Salmon Season Just Around The Corner

Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Let's Go Fishing Radio Show

by Allen Bushnell

It’s hard to believe, but here we are in the month of March already. And, that means salmon season is just around the corner. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has not yet announced an opening day for the 2020 Ocean Salmon Season, but it’s likely to open on the first weekend in April. The routine behind that decision includes meetings of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Fisheries Management Council, California Fish and Wildlife Commission, as well as the the CDFW. Further meetings scheduled for April will include final decisions regarding seasons and regulations for the 2020 season.

In the CDFW newsletter from February 27, the Department announced, “The 2020 ocean abundance projection for Sacramento River fall Chinook (SRFC), a main salmon stock harvested in California waters, is estimated at 473,200 adult salmon, higher than the 2019 forecasts. The Klamath River fall Chinook (KRFC) abundance forecast of 186,600 adult salmon is lower than the 2019 forecast and will likely result in reduced fishing opportunity in the areas north of Pt. Arena.”

Now, with a month to go, is a very good time to start maintenance on your boat, check safety items and equipment, and make sure your gear is in good order to start trolling at the season opener. This time of year, charter skippers in Monterey Bay often report unintended bycatch of king salmon, prior to the season opening. The fish are out there, they will even chomp on sabiki rigs as anglers pursue sand dabs! As difficult as it may be, anglers must release any and all salmon unharmed when caught out of season. Best practice is to conduct the release without netting the salmon, or removing the fish from the water.

We did not receive any surfperch reports this week, which may be an artifact of local anglers protecting their “hot spots” in preparation for the Sand Crab Classic Derby, scheduled for Saturday March 14. The beaches south of Aptos, and stretching round the Bay to Monterey have been producing steadily the past few months. Most common are barred, calico and walleye perch from the beaches. Look for structure, and try another beach if your first stop does not produce fish. The Pajaro and Salinas Rivermouths are still holding stripers as well, so pack a few plugs in your kit, just in case. North Coast headlands and Pacific Grove/Carmel rocky shores remain a good bet for big rubberlip, black or striped perch.

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