This Saturday marks day one of our ocean sport fishing season on the North Coast as both rockfish and Pacific halibut will finally open, bringing with it tons of excitement, optimism and relief. Following a year we’d all like to forget, a little saltwater therapy sounds pretty relaxing. As anglers take to the ocean Saturday — weather and conditions permitting — the hope is all the negativity will slowly fade into the horizon, leaving only happy thoughts of big lings and barn door-sized halibut.
May 1 openers:
Pacific Halibut: The 2021 Pacific halibut fishery will open May 1 and run through Nov. 15, or until the quota is reached. There won’t be any in-season closures as was the case in 2019. The quota in 2021 will once again be 39,000 pounds. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will again monitor catches of Pacific halibut during the season and provide catch projection updates on the CDFW Pacific halibut webpage, www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Pacific-Halibut#31670772-in-season-tracking. The limit remains at one, with no size restrictions. No more than one line with two hooks attached can be used.
Rockfish: The boat-based rockfish season in the Northern Management Area, which runs from the California-Oregon border to the 40°10′ North latitude (near Cape Mendocino), will run through Oct. 31 within 180 feet. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, rockfish may be taken at any depth.
New sport rockfish regulations for 2021
In December of 2020, CDFW announced multiple changes to the sport rockfish regulations starting in 2021. Changes that pertain to the Northern Management area include:
- Elimination of sub-bag limits for black rockfish, canary rockfish and cabezon within the 10-fish rockfish, cabezon, and greenling (RCG) complex daily bag limit.
- A new sub-bag limit of five vermilion rockfish within the 10-fish RCG complex daily bag limit.
The daily bag limit of lingcod remains at two per person and they must be 22-inches in length. The take and possession of cowcod, bronzespotted rockfish and yelloweye rockfish is prohibited statewide. Petrale sole and starry flounder can be retained year-round at all depths with no size limit. For more information about recreational groundfish regulations within the northern mgt. area, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Groundfish-Summary#north.
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 halibut.
Ocean conditions for the weekend aren’t looking very favorable for boats heading offshore, especially out of Eureka. Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 10 to 20 knots with waves out of the north 8 feet at 7 seconds and northwest 3 feet at 18 seconds. Sunday is looking similiar, with winds out of the north 10 to 20 knots. Waves will be north 7 feet at 7 seconds and west 4 feet at 16 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or 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 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.
Weekend tides – Humboldt Bay
For anglers who aren’t aware, extreme caution should always be used when crossing the bar. The combination of large swells and outgoing morning tides could make for a dangerous bar crossing. Saturday, 7 feet of water will be flowing out down to an -1.1. This could make for a dangerous bar crossing if the swells are large. If you’re planning on hitting the bar at daylight, always check the conditions first. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan.
Saturday May 1: High: 3:03 a.m. (7.6 feet), Low: 10:22 a.m. (-1.12 feet) and High 5:26 p.m. (5.4 feet), Low 10:05 p.m. (3.41 feet)
Sunday May 2: High: 3:58 a.m. (7.1 feet), Low: 11:23 a.m. (-.66 feet) and High 6:37 p.m. (5.4 feet), Low 11:19 p.m. (3.5 feet)
Trinidad launch ready to go
The Trinidad launch will be in service and launching boats beginning Saturday, May 1. Call 677-3625 for more information.
Brookings ocean update
Halibut season opens May 1 out of Brookings. “With calm weather in the forecast, expectations are high,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Lingcod and rockfish action has been good out of Brookings, especially on calm weather days. Lings have started to move into deeper water. An abundance of anchovies close to shore has already drawn salmon into the shallows to feed. Charters released a handful of feeder kings the past week. Salmon season opens June 12 for coho and June 19 for Chinook out of Brookings.”
Main Stem Eel
The main stem Eel is still in fishable shape, but it’s clear. It was flowing at 1,300 cfs on the Scotia gauge as of Wednesday. Fishing reports have been hard to come by.
The Smith River from its mouth to the confluence of the Middle and South Forks; Middle Fork Smith River from mouth to Patrick Creek; South Fork Smith River from the mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tryon) bridge and Craigs Creek to Jones Creek, will close after Friday, April 30.
Southern Oregon coastal rivers remain closed to fishing until May 22, except for the Rogue River, where spring salmon fishing remains dismal, reports Martin. “This year’s springer run has been disappointing so far, with only a handful of hatchery salmon caught,” Martin added.
Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email email@example.com