While the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a delay to the April season along the California coast, salmon anglers can look forward to robust seasons ahead. On April 10, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) recommended the following 2020 season dates for the state’s four management areas:
In the Klamath Management Zone, which is the area between the Oregon/California state line and Horse Mountain (40°05’00” N. latitude), the season is expected to open June 6 and continue through Aug. 9.
The Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas, which extend from Horse Mountain to Point Arena (38°57’30” N. latitude) and Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37°11’00” N. latitude), respectively, are expected to open on May 1 and continue through Nov. 8.
The Monterey area, between Pigeon Point and the U.S./Mexico border, is expected to open on May 1 and will continue through Oct. 4.
These seasons are the outcome of a months-long public process and reflect efforts to maximize recreational angling opportunity. They also consider the stock conservation objectives prescribed by the PFMC and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for 2020. Most notably, the persistent low abundance of Klamath River Fall Chinook was a concern and resulted in limited time on the water along the north coast.
In addition to the challenge that a constraining stock introduces into the annual season-setting process, managers and stakeholders set seasons in the face of the looming uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to many anglers hoping to access the fishery. If state or local government orders render access to the fishery impracticable when opening day arrives, the PFMC’s recommendations include a contingency provision. In the event the Monterey, San Francisco and Fort Bragg areas do not open on May 1 due to COVID-19 restrictions, an extension of the season would be allowed in the most time-constrained Klamath Management Zone.
When the season opens, the minimum size limit is 20 inches total length in all areas north of Pigeon Point, and 24 inches total length in the Monterey area. The daily bag limit is two Chinook salmon per day. No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. Retention of coho salmon (also known as silver salmon) is prohibited in all ocean fisheries off California.
Ocean salmon regulations in state waters automatically conform to federal regulations using the process described in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.95.
Public notification of any in-season change is made through the NMFS Ocean Salmon Hotline. Before engaging in any fishing activity for ocean salmon, please check one of the following resources for the most up-to-date information:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website, wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon
NMFS Ocean Salmon Hotline, (800) 662-9825
CDFW Ocean Salmon Hotline, (707) 576-3429