U.S. West Coast — California
Fishermen use hooks and lines, trailed behind their vessels at low speed, to catch salmon. The hooks are attached to lures that imitate the salmon’s food, such as herring and squid. Salmon are individually hooked and the lines are pulled in with a hydraulic winch. However, fishermen must haul in each salmon by hand for the last 20 to 60 feet (6 to 18 metres).
Trolling is a slow and selective method of harvesting salmon. Vessels average 40 feet (12 metres) in length and have a small crew who are often family members. Some captains even fish alone. Trollers usually fish offshore and can stay at sea for a week at a time, searching for areas where salmon school or feed. The most distinct feature of a salmon troller is its long poles secured to its mast by a crosstree. When fishing, the poles are spread apart forming a v-shape. The poles and four floats prevent the many fishing lines and lures from tangling while trolling at about three knots (5.6 km/h). Fish harvesters can have as many as 120 lures in the water at once, at depths of 10 to 360 feet (3 to 110 metres).
In California, trollers mostly target King Chinook salmon that are swimming back to their natal rivers, including the Sacramento, Klamath, Eel, Mattole, Mad and Swath Rivers.
Trolling has a low impact on marine habitats and a low rate of bycatch (unwanted fish). A number of measures address conservation in the salmon troll fishery. These include:
Seafood Watch - Good Alternative
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The Pacific Fisheries Management Council manages salmon in conjunction with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Pacific Salmon Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Visit the Council’s homepage on salmon management.
The Pacific Fisheries Management Council has a Salmon Technical Team that published stock assessments each season.
Troll-caught salmon are known for their high quality and freshness. The slow-paced and selective nature of trolling means that each salmon is individually hauled aboard by hand, cleaned, washed and either iced or frozen at sea. Troll-caught salmon also tend to have little or no scarring. For this reason, quality—rather than quantity—is the hallmark of troll-caught wild salmon.
Some trollers freeze their catch at sea. The salmon are dipped in a saltwater glaze and flash-frozen to a core temperature of -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit). The glaze prevents dehydration and locks in freshness. Freezing happens within only hours of the salmon being caught so that when the fish is thawed it has the quality of being freshly caught. That’s why fishermen refer to their catch as “fresh-frozen” and why frozen-at-sea salmon are highly sought after by sushi chefs.