Recreational saltwater season set to begin

Next Wednesday kicks off another ocean sport fishing season on the North Coast as both rockfish and Pacific halibut are set to commence. And with a lengthy salmon season only a month away, we’ll be going full bore before you know it. Without abalone or razor clams to fill in the gaps, it will feel good to be back on the salt. As boats hit the open ocean next Wednesday — weather and conditions permitting — all the fish politics and talk of closures will fade, replaced with images of big lings and drag-peeling halibut. At least that’s the hope.

May 1 openers:
Pacific Halibut: The 2019 Pacific halibut fishery is slated to open May 1, but there is still some uncertainty regarding the open and closure periods. An online survey was circulated in February to help CDFW with angler preferences for open fishing dates during the upcoming season, and will be used to develop recommended season dates that will be provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service. A decision on the season’s dates should be coming any day. In 2018, the fishery was open May 1-June 15, July 1-15, Aug. 1-15, and Sept. 1-21.

The one thing we do know is the Pacific halibut allocation for California will be set for the next four years at 39,000 pounds, which is approximately 8,000 net pounds greater than our 2018 quota.

CDFW will again monitor catches of Pacific halibut during the season and provide catch projection updates on the CDFW Pacific halibut webpage, The limit remains at one, with no size restrictions. No more than one line with two hooks attached can be used.

Rockfish season dates
The season for boat-based anglers will run from May 1 through Oct. 31 within 180 feet and Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 with no depth restrictions. The Northern Management Area runs from the CA/OR border to the 40°10′ N. latitude (near Cape Mendocino). The Mendocino Management Area runs south of the 40°10′ N. latitude to Point Arena.

Rockfish regulation changes: Just like the Pacific halibut, there remains some uncertainty with rockfish daily bag limit regulations for the Northern Management Area as well as the Mendocino Management Area. Back in March, the PFMC adopted the CDFW recommendations for an increase in one more black rockfish (4 total) and one more Canary (3 total) in the both the Northern Mgmt. and Mendocino Areas. This should go into effect sometime in June. In the Mendocino Mgmt. Area, they also reduced the Lingcod daily bag limit to one. Now there’s the unofficial word that the Lingcod bag limit has been restored back to two. These changes should also be official in June or earlier.

Summary of current regulations, Northern Mgmt. Area: As it’s written in the current regulations, the daily bag limit per person is a 10-fish combination. Exceptions include three Cabezon, three black rockfish and two Canary allowed per person as part of their 10-fish bag limit. Cabezon have a minimum 15-inch size limit and Kelp and/or rock greenlings must be 12-inches. The daily bag limit of Lingcod is two per person and they must be 22-inches in length. The take and possession of Cowcod, Bronzespotted rockfish, and Yelloweye rockfish will remain prohibited statewide. Petrale sole and Starry flounder can be retained year-round at all depths with no size limit. Current regulations in the Mendocino Mgmt. Area are identical to the Northern Mgmt. Area, except for Lingcod. As its currently written, it’s one fish per person, 22 inches.

For more information about recreational groundfish regulations, please call the hotline at 831-649-2801 or visit You can also email, or call your nearest CDFW office for the latest information.

Important reminder:
When fishing for halibut, rockfish and salmon (Shelter Cove), or any combination of the three, the more restrictive gear and depth restrictions apply. When targeting salmon, or once salmon are aboard and in possession, anglers are limited to using barbless hooks (barbless circle hooks if fishing south of Horse Mountain) when fishing for other species.

When targeting rockfish, cabezon, greenling and lingcod, or once any of these species are aboard and in possession, anglers are limited to fishing in waters shallower than 180 feet when fishing for other species.

Marine forecast
It’s a little too early to predict what Wednesday will bring. For an up-to-date marine forecast, visit or

Wednesday, May 1 tides – Humboldt Bay
For anglers who aren’t aware, extreme caution should always be used when crossing the bar. If you’re planning on hitting the bar at daylight, always check the conditions first. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit Wednesday May 1 (High: 10.27 a.m. (5.2 ft.) and 10:54 p.m. (6.1 ft.) (Low: 4:31 a.m. (1.4) and 4:28 p.m. (1.0 ft.)

Trinidad launch ready to go
The Trinidad launch should be open on Wednesday, but it will depend on the ocean conditions if they’ll be launching. The Gift and Tackle shop will be open beginning on Sunday, April 28. Best to call ahead at 707-677-3625 if you’re planning on launching on Wednesday.

Big Halibut Contest
Eureka’s Englund Marine will be holding its BIG FISH Halibut Contest again this year. The annual event runs from May 1 to October 31, 2019. There is no entry fee and you can enter as many fish as you’d like. Fish do not need to be gutted and gilled. Prizes will be awarded to the top three fish. A complete list of rules and regulations are available at Englund Marine, 2 Commercial St., Eureka, 707-444-9266.

Shelter Cove report
“With all the wind, there hasn’t been much effort,” said Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. “I haven’t been on the water the last few days, but it sounds like the boats that are getting out before the wind are catching a few around the whistle. It’s been about a fish per rod,” added Mitchell. More wind is in the forecast for the weekend, forecasted to be out of the NW at 10 to 20 knots.

Maureen Morris of Reno holds a rockfish and cabezon she caught April 22 while fishing aboard the Miss Brooke of Brookings Fishing Charters. The rockfish season opened Jan. 1 in Oregon, and is slated to open May 1 from the CA/OR border south to Point Arena. Photo courtesy of Andy Martin/Brookings Fishing Charters

Brookings rockfish update
Bottom fishing has been good the past week out of Brookings, when the weather has allowed boats to get out according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Fish have moved in closer to shore as the rivers recede from flooding earlier in the month. Crabbing has also improved right outside of the harbor. Windy weather is expected this week,” added Martin.

Increased flows coming down the Trinity
The Trinity River flows will begin to increase on Monday, April 29 as releases from Lewiston Dam rise to hit a spring-high flow of 10,900 cfs after a determination that this is an “wet” year for the basin. Residents near or recreating on the river can expect levels to increase and should take appropriate safety precautions. Landowners are advised to clear personal items from the floodplain prior to the releases. A daily schedule of flow releases is available at

The Rivers:
Main Stem Eel
The main stem Eel is green, but is still a little on the big side. As of Wednesday, it was running at just over 7,500 cfs on the Scotia gauge. Snowmelt will keep the flows above 6,000 cfs through weekend. Once it gets below, 5,000, it should be fishable.

Lower Rogue
Fishing for spring salmon on the Rogue has been the best it has so far this season the past few days reports Martin. He said, “Many guides are getting a fish or two a day, and some have boated up to half a dozen. The river is still a little high and dirty, but is dropping into prime shape. The lower river is fishing best. Plenty of hatchery springers are being caught.

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