EUGENE — Federal biologists are forecasting a big increase in salmon returns to two Northern California rivers that have been stingy in turning out catches for Oregon and California fishermen in recent years.
While a lot of work has been done to provide more water for fish in the Klamath and Sacramento rivers, experts say an upturn in the cyclical supply of food in the Pacific Ocean is largely responsible.
The Eugene Register-Guard reported Thursday that the Pacific Fishery Management Council forecasts 1.65 million adult Chinook salmon for the Klamath, and 819,000 for the Sacramento. The two rivers drive the process for setting ocean fishing seasons off much of California and Oregon, and recent downturns in returns have proved disastrous for the fleet.
Newport salmon fisherman Darus Peake, a member of the Oregon Salmon Commission, said the fleet may have a hard time taking advantage because so many fishermen have gone broke or turned to other species.
“The fleet is poor,” he said.
Charleston fisherman Paavo Carroll said he only caught about 200 salmon last year, because the high costs of fuel, bait, and gear made it difficult to go out with so few fish available.
“If you’re not staying ahead of wear and tear on your equipment and expenses, you can’t really do it,” Carroll said. “But I think there’ll be a rebound in the fleet.”
The Klamath expectations are more than four times higher than last year, and 15 times higher than 2006.