Numbers don’t add up — Lower Klamath quota reached quickly

Fishing the North Coast 8_25 photo

Hydesville resident Steve Murrish landed this nice Chinook salmon while fishing the Klamath River estuary on Monday. On Tuesday, the fall-run adult salmon quota was met on the lower Klamath river, but the river will remain open to fishing. Anglers will have to release any Chinook salmon over 22 inches caught between the mouth and the 96 Bridge at Weitchpec. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service.

No sooner did the newly released water from Iron Gate Dam hit the mouth of the Klamath River, controversial news broke from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. On Tuesday, the CDFW determined the 555 quota of adult fall-run Chinook on the lower Klamath River was met by anglers fishing from the 96 Bridge at Weitchpec to the mouth.

The spit quota of 167 fish, which is a subset of the 555 lower river quota, was projected to be met at sunset Monday night, leaving roughly 388 adults to be caught from the estuary to the 96 Bridge. But when the dust settled and the numbers were evaluated by CDFW, the spit anglers landed their 167, and then some. According to Sara Borok, Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River Project, the fish really started to come in on Sunday and Monday. “When the extra water hit and the mouth broke open, more fish came in and were caught at the spit than we anticipated,” Borok said. An email was sent out from CDFW last Friday stating the spit fishery would not close any sooner than Monday, Aug. 22 due to the quota no being reached. Once the fish started coming in big numbers, it was too late to get a press release out to the public to close it. This is the part of the process that needs to change.

The exact numbers haven’t been released yet, but it’s safe to guess almost the entire lower river quota was taken at the spit. Though not official, I’ve heard reports that less than 15 adult salmon were harvested from the estuary to the 96 Bridge since Aug. 15. Anglers who were looking forward to keeping a few adult king salmon in the coming weeks will not get that opportunity now. In my opinion, the whole fishery has been mismanaged and I don’t think CDFW would argue that point. Not having fish counters sitting at the spit everyday during fishing hours was a mistake.

What this means is all adult kings caught down river from the 96 Bridge to the estuary must be released from here on out. You can however, keep two jack salmon under 22 inches, per day.
From a business perspective, the mismanagement of proper fish counting will ultimately hurt gas stations, hotels, restaurants, tackle shops, local fishing guides and any other businesses that rely on the Klamath fall fishery.

Fishing guides who have clients on the books through September will likely be hit the hardest. “We’ll definitely take a financial hit from this,” said guide Mike Coopman. “I’ll be spending a lot of time on the phone talking with clients and letting them know the situation. Some of them are OK with catch and release, but I’m sure I’ll lose some clients this year.”

Guide Mike Stratman reiterated, saying, “It will definitely hurt my business. I’ll likely lose some of the customers who were on the books, and the chance of getting new customers is not very good now. What happened with the quota is gross negligence on the part of CDFW. We knew the fishing wasn’t going to be great, but at least we had the potential of catching and keeping a few adults. You don’t need very many to have a great experience, but now there’s no hope of that.”

Guide Alan Borges, who fishes the Klamath exclusively this time of year said, “It’s totally wrong that the quota was all taken at the spit and the guides and private boaters who fish upriver have to suffer the consequences because the fish can’t be counted in a timely manner. A lot of money will be lost by the businesses in the Klamath area because of anglers who would have come to fish and spend money in the community won’t now because they can’t keep an adult Chinook.”

The Klamath River above the confluence with the Trinity River will remain open until 189 adult Chinook are caught in this area. The quota on the Trinity River is 183 adult Chinook from the confluence with the Klamath River up to Cedar Flat, and 183 adult Chinook from Cedar Flat up to the Old Lewiston Bridge. The Trinity will open to fall fishing on Sept. 1. Anglers may keep track of the status of open and closed sections of the Klamath and Trinity rivers by calling 800-564-6479.

Additional water coming from Trinity Reservoir
According to a press release issued on Wednesday, the Bureau of Reclamation will release additional water from Trinity Reservoir for the lower Klamath River to help protect returning adult fall run Chinook salmon from a disease outbreak and mortality. Supplemental flows from Lewiston Dam will begin August 25 and extend into late September.

Releases from Lewiston Dam will be adjusted to target 2,800 cfs in the lower Klamath River starting August 25. To meet this target, releases from Lewiston Dam will increase from 450 cfs up to 1,300 cfs before dropping to 450 cfs in late September. Additional information will be provided if higher peak flows are needed in early-to-mid-September as part of the preventive action.

Flows from Lewiston could be raised as high as 3,500 cfs for up to five days if real-time monitoring information suggests a need for additional supplemental flows as an emergency response.

Over the next several weeks, releases could increase as quickly as 250 cfs every two hours, and flow reductions could drop as quickly as 100 cfs every four hours. The public is urged to take all necessary precautions on or near the river while flows are high. For additional information, please contact Paul Zedonis, Supervisory Natural Resource Specialist, at 530-276-2047.

Marine forecast
It looks like we’ll finally be seeing some much-improved ocean conditions. Friday’s forecast for coastal waters from Point St. George to Cape Mendocino out 10 nautical miles is calling for SW winds 5 to 15 knots with 5 foot swells at 7 seconds out of the NW. The forecast for Saturday is calling for NW winds up to 5 knots, with swells to 5 feet at 9 seconds. Sunday is looking really good, with N winds forecasted up to 5 knots and NW waves 4 feet at 12 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit You can also call the National Weather Service at 707-443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 707-443-6484.

Ocean sport salmon and halibut to reopen Sept. 1
The final session of the sport salmon season from Horse Mt. north to the CA/OR border will open on Thursday, Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 5. For more information about the seasons and regulations, visit

The Pacific halibut season will also re-open on Sept. 1 and will remain open through Oct. 31, or until the quota is reached. Through August, the CDFW has projected 21,638 net pounds have been harvested towards a quota of 29,640 pounds. For up-to-date harvest tracking information, visit

The Oceans:
For the first time in years, the docks at Woodley Island are actually quiet. With salmon and halibut closed until next Thursday, it’s been Cape Mendocino or nothing for the Eureka fleet. Captain Tim Klassen of the Reel Steel Sport Fishing was amongst the boats that fished south last weekend and said, “The fishing is really good as usual. There’s some really quality ling cod around, we landed four over 20 pounds on Sunday.”

There’s been talk of tuna out of Eureka, but according to Klassen, the water is still about 70 miles southwest of Eureka. “With all the fog, it’s been tough to get a good terrafin shot. We’ll need some southerly wind and calm seas before it’s doable.”

The rockfish have bit really well this week reports Curt Wilson of Wind Rose Charters.  He said, “It’s been pretty easy to get your 10 rockfish, with a nice mix of blacks and blues. There are also some nice lings around if you can get on a good drift.”

Shelter Cove
The salmon bite has been pretty slow reports Captain Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. “We got limits last Wednesday and Thursday, but it’s been slow since and the ones that have been caught have been real scattered. I’ve gotten limits of rockfish and lings every day since then and was able to make the run north Friday and Saturday. Also some boats got some decent albacore scores over the weekend and I will be running for them this weekend if the weather holds. As of Tuesday, the water was 55 miles out and a little south on the 43-line.”

Crescent City
The rock fishing is still going strong, only the weather has slowed it down reports Leonard Carter of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. He said, “When the boats have been able to get out, it’s been good. Same story as it’s been all season. The only other happening now is all the Thresher Sharks that are in the area. Guys are targeting them off of South Beach and some have been hooked while jigging for rockfish,” Carter added.

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath
A few more half-pounders have started to show up this week, but the fishing remains slow overall. The water is still on the warm side, which is keeping the kings from making their way through the estuary. A handful of hatchery steelhead are still being caught.

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