracts of floodplains and wetlands, where small fish can find food and refuge, have also been lost to development and flood control projects.
“Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the quantity and quality of river water appear to drive salmon numbers.”
No California salmon: Fishery to be shut down this year – CalMatters