Recreational ocean salmon openers delayed til’May

The 2020 recreational salmon season was delayed until at least May 1 due to physical distancing requirements and widespread closures of launch ramp facilities, charter boat operations and restrictions to harbor and marina access due to challenges created by
COVID-19 . Photo courtesy of Jake Mitchell/Sea Hawk Sport Fishing

On Tuesday, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) delayed California’s opening of the sport salmon ocean fishing season until May 1. NMFS made the decision following discussions with CDFW and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The April delay is a response to physical distancing requirements and widespread closures of launch ramp facilities, charter boat operations and restrictions to harbor and marina access due to challenges created by COVID-19. Zones scheduled to open in April include Pigeon Point to U.S Mexico border, which was to open April 4. Horse Mountain to Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg was scheduled to open on April 11. The area from Point Arena south to Pigeon point was also set to open on the 11th.

Delaying the opener of the fishery will reduce impacts to stocks of concern and provide more fishing opportunity later in the summer months than would otherwise be possible. Further changes will be discussed at the April 5-9 PFMC meeting. Season dates, bag/possession limit information and gear restrictions can be found on CDFW’s ocean salmon webpage, Public notification of any in-season change to conform state regulations to federal regulations is made through the NMFS ocean salmon hotline at (800) 662-9825. For more information, visit

Upcoming meetings
The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and its advisory bodies will meet April 5‐9, by webinar only, to address issues related to groundfish, salmon, Pacific halibut, coastal pelagic species, and administrative matters. One of the key agenda items is to adopt final management measures for 2020 ocean salmon fisheries. Also on the agenda is the 2020 Klamath River Basin quotas of adult Klamath River fall Chinook.

The meeting of the Council and its advisory entities was originally planned to be held in person in Vancouver, Washington, but due to concerns over the COVID‐19 pandemic, the format of the meetings have been changed to be conducted only by webinars. The meeting of the Council general session will be streamed live on the internet. The broadcast will begin at 9 a.m. (PDT) Sunday, April 5 and continue daily at 8 a.m. through Friday, April 10, or until the agenda is completed. Broadcasts end daily at 5 p.m. or when business for the day is complete. To access the meeting online, use the following link:, or if you already have RingCentral Meeting installed you may join the meeting using the ID: 148‐ 215‐7036. More information on the meeting can be found at

The California Fish and Game Commission meeting will be held via webinar and teleconference (details forthcoming) on April 15-16 starting at 9:00 a.m. to adopt and discuss changes to the upcoming sport fishing seasons. The meeting will be live streamed for viewing and listening purposes only. If you’re interested in the Klamath River spring and fall salmon fisheries, you’ll want to listen in. On the agenda is discussion of proposed changes to the Klamath River Basin fall sport fishing. Also on the agenda is consideration of adopting proposed implementation of a certificate of compliance for the upper Klamath-Trinity spring Chinook salmon emergency regulations. For a complete agenda and comment submission, and viewing information,  visit

Brookings ocean update
Good ocean conditions are expected Thursday and Friday according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Lingcod fishing has been good out of Brookings when the weather is calm enough to pass Chetco Point and head north,” said Martin.

The Beach/Jetty’s
When the ocean’s been calm, the Redtail perch action has been excellent along the beaches. There are some spots that are typically better than others, but you can catch them just about anywhere this time of the year. Conditions don’t look great for the weekend, with swells in the 6-foot range. Both the north and south jetty’s have been fishing well for the past couple weeks. Five to six-inch Gulp jerk shads are a popular bait as well as smaller swimbaits. Egg sinkers or banana weights rigged with a herring are also catching rockfish and the occasional lingcod.

The Rivers:
As a reminder, the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek, and the Chetco all closed to fishing on March 31.

The Rogue jumped from 2,000 cfs to 5,100 cfs on Tuesday at the Agness gauge, cresting in the evening reports Martin. “With a temperature of 52 degrees, the springers moving in should bite well. Conditions are good for shore anglers plunking Spin-N-Glos or boaters anchoring and spinning anchovies.” According to Martin, the Curry County Sheriff specifically asked the county to keep waterways, beaches and gravel bars open. Port of Gold Beach is currently open.

The Chetco closed for the season on Tuesday. “After being extremely low and clear for weeks, the river was high and muddy the final two days of March,” said Martin. “Catch rates were above average all season, and with lots of smolts around we should have good fishing more next winter and the season after.”

Riley Harris of Fortuna landed a nice steelhead on a recent float down the main stem Eel River. The main stem Eel, along with the Smith, remain open to fishing. All other coastal rivers closed on March 31. Photo courtesy of Allen Harris

Main Stem Eel
The rain over the past couple days finally put some water in the main stem Eel. Flows went from 1,500 cfs to 3,600 cfs by Wednesday afternoon. It’s predicted to continue to rise, reaching 4,500 cfs by Thursday. It was off color on Wednesday, and may not fish prior to the weekend. More rain is in the forecast starting Saturday, and flows are predicted to hit 18,400 cfs by Monday. It will likely need at least a week or more of dry weather before it’s fishable again.

Smith River
Not many fishing reports are coming out of the Smith, most anglers have moved on for the season. The river is in great shape after hitting nearly 14 feet at the Jed gauge on Tuesday afternoon. Flows were right around 11-feet on Wednesday and conditions should remain excellent through the week. These high flows should put the downers on the move and the fishing could be good. The Smith will remain open to fishing through April.

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