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Originally published Friday, April 6, 2012 at 3:40 PM

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Pacific fishermen prepare for big salmon season

Federal regulators will allow plenty of opportunity for fishermen to troll for Pacific Coast salmon as biologists forecast a dramatic rebound in populations of the prized fish.

The Associated Press

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SAN FRANCISCO —

Federal regulators will allow plenty of opportunity for fishermen to troll for Pacific Coast salmon as biologists forecast a dramatic rebound in populations of the prized fish.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council on Thursday approved salmon seasons that provide ample fishing time for commercial and recreational anglers in California, Oregon and Washington over the next six months.

The council, which regulates Pacific Coast fisheries, chose the final set of regulations from three options approved last month.

The panel's decision comes as biologists project big increases in salmon populations from the Sacramento, Klamath and Rogue rivers. Their forecast for chinook salmon returning to the Klamath this fall is about four times greater than average and the highest on record since 1985.

That marks a sharp turnaround from just a few years ago when steep declines in salmon stocks led to the largest fishery closures on record in 2008 and 2009.

"It's about as big of a rebound as we could have hoped for, when you're talking about record or near-record forecasts coming from unprecedented closures," Chuck Tracy, the council's salmon staff officer, told the Bay Area News Group (http://bit.ly/I2l1zp). "It's all the way from the bottom to the top in three years."

Biologists attribute the comeback to wet winters and favorable ocean conditions over the past few years that have allowed salmon to thrive and spawn in large numbers.

Many fishermen also link the rebound in Sacramento River salmon to restrictions on water pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which the migratory fish must traverse to get to and from the ocean.

"We're getting more salmon back, in part, because restrictions on siphoning water out of the delta are working," said Golden Gate Salmon Association President Victor Gonella. "It's crucial that enough water is held back to make sure this year's salmon run thrives."

Under the approved regulations, most of the Pacific Coast will be open to commercial and sport fishing from May to September, with some areas open to recreational anglers in April.

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