All salmon fishing is officially dead in the water this year off the Southern Oregon coast — doomed by a crash in chinook headed for Northern California's Klamath River.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council Tuesday set sport and commercial fishing seasons off the West Coast, including complete shutdowns of chinook and coho salmon fishing for sport and commercial fishers from Humbug Mountain near Port Orford down into Northern California.
Tuesday's decision was expected because all three draft seasons released last month by the PFMC listed no chinook fishing for either sport anglers or the commercial fleet.
It’s the first time since 2008 that both sport fishers and commercial fleets will be kept at bay during the summer. In 2008, it was because of a crash in the maturing adult fish headed to the Sacramento River.
This year the council is basing its options on the lowest forecast for returning 4-year-old chinook to the Klamath River since estimates were first made in 1985, according to the PFMC. Those chinook headed to the ocean as smolts during 2014′s double-whammy of inland drought and poor ocean conditions.
The drought heightened the warmwater parasite load on Klamath smolts already stressed by low and warm stream flows, according to PFMC reports. Those that made it to the ocean faced poor forage conditions, meaning there was little food such as krill for them, and larger fish preyed more heavily on the small chinook than in normal years.
Sport and commercial fishing seasons off Southern Oregon and Northern California are managed largely to protect chinook returning to the Klamath and Sacramento rivers. Because chinook bound for rivers in this region blend together in the ocean, seasons are fashioned to protect the weakest of the stocks from overharvest.
The Klamath chinook problems could trigger another closure in 2018, as well, because this year’s return of 3-year-old Klamath chinook — the precursor to next year’s 4-year-old returns — is the second lowest on record, according to a PFMC report.
Southern Oregon ports of Brookings and Gold Beach also were left off a limited fin-clipped coho fishery for recreational anglers off the central and north coasts.