California Bans Salmon Fishing For Entire 2023 Season

We have seen less fish in recent years, but an outright ban is ridiculous’

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Photo: CDFW

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced on Monday that salmon fishing in California would be banned for the 2023 season due to a dwindling population.

Professional fishermen are concerned this agency order will be the end for many of their businesses.

While salmon, specifically chinook salmon, ae usually prevalent each salmon season, years of drought have significantly culled their numbers due to less water on land to assist with their spawning. As salmon follow a general three year cycle in which they are hatched in the rivers of California and Oregon and then return as adults, the drought over the last three years has finally taken it’s toll.

While salmon can recharge after a year of drought, the prolonged drought severely hurt their numbers. The CDFW highlighted the Sacramento River in a report last week. In 2022, they had expected around 196,000 to return. However, only 60,000 did. In the Klamath River, 2022 brought the second lowest number of chinook salmon returning since records began in 1997.

“This is a decades-long trend, and the past few years of record drought only further stressed our salmon populations,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Unfortunately, low stock abundance is somewhat expected despite protective and restorative actions California has taken to increase hatchery production, improve release strategies, and increase the availability of critical spawning and rearing habitats.”

With no other option, the CDFW announced last week that salmon fishing would be banned from April to May 15th. In conjunction with Oregon, the ban range was set up from the U.S.-Mexican border in San Diego County to Cape Falcon, Oregon. However, meetings with the Pacific Fishery Management Council during the weekend only stressed how dire the situation was, forcing the CDFW to issue a total season ban on Sunday.

“Fishery managers have determined that there simply aren’t enough salmon in the ocean right now to comfortably get a return of adult salmon to reproduce for 2023,” explained Golden State Salmon Association president John McManus.

The 2023 fishing ban is the first such ban to be instituted since the 2008-2009 salmon fishing ban, when it was instituted due to a similar prolonged drought/dwindling salmon population situation.

While the ban, as well the return of normal water levels brought on by recent storms across the state, are expected to boost the population for next season, the immediate season-long fishing halt is also expected to have a large negative economic impact. Many charter fishing outfits, outdoors activity stores, and other similar industries are expected to see a large drop-off in customers and sales this year, with many depending on the added money to help them through tough economic times.

“We’re screwed, pure and simple,” noted Orrin Lambert, who runs private charter fishing trips, to the Globe on Monday. “We have seen less fish in recent years, but an outright ban is ridiculous. A stringent max number would have been better. I mean, we get fishermen from all over the world coming here to fish for salmon, and for some on the coasts, it is their livelihood. But the state just doesn’t care about us, and now we all have to suddenly scramble on how to make ends meet.”

However, the ban could also be soon extended well into 2024. A proposal by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to ban commercial and ocean salmon sport fishing until April of next year have been already been approved by the Council and is expected to be approved of as early as next month. The Council is to have one final public hearing in Santa Rosa on March 21st, followed by a final adoption of regulations in Foster City during the first week of April.

“If we are shot down for an entire year, that’s going to be the end for many of us,” added Lambert. “This whole situation is just so crazy. The state cares more about fish than it’s people. It’s not right.”

More decisions on salmon fishing in California over the next few years are expected soon.