California fishermen are reporting one of the best salmon fishing seasons in years, thanks to heavy rain and snow that ended the state's historic drought. It's a sharp reversal for chinook salmon, also known as king salmon, an iconic species that helps sustain many Pacific Coast fishing communities, per the AP. Commercial salmon catches have surpassed official preseason forecasts by about 50%, says a marine scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Harvests have been particularly strong in Morro Bay, Monterey, and San Francisco, but weaker along California's northern coast. The salmon rebound comes after three years of extremely low catches due to poor ocean conditions and California's five-year drought, which drained the state's rivers and reservoirs.
Over the past few years, regulators imposed severe fishing restrictions, and officials declared federal fishery disasters in 2018 to assist fishing communities in California, Oregon, and Washington. This year's adult salmon are the first class to benefit from record California rainfall in early 2017, making it easier for juvenile chinook to migrate to the Pacific, where they grow to full size. Chinook salmon are also being helped by improved ocean conditions producing an abundance of anchovies, krill, and other feed. The bountiful harvest has driven down wild salmon prices for consumers to $15 to $20 per pound, instead of $30 to $35 per pound in recent years; fishermen are making up for the difference by catching more fish. "For the salmon fishermen who've been dealing with disaster for so long, this is an incredible boon to their livelihoods," says Noah Oppenheim, head of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. (The news isn't as good in Alaska.)