After years of going begging, Northern California is awash in salmon. Charter boats are booked up to two weeks in advance, and anglers claim to be bagging their limits before noon. The smell of gurry and the glimmer of scales are back at San Francisco’s Pier 45, where commercial fishermen unload their catch.
The return is also a boon to eager chefs, diners and fishmongers, who saw California salmon disappear from dinner plates when the fishery was closed for the 2008 and 2009 seasons and declared an endangered species.
“We’re making a living for the first time in a while,” said Larry Collins, who explained that he and his fellow commercial anglers barely survived when the fishery shut down.
Cooks are busy in the kitchen: “These fish are so fresh and delicious,” said Pam Mazzola, chef at San Francisco’s Prospect, whose summer menu features local wild Chinook salmon with nasturtium pesto.
The 2010 fishing season lasted only 10 days, but a year later, 114,741 fish came in from the sea to spawn in the Sacramento River – nearly triple the number from two years before. And this year, fishery scientists expect 820,000 Chinook to swim up the Sacramento River and even more to head to the Klamath.