Rockfish, Pacific halibut set to open Friday

On Tuesday, the CDFW announced that the May 1 Pacific halibut, rockfish, and salmon openers would open as planned. The timing couldn’t be better as the entire North Coast could use a nice little distraction about now. As our community starts to get more and more divisive on which businesses can and can’t open and what we as individuals should and shouldn’t do, heading offshore for a day of fishing sounds pretty relaxing. Even if it means abiding by all state and local health guidelines regarding non-essential travel and physical distancing.

While the Pacific halibut season will open on May 1, CDFW has yet to set a closing date. We do know that this year’s quota will be the same as in 2019, 39,000 pounds. The limit remains at one, with no size restrictions. When angling, no more than one line with two hooks attached may be used. A harpoon, gaff, or net may be used to assist in taking a Pacific halibut that has been legally caught by angling. For more info on Pacific halibut, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut.

The boat-based rockfish season in the Northern Management Area, which runs from the CA/OR border south to near Cape Mendocino, will run through Oct. 31within 180 feet. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, rockfish may be taken at any depth. For more info, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Groundfish-Summary. The recreational salmon fishery will open on May 1 from Horse Mtn., which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, south to the U.S./Mexico border. The recreational salmon season from Horse Mtn. north to the Oregon border, which includes Humboldt and Del Norte, will open June 6 and run through Aug. 9. For more info, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon.

As anglers take to the ocean on Friday — weather and conditions permitting – the hope is all the turmoil surrounding the world-wide pandemic will slowly fade into the horizon, leaving only happy thoughts of big lings and barndoor-sized halibut. Even if only for a day.

Shelter Cove salmon outlook
According to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing, there hasn’t been much salmon sign from what we’ve seen so far out of Shelter Cove. “There’s been a bunch of mackerel around, but they’re in the 2 to 3-pound class and too big for salmon feed,” said Mitchell. “Typically, that’s not a good indicator for salmon. With that said no one has ventured too far to look so well see what happens come Friday.”

Marine forecast
Conditions look decent for Friday’s offshore opener, but the weekend looks a little nasty. Friday’s forecast is calling for S winds 5 to 10 knots with waves out of the W 6 feet at 12 seconds. Saturday’s forecast is calling for S winds 10 to 20 knots with waves out of the W 8 feet at 13 seconds. On Sunday, winds will be out of the NW 5 to 10 knots with W waves 11 feet at 13 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://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 (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Humboldt County boat ramp status:

Trinidad: According to their website, the Trinidad launch will open on Friday and will launch boats from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., weather permitting. For more info, call 707-677-3625 or visit http://www.seascape-pier.com/

Shelter Cove: Open from 6:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Only Humboldt County residents will be allowed to launch, and ID will be required. People must be able to maintain 6 ft. of distance from each other while on the vessel. Only people from the same household/family can be on the vessel together. Cost to launch is $35. For more info, visit https://www.facebook.com/scfpinc/

Friday, May 1 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. On Friday, 6 feet of water will be flowing out down to an -0.1. 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.

Friday May 1: Low: 12:45 a.m. (3.4) and High: 6:41a.m. (6.0 ft.), Low 1:37 p.m. (-0.1 ft.) and High 8:54 p.m. (5.6 ft.)

Saturday May 2: Low: 2:05 a.m. (2.8) and High: 8:02 a.m. (5.9 ft.), Low 2:35 p.m. (-0.1 ft.) and High 9:39 p.m. (6.0 ft.)

Sunday May 3: Low: 3:12 a.m. (2.0) and High: 9:17 a.m. (6.0 ft.), Low 3:28 p.m. (-0.0 ft.) and High 10:20 p.m. (6.7 ft.)

USCG Auxiliary boat exams
The Eureka area no longer has a local USCG Auxiliary vessel examiner, but if there’s enough interest, the Crescent City flotilla can send someone down. If interested, email hasa6191@gmail.com. Include your name, phone, address, type of vessel, and if moored in the water or on a trailer.

Kristine Miller of Grants Pass holds a lingcod caught last Saturday aboard the Miss Brooke of Brookings Fishing Charters. The rockfish season in Humboldt and Del Norte counties will open this Friday, May 1. Pacific halibut will also open on Friday in California and north to central Oregon. Photo courtesy of Brookings Fishing Charters

Brookings rockfish update
Lingcod and rockfish have been very good out of Brookings reports Andy Martin, who runs Brookings Fishing Charters. “Pacific halibut season open May 1 and continues through October. Friday’s opener looks good before stormy weather arrives this weekend,” added Martin.

The Rivers:
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.

Smith
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.

Lower Rogue
According to Martin, spring salmon fishing remains slow on the Rogue River. “Anglers expected more fish with last week’s rain, but fishing is still poor. More rain is expected the beginning of next week.”

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

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, https://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 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 https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Groundfish-Summary#north. You can also email AskMarine@wildlife.ca.gov, 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 https://sheltercovefishingpreservationinc.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/scfpinc/. 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 fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Humboldt’s recreational fisheries to remain open

Ten year-old Canyon Martin of Blue Lake landed a nice redtail perch last Sunday while fishing on one of the local beaches. Perch fishing has been excellent the last few weeks. Centerville, Table Bluff, and Samoa beaches are some of the top spots. Photo courtesy of Aaron Martin

Wednesday’s California Fish and Game Commission meeting came and went with no restrictions or closures to Humboldt County’s recreational fisheries. The meeting, which included a couple hours of public comment, was first and foremost held to grant the director of the CDFW the temporary authority to selectively restrict sport fishing in some regions of the state due to public health concerns related to COVID-19. The Commission voted unanimously, giving the ability to CDFW Director Charlton Bonham to postpone the spring trout season, which opens April 25, in a few eastern Sierra counties at the request of local officials.

“I understand Californians desperately need the outdoors for solace, reinvigoration and spirituality, especially so right now,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham in a press release quickly issued by CDFW on Wednesday afternoon. “The proposal was never about a statewide permanent closure. It is about being responsive to local needs in this public health emergency, where we must do all we can as Californians to help each other make it through this together. We intend to use this authority surgically and based on local needs and knowledge.”

Elected officials in Mono, Inyo, and Alpine counties have been urging the governor’s administration to close the fishing season in their rivers and lakes. They fear that the onslaught of out-of-town anglers who normally travel to their regions to fish for trout will bring the coronavirus with them. The small, rural communities are also short on services, including places for anglers to stay and eat. Hospitals and medical facilities are also limited.

Rex Bohn, Humboldt County’s 1st District Supervisor was one of a handful of elected officials who publicly commented during the remote teleconference. Bohn was in full support of the three counties wanting to delay their fishing seasons. He also made it clear that control over the emergency fishing regulations should be at the county level. During the meeting, Bonham emphasized that his emergency authority, which expires at the end of May, would only be used to close fishing in the counties that request a closure.

Oregon closes fishing/hunting to non-residents
The Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife has closed recreational hunting, fishing, crabbing and clamming to non-residents due to concerns about travel to Oregon to participate in these outdoor activities according to a press release issued last Thursday. Such travel could spread the virus and put more of a burden on Oregon’s rural communities.

As of Friday, April 10, 11:59 p.m., non-residents may no longer participate in these activities in Oregon. The restriction extends until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and it is deemed safe to travel into Oregon. This order does not apply to anyone living in Oregon for less than six months who has not yet established residency. 

ODFW anticipates there will be opportunity for non-residents who have already purchased a 2020 license to participate in hunting, fishing or shellfish opportunities later in the year. ODFW will refund non-resident spring bear and spring turkey tags and reinstate preference points for spring bear hunters. Please contact Licensing at odfw.websales@state.or.us, (503) 947-6101 to arrange for a refund. For more information, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2020/04_April/040920.asp

“Critically Dry” year designation for Trinity River
The official water year designation for the Trinity River in 2020 is “Critically Dry” as determined by the April 1st reservoir inflow forecast of 515,000 acre feet, which allows for releases to the river of 369,000 acre feet according to the Trinity River Restoration Program.

Photo courtesy of https://www.trrp.net/

The recommended flows will increase beginning April 14, and peak flows will reach 3,900 cfs on April 24 and ramp down to 750 cfs on June 13. Flows will peak again at 1,400 cfs on June 16, then decreases to the summer baseflow of 450 cfs on July 3. The Trinity Management Council (TMC) flow release hydrograph recommendation is awaiting approval by the U.S. Department of Interior. For more information, visit https://www.trrp.net/restoration/flows/current/

The Beach/Jetty’s
When the ocean has cooperated, 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 look good for Saturday, with swells in the 3 to 4-foot range. Both the north and south jetty’s have been fishing well for the past few 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.

Brookings ocean update
Lingcod fishing slowed last week, mainly because of windy weather reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Boats have remained at port. Calmer weather is in the forecast this weekend. Surfperch are biting near the north jetty. Fishing is closed to non-resident anglers,” added Martin.

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.

Lower Rogue
The Rogue is low and clear, resulting in very slow fishing for spring king salmon according to Martin. He said, “A few springers are trickling through, but catch rates are poor for boaters and plunkers from shore. No major rain is in the forecast.”

Smith
The Smith was right around 1,650 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge on Wednesday. Fishing reports have been hard to come by as fishing access is extremely limited. The three access points that remain open to non-commercial boats are the U.S. Forest Service launch at the Forks, Ruby Van Deventer County Park and the Del Norte County boat ramp (Outiffers).

Main Stem Eel
As of Wednesday, the main Eel was running at 2,500 cfs on the Scotia gauge. The river is in perfect shape and there are quite a few steelhead making their way downriver. Fishing pressure has been light. The main stem Eel to the South Fork is open all year. From the mouth to Fulmor Rd. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from April 1 through the Friday preceding the fourth Saturday in May. From Fulmor Rd. to the South Fork, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30.

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

2020 California Recreational Ocean Salmon Regulations

Photo courtesy of Tony Sepulveda/Green Water Fishing Adventures

OR/CA Border to Horse Mountain (KMZ)

June 6 – August 9

  • Open seven days per week
  • Minimum size limit: 20 inches total length
  • Klamath Control Zone* (KCZ) closed in August
  • Additional closures around mouth of Klamath, Smith & Eel rivers

Horse Mountain to Point Arena (Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg)

May 1 – November 8

  • Open seven days per week
  • Minimum size limit: 20 inches total length

Point Arena to Pigeon Point (San Francisco)

May 1 – November 8

  • Open seven days per week
  • Minimum size limit: 20 inches total length

Pigeon Point to U.S./Mexico Border (Monterey and South)

May 1 – October 4

  • Open seven days per week
  • Minimum size limit: 24 inches total length

General Sport Regulations

  • Daily bag limit: 2 salmon of any species except Coho.
  • Possession limit: No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit.
  • 2020 Sport Ocean Salmon Season Flyer (PDF)

*Klamath Control Zone: The ocean area at the Klamath River mouth bounded on the north by 41°38’48” N. lat. (approximately 6 nautical miles north of the Klamath River mouth); on the west, by 124°23’00” W. long. (approximately 12 nautical miles off shore); and on the south, by 41°26’48” N. lat. (approximately 6 nautical miles south of the Klamath River mouth).

2020 Oregon Recreational Ocean Salmon Regulations

Humbug Mountain to OR/CA Border

(OR KMZ – Brookings Area)

June 20 – August 7

  • Open seven days per week
  • Minimum size limit: 24 inches total length

Decent season ahead for ocean salmon anglers

North Coast ocean sport salmon anglers are looking at a potential two-month season this summer, which should provide plenty of opportunity to land a salmon like the one pictured here with Grass Valley resident Larry Elis. The season is tentatively slated to begin on June 6 and run through Aug. 9 in the CA-KMZ. Photo courtesy of Curt Wilson/Wind Rose Charters

Expecting the worst and hoping for the best, North Coast ocean sport salmon fishermen received some good news this week. Following last year’s low Klamath returns and with only 186,600 adult kings said to be in the ocean this fall, heavy restrictions were likely eminent. But that wasn’t quite the case as the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) came up with a modest 64-day season for the CA KMZ. (OR/CA border south to Horse Mtn) Our season in Alternative 1 that was developed back in March was from June 6 through July 31. As luck would have it, the April closures in the San Francisco and Monterey management zones saved some Klamath fall Chinook impacts, which in turn extended our season by eight days. The CA KMZ season submitted for the current preferred alternative is June 6 to August 9, which in all likelihood will be adopted. Fishing will be allowed seven days per week for all salmon except Coho, two fish per day and a minimum size limit of 20 inches total length for Chinook.

With a robust 473,200 Sacramento fall Chinook said to be swimming in the ocean, the seasons to our south will have a much longer season, even after all of the April openers were delayed. The area from Horse Mountain south to Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, will open on May 1 and run through November 8. The San Francisco area will have the same season opening and closing dates. Fishing will be allowed seven days per week for all salmon except Coho, two fish per day and a minimum size limit of 20 total length for Chinook.

To the north in the Brookings area (OR KMZ), the season will open on June 20 and run through August 7. Fishing will be allowed seven days per week for all salmon except Coho, two fish per day and a minimum size limit of 24 inches total length for Chinook.

From Cape Falcon to Humbug Mtn., a mark-selective Coho fishery will run from June 27 through the earlier of Aug. 16, or 22,0000 marked Coho quota. Fishing is allowed seven days per week. All Coho must be fin clipped and a minimum of 16 inches. From Cape Falcon to the Humbug Mtn., a non-mark-selective Coho fishery will run Sept. 4-5, and open each Friday and Saturday through the earlier of September 30, or 3,000 non-mark-selective Coho quota. Coho must be a minimum of 16 inches.

For more info on the salmon season, visit https://www.pcouncil.org/april-2020-briefing-book-2/

Klamath/Trinity quota river update
Along with ocean salmon seasons up for final approval, the PFMC allocated 1,296 adult Chinook for the Klamath Basin quota. Bag and possession limits will be determined at the CA Fish and Game Commission meeting on April 15 and 16. The tribal allocation is 8,632 adult Klamath River fall salmon, split between the Yurok and Hoopa tribes.

Potential sportfishing ban – Commission to hold emergency meeting Thursday
The California Fish and Game Commission is asking the public to join an emergency teleconference call on Thursday, April 9 at 8:30 a.m. to discuss handing over temporary authority to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to delay, suspend or restrict sport or recreational fishing in specific areas within the state due to public health concerns related to COVID-19. If authority is granted, CDFW would be able to make statewide decisions up until June 1, when the authority expires. If the director of CDFW finds that delaying fishing seasons, such as the Eastern Sierra trout opener, April 25, is necessary to protect against the threat from COVID-19, then the 2020 fishing season could face several restrictions based on state, federal, local, and tribal public health guidance and public safety needs.

The opportunity to cast your input is available by calling the Commission or joining in the meeting via teleconference and webinar. The phone number is (877) 402-9753 or (636) 651-3141; access code 832 4310. Anyone can attend the meeting through CDFW’s live webinar at https://cawildlife.webex.com/cawildlife/j.php?MTID=m6435b7aec2cf1a5f67dd5f4cd6f4a18

Brookings ocean update
Lingcod fishing has been especially good out of Brookings according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Boaters are getting into lings to the north and south of the harbor,” said Martin. “Fishing also is very good for rockfish. A few lingcod caught been caught from the north jetty and near Chetco Point from the rocks. Surf perch are biting near the Chetco River jetties. Several normal hot spots, including Crissy Field, Winchuck Wayside, McVay Rock and alone Ranch, are closed because of state park closures in Oregon.”

Eel River steelhead returns
As of April 5, a total of 237 steelhead have entered the Van Arsdale fish count station according to Scott L Harris, an associate Biologist with the Northern Region. Making up that total is 85 males, 115 females, and 37 unknowns. The Chinook count stands at 153 and is done for the season. For more information, visit https://eelriver.org/the-eel-river/fish-count/

The Rivers
Smith
The Smith remains in good shape, running at just above 8-feet on the Jed Smith gauge as of Wednesday. According to guide Mike Coopman, last weeks rise brought in some fresh fish. “A few fresh steelhead showed up last week, and we saw a few downers as well,” said Coopman. “I’ve heard there’s quite a few fish spawning in the upper reaches now, those are probably fish that just came in. I’d expect to see a lot more spawned out fish making their way down in the next few weeks.” As a reminder, all of the State Park entrances are closed and blocked off. The three access points that remain open to non-commercial boats are the U.S. Forest Service launch at the Forks, Ruby Van Deventer County Park and the Del Norte County boat ramp (Outiffers).

Main Stem Eel
As of Wednesday, the main Eel was running at 5,200 cfs on the Scotia gauge and starting to turn a little green. It could fish by the weekend, and will be in prime shape by early next week. Should be plenty of downers as well as fresh steelhead in the mix.

Lower Rogue
According to Martin, a few spring salmon were caught early last week on the lower Rogue, but fishing has since slowed, with low, clear water and not a lot of fish around. “Dry weather is expected for several days, which may keep fishing tough. Late April and early May are prime time for lower Rogue springers.”

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

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, https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon. 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 https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/delay-in-californias-2020-recreational-ocean-salmon-opener/

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: https://webinar.ringcentral.com/j/1482157036, 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 https://www.pcouncil.org/documents/2020/03/april-2020-meeting-notice-and-detailed-agenda.pdf/

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 https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=177983&inline

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.

Rogue/Chetco
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.

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

Steelhead season ending on somber note

River conditions look excellent for the weekend

Southern Humboldt resident Erica Schuster landed a nice steelhead while fishing the main stem of the Eel River last week. The main stem Eel, from its mouth to the South Fork, will remain open to fishing all year. Most of the other North Coast rivers will close to fishing after March 31. Photo courtesy of Erica Schuster

The 2020 winter steelhead season is winding down here on the North Coast, and it’s one we’ll likely never forget. Right now, as we head into uncharted territory with the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, the steelhead rivers have become our place of solace. As the virus continues to spread and our movements become more restricted, it’s been nice to have a place to go to and not have to think about what’s happening in the world – and at home. As we head towards the end of March, steelhead fishing will unfortunately come to a close on most of our rivers. After next Tuesday, March 31, the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek, and the Chetco will all be closed to fishing.

A few however, will remain open. The main stem Eel, from its mouth to the South Fork is open to fishing all year. From the mouth to Fulmor Road, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from April 1 through the Friday preceding the fourth Saturday in May. Only barbless hooks may be used from fourth Saturday in May through Mar. 31. From Fulmor Road to the South Fork, it’s open all year. From April 1 through September 30, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. Only barbless hooks may be used from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31.

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 Craigs Creek to Jones Creek. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from the fourth Saturday in May through Aug. 31. Only barbless hooks may be used from Sept. 1 through Apr. 30. The bag limit remains the same, two hatchery steelhead per day.

Sections of the Klamath and Trinity rivers are open to fishing, but are subject to in-season changes. For more information, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=177572&inline.

Regarding the state-mandated shelter in place orders, fishing is still allowed for now. CDFW is urging anglers to practice social distancing of 6 feet or more from other people. If you find your favorite fishing spot crowded, find somewhere else to fish. It’s not worth the risk to your health, and the health of others. You should also avoid crowded trails and parking lots.

Ruth Lake Community Services District closes
As of March 23, the Ruth Lake Community Services District has been shut down due to COVID-19. At this time, the Ruth Lake Marina will be closed to business, the bathrooms will be closed and there will be no boat inspections taking place. Ruth Recreational Campground, Hobart Creek Campground, Barlow Group Campground, and Boy Scout Campground will be closed along with their facilities. The RLCSD office will be open part time to take phone calls but no boat inspections will be taking place. The RLCSD office has already begun calling customers to cancel all campground reservations for the months of April and May. If necessary, to cancel beyond that they will contact customers in the next months. For more information, visit https://www.ruthlakecsd.org/

Shelter Cove crab feed postponed
The Shelter Cove Fishing Preservation crab feed fundraiser scheduled for April 10 at the Gyppo Ale Mill Brewery has been postponed. If you purchased a ticket and would like a refund, contact Jake Mitchell at 223-1600 or you can hold on to it until the event is rescheduled. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/scfpinc

HASA fundraiser canceled
HASA’s 10th annual fundraiser and social event scheduled for April 25 has been canceled. Next year’s event is scheduled for March 20, 2021. Tickets purchased for the 2020 fundraiser will be honored next year with proof of purchase. For more info, visit Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers Facebook page.

Brookings ocean update
Lingcod and rockfish action has been good out of Brookings when weather conditions allow according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Oregon has enacted stricter social distancing rules, including closing motels, RV parks and campgrounds, limiting lodging options for visiting anglers,” said Martin.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Rogue
According to Martin, few anglers are fishing the Chetco with the low, clear flows. “Access also is limited now that all Oregon state parks have closed, including the launch area at Loeb Park. There are still fresh steelhead around, especially on the lower end,” added Martin.

Smith River
The Smith was on the rise as of Wednesday following nearly an inch of rain on Tuesday. Flows were predicted to hit 1,860 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge on Wednesday. This should be plenty of water to get the downers on the move and should bring in some fresh ones too. Boat pressure continues to be light. The Smith will remain open to fishing through April.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem was on a slight rise as of Wednesday and predicted to hit 1,600 cfs. There’s some fresh fish still coming in, but we should really start to see the downers on the move. There’s also a good number of half-pounders around as well. Conditions should be good for the weekend. Boat pressure has been light.

Eel River (South Fork)
As of Wednesday, flows were 320 cfs on the Miranda gauge and rising slightly. There’s plenty of steelhead around, including some fresh ones. Conditions are perfect for bank fishing.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen bumped up to 485 cfs early Wednesday morning, but is now on the drop. It’s predicted to hover around 300 to 400 cfs the rest of the week. Conditions remain perfect for bank anglers fishing bobbers, spoons, or plugs.

Mad River
The Mad was at 7.5 feet and on a slight rise as of Wednesday morning. The water had a little bit of color, but remained fishable following the rain on Tuesday. According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors of Eureka, there are still a lot of fish around. “We’re starting to see quite a few downers, but there are plenty of fresh ones coming in too,” said Kelly. “I’d say it’s about a 50-50 mix right now. Most of the fish coming in are wild, and most of the downers have been hatchery. Roe has been the bait of choice with all the downers around, and there’s enough water now to drift fish effectively. Soft beads under a float and spinners continue to catch fish as well.”

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

Fishing provides refuge amid virus outbreak

Eureka resident Hannah Haraldson, left is all smiles upon landing her first-ever steelhead. Haraldson was fishing on the Smith River last Thursday with guide Mike Coopman, right. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

Our lives are changing at a dizzying pace due to the pandemic created by the Coronavirus. Shelter in place orders are now in effect in several Bay Area counties, keeping people hunkered down indoors except for their essential needs. Here behind the Redwood Curtain, we’re still free to come and go – for now. Social distancing has become the new normal, and what better way to stay out of harm’s way than wetting your line at one of our local watersheds or beaches. Our isolated waterways are perfect for folks looking to take refuge from the crisis that’s taken the world by storm.

While self-quarantining has become the safest way to prevent the spreading of the virus, there certainly isn’t any harm in taking the kids out to the local fishing hole. Just remember if you’re fishing next to someone outside your household, try to maintain a six-foot space.   

Ocean salmon, rockfish and halibut seasons have yet to open, but there’s plenty of angling options on the North Coast. Winter steelhead is still your best bet despite the low water conditions. There’s still quite a few bright fish coming in from the ocean, and we’re now starting to see the spawned-out adults making their way down all of the rivers. Rockfish is open year-round to shore-based anglers. The jetties – when the seas are calm – are the perfect place to try and catch dinner. Springtime, when the surf starts to come down, is when the redtail perch can be easily caught from the beach. Some of the best spots to fish are Centerville, Table Bluff, and any of the lagoon beaches. In addition, Big and Stone Lagoons are excellent options to catch cutthroat trout. Both should have steelhead waiting for the next breach to head back to the ocean. Ruth Lake, a scenic two-hour drive from Eureka, offers excellent Rainbow trout and bass fishing year-round. In the spring, large crappie, bluegill, catfish and Kokanee are most abundant. As the North Coast inches closer towards lockdown, many who love fishing and the outdoors are looking for an escape. If you’re feeling cooped up at home, or need to burn some of your kids pent up energy, they are some angling options if you know where to look.

The weather ahead
“The weather looks to be dry through Saturday, but we could see some changes beginning on Sunday,” said Matthew Kidwell of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “A few showers are possible on Sunday, but it won’t be enough to affect any of the river levels. A moderate system is forecasted for Monday and Tuesday where we’ll see some rain each day. This will be a colder storm, so the hills will see some snow. As for precipitation, we could see a half inch in Humboldt, with an inch possible in some of the higher elevations. The Smith basin will see about the same.” said Kidwell.

PFMC public hearings/meetings will be held via webinar
In a press release issued last Friday by the PFMC citing COVID-19 public health concerns, the public hearing scheduled for March 24 in Eureka regarding the 2020 ocean salmon management alternatives will go forward as a webinar only. Visit https://www.pcouncil.org/events/public-hearing-on-salmon-management-alternatives-eureka/ for information on how to attend the webinar and ways to provide public comment. The PFMC also determined that the April 4 through 10 meetings originally planned to be held in Vancouver, WA will be conducted by webinar as well. At this meeting, the council will tentatively adopt final proposed alternatives for 2020 ocean salmon fishery regulations. The Council staff is preparing information for participation in these webinars, and instructions will be posted at https://www.pcouncil.org/council_meeting/april-3-10-2020-council-meeting/.

Perch’n on the Peninsula event canceled
The Samoa Peninsula Fire District has canceled their 10th Annual Perch’n on the Peninsula Surfperch Fishing Tournament and Fish Fry Fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, April 6. The Facebook post from the Samoa Peninsula Fire District states, “With the current state of the Coronavirus pandemic, the health and safety of our attendees, supporters, and community is our number one priority. In response to this it has become clear that holding our fundraiser this April is not currently possible. We look forward to seeing all of you next year.”  For more info, visit https://www.samoafire.org/

Brookings ocean report
Lingcod and rockfish action is very good out of Brookings according to Andy Martin with Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Charters are getting limits of lingcod and a good grade of black, blue and canary rockfish from Bird Island to House Rock. The season is open year-round in Oregon. Crabbing is slow. Surfperch are biting at most Brookings-area beach. Small swells are expected this week.”

The Rivers:
Southern Oregon rivers
Another batch of fresh steelhead moved into the Chetco over the weekend after flows got a slight bump from last week’s rain reports Martin. “Catch rates are still good on the lower river, mainly because few anglers are fishing. Local guides continue to find plenty of bright steelhead, including hatchery fish. More rain is coming next week. Steelhead and spring salmon fishing are slow on the Rogue. Flows are down to 2,300 cfs at Agness. Next week’s rain will likely bring the first schools of springers in as long as flows come up. Steelhead fishing remains slow on the Elk and Sixes,” added Martin.

Smith River
The same old story from the Smith River, low and clear conditions, but there are fish around. The bite was a little slow over the weekend due to the cold water temps, but some fish were caught. Boat pressure remains light.

Eel River (main stem)
The main Eel was flowing at 1,600 cfs as of Wednesday afternoon, up from last Saturday’s 900 cfs. There are reports of bright fish still making their way upriver, and the downers have started to show in bigger numbers. Boat pressure this week has been light.

Eel River (South Fork)
After a bump in flows pushed the South Fork from 230 cfs to 430 over the weekend, the river is dropping back into clear water conditions. Even though it’s low, there’s still plenty of water for the fish to move up and down. Conditions are good for tossing spoons or bobber fishing from the bank.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen bumped up to 240 cfs from 80 cfs following the weekend storm. The much-needed rain added some color and flows were enough to get fishing moving both directions. Conditions are perfect for bank anglers fishing bobbers, spoons, or plugs.

Mad River
The water color is perfect on the Mad, and fresh steelhead are still being caught. Flows were right around 290 cfs (7 feet) on Wednesday afternoon. With a new layer of snow in the hills, it should stay green until it closes at the end of the month. The slight rise put the downers on the move, but plenty of fresh ones are still coming in. Bobbers, spinners and plugs fished with side planers are all working.

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

Slim year ahead for Klamath and ocean kings

Klamath River sport anglers won’t have as many adult king salmon to take home this fall as ocean abundance numbers are forecasted to be lower than previous years. The number of adult salmon returning to the Klamath in 2019 were also lower than expected. This years quota will range from 1,291 to 801 adult kings for the Klamath and Trinity basin. In 2019, the basin-wide quota was 7,636. Final river quotas and ocean seasons will be decided during the April 4-10 PFMC meeting in Vancouver, WA. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

Looking at the ocean abundance of Klamath River kings and the numbers that returned to the river in 2019, I’d say we’re pretty fortunate to have any type of salmon season this fall. But we will, and a couple of the alternatives don’t look half bad. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) on Monday released three preliminary alternatives for managing salmon fisheries from the OR/CA border to Horse Mountain (which includes Humboldt County). According to the PFMC, 186,600 Klamath and 473,200 Sacramento fall Chinook are said to be swimming in the ocean, which will restrict the North Coast on season lengths and river quotas. The three alternatives currently on the table: June 6 to July 31; or June 11 to July 31; or July 1 to July 19. All three scenarios are the same, two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size.

From Horse Mountain to Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, the three alternatives are: April 11 to Nov. 1; or April 11 to Oct. 31; or April 11 to Oct. 30.
All three scenarios are the same, two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size.

To view all of the salmon management alternatives, visit https://www.pcouncil.org/draft-council-adopted-salmon-management-measures-tables-for-public-review-from-march-2020-pfmc-meeting/

Final season dates will be decided during the April 4-10 PFMC meeting in Vancouver, WA. The public is invited to comment on the PFMC’s season proposals at that meeting or at a hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24 at the Red Lion Hotel, 1929 Fourth St. in Eureka. Comments can also be submitted through the PFMC website at www.pcouncil.org.

Klamath/Trinity fall salmon allocations
Not only will the recreational ocean salmon season be restricted, sport anglers will have quite a few less Klamath/Trinity River fall Chinook to harvest this year as well. The recreational allocations, or quotas, as proposed by the PFMC will range from 1,291 to 801 adult fall Chinook in 2020 across the three alternatives. Last year’s basin-wide quota was 7,636 adults. If, for example, Alternative One was chosen, the quota for the Klamath and Trinity basins would be 1,291 adults. Of those, 645 would be allowed for sport harvest from Hwy. 96 bridge to the mouth of the Klamath. From the 96 bridge to Iron Gate, 219 could be harvested. The Trinity would receive 426 adults for harvest. The Spit Area (within 100 yards of the channel through the sand spit formed at the Klamath River mouth) would close when 194 adult kings were taken downstream of the Highway 101 bridge.

The three quota alternatives are not final, but will be decided during the April 4-10 PFMC meeting in Vancouver, Washington Once the quota is agreed upon, 50 percent will go to the lower Klamath basin, 17 percent to the upper basin, and 33 percent will be allocated for the Trinity River. When adopted, these quotas will go into effect August 15, 2020.

The weather ahead
After another week of dry conditions, rain is in the forecast for the weekend. “We should start to see the rain move in sometime late Friday evening,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The wet weather should stick around through the weekend, and will start to clear on Sunday night. In the Smith basin, three-quarters to an inch and a quarter of rain is forecasted. In Humboldt, we could see a half to one inch. In the Eel basin, they can expect from a half to possibly three-quarters in the mountains. After Sunday, the next week looks dry. There is another chance of rain next weekend, but it doesn’t look like it will be much,” said Zontos.

Brookings ocean report
Bottom fishing has been very good out of Brookings reports Andy Martin with Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Lingcod are staging in shallow water to spawn. Crabbing has been slow, with far more females than keeper-size males.”

The Rivers:
Southern Oregon rivers
New steelhead continue to move into the lower Chetco, but fishing is tough because of low, clear conditions according to Martin. “Flows are down to 305 cfs. A few boats a day are still drifting from Loeb to Social Security, and picking off a few steelhead at first light. The Rogue, Elk and Sixes are low, clear and slow for steelhead,” added Martin.

Smith River
The Smith remains low and clear, running at under 1,000 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge as of Wednesday. Despite the conditions, the fishing is still relatively good. There isn’t much boat traffic during the week, but the few out there are catching some nice steelhead. Nearly an inch of rain is expected over the weekend and flows are predicted to bump around 150 cfs. This could be just enough to really turn on the bite. It could also start to bring some of the spawned-out fish down river.

Eel River (main stem)
Down to just about 973 cfs as of Wednesday, the main Eel is still a good option for fresh steelhead. The river is low and clear and lacking current, but there’s fish to be had. Bobbers or plugs are your best options.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork is down to summertime flows, running at 250 cfs as of Wednesday. It’s definitely low and clear, but there are plenty of fish around. If you’re looking for a place to throw a bobber or a spoon, conditions are still good. A slight increase in flows is predicted for the weekend.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was under 90 cfs as of Wednesday and looks to be the largest benefactor from the weekend rain. Flows are predicted to rise to roughly 500 cfs beginning on Sunday. If this happens, conditions could be excellent next week. There are still plenty of fish around.

Mad River
Plenty of fresh steelhead are still being caught despite the low, clear conditions. The fish are holding in the deeper holes and slots, and guys fishing stealthy with bobbers, spinners or plugs are doing well. Flows were right around 500 cfs on Wednesday, but it looks like changes are coming. The river is forecasted to rise to nearly 1,000 cfs late Sunday evening. If that happens, the fishing could bust wide-open.

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

Klamath salmon numbers down, restrictions expected

After hearing the news a couple weeks ago regarding the adult Chinook salmon returns to the Klamath last fall, we knew this year’s ocean abundance numbers wouldn’t be good. And that was confirmed at last Thursday’s annual Ocean Salmon Information meeting in Santa Rosa, where CDFW suggested only 186,600 Klamath River fall Chinook adults are said to be swimming in the ocean. These numbers are lower than the 2019 forecast of 274,200. The one bit of good news is this year’s preseason abundance is higher than last seasons postseason estimate of 156,244. To simplify, more fall adult salmon are predicted to be in the ocean in 2020 than the postseason estimate confirmed for 2019, which hopefully is a step in the right direction. Regardless, the low ocean and river numbers will likely result in reduced fishing opportunity in the areas north of Pt. Arena.

First-time angler Allie with a limit of Klamath River kings from 2019.

The CDFW also predicted that in the absence of fishing, 48,274 natural area spawners will return to the Klamath this fall, which is slightly higher than the actuals from 2019 (37,270). This number doesn’t include the hatchery returns or the returning spawners to the upper Klamath tributaries. This potential spawner abundance forecast applied to the KRFC control rule results in an allowable exploitation rate of 25 percent, which produces 36,206 natural-area adult spawners. This could potentially leave 6,034 adult salmon to be split between ocean commercial, ocean sport, and in-river harvest. Though not confirmed as of yet, we may be looking at a roughly 900 adult salmon quota for the Klamath and Trinity.   

Over on the Sacramento, the numbers are trending upwards. The 2020 preseason ocean abundance is forecasted to be 473,200. In 2019, the forecast was, 379,632, while the postseason estimate came in higher at 505,500, which was 133 percent of the preseason forecast.  Another bit of good news on the Sac is the adult escapement. Regulations adopted in 2019 were expected to result in 160,159 hatchery and natural area adult spawners. Postseason estimates showed an escapement of 162,532 hatchery and natural area adult spawners.

What the PFMC chooses to do with these forecasts will be determined in the next couple of months. Up next, the PFMC is meeting March 3 through 9 in Rohnert Park, CA. The Council will determine if any in-season action for fisheries scheduled to open in April is needed. They will also craft three regulatory alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries in effect on or after May 1. Final alternatives for public review will be adopted on March 9. For information on the meeting, visit, https://www.pcouncil.org. To view the salmon preseason process, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon/preseason

PFMC public hearing coming to Eureka
A public hearing on California ocean salmon will be held at the Red Lion Hotel, 1929 4th Street, Eureka on March 24, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. The Pacific Fishery Management Council will receive comments from the public on the three California ocean salmon fishery regulatory alternatives adopted by the Council in March. More information is available at www.pcouncil.org.

Mad River Steelhead Derby wrap up
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportmen’s Association Mad River Steelhead Derby concluded on Feb. 29 with more than 20 registered anglers entering a measured hatchery steelhead photo into the contest. Mad River Steward volunteer angler Richard Burrow submitted the biggest steelhead, measuring 35.75 inches in length from nose to fork of the tail. Burrow will receive a $500 prize from the non-profit organization, NCGASA.org at the Derby Awards party. The awards party will be held this Saturday at Six Rivers Brewery starting at 5 p.m. There will be a slide show of anglers and their catches, silent auction, raffles and giveaways for all who participated in this inaugural event. A $10 donation is requested to cover the food costs. NCGASA would like to thank their premier sponsors: Lithia Eureka, Coast Central Credit Union, RMI Outdoors and HASA

Richard Burrow of Eureka was the first place winner in the inaugural Nor-Cal Guide and Sportsmen’s Assoc. Mad River Steelhead Derby, which ended on Feb. 29. Burrow’s hatchery steelhead measured 35.75 inches. The Derby awards party will be held this Saturday at Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville starting at 5 p.m. Photo courtesy of Richard Burrow

Weather ahead
“We’re starting to see a slight change in our pattern where the ridge of high pressure has weakened slightly and has started to move westward, allowing for storm systems to move into our area,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “We’re not expecting any big storms that will impact the rivers in the next few days. We will see a system move into the area on Friday afternoon and into Saturday. Rainfall totals in the Smith basin will be from a quarter to a half inch. In Humboldt, we may see up to a quarter. Rainfall amounts will be less as you move south. Locally next week is looking dry. There is however, a potentially wetter system for next Friday and Saturday that could bring more widespread rain, with accumulations likely under an inch. The confidence in this storm is low as it’s still quite a ways out there.”

Brookings ocean report
Lingcod and rockfish have been biting well out of Brookings when the weather allows boats to get out according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Big swells and northwest winds have kept boats in the harbor since late last week. Lingcod and rockfish are open year-round in Oregon. Surfperch are biting well from the Southern Oregon beaches.

The Rivers:
Southern Oregon
Low, clear water continues to make fishing tough on the Chetco, but steelhead are being caught on the lower end by the first few boats to float down reports Martin. “There are still a lot of hatchery fish between Loeb Park and Social Security Bar, but they are challenging to catch with flows already near early summer levels. Few boats are fishing the upper river because of low flows. The Rogue, Elk and Sixes also have slowed because of low water. Spring salmon will arrive soon on the Rogue, likely after a decent rain. The Elk and Sixes are now practically too low to drift, said Martin.

Smith River
The Smith is extremely low and clear, running at 1,130 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge as of Wednesday. Boat pressure has been light as most have moved to other rivers, but there were a few fish caught last week. When we do get some rain, the fishing should bust wide-open as the downers are all waiting for some water. A slight bump in flows is predicted for Saturday, but probably not enough to change the current conditions.

Eel River (main stem)
Down to just about 1,000 cfs as of Wednesday, the main Eel is still a decent option for fresh steelhead. The river is clear, and you’ll likely need to drag your boat in multiple spots, but there are fish around. Bobbers or plugs are your best options.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork is down to 277 cfs as of Wednesday, and reports have been hard to come by. It’s definitely low and clear, but there are still fish holding in some of the deeper spots and places with broken water. If you’re looking for a place to fly fish, conditions are still good.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen is down to roughly 100 cfs. and should be good for bank and fly anglers. Like the rest of the coastal rivers, a fair number of fresh steelhead are still being caught.

Mad River
Despite the low, clear conditions, plenty of fresh steelhead are still being caught. A good number of fish remain spread out through the river, but more are being caught on the lower end. The fish are holding in the deeper holes and slots, and guys fishing stealthy with bobbers or plugs are doing well.

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