Salmon stymied by shifting Klamath mouth

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Photo Caption: The Klamath River mouth, seen here from the overlook on the north side of the river, has been opening and closing since the weekend, making it difficult for salmon to enter the river. Large swells are predicted for the weekend and hopefully the mouth can blow wide-open allowing what’s left of the fall run to make their way upriver. (Photo courtesy of Sara Borok, Klamath River Environmental Scientist)

Fishing the North Coast
by Kenny Priest/For the Times-Standard

Low Flow closures on North Coast rivers start Tuesday

Along the lines of the ’80s TV commercial for Wendy’s where the old lady shouts, “Where’s the beef?” Klamath salmon anglers have been wondering, “Where’s the salmon?” In truth, no one really knows. What we do know is 11,538 have been harvested below the 101 bridge and another 1,009 have been caught by sport anglers above the bridge. Throw in approximately 54,000 fish that have been harvested by the Yurok tribe and what you’re left with is a lot of missing fish. Sure, there’s a few fish that have squirted through and are now entering tributaries like the Trinity, Shasta, and Scott rivers, but with an in-river return at well over 250,000 predicted, the numbers aren’t adding up. A big part of the problem has been the mouth of the river. Flowing to the south and running narrow and shallow, conditions have been less than ideal for huge pushes of fish to enter the river. And with last week’s storms and big tide swings, it went from bad to worse. Since the weekend, it’s been opening and closing and has created a lake that can be felt all the way to Blakes’ riffle. At the moment, very few fish are entering the lower river and guides are lucky to catch a few a day.

According to Sara Borok, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River, we’ve been down this road before. “Back in 2001 we also had a south mouth that hampered the fish coming into the river. “It blew open on September 21 and we had a huge surge of fish pour in,” Borok said. “Although there’s no way to know for sure, my guess it there are still quite a few fish in the ocean waiting for the right conditions to enter.” With big swells again predicted for the weekend, there’s a chance the mouth can finally blow out enough to allow the remaining kings to enter the system and start their journey upriver. Let’s hope so.

Weekend marine forecast
If you’re hoping to fish offshore this weekend, Saturday will be your best bet. South winds are forecasted 5 to 15 knots with swells to 8 feet at 11 seconds.  Sunday isn’t looking as good with south winds to 20 knots and waves out of the west to 14 feet at 14 seconds. For up-to-date weather forecasts, visit http://www.weather.gov/eureka/. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

HASA meeting
A general membership meeting will be held Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. in Scott McBain’s office at 980 7th Street in Arcata. According to Cliff Hart, President of HASA, discussions will include urgent issues related to Pacific Halibut. “All fisherman and fisherwomen from the North Coast are invited to come and give feedback. We NEED to hear from you. If you can’t make the meeting, please email your comments about the current Pacific Halibut situation and what options you would like to see to: hasa6191@gmail.com. We are in an unfortunate situation where we will lose some halibut fishing. We don’t like any of the options dealt, but we have the ability to recommend. Public comment is open with PFMC, and we may call upon you to write letters and emails.” Hart added. The due date is 10/9/13. For more information, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/pacifichalibut.asp

The Oceans:

Eureka
According to Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing, the rough ocean we’ve had this week has kept the boats off the water. “The last fishable day was Sunday and we were able to run to the Cape for Rockfish. Since then, nobody’s been out. Friday and Saturday are looking fishable, but it’s coming back up again on Sunday. Hopefully we’ll be able to go one of those days and drift for halibut as the bite has been pretty good. Last Thursday we were able to limit out our four customers” Klassen said.

Crescent City
Little if any angling is happing offshore out of Crescent City reports Chris Hegne’s of Englund Marine. “We’ve had some pretty rough seas this week and no one’s been out. The weekend isn’t looking much better,” Hegnes added.

Low Flow River Closures begin Oct. 1
North Coast rivers that are regulated by low flow closures, including the Eel River, Mad River, Mattole River, Redwood Creek, Smith River and Van Duzen River will begin angling restrictions on October 1st, except for the Mad River, which went into effect September 1st. The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public by a telephone recorded message updated, as necessary, no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any stream will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at anytime. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. NOTE: The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River will be closed until January 1, 2014

Areas subject to low flow closures:

Mad River: The main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to Cowan Creek. Minimum flow: 200 cfs at the gauging station at the Highway 299 bridge.

The main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road with the Eel River to the South Fork Eel River. Minimum flow: 350 cfs at the gauging station near Scotia.

The South Fork of the Eel River downstream from Rattlesnake Creek and the Middle Fork Eel River downstream from the Bar Creek. Minimum flow: 340 cfs at the gauging station at Miranda.

Van Duzen River: The main stem Van Duzen River from its junction with the Eel River to the end of Golden Gate Drive near Bridgeville (approximately 4,000 feet upstream of Little Golden Gate Bridge. Minimum flow: 150 cfs at the gauging station near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.

Mattole River: The main stem of the Mattole River from the mouth to Honeydew Creek.

Minimum flow: 320 cfs at the gauging station at Petrolia.

Redwood Creek: The main stem of Redwood Creek from the mouth to its confluence with Bond Creek. Minimum flow: 300 cfs at the gauging station near the Highway 101 bridge.

Smith River: The main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its confluence with Patrick Creek; the South Fork Smith River from the mouth upstream approximately 1000 ft to the County Road (George Tyron) bridge and Craigs Creek to its confluence with Jones Creek; and the North Fork Smith River from the mouth to its confluence with Stony Creek. Minimum flow: 600 cfs at the Jedediah Smith State Park gauging station.

The Rivers:

Lower Klamath
According to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, with the mouth opening and closing since the weekend, very few fish are coming in. The big swells aren’t helping much either,” Coopman said.

Alan Borges of Alan’s Guide Service, who’s also working the lower river, reports guides are still struggling to catch fish in any numbers. “The ones we are catching are fresh with sea lice. Hopefully the ocean calms a bit and we can truly see if there are any good numbers of fish left to come in,” Borges added.

Lower Trinity
Curt Wilson of Curt Wilson Fishing Guides reports the rain and fluctuating flows brought a good amount of fish up the Trinity early this week. “The last few days, steelhead have taken over the show around the Willow Creek area. It seems as we are finally seeing the lack of kings we have been hearing about down low really catch up with us. Hopefully a few more decide to show up. The Willow Creek weir counted 140 fish on Tuesday, but most of them were steelhead,” Wilson added.

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

Epic tuna bite off coast of Eureka

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Photo Caption: Kayla from Roseville, CA had her hands full landing this 25-pound Chinook on Tuesday while fishing with John Klar’s Guide Service on the Klamath River. 

Fishing the North Coast
Kenny Priest/For the Times-Standard
Published 9/5/2013

Free fishing day this Saturday

Calm seas and 60-degree water — the two ideal conditions that make any fanatical tuna angler go nuts — or call in sick to work. North Coast fishermen had been targeting salmon all summer, but now, tuna has become the new holy grail and catch of the day. For the last couple of weeks, conditions have provided a few opportunities for boats willing to run 50 to 60 miles out, but Wednesday, with warm water inching closer towards shore, seemed to be THE day. The word was out!

Close to 30 boats launched out of Eureka area and made the trek out to the spot where the boats left them biting days prior. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport fishing was part of the fleet and reported the bite was pretty unbelievable. According to Klassen, they ended up 43 miles out on the 46-line and found lots of fish on the surface as well as “jumpers” where the water temps were in the mid-60s. “We probably caught about a third of our fish on live bait, caught a few on the troll and a few on dead bait. They were biting everything we threw at them. The fish were big too — all of our fish were in the 20-pound class,” Klassen added. Though I didn’t get any totals for the day, I’m assuming when Klassen says they “plugged the boat”, they got all they needed.

Marine forecast

It doesn’t appear Mother Nature will be too kind to the salmon anglers looking to get on the water for the final weekend of salmon season. Out 10 nautical miles, Friday’s forecast is calling for winds out of the north 10 to 20 knots and waves NW 9 feet at 9 seconds. Saturday is calling for north winds 5 to 15 knots and waves NW 8 feet at 8 seconds. Sunday is looking very similar with north winds 10 to 20 knots and waves NW to 8 feet at 9 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For up-to-date weather forecast, visit http://www.weather.gov/eureka. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

 Klamath River salmon

The Labor Day weekend saw a huge push of salmon enter the river according to Sara Borok, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River. “As of Monday, 7,030 adult Chinook have been harvested out of the lower river quota of 20,003. Of those, 6,561 were harvested at the mouth. Because we don’t anticipate hitting the basin quota of 40,006 the mouth will not close,” Borok added. With the water temperatures again on the rise, the DFW is encouraging anglers to catch their three adult salmon and not catch and release attempting to harvest a jack to fill their limits.

Free Fishing Day on Saturday

This Saturday, September 7 is the second of California’s two 2013 Free Fishing Days, when people can try their hand at fishing without having to buy a sport fishing license. All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect. For more information on Free Fishing Days, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/freefishdays.html

Rockfish and Halibut seasons

Though sport salmon season closes on September 8, both rockfish and Pacific Halibut seasons are open until October 31 in the Northern Management Zone.

The Oceans:

Eureka

The finish line is in sight for the ocean sport salmon season, and may not end up quite like it started. For the better part of four months, we’ve had great weather and phenomenal fishing. If the rough seas don’t materialize for the weekend, you’ll more than likely find the fleet working south off Centerville beach anywhere from the 32 to the 37-line. That’s where Captains Gary Blasi of Full Throttle Sport Fishing, Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing, and Tony Sepulveda of Shellback Sport Fishing have been doing there time. Limits, or close to it have been the norm since the weekend, and the fish have been a real nice grade. The boats have been working in tight from 100 feet of water out to 190 and all the fish have been coming right off the bottom. The area has been one of the few spots holding cold water, but that may change this weekend as the warm water is once again pushing right into the beach.

Trinidad

Phil Pritting of Eureka’s Englund Marine reports the salmon has slowed and not many are still trying. ‘I did see one of the charter boats come in on Tuesday with a bunch of salmon, so I know there’s still some around. The halibut fishing has been pretty good for the guys willing to put in some time. Best action has been off of Patrick’s Point in 270 to 310 feet of water. The rockfish bite has also been decent, but now and then they just won’t bite,” Pritting said.

Crescent City

Warm water has pushed the salmon far and deep reports Chris Hegnes of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. “I heard of a few caught, but they were out in deep water by guys targeting halibut. The water was 64 degrees to the beach on Wednesday, which is good for the tuna fishermen, but not salmon. The halibut bite is still going strong, we weighed a 98-pounder on Sunday that was caught near the South Reef,” Hegnes added.

The Rivers:

Lower Klamath

Not many adult salmon are making their way upriver reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “The mouth is full of fish and could bust wide-open open any time, but as of today, we are only seeing a few make their way upriver. We are seeing a good amount of steelhead however, both half-pounders and adults,” Coopman added. Alan Borges of Alan’s Guide Service has also been working the Klamath and reports the fishing over the last week has been up and down. “Some days we are catching quite a few, with the majority being half-pounders and adult steelhead with a nice king in the mix here and there. It seems like the fish are coming in spurts and water temps still need to drop a little more for things to really take off. It’s keeping the kings from really pushing in the mouth in good numbers,” Borges added.

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

Ocean conditions slow North Coast salmon bite

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Kenny Priest/For the Times-Standard

August 22, 2013

Ceremonial water coming Sunday from the Trinity

We all knew this was coming — the out-of-this-world salmon action that we’ve enjoyed since May has finally started to taper off — at least for the last couple of days. After a not so hot bite this past weekend, the action really slowed to a crawl Tuesday and Wednesday. Charter boat scores ranged from nine fish to one fish kept, and everywhere in between. That doesn’t sound horrible on paper, but compared to the salmon fishing we’ve grown accustomed to over the last three months, this rates as headline news. This begs the question — where did the fish go? Well, no one really knows. The reports I heard from Wednesday is there were quite a few biters that just didn’t stick, so maybe the fish are still there. The water temperatures surely played a role in the slowdown. The warm water, which reached 62 degrees out front, pushed all the way to the beach. When this happens, the salmon typically head straight down in search of the cool water they crave. And that’s where the majority of the fish have been coming the last couple days, anywhere between 100 to 200 feet on the wire. With calm seas predicted through the weekend, maybe the large sport fleet can do a little searching and find the schools again.

Marine forecast

Calm seas are predicted through the weekend. Friday’s forecast is calling for winds 5 to 10 knots with 4-foot swells at 8 seconds. The forecast for Saturday is calling for winds 5 to 10 knots, with swells to 3-feet at 7 seconds. Sunday is looking very similar, with winds 5 to 10 knots and seas to 4-feet at 8 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For up-to-date weather forecast, visit http://www.weather.gov/eureka. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Ceremonial water release from the Trinity

Beginning this Sunday at 8 a.m., flows out of the Trinity will increase from 450 cfs to 2,650 cfs. After peaking at midnight Sunday, they will be reduced slowly until reaching 450 cfs on Thursday, August 29 at 8 p.m. The flow increase is due to the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s Boat Dance Ceremony. Hopefully, the 62,000 acre-feet of water that’s currently in the hands of the court will follow closely behind. If it doesn’t, a fish kill could be on the horizon.

Klamath River quota update

According to Sara Borok, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River Project,

407 adult Chinook salmon have been harvested on the Lower Klamath as of Tuesday. The quota is 20,003. Of those, 395 were caught below the Hwy. 101 bridge. The trigger number to close the spit fishery is 3,000 adult Chinook salmon.

Klamath salmon health being closely monitored

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking help from the public in monitoring the health of Chinook salmon in the Klamath River and its tributaries. Drought conditions mixed with a larger than normal return of salmon elevate concerns of fish die offs. Small numbers of dead fish are expected this year as an estimated 272,000 fall-run Chinook salmon return. CDFW, in conjunction with The Klamath Fish Health Assessment Team (KFHAT) is asking the public to report any unusual numbers of dead fish they see by contacting Sara Borok at 707-822-0330.

The Oceans:

Eureka

Slow but steady fishing best describes the salmon action out of Eureka this past weekend. Most of the charter boats were able to grind out limits, but they didn’t necessarily come easy. Captain Tim Klassen on the Reel Steel had limits both days before the bite tanked on Monday. “There’s still a wide variety of fish out there, anywhere from 10-inches to 40-pounds. With the ocean calming down over the weekend, we’ll be able to take a look around and see if we can find some colder water. I know there’s some down at the Cape and up closer to Trinidad,” Klassen added. After having the weekend off, Captain Gary Blasi of Full Throttle Sportfishing was back on the water Monday and was able to get a box full before noon. “We found a pretty good school of fish and were able to land five over 20-pounds. The fish were coming deep, about 130-feet down. We definitely need some wind to blow the warm water out of here,” Blasi said. After a weekend in which Phil Glenn skippered the Shellback, Captain Tony Sepulveda was back at it this week. With all the Eureka boats tied up at the dock, he ventured out into pretty rough seas on Tuesday and was able to land six keepers. “The fishing definitely slowed on Tuesday. The water is warm, but I think it will cool itself in the next few days. I don’t think the fish are gone, they’ll show up again,” Sepulveda added.

 

Trinidad

The salmon bite was wide-open over the weekend, but slowed Monday as the ocean got rough reports Curt Wilson, who runs the Wind Rose Charter out of Trinidad. “We tried to go on Monday, but it got real nasty so we turned around with all the other charter boats. The action on Tuesday and Wednesday was spotty at best. The halibut and rockfish were biting over the weekend, but not much effort over the last few days on either. The weather is suppose to lay down real nice over the weekend, so maybe we can go look around for some salmon,” Wilson added.

 

Shelter Cove

Fishing in general has slowed out of Shelter Cover reports Russ Thomas of Mario’s Marina in Shelter Cove. “We’re launching maybe three or four boats per day and most are targeting rockfish. The salmon action has slowed way down; not very many are still trying. The few that are being caught are nice ones however,” Thomas added.

 

Crescent City

Leonard Carter of Crescent City’s Englund Marine reports the Pacific halibut bite has been steady, with fish being landed daily. “Most of the boats are fishing the back side of the South Reef in 190 to 210 feet of water. The Big Reef is also producing a few as well. The salmon has slowed out front, with not many anglers still trying. The best action has been coming around the mouth of the Smith. There have been some real big ones landed the last few days, with a few in the 40-pound class and some 30’s. The lingcod is still red hot and the snapper bite has been sporadic,” Carter added.

The Rivers:

Lower Klamath

Guide Mike Coopman reports the Lower Klamath is fishing decent, with most of the fish landed being steelhead. “There’s not many kings in the river due to the water temps, and that probably won’t change until it cools. The morning bite has been best, and if you choose the right spot first thing, it can make your day,” Coopman added.

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