Bay Area salmon fishermen frustrated by California regulations, happy to begin 2017 season

Monday, July 31, 2017 06:41PM
There's finally good news for commercial fishermen in San Francisco, Bodega, and Half Moon bays.


SAN FRANCISCO - Good news, finally, for commercial salmon fisherman in San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, and Bodega Harbor. After a three-month delay, the season begins Tuesday.

RELATED: Fishing boat used to save California salmon population

Some boats have already left to be ready and in position by midnight.

Temper that good news with hard, cold, cash realities. Between the Dungeness crab disaster of two years ago and now this, the business is hurting.

"A sustainable fishery needs sustainable fishermen," Barry Day told ABC7 News.

Larry Collins finished the thought. "When I started in 1984 there were 4,700 salmon boats in California. Last year, 300."

Blame part of this year's salmon fishing woes on the lingering aftermath of California's drought.

The fish that survived are only now coming back.

California's Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to protect them.

Complicating matters, fishermen say the state agency made inaccurate predictions about where those salmon would return. As this season began, Fish and Wildlife opened a fishery in the Monterey area, but instead, they schooled off the Golden Gate. Sport fishing boats enjoyed a bounty.

Commercial boat owners looked on in envy. And disbelief. And frustration.

"If we hook ten fish a day, there are thousands of others that pass under our boats on their way to their natal migratory streams," said Don Marshall. At one hook per salmon, fishermen say plenty will get through.

Marshall adds that they need the money and water in the rivers to make their money. "If you leave a little water in the river, they come back as $100 dollar bills, $200 dollar bills. That's a lot of lettuce and a lot of almonds. Do you want the salad or the main course?"

Today, local fishermen received a promise of federal disaster relief from North Bay Congressman Jared Huffman. It's $20 million... money to be dispersed nationally, and not nearly enough for California. Huffman blames a non-responsive Congress. "They don't get that salmon matter. Dungeness matters. California matters. This Congress needs to understand that the fishing economy is worth supporting."

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