Recreational fishermen will get their first chance to catch salmon along the California Coast south of Humboldt County on April 6, the Pacific Fishery Management Council decided Monday.

The season for commercial fishermen will open south of Point Arena on May 1.

The dates for the recreational season from Humboldt County north and commercial fishing north of Point Arena, which is on the Mendocino County coast, were not immediately available.

Exact details of the season, including size limits and possible blackout dates to protect certain species, remained under discussion Monday afternoon, said Zeke Grader, vice chairman of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, who attended the meeting in Tacoma, Wash.

The dates for the seasons are modest good news, Grader said, since they are roughly the same as last year's. Early projections for the 2013 season, released last month, suggest that populations for most kinds of salmon are holding steady or even improving after the huge crash of the fall Chinook population in 2007 that led to a complete closure of salmon fishing for two years.

"But in the long term, there are still a lot of worrisome factors," Grader said. "The seasons we're having pale in comparison to where we were in, say, the 1970s and '80s and we are also unsure about the future."

South of Point Arena, fishermen are struggling with restrictions to preserve the portion of the salmon population that spawns in the Sacramento River and its tributaries in the winter. It was once plentiful, but has fallen precipitously in recent years in part because of urbanization, agricultural runoff and water diversion from the river system.

North of Point Arena, Grader said, fishermen are restricted because of uncertainty about the health of the coastal populations of fall-spawning Chinook, particularly from the Eel, Russian and Mattole rivers. Anecdotal reports suggest the fish are rebounding, he said, but wildlife scientists have not been able to study the matter in enough detail to confirm it.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council was expected to post its proposals for the size and conditions on the salmon season on the website

The council will accept public comment on various options through early April and set the final details on April 11.

You can reach Staff Writer Sean Scully at 521-5313 or

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