Sport saltwater season expected to open on time

Four year-old James Coleman of Fortuna landed a black rockfish on a recent trip to the South Jetty with has father, Russell. This was the little anglers first fish landed all by himself. Photo courtesy of Russell Coleman

Next Friday kicks off our ocean sport fishing season on the North Coast as both rockfish and Pacific halibut are set to open on May 1. At least that’s the hope. Our local fishing seasons – and statewide for that matter – are currently littered with unknowns. As of Wednesday, everything I’m reading and hearing are pointing towards the saltwater seasons opening on time. But like everything else at the moment, there’s more questions than answers. Especially when it comes to angling activities where people can congregate – including boats, ramps, and cleaning stations. One of the unknowns is the charter fleet. As of now, there businesses have been deemed nonessential and won’t be allowed to fish groups of anglers due to social distancing. At least that’s what I’ve been told, but this is a very fluid situation. The next question would be how many anglers are allowed on sport boats in order to comply with social distancing? Is there a certain number depending on the size of the boat? Can you only fish with family members who reside in the same household? And what about travel. Can anglers come from out of the county or state to fish here? Again, way more questions than answers. Hopefully, the CDFW will have answers to some of these questions prior to next week’s openers so we’ll all have a clear understanding of the rules.          

May 1 openers:

Pacific Halibut: The 2020 Pacific halibut fishery is slated to open May 1, but the season ending date has yet to be determined. In 2019, the fishery was open May 1 through Oct. 31, seven days a week. Only 17,440 pounds were estimated to have been caught towards the 39,000-pound quota. In 2020, the Pacific halibut allocation for California will be set at 39,000 pounds again. CDFW will 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: 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) and includes most of Humboldt and all of Del Norte County. The Mendocino Management Area runs south of the 40°10′ N. latitude to Point Arena.

Summary of current regulations, Northern Mgmt. Area: The daily bag limit per person is a 10-fish combination. Exceptions include three Cabezon, four black rockfish and three 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. 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.

California halibut regulations
As a reminder, the recreational fishery for California halibut remains open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is three fish north of Point Sur, Monterey County. The minimum size limit is 22 inches total length. Fishing for CA halibut inside Humboldt Bay should take off within the next few weeks as the freshwater starts to leave the bay. A few boats have been out this week, but I haven’t heard of many being caught as of yet.

Shelter Cove boat launch update
According to Jake Mitchell, Board President of the Shelter Cove Fishing Preservation Inc., the launch facility will be back open beginning Saturday, April 25. However, launching will be for Humboldt County residents only. Proof of residency for all passengers will be required in order to launch. Only people from the same household/family can be on a vessel together. Hours of operation will be 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the cost is $35. The public restrooms, campground and hotels remain closed. For more information, visit or The boat launch office can be reached at 707–986-1400.

Brookings rockfish update
“Lingcod and rockfish are biting well out of Brookings, but fishing remains limited to Oregon residents because of ODFW’s decision to prohibit non-resident anglers while the governor’s stay-home order is in place,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Fishing is best from Bird Island to House Rock. Surfperch also are biting well at Brookings-area beaches.”

Increased flows coming down the Klamath
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with PacifiCorp, plans to increase flows below Iron Gate Dam to reduce the risk of disease for Coho salmon in the Klamath River.

Beginning April 22, flows below Iron Gate Dam will increase from approximately 1,325 cubic feet per second up to 6,000 cfs. Increased releases out of Upper Klamath Lake will occur simultaneously. The highest releases, of up to approximately 6,000 cfs, will continue for 72 hours. Flows will ramp back down to normal by May 1. The public is urged to take all necessary precautions on or near the Link and Klamath rivers while flows are high during this period. Reclamation is implementing the increased flow event as analyzed in the NMFS 2019 Biological Opinion and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020 Biological Opinion. The flushing flow has been coordinated with other Klamath Project operations to minimize the potential negative impacts on Upper Klamath Lake elevations and the endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers. For additional information, contact the Klamath Basin Area Office at 541-883-6935.

The Rivers:
Main Stem Eel
The main stem Eel is running at 1,800 cfs on the Scotia gauge as of Wednesday. The river is in good shape, and there should be some steelhead around. The boat traffic has been light and the Stafford boat access gate remains locked.

Lower Rogue
Spring salmon fishing remains very slow on the lower Rogue River according to Martin. “Few springers appear to be moving upstream. A major rain is needed to draw salmon in from the ocean,” added Martin.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to