California salmon season starts and it could be a great year

The salmon fleet at Half Moon Bay is getting ready to fish.
(Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times)

The 2013 California salmon season begins Wednesday. That alone is cause for celebration, but even better news is that this looks like it could be a great year for fish.

The California salmon harvest has been bedeviled by a whole host of problems – pollution, global warming, water politics – that resulted in little or no fish being caught commercially between 2008 and 2012.

Last year was the first season with a significant catch, and this year’s looks to be just as good, if not better.


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“We expect it to be as good or possibly better than last year thanks to the heavy rains we got in 2010,” says Golden Gate Salmon Assn. executve director John McManus. Because salmon are born in fresh water, then move to the ocean for a couple of years to fatten up before returning to their home streams to spawn, there is a significant time lag in water conditions and the catch.

Last year’s harvest was roughly 2.5 million pounds and projections for this year are nearly 3 million. That’s still less than half the record harvest of 7 million pounds in 2004, but light years ahead of 2008 and 2009, when the seasons were closed altogether.

What’s more, says McManus, this year’s fish are looking very good. “Judging from what we’re seeing coming ashore in the sport fishery, the quality of the fish is top of the line. They’ve been feeding on krill, which the ocean is full of now, and because of that, they are a bright orange red on the inside with a high oil content.”


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