Lengthy ocean season ahead for salmon anglers

If the Pacific Fishery Management Council is right, we could see plenty of salmon like the one pictured here with Dee Lehman of Eureka swimming off our coast this year. The recreational ocean salmon season is tentatively scheduled to open on May 25, and will last into early September. The final decision will be come from the PFMC meeting being held in April. Photo courtesy Tim Klassen/Reel Steel Sport Fishing

Encouraged by the number of salmon swimming off our coast and predicted to return to the rivers, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) on Tuesday released three preliminary alternatives for managing salmon fisheries from the OR/CA border to Horse Mountain (which includes Humboldt County). According to the PFMC, 274,222 Klamath and 379,632 Sacramento fall Chinook are said to be swimming in the ocean, which will provide increased opportunities over the past two seasons. The three alternatives currently on the table:

May 25-September 8, or May 25-September 4, or May 25-September 2
All three scenarios are the same, two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size.

From Horse Mountain to Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, the three alternatives are:

April 13 to Oct. 31; or April 13 to Oct. 31; or April 13 to May 31 and June 22 to Sept. 30
All three scenarios are the same, two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size.

To view all of the salmon management alternatives, visit https://www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/T2_Sport_DCouncil-Adopted_031219_Final.pdf

Next up, the PFMC will hold three public hearings to receive comments on the proposed ocean salmon fishery management alternatives adopted by the Council. Final regulatory measures will be adopted by the Salmon Technical Team during the April 9-16 meeting in Rohnert Park. More information is available at www.pcouncil.org.

Klamath/Trinity fall salmon allocations
Not only will we have a lengthy recreational ocean salmon season, sport anglers will have more Klamath/Trinity River fall Chinook to harvest this year. The recreational allocations, or quotas, as proposed by the PFMC will range from 5,230 to 7,899 adult fall Chinook in 2019 across the three alternatives. Last year’s basin-wide quota was 3,490 adults.

These numbers are not final, next step is public review with a decision coming from the PFMC meeting on April 9-16. Once the quota is agreed upon, 50 percent will go to the lower Klamath basin, 17 percent to the upper basin, and 33 percent will be allocated for the Trinity River. When adopted, these quotas will go into effect August 15, 2019.

The weather ahead
“We’re looking at a stretch of dry weather for the next several days,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The next chance of rain will be Thursday and showers could linger into Saturday morning. Right now, it doesn’t look like it will be enough to put any of the rivers on the rise, but it may stop them from receding. It’s likely we’ll see less than an inch,” said Zontos.

CDFW and CAC holding a state fish hatchery meeting
The California Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout (CAC) will hold a one-day meeting on Wednesday, March 20 from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Fisheries Branch Office, 830 S Street in Sacramento. The meeting will provide an overview of hatchery operations and management. Iron Gate, Trinity, and Mad River Hatchery will be included in the discussions. Some of the issues include treatment and disposition of excess fish returning to hatcheries, trucking and release scheduling, internal maintenance, and adding carcasses back to the river for nutrients. Local anglers will be able to listen in at the CDFW Fortuna Office – NCWIC Conference Room, 1455 Sandy Prairie Court, Suite J, Fortuna. For the complete agenda, visit https://fisheries.legislature.ca.gov/sites/fisheries.legislature.ca.gov/files/2019-03-20%20CAC%20Agenda.pdf

Public comment wanted for Trout regulations
In a press release issued last Friday, the CDFW is seeking input on the proposed new statewide changes for trout fishing regulations. A series of statewide meetings will be held focusing on:

  • Objectives of the new regulation framework and species management goals
  • Parameters of the regulation standardization and consolidation process
  • Review of specific proposed changes to regulations

For a complete list of meetings and dates, visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2019/03/08/public-comment-sought-on-statewide-regulation-changes-of-trout-season/. Meetings are in-person only and no conference line or webcast will be available.

Brookings ocean report
Lingcod fishing has been very good out of Brookings according to Andy Martin with Brookings Fishing Charters. “Friday and Saturday produced limits for most of the charter boats,” said Martin. “Big swells have kept boats at the docks since Sunday, but Thursday through Sunday are looking good. The lings are as close as Chetco Point, with the best fishing from Twin Rocks north.”

The Rivers:
Fresh steelhead continue to show up in the Chetco, while spawned out fish are making their way back to the ocean according to Martin. “There are still enough fish around to have a good day, although catch rates are now dropping. The river still has plenty of water, so fishing could be decent through the end of the month,” added Martin.

Steelhead fishing remains good on the Rogue, with lots of hatchery fish still showing up according to Martin. “The jet boats anchoring in the lower river are getting three to six keepers a day. At least three spring salmon were caught last week.”

Smith River
The last few days, fishing has been tough on the Smith reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. He said, “If you can hook a couple a day, you’re doing pretty good. Conditions are tough right now, with low and clear water. There are some nice fish around, and quite a few smaller two-year-olds. We’re still seeing mostly fresh fish push through, the downers are likely waiting for the next big storm.”

Eel River (main stem)
Running at 15,000 cfs on Wednesday, it will need a week or more of dry weather before it drops into fishable shape.

Eel River (South Fork)
As of Wednesday, flows were 2,700 cfs on the Miranda gauge and dropping. It should be in good shape by the weekend in the Benbow area, and should fish in the lower stretches early next week. It should fish all the way to the forks by late next week or earlier.

Van Duzen
Hovering around 630 cfs, and still a little milky green as of Wednesday, it should be in good shape by the weekend.

Mad River
The Mad remains high and off color, and there hasn’t been a whole lot of fishing activity. A few bright fish were caught at the hatchery last week, so there’s still fresh fish coming in along with lots of downers. As of Wednesday, it was holding right around nine feet and isn’t expected to drop much below that with Ruth Lake at capacity and the snow melt.

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