After six desolate salmon seasons, North Coast commercial and sport fishermen finally are on pace for a decent catch.
With half the season over, commercial fishermen have landed 150,000 chinook salmon in California and sport fishermen 95,000. Both are the highest numbers since 2005.
"It's been a very good year compared to the last three or four years, which had limited fishing," said Chuck Cappotto, president of the Fishermans Marketing Association of Bodega Bay. "The overall production from fleet has been good and the price has held up."
The estimate of the catch is from a sampling of fishermen through the end of July and was made by the California State Department of Fish and Game as part of it's salmon program.
"When they can get out on the water, it is great," said Melody Palmer-Zwahlen, a California Department of Fish and Game biologist. "There have been a lot of windy days and rough seas, when the fish get scattered and they can be hard to find."
Cappotto said the wholesale price has been holding at $5 a pound for the past month, and has ranged from $4 and $6.50 a pound for commercial fishermen.
In Santa Rosa markets, the price of salmon filets is $15.99 a pound at G&G Market and $16.99 a pound at Oliver's Market.
Although the catch is bigger than in the past six years, fishing industry officials said it is small compared to 2004, a record-breaking year with 502,110 salmon caught.
And this year's take, which may be about 2 million pounds, pales in comparison to the 14 million pounds of salmon caught in the mid 1980s and the 7 million pounds that is an annual average, industry officials said.
"Compared to the last few years, it shows improvement, but in the last score of years it is pretty pathetic," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.