Pacific Coast fishermen can start gearing up for what's expected to be the best salmon fishing season in years.
Federal fishery managers are forecasting robust populations of chinook and coho salmon off the Pacific coast and in California and Oregon rivers.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council on Wednesday approved several options for managing West Coast salmon fisheries this year. All of them give sport and commercial anglers plenty of time to fish later this spring and summer.
The regulatory council plans to hold public hearings in California, Oregon and Washington to get feedback on the alternative fishing plans over the next few weeks before choosing a final plan when it meets in Seattle in early April.
"It is great to see such a nice rebound for California salmon populations and the prospect of good fishing in 2012," council chairman Dan Wolford, said in a statement.
The number of chinook salmon returning to the Sacramento, Klamath and Rogue Rivers is forecast to be significantly higher than returns in recent years, according to federal biologists.
In the Klamath River, which runs through northern California and southern Oregon, fishery managers are projecting 1.6 million adult chinook this fall, four times more than last year and 15 times than in 2006.
Under the approved options, recreational salmon fishing could begin as early as mid-March in southern Oregon and April in California and run through the fall. Commercial fishing could start as early as April 1 and run through September.
Chinook and coho fisheries in northern Oregon and Washington are expected to be similar to last year. Options for fishing in those regions are line with what was allowed last year.
In 2008 and 2009, poor salmon returns led to the largest fishery closures on record. Salmon populations rebounded in 2010 and 2011, allowing for limited sport and commercial fishing.