Federal regulators badly overestimated how many chinook salmon would return to the Sacramento River last fall, a key criteria used to set the sport and commercial fishing season.

Nevertheless, scientists expect there will be plenty of salmon to allow fishing off of California and Oregon, officials said.

"Despite our shortcomings in forecasting, there will be a bunch of fish around next year," said Chuck Tracy, spokesman for the Pacific Fishery Management Council in Portland, Ore. "It will probably provide a pretty good opportunity for most fisheries."

North Coast fishermen will get those numbers and the forecast for the coming fall return of chinook salmon at a meeting Tuesday held by the state Department of Fish and Game.

"I still think there will be a lot better season," said Chuck Cappotto, president of the Fishermen's Marketing Association of Bodega Bay. "We are due for a couple of good years."

The Fish and Game meeting is 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd., north of Santa Rosa.

A technical advisory committee to the Pacific Fishery Management Council met last week in Portland, the beginning of the annual regulatory process that will include a dozen meetings on the West Coast. The final decision on the fishing season will made April 6.

The forecasts of the return of chinook salmon to the Sacramento River are a primary factor in determining the timing of the salmon fishing for both sport and for commercial fishermen.

The council biologists had predicted 377,000 adult chinook salmon would return to the Sacramento River and its tributaries and hatcheries last fall but only 121,742 actually were counted.

A level of 122,000 is considered the minimum threshold in federal plans to restore the population of chinook, considered an endangered fish.

Biologists separately counted 88,217 jack salmon, which are 2 years old and one year from maturity. That is a record number.

The number of jacks are considered an indication of the population in the ocean that are expected to return the following year.

Bill Sydeman, president of the Farallon Institute for Ecological Research, blamed an El Ni? in fall 2009 and spring 2010 for affecting the return of adult salmon and causing a dropoff in the predicted numbers.

Last year, commercial fishing was allowed from May 1 to Sept. 30 and from Oct. 3 to 14, following a short season in 2010 and cancellation of all commercial fishing in 2008 and 2009.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.