The Pacific Fishery Management Council released its “Review of 2022 Ocean Salmon Fisheries” report last week and the news wasn’t good. Based on an ocean abundance of 200,100 Klamath River fall Chinook thought to be swimming in the ocean last fall, forecasters predicted roughly 66,759 adults would return to the river. Unfortunately, the run fell a little shorter than the preseason prediction, with a total of 46,639 adults returning to the river. The escapement to natural spawning areas was 22,050 adults, 58 percent of the preseason prediction of 38,180 adults. The estimated hatchery return was 13,235 adults. Jack (2-year-old kings) returns to the Klamath basin were 7,582, including 4,151 that escaped to natural spawning areas. In 2021, 54,225 adults returned along with 10,350 jacks.
Spawning escapement to the upper Klamath River tributaries (Salmon, Scott and Shasta rivers), where spawning was only minimally affected by hatchery strays, totaled 6,604 compared to 9,169 in 2021. The escapement in 2022 to the Shasta River was 4,403 adults. Escapement to the Salmon and Scott rivers was 1,274 and 927 adults, respectively.
According to the report, an estimated 2,461 fall Chinook adults were harvested in the Klamath Basin recreational fishery, which exceeded the quota of 2,119.
What our season will look like in the coming year is still a work in progress, but signs are pointing toward a limited fishery both in the ocean and rivers. “The age composition of this year’s Klamath-Trinity run (adults and jacks) will be used to estimate current ocean abundance and will determine the number of fish available in 2023 for tribal harvest and both state ocean and in-river fisheries,” said Dan Troxel, environmental scientist with CDFW’s Klamath River Project. “There are a variety of factors that determine available harvest, including current ESA constraints in ocean and in-river fisheries. Based on this year’s run-size and age composition, Klamath fall Chinook stocks remain in ‘overfished’ status per federal guidelines. It is likely that the abundance of Klamath stocks will be relatively low and we may have decreased opportunity in both the ocean and in-river fisheries as a result.”
Next up is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Annual Salmon Information Meeting, which will be held via webinar on Wednesday, March 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The meeting will provide the latest information on California salmon stocks and the outlook for ocean salmon fisheries for the upcoming 2023 season. The public is encouraged to provide comments on potential fishing alternatives for California ocean salmon fisheries in 2023. A panel comprised of fishery managers, scientists and industry representatives will be assembled to address questions and collect public input that will be used in developing a range of season alternatives for California salmon fisheries at the March 5-14 PFMC meeting in Seattle. Final season recommendations will be adopted at the April 1-7 PFMC meeting in Foster City, CA.
Salmon information meeting details can be found on the Ocean Salmon webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon/preseason. For more information, contact Katherine Osborn at OceanSalmon@Wildlife.ca.gov.
The weather ahead
According to James White of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we can expect steady precipitation through Saturday. “With this system, we can expect 3 to 4 inches in the higher elevations, but it won’t add up to much water,” said White. “Most of this will fall as snow so the rivers will see very little impact. A warmer system is forecast for next Monday and Tuesday when we could see 1 to 2 inches over the course of the two days. This will likely be more impactful on the rivers due to the chance of melting snow.”
With water conditions improving the past few days, a few more fish are now being caught. The river should stay in fishable shape through the weekend, but will likely get dirty on Monday due to rain coming and snowmelt. Flows are forecast to be over 1,000 cubic feet per second early Tuesday and rising.
Main stem Eel
As of Thursday, flows were just above 5,000 cfs at Scotia and rising slowly. The river is in great shape with perfect green water. Scores have improved the last few days with boats getting a chance at three to four fish per day. Depending how much rain falls next week, it could blow out by Tuesday.
South Fork Eel
The South Fork should be in good shape through the weekend, but flows were starting to get low. They jumped from 560 cfs to 750 cfs Wednesday, and should remain fairly steady through Sunday. Changes are forecast for Monday as the river will likely blowout with over an inch of rain predicted for Monday through Tuesday. The river will likely be off color for a few days.
The Van Duzen went up to 480 cfs on Wednesday but should be on a slow drop through the weekend. If you’re looking to bank fish, this is a good option. Boats are reportedly catching a few fresh steelhead per day. With rain coming, it could blow out early next week.
The Smith rose overnight Tuesday and was holding right around 1,600 cfs (6.70 feet) Thursday at the Jed Smith gauge. The river is low and clear but a few fish are being caught. The rain coming next week should be the ticket to boost flows and bring in some fish.
Southern Oregon rivers
Low, clear water has limited success in the Chetco, but steelhead catch rates should improve with rain expected the middle of this week, and a bigger storm over the weekend reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Fishing was slow over the weekend, in part because of flows hovering at 1,000 cfs, and an overall lack of fish,” said Martin. “Local guides are picking up a fish or two a day. Steelhead fishing has been slow on the Rogue, while the Elk and Sixes are too low for effective drift boat fishing. Rain this week could improve fishing on all three systems.”
Brookings ocean update
According to Martin, ocean anglers may get a short window to target lingcod and rockfish out of Brookings on Saturday. “Big swells kept boats at the docks to begin the week, while another storm arrives Sunday. So far, fishing for smelt and herring has been slow in the Chetco estuary and harbor.”
Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email email@example.com