With an abundance of chinook salmon in the ocean this year, federal regulators are proposing the longest season for sport and commercial fishermen in eight years.
The forecasts for salmon returning to spawn in the Klamath and Rogue rivers are very strong and average for the Sacramento River's fall run chinook, said Chuck Tracy, a spokesman for the Pacific Fishery Management Council in Portland, Ore.
"There are a lot of good signs for abundance this year," Tracy said.
The council adopted three alternatives for the salmon season Wednesday in Sacramento. A final decision will be made by the council on April 5, Tracy said.
For Northern California, the season is based on the forecast that 819,400 adult chinook are in the ocean and 436,000 are expected to return to the Sacramento River to spawn this fall.
The anticipated salmon return is more than double the threshold set by federal regulators for the restoration of chinook.
The three alternatives for commercial fishing from San Francisco to Point Arena all would allow fishing May 1 to 31 and Sept. 1 through 30. However, they proposed three different start dates to the mid-summer fishing block — June 10, June 23 or June 26 — that would end Aug. 29.
Any of the options would be longer than recent salmon seasons. There was no commercial fishing at all in 2008 and 2009, a short season in 2010 and a relatively longer season last year, although fishermen reported that low numbers of fish were caught.
The last time Bodega Bay fishermen had a full season, which is May 1 to Sept. 30, was in 2004.
"I am very optimistic that we have three of the best options we have had in several years," said Chuck Cappotto of Gualala, president of the Fishermen's Marketing Association of Bodega Bay.
Allowing fishing during June, historically one of the more productive months for fishermen, is important, said fisherman Chris Lawson of Bodega Bay.
"We figured we would get at least a week in June. That is the stickler, and that is encouraging," Lawson said. "This year there should be some fish. We are cautiously optimistic. Until it actually happens, you don't know."
For Fort Bragg to Shelter Cove, regulators are proposing three dates to open the commercial season: July 10, July 14 or Aug. 1. The first block would end Aug. 29 under all three options. A second block would follow, with fishing allowed Sept. 1 to 30.
The alternatives being considered for the three sport seasons from Shelter Cove to San Francisco all open on April 7, with closings of Oct. 14, Oct. 28 or Nov. 11.
The sport opener in Eureka and Crescent City has not been set yet, but the options include May 1, May 12 or May 26.