HORNBROOK, Calif. (AP) -- The Klamath Tribes are getting a share of the record run of chinook salmon coming into Northern California's Klamath River.
Tribal members held a ceremony of thanks Thursday at the Iron Gate fish hatchery just south of the Oregon-California border and picked up dozens of fresh salmon that they packed in coolers and took home to their families.
Tribal vice chairman Don Gentry said the tribe has been getting frozen fish for years, but the fresh fish represented a step closer to being able to harvest salmon themselves from traditional fishing spots -- something they have not been able to do for a century.
"Today was just a prayer of thanks for the fish," he said afterwards. "I did mention it was bittersweet, knowing we don't have fish back home, and we should be doing ceremonies back home, as we once did."
Predictions call for a record return of 380,000 salmon to Klamath River and its tributaries this year. So far 3,789 have made it to the hatchery after evading tribal and sports fishermen, compared to 416 at this time last year.
The tribes are signatories to an agreement calling for removal of four dams from the Klamath River to restore salmon returns to the upper Klamath Basin.
Though the agreement has stalled in Congress, Wade Sinnen of California Department of Fish and Game said it contains a provision calling for the tribes to get an interim fishery to harvest salmon from the river before the dams are removed. That fishery would depend on approved by the state fish and game commission.
Copyright 2012 The AP.