High winds off the North Coast for most of the past week have thwarted plans for the much-anticipated start of recreational salmon fishing.
The sport season opened April 2, but only a few small boats made it out during a brief window Monday off Bodega Bay, local fishermen said.
Mother Nature has otherwise put the season on hold - though a calm period Sunday may provide one highlight to an otherwise dreary week.
Otherwise, "the weather's keeping everybody in," U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Chris Eylerts said from the Bodega Bay Station.
"It's terrible," said Les "Tiger" Fernandes, owner of Fish On Charters in Bodega Bay, which had to cancel several trips this week. "It's frustrating for me and for all the clients."
Both sport and commercial salmon fishing were banned in 2008 and &‘09. Commercial fishing — not yet started this year — was severely curtailed last year, as well.
The 2010 sport season remained open through Sept. 6, making it about two months shorter than a full season, and fishing was allowed just five days a week.
Rosier population estimates for chinook salmon this year suggest a full fishing season at long last, local fishermen said.
"We're anxious to get out," said Rick Powers, captain of the 65-foot New Sea Angler that because of a major retrofit would be in the boat yard another 10 or 14 days in any case.
Everyone is champing at the bit to see what the season has to offer, though the few fish reportedly caught Monday were a good sign, Powers said. "Because when the weather gets flat, we'll have a lot of boats looking all over, and hopefully we'll find them like we did last April."
A small craft advisory is in effect through Saturday afternoon, with north-northwest winds of 15 and 25 knots, Eylerts said.
"It looks like it stays that way up until Sunday, comes down a little bit, and then Monday and Tuesday goes back to 15-to-25 knots again," he said.
The April 2 season start governs fishing from Horse Mountain near Shelter Cove in Humboldt County south to the Mexico border.
It's still unclear how long the season will run. Federal regulations — released barely a week ago — have been adopted only through the end of April pending meetings of the Pacific Fishery Management Council that begin with a public hearing in San Mateo on Sunday.
The council has offered Sept. 18, Oct. 16 and Nov. 13, 2011 as potential season closing dates, said Chuck Tracy, salmon staff officer for the council.
The council is expected to release its recommendation Wednesday, April 13. A threatened shutdown of the federal government could interfere with implementation of regulations defining the season, Tracy said.
If they aren't in place by May 1, last year's regulations, which limited sport fishing to Thursday-through—Monday each week through Sept. 6 south of Point Arena, would be implemented automatically until such time as the new rules can be put in place, Tracy said.