It was just a few years ago that commercial salmon fishing was in peril off the San Mateo County coast. The prices wholesalers offered was low, then the salmon population was too low for the season to get underway.
That has changed in the last couple of years through a combined effort of several organizations and the fishermen themselves. So as the commercial salmon season begins today (the sport season began in early April), fishermen will be heading out to sea to bring back the freshest catch — conditions permitting, of course.
The season runs until late September with a few breaks within and promises to be robust. However, that was not the case in 2008 and 2009 when the salmon population collapsed.
Salmon are a unique type of fish both in their unique coloring and flavor but also in their journey from breeding ground to the ocean. Human encroachment and predators have diminished the population but a new program releases juvenile salmon into the ocean from hatcheries created after dams and reservoirs were constructed. On Monday, a salmon release was celebrated at Pillar Point and juvenile salmon will become acclimated to the ocean in nets right off the pier before they are released into the ocean. The release will total about 420,000 fish this year. That effort, combined with solid conditions in both rivers and the Pacific Ocean, means there promises to be plenty to catch — and sell.
In recent years, Pillar Point fishermen also began selling directly from their boats which serves to give them some leverage with wholesalers while also allowing them to provide their bounty directly to the consumer. It is that transaction that is providing a draw to the harbor and creating a new tradition for the area and for families who enjoy seeing exactly where their food comes from.
The coast and the fishermen who work off it are a defining characteristic of our diverse and interesting area. Fishing is a commercial venture that is often fraught with peril whether it is fish supply, wholesale prices or nature itself. One thing that has remained consistent is demand. Salmon is popular because of its taste and health benefits, and it is encouraging that such effort and strong management has gone into keeping the industry alive and well.
So take a trip out to the coast soon but be sure to call the harbor master at 726-4382 to make sure there will be availability. You can buy a whole salmon off the boat and share, and even have it prepared to cook at the Princeton Seafood Company. Not only are you supporting local fishermen, you are supporting a local business and creating a memorable experience for both you and your loved ones.
And you’ll get some salmon out of the deal.