Salmon forecasts are now out, and the organization that sets catch limits for the Pacific Northwest will soon decide what kind of commercial and recreational fishing season is ahead.
Salmon forecasts for the north region are low, but farther south, things are looking somewhat more positive.
Pacific Northwest salmon runs have been hurting the past few year. So much so that the ocean fishery off of Southern Oregon and Northern California was closed in 2017.
The Klamath River was at the center of concern, with low fish counts attributed to many factors, including disease and warm ocean conditions.
“Last year was the lowest forecast the Klamath had ever produced,” said Craig Foster of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “It was quite alarming and concerning, but it looks like we’re quite a bit better on this year’s forecast at this point.”
This year, the Klamath estimates are back up to a more normal level relative to the past two decades. Foster said there may be some additional fishing allowed this season down south.
The real bright spot, however, is the Rogue River chinook. Recent salmon returns on the river have been solid, despite poor ocean conditions.
“They’re doing really well based off a number of factors. The Rogue Basin just in whole has really invested in environmental projects to benefit fish, whether through dam removal, habitat restoration,” said Jake Crawford of the Native Fish Society.
The Rogue salmon also benefit from a designated block of water held in Lost Creek Reservoir that can be released downstream when river conditions deteriorate.
Nearly a half million Rogue River chinook are forecast to be out in the ocean this year. If that holds, it will be the fifth highest count in 40 years.
Catch limits will be finalized by the Pacific Fishery Management Council in early April.