There is great news for fishermen and salmon lovers. This year’s projected salmon count in watersheds around the bay is higher than it has been in years. Last year only about 115,000 salmon were counted swimming from the bay up the Sacramento River. This year the projected count is over 800,000.
Two years ago, the count was at 39,500. But because salmon often have a specific reproductive cycle, this wasn’t necessarily a frightening thing. Salmon hatch upstream in rivers — like the Sacramento River system—and spend up to three years “smolting” or growing into adulthood. They then swim to the San Francisco Bay where they will continue to grow for a few more years, until they swim back upstream, against the currents in the same river system they were born in, to “spawn” or lay eggs. And then they die.
Experts guessed that last year’s salmon counts would be as high as 330,000. But the count was severely short — by almost a third. That didn’t mean there were less salmon. Instead it meant that the salmon were waiting for ideal conditions for breeding, which the rain this year provided. And because the salmon had time to grow, fisherman should expect to be catching large fish.
Some, like Mike Hudson, a fisherman with the Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen’s Association, argue that salmon population won’t maintain this upward surge as long as water is being diverted from the delta for various reasons and if pollution persists in the Sacramento River system.
Regardless, everyone from fisherman to cooks will be happy this summer if the salmon population continues to rebound. Fishing season opens on April 7.