Q: With the collapse of the salmon fishery in 2008, what was the reasoning for allowing people to fish for salmon in the Sacramento River? I saw numerous pictures of king salmon taken in the Sacramento River last year, but if there is a downfall in the species this makes no sense. These fish have been traveling for miles only to be snagged by some angler. They are full of eggs and are a future resource. If we can't fish in the ocean, how can we allow the river anglers to kill the spawners? When we are worried about the number of salmon returning, why does the Department of Fish & Game allow river fishing?
Todd F. and Bill G.
A: There are four distinct runs of Chinook salmon in the Central Valley: fall, winter, spring and late-fall. The fishery closure in 2008 was enacted to protect the Sacramento River fall run. The limited 2008 fishery opportunity was designed to target the late-fall run Chinook a different run of salmon after the majority of the fall run Chinook had moved upstream and out of the small area opened to fishing.
DFG's senior fisheries biologist Scott Barrow said late-fall run Chinook have had a stable status of 10,000 to 18,000 adult salmon for the last five years with a historic range of 1,000 to 40,000 adults since 1996. The California Fish and Game Commission approved the 2008 recreational fishery from Knights Landing to the Red Bluff diversion dam to target this stock, and it was successful with negligible impact on Sacramento River fall run Chinook.
Economically, the 2008 late-fall run fishery provided $1 million in benefits to the inland fishing communities during declared salmon disaster year (with its projected $255 million loss for the state).
The good news for 2009 is that 122,100 adult Sacramento River fall run Chinook are projected to spawn. This is more than double 2008's projection of 59,000. It also just meets the federal Salmon Fishery Management Plan conservation objective of 122,000 to 180,000 adult Sacramento River fall run Chinook returning.
For 2009, the Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended and the Commission approved a 10-day ocean fishery in northern California to target Klamath River fall run Chinook stocks. Also approved was another limited recreational fishery for late-fall run Chinook on the Sacramento from Knights Landing to the Red Bluff diversion dam, with a two-week delay in the opening date. Both of these limited area fisheries will have negligible impact on the Sacramento River fall run Chinook stock.
The rest of the Central Valley basin, which includes the rest of the Sacramento, Feather, American and San Joaquin rivers and all of their tributaries (including the Stanislaus, Merced and Tuolumne), will remain closed to salmon fishing in 2009.
Also new for 2009: catch-and-release fishing for salmon is now illegal when salmon fishing is closed in all Central Valley areas.
Q: I live right on the river and can fish from my backyard off my private dock. Do I need a fishing license? I heard if it is private property you do not need a license.
A: No, because it's not a matter of where you're standing; it's a matter of the waters you're fishing in. All rivers of the state are public waters, and all fish contained in those waters are public fish. Even if a stream or river runs through private property, all of the fish within those waters belong to the people of California, meaning a fishing license is required. The only places where you would not need a fishing license would be if you were fishing in a pond on private property that has no stream or creek water flowing into it or out of it. The water must be completely self-contained so that no fish can swim into it or swim out of it. The only other place where you can fish without a fishing license is on a public pier in the ocean.
Send questions to CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.