By DAVE HURLEY
SACRAMENTO – After the salmon closure in 2023, there is tremendous interest in whether there will a salmon season this year. The 2024 salmon season setting process begins this week with the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) Salmon Technical Team releasing the Sacramento and Klamath River escapement numbers on Wednesday, February 14. Inland escapements from other western states will also be released followed by Oregon’s salmon meeting with Oregon inland numbers and future fisheries estimates on February 28. Salmon escapement is the amount of a salmon population that does not get caught by commercial or recreational fisheries and return to their freshwater spawning habitat. The California Fish and Game Commission will also receive an update and discuss the PFMC process and timeline during their February 14/15 meeting.
From February 20 to 23, the PFMC Salmon Technical Team will meet m to complete the preseason report providing abundance forecast estimates for key salmon stocks and other information pertinent to the development of management options. This report will be available online in early March at https://www.pcouncil.org/.
The next major event will be the annual Salmon Information Meeting by the Department of Fish and Wildlife on March 1. This meeting will cover 2023 spawner abundances returning to the Central Valley and Klamath Basins, 2024 abundance forecasts, and management context guiding the development and implementation of 2024 ocean salmon fisheries. The public are invited to learn about pertinent data and management context shaping the upcoming ocean salmon season, but this meeting will be hosted as a webinar only. The meeting link, agenda and other materials will be posted at https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon/Preseason. when available. This meeting will be followed by a PFMC meeting on March 6 through 11 in Fresno to determine whether any in-season actions are required for fisheries scheduled to open prior to May 16. They will also craft three regulatory alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries in effect on or after May 16. Final adoption of alternatives for public review is tentatively scheduled for March 11. This will be followed by a PFMC public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m. in Santa Rosa to hear comments from the public on the three alternatives. Finally, the PFMC will meet from April 6 to 11 in Seattle to adopt the final regulatory measures for analysis by the Salmon Technical Team. Final adoption of recommendations to the National Marine Fisheries Service will also occur and is tentatively scheduled for April 11. This will be followed by a California Fish and Game Commission meeting on April 17-18 to receive and update on ocean salmon sport fishery regulations in effect in 2024. It’s far too early to tell what the possibilities are for the upcoming salmon season, and there is talk of a few windows where fishing will be allowed. There isn’t much optimism for anything less than a few bubbles of a season due to the once again absolutely paltry returns in the upper Sacramento River, especially in a year where no commercial or recreational salmon fishing was allowed.