Epic week of tuna fishing for the North Coast

Steve Jones of Clovis landed a rare mahi-mahi last Wednesday while fishing for albacore tuna out of Crescent City. The mahi-mahi, also called dorado, are most commonly found in the waters around the Gulf of Mexico, Costa Rica, and Hawaii. Jones was fishing with Gary Graham, also of Clovis. Photo courtesy of Gary Graham

And what a week it was! The onslaught began last Wednesday out of Crescent City and didn’t let up until Tuesday afternoon. From Fort Bragg to Brookings, and every port in between, boats loaded up on the tuna. Scores were all over the board, from high teens up to seventy for some boats. The numbers, however, seemed irrelevant. The best way to describe this level of fishing – everyone who went “got all they wanted.” I’ve lived in Humboldt for the better part of 16 years now, and I can’t recall a stretch this good. Saltwater anglers who’ve lived here their entire life are hard pressed to remember a time when the ocean was this flat for this long, the warm water was this close, and the water was this full of fish. Following six days of wide-open tuna fishing, what was left of the fleet had planned a relaxing day of salmon fishing on Tuesday out of Eureka. The weather was forecasted to get crummy in the afternoon, making a run for tuna out of the question. As he approached the salmon grounds, Tony Sepulveda of Shellback Sport Fishing, took a quick look at the updated SST image on his phone and couldn’t believe his eyes. “It had makings of tuna on our doorstep,” said Sepulveda. “Salmon gear was cast aside and 17 miles from Humboldt Bay Entrance, we had jigs in the water. Eighteen miles from the entrance I blasted a “hookup” call across the radio and the first tuna of the day hit the deck. The rush was on as a fleet of boats jumped in on the game. We pulled the plug at 1:30 p.m. with 22 beautiful albacore in the box on a flat ocean and Cape Mendocino looming in the background.” And that folks, is how you cap off an epic seven days of wide-open tuna fishing,

Cliff Hart and his son Ollie with a nice albacore landed out of Crescent City last Saturday,
Aug. 10. Photo courtesy of Cliff Hart

Weekend Marine forecast
Northerly winds and seas will continue to gradually trend upward through the end of the week, with gales possible by Thursday morning. Out 10 nautical miles north of the Cape, Friday’s forecast is calling for N winds 15 to 25 knots and waves out of the N 11 feet at 9 seconds and W 3 feet at 17 seconds. Saturday is calling for N winds 10 to 20 knots and waves NW 9 feet at 9 seconds and W 3 feet at 15 seconds. Sunday’s forecast looks better, with winds out of the N 5 to 10 knots and waves NW 5 feet at 7 seconds and W 3 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.

2019 Klamath/Trinity fall regulations
Fall regulations go into effect on the Klamath River for fall-run Chinook salmon beginning Aug. 15 and run through Dec. 31. On the Trinity, the fall quota will begin on Sept. 1 and run through Dec. 31. The in-river quota for the entire Klamath Basin is 7,637 adult fall Chinook. The daily bag limit will be two Chinook, no more than one adult (greater than 22 inches) and the possession limit is six, no more than three adults. Two hatchery steelhead or hatchery trout may also be retained, with a possession limit of four each.

Alan Borges and Ally Del Grande, both of Eureka, landed a nice king salmon while fishing the Klamath River estuary on Aug.1 Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

Klamath Quotas
On the Lower Klamath, from the Highway 96 bridge at Weitchpec to the mouth, 3,818 adults will be allowed for sport harvest. The section above the 96 bridge at Weitchpec to 3,500 feet downstream of the Iron Gate Dam will get 1,298 adults.

The Spit Area (within 100 yards of the channel through the sand spit formed at the Klamath River mouth) will close when 15 percent of the total Klamath River Basin quota is taken downstream of the Highway 101 bridge. In 2019, 1,145 adults can be harvested below the 101 bridge before the closure at the mouth is implemented. The rest of the area below Highway 101 (estuary) will remain open to recreational fishing.

Important Reminder: All legally caught Chinook salmon must be retained while fishing the spit. Once the adult component of the total daily bag limit has been retained, anglers must cease fishing in the spit area. Also, the new six-foot leader length restriction remains in effect.

Trinity Quotas
On the Trinity side, the quota is set at 2,520 adults. The quota will be split evenly; 1,260 adults for the main stem Trinity downstream of the Old Lewiston Bridge to the Highway 299 West bridge at Cedar Flat and 1,260 adults for the main stem Trinity downstream of the Denny Road bridge at Hawkins Bar to the confluence with the Klamath. The main stem downstream of the Highway 299 Bridge at Cedar Flat to the Denny Road Bridge in Hawkins Bar is closed to all fishing September 1 through December 31. The main stem downstream of the Highway 299 Bridge at Cedar Flat to the Denny Road Bridge in Hawkins Bar is closed to all fishing September 1 through December 31.

Once these quotas have been met, no Chinook salmon greater than 22 inches in length may be retained (anglers may still retain a limit of Chinook salmon under 22 inches in length). The 2019-2020 sport seasons, dates, locations, bag limits and gear restrictions can be found here https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=169262&inline. Additional information can be found on the Klamath-Trinity River hotline at 800-564-6479. All anglers on the Trinity and Klamath rivers must have Salmon Harvest Cards in their possession when fishing for salmon.

The Oceans:
Tuna took center stage out of Eureka beginning last Thursday, and it didn’t stop until Tuesday afternoon. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing was in on the action, targeting longfins Friday through Sunday. He said, “Friday we ran 20 miles south off of the Cape along with quite a few other boats. It wasn’t great, but we landed 13 to up to 20 pounds. On Saturday we went straight out about 30 miles and boated 30. Sunday the warm water moved slightly north, so we headed straight west of the stacks and put another 32 on board. Aside from the tuna, the salmon has been hit and miss. It was really good for some on Sunday, then fell flat on Monday. Boats are working the same general area between the 42 and 45- lines in 180 to 200 feet of water,” said Klassen.

Ross Taylor with a 25-pound albacore on Aug 9th, 45 miles northwest of Trinidad. Photo courtesy of Ishan Vernallis.

Curt Wilson of Wind Rose Charters reports the rockfish action is cranking right along, with lots of variety coming over the rails. “It’s been wide-open this week, and we’re still catching plenty of lingcod,” said Wilson. “On Sunday and Monday, we put some time on the salmon grounds and put in about a fish per rod on half-day combo trips. Most of the action was in 300 feet of water between Cone Rock and Patrick’s Point. There are a few guys trying for Pacific halibut just about every day, but the bite has been really slow.”

Shelter Cove
Like everywhere else along the coast, it’s been all about the tuna at the Cove. Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing made runs on Friday and Saturday and did very well. “We fished Friday up off the Cape with the Eureka fleet and finished the day with 23 albacore,” said Mitchell. “On Saturday we ran south to Noyo Canyon and finished with 36 longfins. Prior to the tuna showing up, we’ve spent some time at the Hat for limits of quality rockfish and lings. We also made a halibut trip up Rogers Break and boated three halibut to 62 pounds. Salmon remains slow, we’ve been averaging a couple while running combo rockfish trips.”

Crescent City
The tuna fishing was wide-open through the weekend, with fish as close as 17 miles reports Chris Hegnes of Crescent City’s Englund Marine “The parking lot was full of boats, and there were a lot of fish caught,” said Hegnes. “The rockfish bite is still going strong, but the lingcod bite slowed. I heard there was a better bite out in deeper water. A few California halibut are being caught along South Beach, and one Thresher was caught on Tuesday.”

Tuna fishing has been very good out of Brookings, with boats finding plenty of fish just 15 miles from the harbor reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Exceptional weather last week allowed even the smaller jet boats to get out. Salmon fishing has been slow out of Brookings, although lots of wild Coho are still around. Tuna boats likely will be kept in through Saturday because of windy weather.”

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath
The estuary fishery really slowed down over the weekend and early this week. Very few boats have been out, but a few fish were caught on Wednesday. Hopefully we’ll start to see the fall fish come in and make their way upriver. As of Wednesday, there weren’t any salmon being caught above tidewater, but there are plenty of half-pounders and a handful of adult steelhead around. Fall regulations go into effect on Thursday. The daily bag limit will be two Chinook, no more than one adult (greater than 22 inches) and the possession limit is six, no more than three adults

Lower Rogue The Rogue Bay has slowed, with a few salmon a day being caught and a catch rate around a fish for every 10 rods according to Martin. “This week’s tides should be good for fishing, but the bite never really materialized Monday or Tuesday,” added Martin

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