The Pacific Fishery Management Council released its "Review of 2021 Ocean Salmon Fisheries" report last week and the news wasn't great for salmon anglers, though the numbers are trending upward. In 2021, 53,954 adult Klamath River fall Chinook (KRFC) were estimated to have returned from the ocean compared to the preseason prediction of 62,121. Jack returns to the Klamath basin were 10,334 fish. In 2020, 45,409 adults returned along with 9,077 jacks.
Returns to the Iron Gate and Trinity hatcheries increased in 2021, as well. A total of 12,850 adults returned to the two hatcheries this fall, while in 2020 only 8,331 returned. Spawning escapement to the upper Klamath River tributaries (Salmon, Scott and Shasta rivers), where spawning was only minimally affected by hatchery strays, totaled 9,169 compared to 5,559 in 2020. The escapement in 2021 to the Shasta River was 5,972 adults. Escapement to the Salmon and Scott rivers was 1,890 and 1,307 adults, respectively.
According to the report, an estimated 2,265 fall Chinook adults were harvested in the Klamath Basin recreational fishery, which was well over the 1,221 quota.
"The age composition of this year's in-river run (adults and jacks) will be used to estimate current ocean abundance and will determine the number of fish available for harvest in 2022," said Wade Sinnen, senior environmental scientist on the Klamath and Trinity rivers. "There are a variety of factors that determine available harvest, including current ESA constraints in ocean and in-river fisheries. However, based on this year's age composition, I suspect that fishing opportunity on adult fall Chinook salmon of Klamath origin will be similar to last year. Klamath fall Chinook stocks remain in 'overfished' status per federal guidelines."
Next up is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's annual Salmon Information Meeting on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The meeting, which will be held via Zoom Webinar, will provide the latest information on California salmon stocks and the outlook for ocean salmon fisheries for the upcoming 2022 season. The public is encouraged to provide comments on potential fishing alternatives for California ocean salmon fisheries in 2022. 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 8 through March 14 Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting. Final season regulations will be adopted at the April 6 through April 13 PFMC meeting.
Additional meeting links, agendas and other materials will be posted at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon/preseason as they become available. Contact Katherine Osborn at OceanSalmon@wildlife.ca.gov if you have any questions regarding the meeting.
The weather ahead
According to Doug Boushey of Eureka's National Weather Service, following the system that moved through Tuesday, the rest of the week looks dry. "The next chance of rain is in the latter part of the weekend," Boushey said. "There's a slight chance on Saturday, mostly in Del Norte, with rain likely Sunday. The next chance for significant rain will be Tuesday."
The South Fork Eel, Middle Fork Eel, Mattole, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen (closed starting Thursday) are currently closed to fishing due to low flows. The South Fork Eel is closed from its mouth to Rattlesnake Creek. The Middle Fork Eel is closed from its mouth to Bar Creek. The Mattole is closed to fishing from the mouth to Honeydew Creek. Redwood Creek is closed from its mouth to the confluence with Bond Creek. The Van Duzen will be closed from its junction with the Eel River to the end of Golden Gate Drive near Bridgeville (approximately 4,000 feet upstream of Little Golden Gate Bridge).
Plenty of steelhead are still being caught on the Mad despite the low water. The fish are holding in the holes and slots, which still have decent color. As of Wednesday, flows were 228 cubic feet per second. Minimum flow is 200 cubic feet per second at State Route 299 bridge.
Main stem Eel
As of Wednesday, flows were right around 1,650 cfs after rising slightly Monday night. The water is low and clear and the fishing continues to be inconsistent. The few boats still fishing are getting anywhere from zero to three fish per day. Most of the fish being caught are bright. Minimum flow is 350 cfs at Scotia
The Van Duzen opened back up to fishing following Monday's rain, but will close again beginning Thursday. Flows as of Wednesday were 151 cfs and dropping. Minimum flow is 150 cfs at Grizzly Creek.
The Smith is forecast to fall below 1,000 cfs by the weekend. There was a slight bump in flows Monday night following the small storm. The river is extremely low and clear, but new fish are still arriving. Minimum flow is 600 cfs at Jed Smith Park.
Southern Oregon rivers
Rain falling Monday has steelhead anglers hoping the Chetco will rise enough for drift boaters to once again enjoy decent catch rates, but the flow forecast suggests that is unlikely, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.
"Flows are down to 500 cfs, requiring anglers to drag their boats over shallow riffles," said Martin. "A few schools of steelhead can be seen in the lower river, but overall action has been slow. Steelhead fishing also remains slow on the Elk, Sixes and Rogue rivers. The Elk and Sixes are too low to drift, while clear water has led to slow catch rates on the lower Rogue."
Brookings ocean update
Relatively calm ocean conditions over the weekend allowed boaters to get nice limits of lingcod and rockfish out of Brookings, reports Martin. "Stormy weather returned on Monday. The next good forecast day is Friday. Plenty of fish are being caught within a short distance of the harbor. Surf smelt are entertaining anglers fishing in the boat basin, but herring are a no-show so far. Surfperch are biting along both jetties of the Chetco River."
Kenny Priest (he/him) operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email email@example.com.