Salmon season for recreational fishing set to open on April 3rd–likely remain open into May

The recreational salmon season will likely begin on Saturday, April 3rd, even though the rules for this year’s season have not yet been finalized.

Last year’s regulations passed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council contained the stipulation that the season would open on April 3rd, 2010 in California from Mt Horse (south of Eureka) to the Mexican border.

Those regulations remain in effect until the new ones are passed. Only one of three options under consideration this year would close the recreational season early. The season could also be closed if the California Department Fish and Game declares an emergency.

This open season period under the 2009 rules applies only to recreational fishing. There is no early season for commercial fishing under the 2009 rules.

See the California Fish and Game site for the current status of the salmon season.

According to Council Vice-President Dan Wolford, even in the worst case scenario the season will likely remain open until May.

“The mechanisms for emergency closure within state waters are so cumbersome, and so unlikely, that there is no practical way to bring a closure to the season before it starts,” says Wolford, a resident of Pacifica. “Only if the Council takes final action at our April meeting to adopt the zero fishing option would the state go through the process to close the season – probably sometime in May, since the administrative process would take that long.”

The other two options for the 2010 season allow the season to continue past May. In the first option the season would run to November 14 for locations north of Pigeon Point to Mount Horse and to October 3rd south of Pigeon Point. The second option would close the season during May and June.

Click here for the proposed 2010 season options for salmon fishing.

During the early season that begins on April 3rd (under the 2009 rules) only chinook salmon may be caught, at a limit of two per day and a minimum length of twenty inches. (The 2010 rules, when they take effect, may raise the minimum length to twenty-four inches.)

Wolford, a lifelong fisherman who has lived in California for thirty years, describes the prospects for sports fisherman as “particularly good in the Monterey region, with the fishing moving north along the coast as the season progresses.”

Next year’s salmon season may also have an early opener. The proposed rules for 2010 contain similar language governing the 2011 early season. If there is a season under the 2010 rules then the 2011 season will open on April 2, 2011 with the minimum length in the San Francisco/Monterey region increased to twenty-four inches. If the season is closed this year then there will be no early season next year.

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