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KMZ salmon season finalized; lings biting!

t’s time to start counting backwards. Various fisheries representatives from Washington, Oregon and California spent last week in Rohnert Park, California, crunching numbers at the annual PFMC meeting until they finally came up with a 130-day ocean salmon season for the Oregon and California Klamath Management Zones (KMZ).

The “all-salmon-except-coho” season this year will begin in less than two weeks and will last from May 1 through September 7, one of the most liberal Chinook seasons in several decades. For all intents and purposes, “all salmon except Coho” generally means Chinook salmon, also known as kings.

“For us it was a pretty simple deal,” said Richard Heap, the Oregon Sportfishing representative on the PFMC Salmon Advisory Sub-panel on Thursday, regarding the season that was set for Chinook. “We didn’t have any real issues this year. The Coho numbers were the only thing we had to crunch.”

 Soon Ae Phillips of Brookings was fishing with her husband aboard the High Hope II last week out of the Port of Brookings Harbor when she caught these two monster lingcod.
Soon Ae Phillips of Brookings was fishing with her husband aboard the High Hope II last week out of the Port of Brookings Harbor when she caught these two monster lingcod.

The Oregon KMZ is a long stretch of ocean from Humbug Mountain, just south of Port Orford, to the Oregon/California border.

The California KMZ spans a broad area from the California/Oregon border south to Horse Mountain, California, which is just south of Eureka, California.

This year, both the Oregon and California KMZ will be sharing the same 130-day season. They also shared the same 121-day season last year, which was from May 10 through September 7.

The question is, will the Chinook be here in fishable numbers by the first of May?

Marge Mansur, former commercial fisherman, always tells me that they never went fishing for the Chinook until May 10, and Gary Blasi from Full Throttle Sportfishing in Eureka said that salmon don’t really arrive off of Humboldt Bay until the second or third week of May.

So in other words, if the Chinook don’t arrive in Brookings on opening day, it’s no big deal; don’t sweat it. If some of them make it here by May 1, I consider that a bonus. If they make it here by May 10, then it will have been comparable to last year, when all three ports of Eureka, Crescent City and Brookings Harbor sported some very respectable catches of Chinook ranging from 15 to 35 pounds.

Be that as it may, the 1.3-million Chinook belonging to the Sacramento, Klamath and Rogue River systems that are predicted to be doing the backstroke in the ocean this year will be arriving close to the Port of Brookings Harbor at some point during the month of May.

Anglers can also expect a mark-selective (hatchery) Coho fishery this year as well, that will last from June 27 through August 9, or until a landed catch of 55,000 Coho is attained, whichever comes first. I seriously doubt that 55,000 hatchery Coho will be caught during the proposed 44-day time period, but if good ocean conditions prevail throughout Oregon, the 55K number could be reached.

“We should do OK on the Coho,” said Heap. “The mark rate on Coho for us here on the south end of the KMZ is pretty low, and it will get lower as the summer goes on. But the good news is that we’re looking at a fair number of fish, and we’re looking at an opportunity to fish through August. So by the end of the (Coho) fishing season, we’re going to see some big cCho.”

It is going to be crucial to get a good look at the Chinook that will be caught in May because it will tell everyone how good the ocean feed conditions are this year.

If the Chinook are fat footballs like they were last year, they probably had a good opportunity to feed on krill and baitfish, with the baitfish feeding on the northern copepods that contain wax esters and fatty acids, the things that make baitfish thrive.

If they’re skinny for their length, it might mean that they are feeding on a less abundance of baitfish, which might in turn be feeding on the less-nutritious warmwater copepods that of late have been found in the California Current.

Tight lines!

Larry Ellis, author, writer, columnist and photographer has had a 50-year passion for fishing in California and Oregon's saltwater and freshwater venues. He is a well-known writer for Oregon, Washington and California Fishing and Hunting News, Northwest Sportsman, California Sportsman and Pacific Coast Sportfishing. He currently writes monthly for Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine, and is the weekly fishing columnist for “On the Water” for the Curry Coastal Pilot Newspaper. He particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise.

On Oregon's Waters by Larry Ellis is posted with permission of the Curry Coastal Pilot of Brookings, Oregon.

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