Many anglers doubt the government’s optimistic salmon numbers.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Driving rain, choppy seas and the superstition of Friday the 13th weren’t enough to keep a handful of eager anglers from the Moss Landing harbor. They boarded the sportfishing vessel Kahuna in hopes of hooking highly prized Chinook salmon.
The 2012 recreational salmon fishing season’s April 7 opener was the most anticipated in years. Fishery managers were forced to close 2008 and 2009 seasons after a crash in salmon numbers, and 2010-11 brought shortened seasons. This year’s heightened expectations are the result of big preseason estimates by the Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Estimates have 820,000 fish from the Sacramento River watershed foraging off the Central Coast, the largest numbers since 2005.
But despite biologists’ confidence, professional and hobby anglers are having a hard time putting stock in pre-season projections, especially with hit-or-miss fishing during opening week.
Carol Jones, owner of Kahuna Sportfishing in Moss Landing, says this year’s opening has been the slowest she’s ever seen.
“People are waiting until they are sure they are going to get fish,” she says.
Jones cancelled the first Wednesday of the season due to lack of bookings, and went out with eight anglers Thursday, shy of her 10 angler cut-off. “I lost money so we can get fish,” she says.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, ocean sportfishing in California generates roughly $2 billion a year.
Kahuna Captain Donnie Davi hopes the “shakers” – fish under 24 inches, which anglers had to release last year – will return as legal keepers this season.
“We’re all crossing our fingers; we’re all holding our breath,” he says. “We’re pretty certain there’s going to be a good summer-run of fish here.”