Saltwater season off to a slow start

Beth Hendry of McKinleyville landed a nice California halibut last Sunday while fishing in Humboldt Bay. The California halibut bite is picking up in the bay, with peak season usually being towards the end of May through July. Photo courtesy of Ben Herring

Whether it’s lack of effort, lack of reports, the weather, or dealing with COVID-19 – the saltwater season came out of the gates a little slower than usual. Fish were caught, but things just felt a little off. Maybe it’s because the charter boats aren’t taking customers as of yet? As the weather improves, and the county begins to relax some of the shelter in place guidelines, let’s hope we can get back to some sort of normalcy. Until then, we do have plenty of options. A few boats on Friday ran south to Cape Mendocino for rockfish. According to Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing, the fishing was very “Cape-like”, with full limits of rockfish and lingcod for all. “A few boats also ran straight out for Pacific halibut over the weekend,” said Klassen. “The weather wasn’t great on Friday, but has been a little better since. I did hear of a couple being caught, but there hasn’t been much effort yet.

Beth Hendry of McKinleyville with a couple nice California halibut. Photo courtesy of Ben Herring

There’s also been quite a few California halibut caught in the bay. It’s not wide-open, but it does look like we’ll have a good season again this year.” The one bit of concerning news is the water temps out front of Eureka. According to Klassen, they’re currently in the 55-degree range, which is a little warmer than what we’d like to see. “We haven’t had any sustained north winds as of yet. Hopefully by the time salmon season opens up the water will have cooled down.”

Pacific halibut season length set
The fishing season along the California coast will be open May 1 through October 31, or until the subarea quota is estimated to have been taken and the season is closed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, whichever is earlier. In 2020, the quota is 39,000 pounds.

Important reminder:
When fishing for halibut and rockfish, the more restrictive gear and depth restrictions apply. 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. If you’re targeting both halibut and rockfish, you’ll want to get your halibut first.

Weekend marine forecast
For coastal waters from Pt. St. George to Cape Mendocino out 10 nautical miles, the marine forecast is looking good for the weekend, especially on Sunday. Saturday’s forecast is calling for NW winds 5 to 10 knots with waves out of the NW 4 feet at 6 seconds and W 6 feet at 12 seconds. On Sunday, winds will be out of the SW 5 to 10 knots with W waves 4 feet at 11 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit or To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Shelter Cove
“Salmon fishing has been pretty slow, but there are some around and the grade is pretty decent,” said Captain Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. “Boats have been averaging 0-1 fish per rod since the opener. I’ve heard of more fish in the 20 pound-class class this year already than I did all of last year. There hasn’t been much bait around and the fish seem to be pretty spread out. Since the opener, when we launched over 30 boats, we’ve been launching about 15 per day. Most of the effort has been towards salmon. The rockfish bite has been really good, with most of the action around Rodgers Break. We fished that area on Tuesday and after getting all of our rockfish, we ran in to a fair amount of bait in the canyon. We trolled for four hours and went 2-4 on salmon.  The majority of the salmon caught over the last few days have been outside the whistle in 25 fathoms.”

Steve Mitchell with a nice Shelter Cove king from Tuesday while fishing with son, Captain Jake Mitchell. Photo courtesy of Jake Mitchell

Ocean fishing continues to be good out of Brookings, with a few halibut caught on the May 1 opener and limits of rockfish for most boats reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Surfperch also are biting well at most beaches anglers are able to access. Good weather is expected this weekend.”

Crescent City
Chris Hegnes of Crescent City’s Englund Marine reports the rockfish bite was good on the opener, with about 30 boats out. “Since then, the ocean hasn’t been very cooperative. I haven’t heard of anyone trying for halibut yet as it’s been too rough. There have been quite a few lingcod caught off the jetty’s recently,” Hegnes added.

Fish and Game Commission meeting on May 14
The California Fish and Game Commission will meet on Thursday, May 14 in Sacramento at 10 a.m. via webinar and teleconference to adopt and discuss changes to the upcoming Klamath River sport fishing season. The PFMC recommended 1,296 adult salmon be allocated for recreational fishing for the Klamath and Trinity Rivers. The tribal allocation is 8,632, split between the Yurok and Hoopa tribes. The Commission will make final decisions on bag and possession limits. At the previous Commission meeting, the CDFW suggested a two-fish bag limit, with no more than one adult. The recommendation for possession limit was 6 salmon, no more than 3 adults. A couple other Department proposals are also on the agenda. One, the proposal to make the jack (grilse) salmon size limit cutoff range of less than or equal to 22 inches to 23 inches total length for discussion before the Department makes a final recommendation. The Department is also proposing to increase the daily bag and possession limit for Brown Trout on the main stem of the Trinity River from a five fish daily bag/10 fish possession limit to a 10 fish daily bag/20 fish possession limit.

Members of the public may participate in the teleconference via Zoom on your computer or mobile app. You can also listen via phone call. The meeting will also be livestreamed at for listening purposes only. If you’re interested in the Klamath River fall salmon fishery, you’ll want your voice to be heard. Also on the agenda is the adoption of proposed changes to the Central Valley sport fishing salmon regulations. For more information, visit

Lower Rogue River
Spring salmon fishing is still slow on the Rogue River, with low, clear water according to Martin. “The rain over the weekend didn’t do much to raise flows. A few springers are being caught above Lobster Creek. Fishing is very slow near Elephant Rock and the Willows. A bigger rain storm is expected early next week,” added Martin.

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