The anglers on the "Reel-Lentless" came back to Bodega Bay empty-handed Thursday, though not for a lack of bites.
Bob Monckton, the charter boat's captain, said the day-trippers pulled in multiple "shakers" — smaller salmon that had to be released. On the previous Sunday, though, Monckton took out a group where everyone caught their two-fish limit.
Nobody pays to catch shakers, but Monckton said the range of size and ages of the fish on the two days bodes well, showing a healthy, diverse population of salmon early in the year.
"All signs are there that this should be a good season," he said.
Many in Bodega Bay hope so, guarding their optimism that this is the end to three disastrous years for the local salmon industry, an economic punch that has been felt across the small coastal town.
On Wednesday, fishermen's hopes got their strongest official validation yet, as regulators signed off on a May 1 start to the first commercial salmon season of any length since 2007. The recreational season began April 2.
"I see more movement on the docks now that we know we have a salmon season than I've probably seen in three years," said Peter Doyle, working on the hydraulics of his boat "Supreme," a 48-foot troller. "But everybody is a little cautious."
The waters were rough for most of the week because of high winds. But by Friday evening, Vince Orsini, skipper of the Miss Anita charter boat in Bodega Bay, had returned for the third time with his limit since last Sunday.
There's plenty to be wary of, fishermen say. Even as officials expect 730,000 salmon to return to the Sacramento River system this fall, six times the numbers estimated last year, there's no certainty until the salmon are caught.
But at least they'll have a chance to try. In 2008 and 2009, officials halted local ocean salmon fishing because of the precipitous drop in salmon returns.