Kings Tough to Come by on Smith, Chetco

Minda Lawrence and Grant Vallier, of Lakeview, Oregon, hold one of the two kings they caught to limit out Saturday on the Chetco River while fishing with guide Michael McGahan of Wild Rivers Fishing. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

After being open for just over a week, salmon fishing on both the Smith and Chetco has proven to be challenging. By the sound of things, the end is likely near for the run of late-fall kings on the coast. Only a couple small storms hit the coast and dropped enough rain to open the two rivers to fishing. While the fishing window was very small, that doesn’t necessarily mean the number of returning salmon was small. Even during the low water conditions, salmon were seen making their way upriver on all of our coastal streams. Typically, the season’s first big rains come in October, leaving us a good four to five-week window to fish. That hasn’t been the case the last few years as the salmon didn’t bother to wait for us or the strong flows to get them to their end destinations.

On the other hand, as we inch closer to December, it’s time to start thinking about winter steelhead. There are some half-pounders around, and the adults typically start showing in December. But don’t give up entirely on salmon just yet. The Smith, Chetco and even the Eel could each see another spurt or two of fresh kings move in on the next substantial river rise.

Weather ahead
According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, we’re looking pretty dry as we head into December. “There is a chance for some rain late in the weekend, but it doesn’t look like it will impact river flows,” said Zontos. “Below normal precipitation is predicted through Dec. 7.”

Sport crab fishing update
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sportfishing reports the crabbing is a little on the slow side out of Eureka. “We’re still getting limits but it’s getting a little tougher,” said Klassen. “We’ve only had one trip where we didn’t get full limits. On an overnight soak, we’re averaging between four to six keepers per pot. Longer soaks are definitely producing better results. There are a lot of small crabs that are chewing up the bait pretty quickly. Fresh bait, like tuna scraps or rockfish carcasses, will improve the number of keepers as well. The crabs are in great shape, but we aren’t seeing very many jumbos,” added Klassen. Big swells are in the forecast Tuesday night through Thursday morning. Seas could reach up to 20 feet on Wednesday.

Nov. 27 and 28 free fish days in Oregon
ODFW is waiving all fishing licensing requirements on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to experience fishing during the long holiday weekend. All fishing, crabbing and clamming in Oregon will be free for both Oregon residents and non-residents. No licenses, tags or endorsements are needed on those days, but all other fishing regulations apply. Visit www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2020/11_Nov/112020b.asp for more info.

Lower Trinity River adult Chinook salmon quota met
In a press release issued on Friday, the CDFW projected recreational anglers will have met the Lower Trinity River adult fall Chinook salmon quota below the Denny Road Bridge at Hawkins Bar for the 2020 season as of 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20. This triggers the closure of the adult Chinook salmon fishery on the Trinity River from the Denny Road Bridge at Hawkins Bar to the confluence with the Klamath River. This reach will remain open for harvest of jack (two-year-old) Chinook salmon (less than or equal to 23 inches). All adult Chinook salmon caught must be immediately released and reported on the angler’s report card. Adult Chinook salmon harvest is now closed in all sectors of the Klamath River basin. For more info, visit cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2020/11/20/lower-trinity-river-adult-chinook-salmon-quota-met/

The Rivers:
Other than the Smith and main stem Eel, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, and Van Duzen are closed to fishing. The main stem Eel is scheduled to close as of Thursday, Nov. 26. Be sure and call the low flow closure hotline, 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. CDFW will make information public by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as to whether any river will be open or closed to fishing. Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once the minimum flows are reached.

Smith
Since it opened to fishing on Nov. 14, salmon fishing has steadily gotten tougher. There are some fish around but most of the boats are having a hard time getting one per trip. Flows were hovering around 1,000 cfs on Wednesday and the river is low and clear. Roe under a float or back-bouncing the deeper holes are your best bet until we get some significant rainfall.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The Chetco opened to salmon fishing last Tuesday but quickly blew out reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “After cresting at 12,000 cfs, flows dropped below 5,000 cfs on Friday and were down to 2,200 cfs on Sunday. Overall, fishing has been slow, but a few nice kings are being caught. The best action is on the lower end. The Elk is now low and clear, while the Sixes is low but fishable. The Sixes has been fishing the best of the Southern Oregon rivers.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

North Coast Rivers Getting Some Much-Needed Rain

Ken Bergen of Sunny Brae landed a nice king salmon on Monday while drifting the Smith River. With more rain in the forecast, the Smith should be in fishable shape through the weekend. Submitted

Trying to follow along with last week’s rain predictions was similar to buying stocks on the day of the crash. What a rollercoaster ride! But when it was all said and done, the rain finally fell and filled the rivers to our north with some much-needed rain. The Humboldt rivers, including the Mad, Eel and Van Duzen, are all getting a good soaking this week as well.

Both the Smith and Chetco saw sizable rises Friday evening, and the Smith was opened to fishing first thing Saturday morning. The boats that took a chance did very well, with anglers landing lots of both bright and dark fish. A much bigger storm arrived on Saturday evening, putting the Smith on a vertical rise for most of Sunday. The river was high Monday morning but quickly dropped into fishable shape. Over on the Chetco, the storms pushed flows to over 8,000 cubic feet per second on Sunday afternoon. This is what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was hoping for as it waited on high, consistent flows prior to opening the river to fishing. With more rain in the forecast this week, ODFW finally lifted the low-flow closures beginning Tuesday morning.

Looking toward the weekend, the Smith is predicted to peak on Wednesday afternoon at 11 feet on the Jed Smith gauge. It will be on the drop Thursday and through the weekend, but should remain open to fishing. The Chetco will likely draw a crowd this week and into the weekend as the flows settle into the 2,000 cfs range. For current Smith River conditions, visit www.cdec.water.ca.gov/river/smithStages.html. For the Chetco, visit www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/river/station/flowplot/flowplot.cgi?lid=CHTO3.

Weather ahead
According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, we can expect to see more storms headed our way. “Following a pretty good system on Wednesday; we will dry out for a few days,” said Zontos. “Right now, Thursday through Sunday afternoon look dry but more rain could move in on Sunday night. More persistent rainfall is on tap next Monday through Wednesday. We may see some lighter rain on Thanksgiving, before additional storms begin on Friday and into the weekend. For the seven-day period ending next Tuesday, it’s possible the Smith basin could see 3 to 5 inches. On the lower Eel and Humboldt, we could see up to 3 inches while further up the Eel could see an inch or less. Above normal precipitation is possible from the 22nd through the end of the month.”

Weekend Marine Forecast
Northerly winds will return this weekend, but the ocean looks to be fishable for the sport crabbers. Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 5 to 10 knots with north waves 5 feet at 5 seconds and northwestern 4 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking better, with winds out of the north up to 5 knots and northwestern waves 5 feet at 15 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Sport crab fishing update
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing reports the crabbing is decent out of Eureka. “Due to the weather, we haven’t put a whole lot of time in yet,” said Klassen. “We fished a few days last week, and we averaged around 10 keepers per trap out near 100 feet of water. The crabs are in great shape, with nice hard shells. We’re not seeing very many jumbos, maybe one or two per trap. From what I’m hearing, both sides outside of the entrance are fishing about the same. The weather looks fishable Thursday through the weekend,” Klassen added. Crabbing inside Humboldt Bay has been spotty according to Klassen. “The quality has been good, but guys are only getting a couple per trip.”

The Rivers:
Other than the Smith, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen, were closed as of Tuesday. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline, 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. CDFW will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once minimum flows are reached.

Mad River
Predicted to peak at 490 cfs early Thursday morning before dropping through the weekend. Minimum flows are 200 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

Main Eel
Forecasted to reach 685 cfs early Thursday evening. Minimum flows are 350 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

Van Duzen
Predicted to peak at 420 cfs on Thursday morning. Minimum flows are 150 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

South Fork Eel
Flows are predicted to peak at 490 cfs early Thursday morning Minimum flows for 340 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

Smith River
The Smith peaked at over 11,500 cfs Sunday afternoon on the Jed Smith gauge, but was fishable by Monday. Quite a few boats were on the water, spread out from the forks to the outfitters. Fishing was reportedly decent, with most boats getting a chance at least one adult. Quite a few jacks, along with some darker fish, were supposedly caught. Flows hit nearly 12,000 cfs on Wednesday afternoon, but will then be on the drop through Sunday.

Chetco River
The Chetco opened on Tuesday, but stormy, windy weather and high flows resulted in poor fishing reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “The river was blown out by 10 a.m. on the opener. Before it opened, the Chetco was full of salmon. ODFW easily met its goal for broodstock collection for the hatchery. Better conditions are expected this weekend.”

Elk/Sixes
According to Martin, the Elk and Sixes have been high but mostly fishable. “Lots of salmon have returned to Elk River Hatchery. After Wednesday’s rain, both rivers should be in prime shape just before the weekend,” added Martin.

Kenny Priest (he/him) operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Storms downgraded – Smith and Chetco openers in doubt

What was once a promising looking week of rain has taken a dramatic turn towards dry. Both the Smith and Chetco were expected to receive substantial rises on Saturday, which would have potentially opened both to fishing. As of Thursday morning, those predictions did an about face. Storms that had their sights set on the North Coast are now trending further north, leaving us with some glancing blows.  

As of Thursday morning, the Smith is predicted to peak at just over 680 cfs on Saturday on the Jed Smith gauge. Prior predictions had flows reaching 3,000 cfs on Saturday afternoon. Minimum flows required to open the river to fishing are 600 cfs. Whether there’s enough flows to warrant opening will be a game-time decision made by the CDFW. To check on river openings and closures, call the low-flow hotline at 822-3164. To monitor the Smith River forecasts, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=CREC1.

Big, late-fall kings could be making their way into the coastal rivers this weekend. The Smith and Chetco should see flows increase, but it may not be enough to open them to fishing. Pictured is Jeremy Baker of Santa Cruz with a nice king taken on the Chetco in 2018. Photo courtesy of Mike Stratman/Redwood Coast Fishing

The Chetco is in the same boat as the Smith. Flows are predicted to be in the 600 to 700 cfs range for the weekend, and opening the river to fishing is up in the air. Looking at the long-range prediction, there is a decent rise predicted to start next Tuesday. The way things are going, I wouldn’t bet any money on it. For Chetco River forecasts, visit https://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/river/station/flowplot/flowplot.cgi?lid=CHTO3.

According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the North Coast will see pulses of rain Thursday through Sunday. “The rain will arrive late Thursday night and Friday morning, with showers tapering off on Friday night,” said Zontos. “The first half of next week looks to be wet as well before letting up late next week.”

The Mad, Eel and Van Duzen rivers are all expected to rise slightly this weekend, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough to open them to fishing. Call the low-flow hotline (822-3164) before you head out to determine if your favorite river is open or closed to fishing.

Weekend Marine Forecast
After a few decent days, rough seas are predicted by Friday. Winds will turn southerly Thursday, and will continue to pick up Friday. Hazardous sea conditions will also develop later Friday and Saturday with the arrival of a larger northwest swell. Saturday’s forecast is calling for south winds 5 to 10 knots with northwestern waves 13 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking better, with winds out of the south 10 to 15 knots and northwestern waves 9 feet at 13 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Sport Dungeness crab update
Conditions made for some tough crabbing over the weekend. Boats weren’t able to head offshore until Monday to set their gear due to extremely rough seas. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing was pulling pots on Tuesday morning for clients and reported a solid 10-keeper per pot average. Inside Humboldt Bay and some of the local estuaries reported some decent fishing with a few keepers per trap along with plenty of small ones. The keeper crabs are full and clean.

The Rivers:
Smith
Fishing at the mouth and the Sand Hole was dead over the weekend, according to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. “Up river, every hole is full of salmon but they are mostly dark,” said Carson. “Once the rain hits this weekend, those fish will be moving quickly to the spawning grounds. The hope is that there’s lots of new ones in the ocean that will come in with the increased flows.”

Chetco
“The Chetco is full of salmon, with fish spread throughout the river, and should fish well if it opens this weekend,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing in Brookings. “It could blow out by Sunday if the forecast is correct. Anything above 4,000 cfs this time of year will be muddy. Chetco kings will still bite in high flows on the softer edges of the long flats, like the Willow Run below Loeb Park and Moffett Rock. ODFW will make a decision to open based on the arrival of the storm, probably on Thursday or Friday.”

New Zealand Mud Snails found in the Mad River
In mid-October, a large density of New Zealand Mud Snails was discovered near the Annie Mary Bridge by the Blue Lake Tribes Environmental Dept. The tiny aquatic snails can reach, on average, up to 4-6 mm long in the western United States. Upon reaching maturity at 3 mm, females can produce 230 new females per year; estimates indicate that one snail and its offspring can result in over 2.7 billion snails within 4 years according to CDFW. They may consume up to half of the food resources in a stream or river and have been linked to reduced populations of aquatic insects, including mayflies, caddisflies, chironomids, and other insects important to trout and salmon.

They are found on a wide variety of substrates and vegetation in fresh and brackish lakes, rivers, streams, and estuaries. Dense populations become the dominant macroinvertebrate through displacing and outcompeting native species; some North American streams have reached densities over ¾ million individuals/m2.

Once in the river, getting rid of them is impossible, but there are ways to minimize the spread. This is extremely important as we approach winter steelhead season with anglers moving from river to river. Many AIS (aquatic invasive species) are difficult, if not impossible, to see in the environment and can be unknowingly transported to new locations on equipment. Therefore, decontamination is necessary to prevent the spread of AIS between different waterbody locations. To achieve this, equipment should be decontaminated following the protocols outlined in this document. All equipment that comes into contact with water during field activities and watercraft should be decontaminated using one or more of the protocols listed below.

General procedures to prevent the spread of AIS:
• If decontamination is not done on site, transport contaminated equipment in sealed plastic bags and keep separate from clean gear.
• Gear may be dedicated for a specific field site but should be left on site and be cleaned when moved off site.
• Sets of field gear may be rotated in and out of field per cleaning cycle.
• When practical, begin work upstream and work downstream. This avoids transporting AIS to non-infested upstream areas.

Equipment Decontamination/Disinfection Methods
Option 1: Standard Decontamination Freeze + Saltwater Immersion + Dry. This option consists of three parts, as freezing alone may not kill some organisms
• Scrub gear before leaving field with a stiff-bristled brush to remove all debris. Thoroughly brush small crevices such as boot laces, seams, net corners, etc.
• Bag gear for transport from field to office.
• Place gear and bag in a freezer below 32°F for a minimum of eight hours.
• Thaw gear and bag.
• Immerse gear and bag in 5-10% saltwater solution for 10 minutes.
• Rinse gear.
• Hang gear to dry.
For more information, visit
https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/Species/NZmudsnail

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Rough Seas Predicted for Saturday’s Sport Crab Opener

Randy Barthman of Westhaven holds up a tasty Dungeness Crab from 2019 while aboard the Reel Steel out of Eureka. The 2020 sport Dungeness crab opener is slated for this Sat., Nov. 7. Photo courtesy of MackGraphics Humboldt

The always-popular recreational Dungeness crab season is expected to open statewide this Saturday, Nov. 7. The season’s first traps can legally be deployed at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning. Anglers, weather permitting, will get their first peek into the number of crabs on the sea floor as the quality and domoic acid testing has already begun. The early round of quality testing took place Oct. 27, showing the crabs are at a 25 percent meat recovery. Typically, the meat content will be around 20 percent this time of year. So it looks like the crabs are in great shape but the volume could be low. The domoic acid levels for this year shouldn’t be an issue either. Tests conducted in Eureka, Trinidad and Crescent City have all come back clean.

The season runs from Saturday, Nov. 7 through July 30, 2021. The minimum size is 5 ¾ inches measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines). The limit is 10 and a valid California sport fishing license is required. For a complete list of recreational Dungeness crab fishing regulations, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=150181&inline As of this writing, CDFW had not issued any information to the public regarding delay of the upcoming sport season.

Weekend Marine Forecast
Ocean conditions don’t look good for Saturday’s crab opener. As of Wednesday, gale force northerlies and steep, hazardous seas will be possible for the weekend. Saturday’s forecast is calling for northern winds of 10 to 15 knots with northwestern waves 13 feet at 12 seconds. Sunday is looking slightly worse, with winds out of the northwest 10 to 20 knots and northwestern waves 13 feet at 12 seconds and northwest 3 feet at 18 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Weather ahead
The North Coast is finally going to see some rain this week, and it looks like the storm door may be opening.  According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the first system will hit on Thursday. “The first system will move in Thursday and stick around into Friday,” said Zontos. “The next chance will be Sunday, but it looks like that system won’t be as wet. Combined systems could dump as much as 1 and 1/2 inches in the Smith basin. The Mad may see a 1/2 to 1 inch, and the Eel may get up to a 1/2 inch. Next week looks to be wet as well, with opportunities for rain every few days. Above normal rainfall is predicted for the week of Nov. 10 through the 16th.”

Weekend Tides – Humboldt Bay
• Sat., Nov. 7: high: 5:14 a.m. and 3:20 p.m.; low: 9:43 a.m. and 10:50 p.m.
• Sun., Nov. 8: high: 6:13 a.m. and 4:40 p.m.; low: 11:09 a.m. and 11:51 p.m.

Top crabbing locations
If you’re planning on heading offshore out of Eureka and leaving pots overnight, your best bet is to start setting gear in 100 to 150 feet of water. Historically, crabs tend to be in deeper water at the beginning of the season and move in toward the beach later in the year. If you’re soaking for just a few hours and don’t have the equipment to go deep, dropping pots just outside the entrance in 50 feet is a good option.

If you don’t have means to head offshore, you can still find plenty of crab. One of the top spots to soak a few rings is Crab Park, located at the end of Cannibal Island Road in Loleta. There’s access to launch a kayak or canoe in the estuary of the Eel River. You can also launch your boat at Pedrazzini Park at the end of Cock Robin Island Road and make your way up the estuary towards the mouth of the Eel.

Humboldt Bay also has a few good locations to catch some crab. Out in front of the PG&E plant is a good spot as well as the flat off of the South Jetty parking lot. Another top location is either side of the channel leading into the South Bay. Up north, inside Trinidad Harbor is another popular spot among the locals. You can launch your small boat, kayak or canoe right off the beach and head out to Prisoner Rock, where the bottom is sandy and 40 to 50-ft deep. Launching here requires a relatively calm ocean, which doesn’t look to be the case for the weekend.

The Oceans:
Eureka
Calmer seas late last week allowed the boats to head offshore for the opener of the all-depths fishery. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing made a few trips to the deeper water and reported some good fishing. He said, “We found some really nice quality lings and some variety we typically don’t catch in shallower water.” The all-depth fishery opened Nov. 1 and will run through the end of the year north of Point Arena. Bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply. According to Klassen, the weekend forecast doesn’t look good for the sport crab opener. “We may have to wait until next week to set our gear,” said Klassen.

Riley Schneider, center, along with brother Parker and dad Travis were all smiles after Riley landed his first-ever lingcod on his own while fishing near Cape Mendocino last Thursday. Photo courtesy of Tim Petrusha

Brookings
Lingcod and rockfish action has been good out of Brookings reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Lings have moved into shallow water to spawn. Big schools of rockfish also are close to shore. Pacific halibut season closed Oct. 31. Rough weather will sideline boaters this week. Swells could reach 16 feet.”

The Rivers:
River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to the Smith’s mouth. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2021. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 822-3164.

Smith
The rain coming towards the end of this week probably won’t open the river to fishing, but it should bring some fish in reports Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. “With the increased flows, the mouth and the Sand Hole should be good,” said Carson. The river is currently closed to fishing above the mouth of Rowdy Creek due to low flows.

Chetco
Salmon have spread throughout the Chetco River and ODFW face a dilemma of when to open the river according to Martin. “Unlike most low-water years, when salmon stack up at Social Security Bar, this year they have already headed upriver,” said Martin. “Biologists said back-to-back storms this week and next could lead to an opener, but they want to avoid opening up and having fish stuck in the deeper holes. Fishing is fair in the estuary as schools of salmon continue to move into the river. A couple of salmon close to 45 pounds were netted Monday as ODFW collected broodstock for the hatchery. 

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

California Halibut Still Biting

Tyler Gillespie, left, along with Russell Boham scored limits of California halibut last week while fishing in Humboldt Bay. Photo courtesy of Tyler Gillespie

The lack of rain isn’t doing the run of late-fall kings any favors but it is keeping the California halibut fishery alive. Without an influx of freshwater from the rains and with enough food to keep them happy, there’s no reason for the halibut to leave. Though the effort has dwindled, there are still enough halibut in the bay to make for a great day. The few boats still targeting the halibut are finding success using artificial baits, with swimbaits being the top producer. Most of the live bait left the bay toward the end of September but enough halibut have hung around to make it worth your while. And the smaller tide swings we’ve had lately also plays a role, as the halibut seem to bite better when there’s less water moving in and out. If you haven’t had your fill of halibut, there are still plenty left to catch. The north channel above the bridge, near the Coast Guard station and South Bay have been some of the best spots. The recreational fishery for California halibut is open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is three fish, with a minimum size limit of 22 inches total length.

More dry weather ahead
We’re looking at dry weather through this week, as the high pressure is staying put, according to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “There are some weak systems in the forecast for next Tuesday and Thursday, but they don’t look like they’ll do much for the river levels,” Zontos added.

The Oceans:
Eureka
After suffering through some rough seas for nearly two weeks, boats should be back on the water beginning on Thursday. Thursday’s forecast is calling for 5 knots of wind and 2-foot seas, so I’d expect quite a few boats will be headed south to Cape Mendocino. Offshore conditions look good through at least Monday. The all-depth fishery is slated to open Nov. 1 and run through the end of the year north of Point Arena. There are no special gear requirements, though unless otherwise specified, regulations require anglers to use not more than two hooks and one line to target groundfish. All other season dates, bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply.

Brookings
Fishing has been good for rockfish and lingcod along the near-shore reefs reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Lots of bait has rockfish feeding near the surface. Pacific halibut season remains open through Oct. 31, with 800 pounds of quota remaining. Anglers will have a chance to get offshore Thursday and Friday.”

The Rivers:
River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to the Smith’s mouth. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2021. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 822-3164.

Willow Creek weir counts

For the trapping week of Oct 15 through Oct. 21, 4 jacks were trapped at the weir. To date, 42 jacks have been trapped compared to 738 for the entire 2019 trapping season. This past week, 17 adult Chinook were trapped, bringing the season total to 83. In 2019, 1,009 total adult Chinook were trapped. Fourteen adult Coho were trapped last week, bringing the season total to 29. In 2019, 139 adult Coho were trapped. The steelhead numbers remained steady compared to the previous week. A total of 49 adult steelhead were trapped. The previous week 58 were trapped. For the season, 184 have been counted compared to 703 for the entire 2019 season.

Lower Klamath
Very few salmon, if any, are entering the mouth of the Klamath. Most are in the upper reaches or are in the Trinity. There are a few adult steelhead along with some half-pounders making their way through the lower river.

Trinity
“I’m starting to hear of salmon in the Douglas City area, so it sounds like there’s fish spread throughout the river,” reports Junction City Store owner Frank Chapman. “We’re not seeing a whole lot of steelhead right now. One boat drifted the upper end on Monday and only got a couple small ones. We really need some rain to put both salmon and steelhead on the move.”

Smith
According to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, there are a few salmon being caught at the mouth. “Guys tossing Cleos are catching a few each day,” said Carson. “There are quite a few jacks being caught and I’ve seen adults up to 30 pounds landed. Upriver, most of the deeper holes are full of salmon. We just need some rain in order to open the river to fishing,” added Carson. The river is currently closed to fishing above the mouth of Rowdy Creek due to low flows.

Chetco
After a couple of weeks of good fishing, the Chetco estuary has slowed according to Martin. “Very few salmon are now being caught, as the fish staging near the mouth have moved upriver,” said Martin. “Most of the deeper holes on the Chetco are full of salmon, but fishing is closed above the estuary until significant falls rains.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

Salmon and Anglers Waiting on Rain

McKinleyville resident Alyssa Cardoza landed this nice king salmon last weekend while trolling the Chetco River estuary. With very little rain forecasted for the rest of the month, the Chetco estuary is the best bet for fresh kings. Photo courtesy of Curt Wilson

In an all too familiar pattern, October is again looking like it will be void of substantial rainfall. Aside from a few weak systems, it seems we won’t see enough rain to put a rise into any of our North Coast rivers or open them up to fishing anytime soon. This is nothing short of torture for coastal salmon anglers chomping at the bit to drift the Smith, Chetco or Eel rivers. What makes it even more painful are the memories that keep popping up on social media showing big green rivers, very large salmon and even bigger smiles.

Humboldt and Del Norte counties have been dry since the weekend of Oct. 11, when just enough rain fell to put the Smith and Chetco on a very slight rise. That got some fish out of the estuary and into the lower sections of the river, but it wasn’t enough to open the rivers to fishing.

There hasn’t been any rain to speak of since then. And there isn’t much on the horizon. “There is a weak front moving into the area on Friday night and into Saturday morning,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “It won’t do much to our river levels. We’re looking at maybe 1/10 of an inch in the Smith basin and less in Humboldt. Another weak system is forecasted for the 27th, but that is looking light as well. A ridge of high pressure has been either blocking or weakening systems that are trying to move onshore and forcing storms to track far to our north, keeping them from sagging into the Northern end of the state. The models are showing below normal rainfall at least through the end of the month.”

Weekend marine forecast
Northerly winds and steep, hazardous seas are expected through Thursday as strong high pressure builds offshore. Gale force winds will be likely through Thursday. As of Wednesday afternoon, Friday’s forecast is calling for winds out of the N 10 to 20 knots with NW waves 9 feet at 9 seconds. Saturday, winds will be out of the N 5 to 15 knots with N waves 8 feet at 9 seconds. Sunday the winds will be lighter, coming from the N 5 to 10 knots with N waves 5 feet at 8 seconds and NW 4 feet at 15 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Dungeness crab testing continues
The domoic acid testing in Dungeness crab is nearing completion on the California coast. Only Avilla Beach in Morrow Bay and Manchester Beach in Fort Bragg are awaiting results. The only test to date which exceeded action levels was in Duxbury Reef, and the two tests following have both come up clean. All other ports, including Eureka, Crescent City, and Trinidad have all tested clean. Crab quality testing is scheduled for the end of the month. For test results, visit https://rb.gy/b0xydv.

The Oceans:
Eureka
The rough weather has kept the boats tied up all week, and it doesn’t look like this weekend will be much better. The all-depth fishery is slated to open Nov. 1 and run through the end of the year north of Point Arena. There are no special gear requirements, though unless otherwise specified, regulations require anglers to use not more than two hooks and one line to target groundfish. All other season dates, bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply.

Shelter Cove
The rockfish season is still plugging along out of the Cove according to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. “We spent a couple days of Bear Harbor and one day at the Old Man this week,” said Mitchell. “The bite was pretty good, we had limits every day in just a few hours effort. The lingcod grade wasn’t great, but the rockfish grade was excellent.”

Brookings
Lingcod and rockfish are biting well at the inshore reefs, but rough water from strong northwest winds have kept anglers from going offshore for Pacific halibut reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Crabbing has closed for the season off the Oregon Coast. The marine forecast improves over the weekend, but strong winds are expected through Friday.”

River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth, and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2021.The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

Upper Trinity quota update
According to CDFW, the Upper Trinity quota for adult king salmon will be met as of 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25. This triggers the closure of the adult Chinook salmon fishery downstream of the Old Lewiston Bridge to the State Route 299 West bridge at Cedar Flat. No closure date has been provided for the Lower Trinity. The Upper Klamath, which closed to the retention of adult kings on Oct. 18, and Upper Trinity will remain open for harvest of jack (2-year-old) Chinook salmon (less than or equal to 23 inches). All adult Chinook salmon caught must be immediately released and reported on an angler’s North Coast Salmon Report Card.

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath
Fishing has been tough on the lower Klamath, as not many fall kings are making their way through the lower river. There are some steelhead around, and the occasional Coho. The late-run kings should be making their way into the river soon, especially if we see some rain. Boat pressure has been light. The daily bag limit is two jack Chinook 23-inches or less and two hatchery steelhead.

Trinity
We started to see some fresh salmon move into the Junction City area last week, reports Junction City Store owner Frank Chapman. “Right now, there’s a mix of older fall fish and some really bright ones,” said Chapman. “Quite a few steelhead showed up as well, so the fishing has really picked up in our area. Roe under a bobber has been really good for salmon and will also catch steelhead.”

Chetco
Salmon fishing has been fair on the Chetco estuary, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.  “One or two big fish are being caught a day, along with a decent number of jacks, but boat traffic has increased and overall catch rates are a fish for every fifth or sixth rod,” said Martin. “The outgoing tide has been best. Lots of salmon moved upriver with the rain in early October, while salmon also are being caught and released by anglers finding for rockfish in the ocean.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service operating out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on FacebookInstagramYouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Chetco estuary best bet for kings

If you’re looking for fresh kings with the potential for a big one, the Chetco estuary is the place to be. Salmon have been staging in the tidewater since the latter part of September. And they’ll continue to do so until ample rain allows them to make their way upriver. Following last Saturday’s rain, which bumped the flows from under 100 cfs to nearly 500 cfs, some salmon were able to navigate out of the tidewater. But there should be plenty more heading in from the salt to take their place. “The biggest king caught last week was around 45 pounds, with several near 30 and an impressive number of jacks,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “After fishing well for a week, the fishing slowed over the weekend as rain allowed many of the salmon schooling there to shoot upriver. Catch rates went from two to three fish a rod last week — mostly jacks — to just a handful of fish overall on Sunday and Monday. One adult salmon a day, wild or hatchery, may be kept per day on the Chetco, with an annual limit of two wild fish. Anglers must “rack their rods” once an adult is kept. The river remains closed above mile 2.2 because of low flows.

Eric Woyce of San Francisco holds a 25-pound king salmon caught Oct. 7 while fishing the Chetco River estuary with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He was trolling a herring behind a Fish Flash flasher. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

Over on the Smith River, the tidewater fishing hasn’t been as good. But that may not be for a lack of fish. The rain that fell on Saturday pushed the flows up to 600 cfs, which is plenty for the fish to move out of the estuary and into the heart of the river. According to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, there aren’t many fish staging in the estuary right now. “There’s been one or two fish caught per day,” said Carson. “There’s been a few boats trolling sardines and anchovies as well as bank anglers tossing Kastmasters and Cleos. The Sand Hole has some fish in it but the seals were making their life miserable,” added Carson.

Weekend marine forecast
Gales are expected over the outer waters through Thursday evening, with small craft advisory conditions over the nearshore waters. Winds will begin to decrease on Friday. As of Wednesday afternoon, Friday’s forecast is calling for winds out of the N 10 to 15 knots with NW waves 7 feet at 8 seconds. Saturday, winds will be out of the N 10 to 15 knots with N waves 5 feet at 7 seconds. Sunday the winds will be light, coming from the N 5 to 10 knots with NW waves 5 feet at 8 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

The Oceans:
Eureka
There hasn’t been much offshore activity out of Eureka since last week. Last Thursday and Friday were fishable days, but the ocean has been rough since then. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing made trips to Cape Mendocino where he reports the fishing was excellent. “Last Thursday the fishing was really good, with limits of rockfish and plenty of lingcod for the customers,” said Klassen. “Friday was a little tougher for whatever reason. We ended up with all the rockfish we needed, but were a few lingcod shy of limits.” The offshore weather looks a little iffy for the rest of the week, but it may be fishable over the weekend.

Shelter Cove
Rockfish continues to be the target species out of the Cove. Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing has been jumping around looking for the hot spots. “We fished Gorda a few days and it was wide-open with a wide variety of rockfish and lings to 25-pounds,” said Mitchell. “We also spent a couple days around the Hat and Old Man where it was considerably slower than the northern waters. We ended up scratching up limits both days. There was also one salmon landed and a few silvers as well with very little effort.”

Dave Martz of Roseville landed a nice lingcod while fishing out of Shelter Cove earlier this week. Photo courtesy of Jake Mitchell, Sea Hawk Sport Fishing

Brookings
Halibut fishing continues to be good when boats can get three to four miles offshore to 200 to 220 feet of water according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Enough fish remain on the quota for the season likely to last through Oct. 31. Rockfish and lingcod are biting in shallow water. Crab season closes at the end of the day Thursday until Nov. 30.”

Upper Klamath/Trinity quota update
According to Dan Troxel, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River Project, the Upper Klamath quota for adult king salmon will be met as of 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18. This triggers the closure of the adult Chinook salmon fishery on the main stem of the Klamath River from 3,500 feet downstream of the Iron Gate Dam to the State Route 96 bridge at Weitchpec. 

The Upper Trinity follows a week later, with no adult retention beginning Oct. 25. No closure date has been provided for the Lower Trinity. The Upper Klamath and Upper Trinity will remain open for harvest of jack (two-year-old) Chinook salmon (less than or equal to 23 inches). All adult Chinook salmon caught must be immediately released and reported on an angler’s North Coast Salmon Report Card. For more information, visit www.cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2020/10/13/upper-klamath-river-adult-chinook-salmon-quota-met.

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath
The salmon action has slowed on the lower Klamath but there are still some fish to be had. The few boats still fishing are finding most of their success near Blue Creek. There isn’t much pressure this time of the year, but the fishing can be good as some of the late-run kings start to stage in front of the bigger creeks. The daily bag limit is two jack Chinook 23-inches or smaller and two hatchery steelhead.

Trinity
According to Junction City Store owner Frank Chapman, the section from Junction City to Del Loma is seeing a good number of kings. “There’s lots of jacks and a few adults around,” said Chapman. “Most of the adults I’ve seen are older but there are a few fresh ones mixed in. There are some steelhead around too, but not a ton.” Reportedly, salmon are in the lower river as well, but the bulk of the salmon are being stopped behind the CDFW weir at Kimtu.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service operating out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on FacebookInstagramYouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Weekend Rain Could Kickstart Coastal King Season

As the fall salmon season begins to wind down on the Klamath River, salmon anglers will no doubt turn their attention to the late-fall coastal salmon runs. The Smith, Chetco and Eel rivers will take center stage for the next couple months. That is if we get some timely rain. The last few years, consistently targeting kings on any of these rivers was virtually impossible. The rains that used to kick off the runs in September and October failed to materialize. By the time the rains arrived in late November and December, the salmon had no choice but to swim full speed toward spawning grounds. Historically, storms begin to line up offshore in early fall, bringing with them the first flow increases of the year. This signaled the first wave of salmon to move out of the estuaries and begin their migration up river. Then the next storm arrives and we repeat the cycle, pushing the older fish further upriver and bringing in new fish from the salt. It’s a salmon conga line, if you will, resulting in a river with salmon from top to bottom — ideal conditions for fishermen. That’s the way it once was and what we’re all hoping for again.

Scott Richardson of Cloverdale caught this king salmon while fishing the Smith River last fall. With rain in the forecast, some of the coastal rivers could open to fishing this weekend, including the Smith. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

The salmon are staging in the estuaries of the rain-dependent coastal rivers and the one wildcard is the weather. But a change in our weather pattern is forthcoming. “It looks like we’ll start to see some light rain on Thursday evening,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The rain will continue through Friday, then we’ll see some heavier precipitation on Saturday. In the Smith basin, we could see 2 to 3 inches over the course of this storm, with 3/4 to an inch and a half falling on Saturday. It looks like showers could linger through Sunday. The storm timeline will be similar in the Eel basin but with lower totals,” she said. “The upper Eel may see up to one inch, with the lower section getting 1 to 2 inches. Additional rain is predicted for later in the week but right now it doesn’t look significant.” Looking ahead, the National Weather Service forecasts a chance for above normal precipitation for the week of Oct. 13-19.

For anglers looking to hit the rivers this weekend, the Smith may open to fishing either Saturday or Sunday. Call the low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers at (707) 822-3164 before you make any plans.

As of Wednesday morning, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen, are closed. Open river sections include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth, the main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth. The department makes updated closure information available by recorded message by 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It’s the responsibility of anglers to call the number designated in the sport fishing regulations booklet and check the status of any river.

Dungeness crab testing underway
According to Christy Juhasz, an Environmental Scientist with CDFW Marine Region, the Domoic Acid test results for Trinidad should be posted this week. “The Eureka samples came into the California Dept. of Public Health (CDPH) lab late last week for the remaining Humboldt County tests,” said Juhasz. “Samples from other North Coast sites of PA/Manchester Beach, Fort Bragg/Usal and Crescent City are expected to come in early next week and that should conclude remaining northern CA sites. It takes about one to one and a half weeks for test results to be posted.” For more information regarding recreational Dungeness crab fishing regulations and other crab species, visit the DFG Marine Region website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Invertebrates/Crabs. For health advisories, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories.

Weekend marine forecast
Light winds and low seas will last through Friday. As a cold front approaches, winds will become southerly on Friday into Saturday. A northwest swell will result in building seas later in the weekend. As of Wednesday afternoon, Friday’s forecast is calling for winds out of the S up to 5 knots with NW swells 3 feet at 10 seconds. Saturday winds will be out of the W 10 to 15 knots with SW swells 4 feet at 5 seconds and NW 6 feet at 16 seconds. Sunday the winds will be from the N 5 to 10 knots, with NW swells 9 feet at 13 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Low-Energy Geophysical Survey occurring offshore of Eureka
Cardinal Point Captains, Inc. will be conducting a low-energy geophysical survey offshore of Eureka from Nov. 1-11. The proposed survey area includes both state waters and federal waters and operations will be conducted 24-hrs a day. M/V Surveyor will be limited in her ability to maneuver during operations and other vessels should maintain a distance of at least 500 meters from the operations, and contact the ship via VHF-FM channel 16. For more information or any potential conflicts, please contact Pasquale De Rosa at (714) 595-1689.

The Oceans:
Eureka
The offshore season is starting to wind down out of Eureka. There are still a couple charters running trips, but not every day. Most of the boats have been targeting rockfish at Cape Mendocino. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing was there on Tuesday and reports the fish were snapping pretty good. “The conditions were just about perfect,” said Klassen. “We caught a nice variety of rockfish, and there were some really nice lingcod around. Conditions look good through the rest of the week before we see some bigger swells over the weekend. The tuna water is still within reach – it’s about 25 miles to 61-degree water and 35 miles to 65-degree water. The water just on the north of Trinidad looks really good, I’m sure a few boats will check it out.”

The California halibut bite is still going strong in the bay. There isn’t much bait around, but the boats out there every day are catching limits or close to it tossing swim baits. There’s been quite a few caught recently in the south bay near King Salmon.

Shelter Cove
With salmon and tuna not being a viable option, Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing has been spending his days chasing rockfish. “We fished one day at the Ranch House, a few days around the Hat, and a few days up at Rodgers Break,” said Mitchell. “The story has been pretty much the same everywhere. The rockfish have been biting really well, but the lingcod have been a little more stubborn. We’ve gotten limits just about every day, but we really have to move around a lot. Once we do find them, we beat that spot up.”

Brookings
Fishing for Pacific halibut remains good out of Brookings according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Fishing is fair for lingcod and good for rockfish. Crabbing also has been good. Rough weather is expected for the weekend. Tuna were caught last week, but choppy seas kept boats in close this week.”

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath
Salmon fishing was tough over the weekend. The fish that were in the lower river either moved up or were off the bite. There were some nice adults still being caught this week however, so fresh kings are still making their way in. The rain coming Saturday will likely bring in some new fish, but they’ll be moving quickly as it’s getting late. There are some silvers in the lower river along with a few steelhead. Boat pressure has tailed off. As a reminder, the lower river quota has been met and salmon over 23 inches must be released.

Lower Chetco/Rogue
Big numbers of salmon are staging in the Chetco estuary, waiting for rain to head upriver reports Martin. “That could happen this weekend, as flows are expected to spike Saturday and Sunday,” said Martin. “Lots of jacks and adults to 35 pounds are being caught on plug-cut herring and anchovies fished behind Fish Flash flashers. The limit is one adult king a day, and many anglers are getting their fish early each day. The Rogue Bay also is still fishing well, with kings and Coho in the mix. Expect this weekend’s rain to slow fishing there.”

Mellisa and Ed Brusven of Fallon, Nev., hold a pair of 30-plus-pound king salmon caught Oct. 1 at the mouth of the Chetco River while fishing with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. They were trolling herring and Fish Flash flashers. Photo courtesy of Andy Martin

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service operating out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on FacebookInstagramYouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Klamath Seeing a Solid Return of Kings

Cupertino resident Jim Zamlich holds a nice king salmon caught on a recent outing on the lower Klamath River. Salmon fishing on the Klamath this fall has been better than predicted, and is still going strong. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest

Since just after Labor Day weekend, the Klamath River has been king salmon central. The rivers been plugged with jacks (2-year old males), along with some hefty adults. The run started a little late this year, likely due to unusually high water temperatures. Smoke-filled skies, shielding the water from the bright sun, finally began cooling the water just enough and the salmon came pouring in. For the last three weeks, the fishing has been nothing short of spectacular. This number of fish in the river is good news, especially considering how dire numbers of adult salmon predicted to return the last few years were. Following a complete salmon fishing closure in 2017, the Klamath and Trinity rivers have been teetering between collapse and rebuilding. In 2018, CDFW predicted 59,733 would return but only 31,838 adult fall-run salmon made it back. In 2019, a return of approximately 87,000 was predicted. Those predictions never materialized, and only 37,270 fall-run kings returned. The CDFW forecasted a modest 48,274 natural area spawning salmon would return this fall. On an average year, the Klamath basin would see close to 122,000 adult kings return.

So while it’s easy to speculate this year’s returns will be above forecasted numbers due to increased harvest rates, it’s way too early to celebrate. We won’t know the size of the run until sometime early next year but it sure feels good to see the river full of fish again. And the CDFW creel surveys are providing some solid proof. For the week ending Sept. 23, 1,162 jacks were harvested and another 656 were released. During the same week, 1,319 adult kings (larger than 23 inches) were released. The lower Klamath adult salmon quota was met on Sept. 14, which is why the adults have to be released. You can still keep two jacks per angler. Anglers may still fish for adult Chinook salmon in other sections of the Klamath Basin, including the main stem of the Klamath River above Weitchpec and the entire Trinity River until their quotas are met. Keep track of the Klamath and Trinity river quotas by calling (800) 564-6479.

Weekend marine forecast
A long period northwesterly swell will gradually decay through Thursday, with a couple of other NW swell trains moving through the waters late in the week and the weekend. As of Wednesday afternoon, Friday’s forecast is calling for winds out of the N 5 to 10 knots with N swells 5 feet at 5 seconds and W 6 feet at 13 seconds. Saturday looks similar, with N winds 5 to 15 knots and N swells 6 feet at 6 seconds and W 6 feet at 14 seconds. Sunday the winds will be from the N 5 to 15 knots, with N swells 7 feet at 7 seconds and W 5 feet at 12 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

CDFW, Commission proposing changes to Sport crabbing
The Fish and Game Commission and the Department of Fish and Wildlife are proposing regulatory changes to begin addressing entanglement risk posed by the recreational rock and Dungeness crab fishery in California for species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Between 2014 and 2019, three humpback whale entanglements were attributed to the recreational crab fishery in California. The fishing gear responsible for entanglement could not be identified in 44 percent of all confirmed entanglements between 1982 and 2017, and the recreational crab fishery may be responsible in some of these instances.

Proposed changes:

1) Require all recreational crab traps be marked with a main buoy that is at least 5 inches in diameter and 11 inches in length, and that a red marker buoy that is 3 inches in diameter and 5 inches in length be attached no more than 3 feet from the main buoy.

2) Establish a maximum service interval of 9 days, weather conditions at sea permitting, and would prohibit abandoned traps.

3) Establish an individual trap limit of 10 traps. The current 60-trap limit for commercial passenger fishing vessels targeting Dungeness crab will apply to those targeting any crab. The proposed regulation would allow an individual to service up to 10 additional traps if they possess written permission from the operator(s) of the additional traps.

4) Provide authority for the Director of the CDFW to delay the fishery opener or close the season early in ocean waters of the state when the concentrations of humpback, blue whales, or Pacific leatherback sea turtles exceed thresholds.

5) CCR would establish a program requiring those individuals who fish for crabs with recreational crab traps to purchase an annual validation for $2.25.

For more information, visit www.nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=183154&inline.

The Oceans:
Eureka
Boats were finally able to get offshore on Tuesday following last week’s big swells. But things didn’t go quite as planned according to Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. “We ran south to the Cape based on a calm forecast,” said Klassen. “When we got down there, the south wind was blowing 20 knots, which made it extremely uncomfortable. We fished for a little more than an hour before we called it. The fish weren’t really in a biting mood either, but we managed to put a few on board. The forecast for Wednesday looks to be much better. The California halibut bite in the bay is still going, and it seems like there’s enough fish around to make a day of it. The anchovies have moved out, but there’s some perch and smelt around. The tides are favorable this week, which really helps. We bounced around to a few different spots on Monday and got a couple in each. We didn’t find any large concentrations of fish, but I’m sure they are there.”

The warm tuna water is about 35 miles from the entrance, and there’s a few boats that are going to take a look on Wednesday.

Shelter Cove
We tried tuna one day last week and got blanked,” said Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. “The water and conditions were perfect, but the fish just didn’t seem to be there. Between the dozen boats that ran from the Cove, there were only seven fish landed. The warm water is still there, sitting about 15 miles offshore. We did a couple of rockfish trips and it was decent. We got limits, but we really had to work for them. I mainly fished the Old Man. I didn’t hear of anybody trying for salmon this week.”

Capt. Rye Phillips of Brookings Fishing Charters holds a Pacific halibut caught Sept. 29 by Joseph Cogin. The fish was just under 60 inches and weighed nearly 100 pounds. It was caught on herring and squid in 220 feet of water off of Brookings. Photo courtesy of Brookings Fishing Charters

Brookings
Halibut, albacore, lingcod, rockfish and crab are providing the best variety of the season out of Brookings right now according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Through last week, around 1,200 pounds remains on the Pacific halibut quota for Brookings and Gold Beach,” said Martin. “Fish are consistently being caught in 200 to 250 feet of water straight out of the harbor. They are averaging 20 pounds, with fish close to 100 pounds. Lingcod fishing also is good as bigger fish move into shallow water.”

Low Flow River Closures begin Oct. 1
North Coast rivers that are regulated by low flow closures, including the Eel, Mad, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen will begin angling restrictions on October 1 through January 31, except for the Mad River, which went into effect September 1. The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public by a telephone recorded message updated, as necessary, no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any stream will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. NOTE: The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River will be closed until January 1, 2021

Areas subject to low flow closures:

Mad River: The main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to Cowan Creek. Minimum flow: 200 cfs at the gauging station at the Highway 299 bridge.

The main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road with the Eel River to the South Fork Eel River. Minimum flow: 350 cfs at the gauging station near Scotia.

The South Fork of the Eel River downstream from Rattlesnake Creek and the Middle Fork Eel River downstream from the Bar Creek. Minimum flow: 340 cfs at the gauging station at Miranda.

Van Duzen River: The main stem Van Duzen River from its junction with the Eel River to the end of Golden Gate Drive near Bridgeville (approximately 4,000 feet upstream of Little Golden Gate Bridge. Minimum flow: 150 cfs at the gauging station near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.

Mattole River: The main stem of the Mattole River from the mouth to Honeydew Creek. Minimum flow: 320 cfs at the gauging station at Petrolia.

Redwood Creek: The main stem of Redwood Creek from the mouth to its confluence with Bond Creek. Minimum flow: 300 cfs at the gauging station near the Highway 101 bridge.

Smith River: The main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its confluence with Patrick Creek; the South Fork Smith River from the mouth upstream approximately 1000 ft to the County Road (George Tyron) bridge and Craigs Creek to its confluence with Jones Creek; and the North Fork Smith River from the mouth to its confluence with Stony Creek. Minimum flow: 600 cfs at the Jedediah Smith State Park gauging station.

Chetco Chinook rule change effective Oct. 1
New regulations go into effect on the Chetco River starting Oct. 1 for Chinook salmon fishing. Anglers can only keep one adult Chinook salmon daily, whether hatchery or wild. Fishermen may not continue angling and must “rack their rod” after keeping an adult Chinook on any day during the period between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. The limit is two adult WILD Chinook salmon total during the period between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. Fishermen can keep five jack salmon per day, wild or hatchery, unless they have kept an adult Chinook, in which case they must rack their rod. Angling is closed upstream of River Mile 2.2 until the arrival of fall rains and increased river flows.

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath
Fishing got a little tougher this past week as the mouth has reportedly been sanding over. Boats are still catching several fish per day, both adults and jacks. There’s more steelhead starting to show, as well as a few Coho. When and if the mouth opens up, we should see another push of fresh kings. As a reminder, the lower river quota has been met and salmon over 23 inches must be released. Your adult Chinook releases need to be recorded on your North Coast Salmon Report Card as normal, and please do not remove adult fish from the water when releasing. The bag limit is two salmon less than or equal to 23 inches and two hatchery steelhead.

Lower Chetco/Rogue
“Salmon are staging at the mouth of the Chetco, with lots of jacks and a few adults,” said Martin. “Around 30 percent of the fish being caught are hatchery. Fishing will improve over the next several weeks. The outgoing tide has been best. The river closes above river mile 2.2 on Oct. 1 until the arrival of fall rains and increased river flows. Kings and Coho also are being caught on the Rogue Bay, while fishing for summer steelhead is good near Agness,” added Martin.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service operating out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Eureka tuna bite grinds to a halt

Jared Amalong from Sacramento landed a nice albacore tuna on a recent trip out of Shelter Cove. Winds and big swells are in the forecast for the weekend, which will keep the boats from targeting tuna until at least mid-next week. Photo courtesy of Jake Mitchell/Sea Hawk Sport Fishing

After some good days on the tuna grounds, the Eureka bite went belly up on Tuesday. The water temps and color are good, but the water looks like it’s breaking up, leaving smaller pockets of warm water holding fish. Finding those pockets of fish did not come easy on Tuesday. Reportedly there were a couple fish landed by the small group of boats fishing 20 miles straight west of the entrance. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing was one of the boats on the water and reports a tough bite. “The water temps were good, right around 62 degrees,” said Klassen. “The color was off and on blue, but there wasn’t a lot of life. The water is breaking up now, so we’ll have to see what it looks like after the winds and big swells move through. There’s better water to our southwest off of Cape Mendocino now, so hopefully the south winds will keep pushing that closer to us. The forecast doesn’t look good through the weekend, but mid next week things may begin to settle back down. Hopefully we’ll get another shot at the tuna,” added Klassen.

Weekend marine forecast
After a run of calm ocean conditions, swells will begin to build Wednesday night and stick around through the weekend. Friday’s forecast is calling for winds out of the SW 5 to 10 knots with NW swells 10 feet at 14 seconds and SW 2 feet at 18 seconds. Saturday’s forecast is for NW winds 5 to 15 knots and NW swells 8 feet at 11 seconds. Sunday the winds will be from the N 15 to 25 knots, with N swells 10 feet at 8 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Large swells predicted for Thursday
The first significant swell of the season is expected to arrive Wednesday night and into Thursday. This could potentially create hazardous conditions on the beaches and may increase the potential for shoaling. Flat summer beach profiles may see an increase in wave run-up onto the beaches. Swells on Thursday are predicted to be out of the west 15 feet at 15 seconds.  For the most recent for forecast, visit https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/marine/

Upper Klamath, Trinity salmon quota update
The upper Klamath and Trinity quotas don’t have closure dates as of yet according to Dan Troxel, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River Project. “Typically, the quotas are based off harvest timing, meaning a set amount of days following the closure of the lower Klamath to retention of adult salmon,” said Troxel. “But since we’re not seeing many fish pass the weir in Willow Creek, we may push the dates out a little further. As for the Lower Trinity, we usually used the Hoopa recreational creel as a guide, but since they are not doing a creel this season and the reservation has been closed, I suspect that won’t be much of a concern this year. In short, no closures are on the close horizon, but we’ll be assessing that later this week or early next.”

Willow Creek weir has new location
According to Mary Claire Kier, an Environmental Scientist on the Trinity River, the Willow Creek weir has been installed at its new location. The weir now sits at the upstream-most end of the Kimtu Beach river bar. “We needed to move our location of the past 18 years due to a change in land ownership,” said Kier. “After many attempts to find a suitable site, we think we might have landed in one that will work. There are very few locations that meet the requirements.” The public is welcome to visit the operation once the National Forests in California open back up. If interested, email maryclaire.kier@wildlife.ca.gov.

The Oceans:
Eureka

Taking advantage of some nice conditions, Tony Sepulveda of Shellback Sport Fishing spent some time at Cape Mendocino this past week and reports some really good fishing. “It’s always good fishing down there, but this was particularly easy,” said Sepulveda.  “Lots of lingcod moving into shallow water with fish to 28 pounds coming in less than 80-feet of water. The California halibut bite inside the bay was a little tougher, but we ended up finding some really nice fish between 15 and 22 pounds. I’m sure the big tides and the bait vanishing from the bay had a lot to do with the slowdown. It’s not over for the year, look for this one to bounce right back.”

Shelter Cove
Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing spent all of last week hunting for tuna. He said, “It was pretty good early in the week and we were getting fish as close as 12 miles due south of the Cove. The water really warmed up everywhere and pushed all the way into the beach. As a result, the fishing slowed quite a bit towards the end of the week. The grade was really good earlier in the week, but we started to see some peanuts (small tuna) mixed in on Thursday and Friday. For the week, we averaged about 17 albies per trip. We’re going to try for Tuna on Wednesday, then it looks like the weather will keep us off the water for a few days.”

Crescent City
A few boats ran for tuna on Tuesday, but the fishing was slow. Most of the fleet worked the area north of Crescent City roughly 22 to 25 miles out. One Bluefin was reportedly caught. Overall, scores were in the 5 to 6 fish per boat range. According to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, the rockfish bite is still really good “Just about all the boats are coming back with limits of rockfish as well as lingcod,” said Carson. “The reefs have been the best producers, including the one right out front of the harbor.”

Brookings
Halibut fishing remains good out of Brookings according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Through Sept. 18, nearly 20-percent of the 8,000-pound quota for the Brookings and Gold Beach area remains, with 1,435 pounds left. The halibut are in 200 to 230 feet of water and have been biting herring and squid combos. Lingcod and rockfish action also has been good.”

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath
Salmon fishing remains good on the Klamath, with a mix of fresh jacks and adults entering the river. The cold water that came from the Trinity cooled the water and provided some really good fishing over the weekend. Most of the boats scored limits of jacks, or real close to it. Some steelhead are starting to move in as well as some silvers. As a reminder, the lower river quota has been met and salmon over 23 inches must be released. You can keep two salmon (jacks) 23 inches and under and two hatchery steelhead.

Chetco/Rogue/Coos
Salmon fishing is picking up on the Chetco estuary, with lots of jacks and a few adults to 20 pounds reports Martin. “Some boats are getting two or more jacks per rod, with a few adults mixed in,” said Martin. “A few jacks also have arrived in the tidewater area, and more likely will move up after this week’s rain. Salmon fishing is fair on the Rogue Bay, and slow on the Coos and Umpqua.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com