Central Coast salmon season restricted over winter-run Chinook

May 1, 2015

Ray Richardson prepares his boat Raggamuffin for the 2015 California commercial salmon season in Morro Bay, California.
Credit Spencer Marley

Ray Richardson and other California commercial fishermen are ready to start this year's salmon season, only he faces a shorter window than last year.

"I'm putting the davits on, the gurdies on, and putting the trolling wire on. Then, go to get some ice, put the gear on, and go fishing," Richardson said.

On the Central Coast, the fishing days are limited to protect Sacramento River Winter-run Chinook Salmon, an endangered species. The winter-run makeup only about five percent of California's entire salmon population. The other 95 percent is healthy says Marcy Yaremko, the state and federal Program Manager for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

It's the area south of Point Sur that has her department concerned for both recreational and commercial fishing.

"Based on information that suggests that likelihood of catching winter run in those areas and times is much greater than in other parts of the state," Yaremko said.

The restrictions are in place to give winter-run the best chance at recovery, but it's also the department's goal to keep the fishing industry vibrant. "In terms of a balance, yes we do have a good fishing season," Yaremko said.

The limited season does have some Central Coast restaurant owners worried about how it could affect the cost of wild Salmon. Among them is Paul van Beurden, who owns Morro Bay's Dutchman's Seafood House.    

"It's a matter of economics. Over the last few years salmon prices are, you know, in the rise. There's competition from the farmed salmon which I don't support. But unfortunately, it's a lot less expensive," van Beurden said.

Back at the docks, commercial fishermen like Richardson say the best option will be to fish in northern California, where the season is less restricted.

"Some years I'll go wherever we have to go. A lot of guys that fish salmon seriously and don't have anything else to fish that's what they have to do. They just have to go where the fish are and where the openers are," Richardson said.

For more information on the 2015 California commercial salmon season regulations, visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Ocean Salmon website.