SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Manager Austin Wilson talks to anglers a lot at Fisherman’s Warehouse in Sacramento. Many stop in on their way to the coast for a prized salmon, where fish have more fat than when they’re in rivers. Lately, he said the talk has involved a lot of sadness.
For only the second time in the state’s history, the salmon season is closed, which will also hurt business.
“We’re roughly two hours or so from the ocean, and we get a lot of business from the ocean guys,” Wilson said. “Probably more business than what we get from the river [salmon anglers].”
The Golden State Salmon Association reports the salmon fishing business is worth $1.4 billion to the state’s economy.
The decision to close the season by officials was partly due to low returning fish last year from the state’s biggest run in the Sacramento River, that saw just over 60,000 fish return — the third lowest number on record.
The news was not all bad as environmental scientist Emily Fisher, along with a host of other workers from the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, released salmon into the lower American River for the first time in years.
“We released about 830,000 fish into the lower American River at Sunrise boat launch,” Fisher said. “This is the first time in three years that we have been able to do an in-river release, because water conditions and water temperatures have been good and healthy for the fish.”
Due to the past three years of drought, Fisher said temperatures at times in The American River have soared above the safe level of 62 degrees for salmon eggs.
Officials are hoping the heavy snowpack will aid fish numbers.
“What we generally see as a general trend is it does kind of follow water operations,” Fisher said. “So, when water is better, salmon do better.”
Down river from the hatchery at Fisherman’s Warehouse, Wilson too hopes the snowpack will aid salmon numbers.
He said that even though the season closure will hurt business, he understands the reasons behind it.
“It kind of sucks to be honest,” Wilson said. “But then again, it’s for the reassurance we’re going to have a spawn and salmon returning in the future.”
Wilson said he and others will be fine fishing the state’s other species, but will certainly hope for better news next year.