It’s Official: CA’s 2023 Ocean Salmon Season Shut Down

The Pacific Fishery Management Council officially pulled the plug on California’s ocean salmon season April 6. Pictured is Alex Bobillot, of Eureka, who landed a nice king while fishing out of Eureka in 2019. Photo courtesy of Matt Dallam/North Wind Charters

In what was a mere formality, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) put the final nail in the coffin of California’s 2023 ocean Chinook salmon fishery April 6. The PFMC acted unanimously to recommend a full closure of California’s commercial and sport ocean salmon seasons. Options put forward by the PFMC last month for public review, which were developed by industry representatives, all proposed closure of both commercial and sport ocean salmon fisheries off California. This action follows extremely low forecast returns of the Sacramento and Klamath river fall Chinook salmon, which will constrain all seasons from Cape Falcon through California. So, here’s what we know.

  • Sport and commercial Chinook salmon fishing will be closed in California in 2023.

Open ocean salmon fisheries in Oregon/Washington:

  • Ocean waters off the Columbia River from Leadbetter Pt., Washington to Cape Falcon, Oregon will be open for an all-salmon season North of Cape Falcon beginning June 24 and continue through the earlier of September 30, or quota with a hatchery mark selective coho quota of 79,800. There is also a Chinook guideline in this area of 11,490. The daily bag limit will be two salmon, but no more than one Chinook and all coho must have a healed adipose fin clip.
  • From Cape Falcon to the Oregon-California border, the recreational hatchery mark selective coho salmon season will open on June 17 and continue through the earlier of Aug. 31 or the quota of 110,000 adipose fin-clipped coho. Chinook retention is prohibited through the end of August. 
  • From Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain, a non-selective coho season opening on Sept. 1, and will be open seven days per week through the earlier of Sept. 30 or the quota of 25,000 non-mark selective coho. The daily bag limit is two fish, only one of which may be a Chinook.
  • Beginning Sept. 1 and continuing through Oct. 31 in the area from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain, retention of one Chinook salmon per day will be allowed. The season will only be open inside of the 40-fathom management line from Oct 1 through Oct. 31.
  • In-river fisheries in Oregon will not be affected by low Sacramento and Klamath fall Chinook ocean abundance.

Still to be determined: The fate of the inland Central Valley fall Chinook fishery and the Klamath River fall and spring-run Chinook seasons. At the April California Fish and Game Commission meeting April 19 and 20, season proposals will be heard from California Fish and Wildlife staff. These proposals will be decided upon at the May 17 California Fish and Game Commission meeting.

For more information on the state ocean salmon closure, visit wildlife.ca.gov/News/pfmc-recommends-closure-of-2023-ocean-salmon-fisheries#gsc.tab=0

For information on Oregon salmon fisheries, visit dfw.state.or.us/news/2023/04_Apr/040723b.asp.

Marine forecast
Ocean conditions are looking much improved for the weekend. Friday is calling for north winds 5 to 10 knots and northwest waves 5 feet at nine seconds. Saturday is calling for winds out of the south 5 to 10 knots with northwest waves 5 feet at 14 seconds. Sunday is looking a little worse with winds out of the south 10 to 15 knots and waves southwest 4 feet at five seconds and west 5 feet at 12 seconds. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit weather.gov/eureka/ or windy.com.

Upcoming events
Shelter Cove crab feed coming April 15
Shelter Cove Fishing Preservation will be holding its third annual crab feed fundraiser dinner and silent auction this Saturday, April 15 at the Community Center/Club House in Shelter Cove. Tickets are $60 and can be purchased at the launch office. The event starts at 5 p.m. and live music will be provided by The Breakers. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/scfpinc.

Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor Classes April 19-20
Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) is conducting a Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor class in Eureka, CA. This course is offered at a reduced cost to commercial fishermen thanks to support from NIOSH, the U.S. Coast Guard, and AMSEA members. Classes will be held April 19-20, 2023 at the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association, # 3 Commercial St. Eureka, CA 95501. Hours are: 7:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. April 19th, 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. April 20th. Cost is $125 for Commercial Fishermen, $225 for all others. Instructor will be Suzie Howser.
The class will cover these topics: cold-water survival skills, EPIRBs, signal flares, and MAYDAY calls, man overboard recovery, firefighting, flooding & damage control, dewatering pumps, immersion suits and PFDs, abandon ship procedures, helicopter rescue, life rafts, emergency procedures drills, and in-the-water skills practice. This course meets the US Coast Guard training requirements for drill conductors on commercial fishing vessels, 46 CFR 28.270(c). Register online at www.amsea.org or call (907) 747-3287.

Englund Marine Eureka Grand Opening May 5
Englund Marine Eureka will be holding a grand opening celebration on Friday, May 5 from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. with the Eureka Chamber of Commerce. There will be sale prices on clothing, boots, and raingear all day long. Englund Marine new location is 590 West Waterfront Drive, Eureka.

HASA dinner and fundraiser coming May 13
The annual Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers (HASA) fundraiser dinner and auction will be held Saturday, May 13, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Sequoia Conference Center, 901 Myrtle Ave. in Eureka. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for kids. Guest speaker will be Del Stephens on how to improve your albacore fishing skills. There will be a kids raffle and table, as well as other raffles. Tickets are available from Englund Marine and board members. Local sponsors include Englund Marine, RMI Outdoors, and Redwood Coast Spreader Bars. For more information, email hasa6191@gmail.com

“Wet” year designation for Trinity River
On Monday, the California Department of Water Resources designated the 2023 water year as “wet”. A wet year requires 701,000 acre-feet to be released to the river for restoration purposes, out of an estimated inflow to the reservoir of 1.62 million acre-feet. Flows in the Trinity River will increase steeply this weekend as the spring restoration release begins. Visitors near or on the river can expect river levels to increase during the flow releases and should take appropriate safety precautions. Landowners are advised to clear personal items from the floodplain prior to the releases. An up-to-date daily schedule of flow releases is available at the program’s website trrp.net/restoration/flows/current/. The public may subscribe to automated notifications of Trinity River release changes (via phone or email) at trrp.net/restoration/flows/flow-release-notifications/.

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

Eel (main stem)
The main stem Eel is back on a slow decent after Monday’s rise. As of Wednesday, flows were around 14,500 cubic feet per second on the Scotia gauge and dropping. Needless to say, it remains high and off color. It will need a couple weeks of dry weather before it drops to a fishable level. The main stem Eel to the South Fork is open all year. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from April 1 through Sept. 30.

Smith River
Monday night’s storm pushed flows up and over 14,000 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge early Tuesday morning. It was back in prime condition by Wednesday and should remain that way through the weekend. The latest rise should flush some of the last spawned-out steelhead downriver and could bring in a few fresh ones. The main stem of the Smith will remain open through the end of April from its mouth to the confluence with the Middle and South Forks. The Middle Fork will also remain open through April from its mouth to Patrick’s Creek. The South Fork is open through April, as well, from its mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tryon) bridge and Craig’s Creek to Jones Creek.

Lower Rogue
“Spring salmon fishing has been decent on the lower Rogue, with plenty of hatchery fish showing up,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Bank anglers are plunking with 4.0 MagLips and catching springers as they swim upstream close to shore. Boaters are anchoring with anchovies and spinner blades. A few late-season steelhead also are being caught by springer anglers. The Chetco, Elk and Sixes are closed for the season.”

Brookings ocean update
Rough weather has limited the window to get out for lingcod and rockfish out of Brookings, but fishing has been good on calm days reports Martin. “Rockfish are keying on smelt, so larger white or gray plastics are working best. Lingcod are still in shallow water spawning. Ocean salmon season opens June 17 out of Brookings for hatchery coho. No chinook may be kept in the ocean this summer.”

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 fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com