SANTA ROSA (AP) — California could see a return to a full-length coastal salmon fishing season this year with biologists forecasting a tripling of the fish’s ocean population, state fish and wildlife officials said Tuesday.
The agency is projecting 729,000 salmon in coastal waters in 2011, up from a 2010 projection of 245,000 fish, Department of Fish and Game spokesman Harry Morse said.
If actual salmon numbers come anywhere close to the latest forecast, West Coast salmon fisherman could see their first good catch in years after cancelled seasons in 2008 and 2009 and a shortened season in 2010 led to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, according to department estimates.
“Good news for a change,” said Fish and Game Deputy Director Sonke Mastrup. “Salmon numbers are projected to provide some real opportunity for sport and commercial anglers.”
The department announced the preliminary figure Tuesday at a meeting in Santa Rosa. Federal regulators next week will evaluate the data and come up with a final number to make recommendations on the length of this year’s season, Morse said.
The department cautions the actual number of salmon counted by the 2010 season’s end was fewer than half what was predicted. Estimates are based on information about the number of salmon that returned to spawn in California rivers, the number of fish spawning in state salmon hatcheries and a sampling of the current ocean population.