Fresh, wild salmon finally are making their way from the cold Pacific waters to supermarket shelves around Sonoma County as the commercial salmon fishing season gets under way.
Fishermen from Bodega Bay have been reeling in the catch south of Half Moon Bay, where salmon that are large enough to catch legally are abundant.
"It's getting off to a good start down here," said Chuck Wise, director at Fisherman's Marketing Association of Bodega Bay. "It's kind of bleak back home. Most of the boats that travel are coming down here because it seems to be the only show in town."
Windy days have limited their time on the water, but fishermen are earning high prices for their catch because of the small supply and a high demand in the days leading up to Mother's Day.
The high cost is being passed along to customers. But that hasn't stopped shoppers at the three Oliver's Market locations from plowing through 450 to 600 pounds per day, said Todd Davis, meat and seafood coordinator for Oliver's.
"They're excited," Davis said. "Any time the local season opens up on salmon and crab, it's a big deal. People wait for it and absolutely love it."
One customer asked a Oliver's employee to pile on 4? pounds of the deep orange king salmon cuts, despite their price of $21.49 per pound.
"My husband eats a lot," she explained.
Others balked at the sticker price.
"I'll hold off, it's a little pricey," said Stan Greenberg, 61, an attorney from Santa Rosa.
North Coast Fisheries in Santa Rosa has been processing 6,000 to 7,000 pounds per day, said Michael Lucas, president.
"If the wind would stop blowing, it would be going better," Lucas said.
Even so, fishermen were encouraged at the start of a commercial fishing season that's longer than they've had in years. There was no season at all in 2008 and 2009, a short season in 2010, and a somewhat longer season last year. The last time Bodega Bay fishermen had a full season, which is May 1 to Sept. 30, was in 2004.
"It feels more like a normal season," Lucas said, except for the fact that the season is closed for most of June, when fishermen usually catch the most salmon.
Some markets are not buying local salmon yet because the price is too high, he said.
"Not too many years ago we were fishing for $1.25 a pound," Wise said, contrasting that to the $6 to $7 per pound fishermen are getting today from wholesalers. "It's really opened up, but that's because there's a demand for it. It's a good product, and there are really nice healthy fish, and people are wanting them."
You can reach Staff Writer Cathy Bussewitz at 521-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.