May 1 marks day one of our abbreviated ocean sport fishing season on the North Coast as Pacific halibut will open Monday. Our rockfish season will follow, opening on May 15, but will also be shorter than previous years. Without an ocean salmon season this year, these two fisheries will be more popular and will see more pressure than ever.
The Pacific halibut season will be open until Nov. 15 or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. The 2023 Pacific halibut quota for the California subarea is 39,540 pounds — approximately the same as the 2022 quota. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will monitor catches of Pacific halibut during the season and provide catch projection updates on its Pacific halibut webpage, wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut#31670772-in-season-tracking.
The fishery will be open seven days a week, and 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 Pacific halibut regulations, visit wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut#31670771 pacific-halibut-regulations.
Weekend marine forecast
Ocean conditions don't look good for Monday's Pacific halibut opener. Winds are forecast up to 20 knots with 10 foot swells. For the weekend, Saturday is calling for winds out of the north 5 to 10 knots with northwest waves 4 feet at eight seconds and northwest 4 feet at 13 seconds. The wind starts to pick up on Sunday, coming from the northwest 15 to 20 knots with northwest waves 7 feet at eight seconds and west 9 feet at 15 seconds. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit weather.gov/eureka/ or windy.com. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.
Recreational razor clam fishery closes in Humboldt County
Determining that consumption of razor clams in the area poses a significant threat for domoic acid exposure, CDFW has closed the razor clam fishery in Humboldt County as of April 21. A sampling of razor clams from Clam Beach in Humboldt County in early April found clams exceeding the current federal action level for domoic acid of greater than or equal to 20 parts per million.
The recreational clam fishery in Del Norte County is also closed at this time. CDFW will continue to work with the California Department of Public Health and Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to collect, monitor and analyze razor clams to determine when the recreational razor clam fishery can be reopened safely in these areas.
For more information on any fishery closure or health advisories, visit wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories.
To get the latest information on current fishing season closures related to domoic acid, call CDFW's Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at (831) 649-2883.
Potential California halibut bag limit reduction
CDFW is proposing an emergency regulation change to reduce the recreational California halibut daily bag and possession limit from three fish to two fish in northern California (waters north of Point Sur, Monterey County). The proposal will be discussed at the May 17 California Fish and Game Commission teleconference meeting.
Northern California Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel ("party boat") operators and recreational anglers communicated to the CDFW that they anticipate nearshore fishing effort will shift and increase for California halibut in 2023, due to limited fishing opportunities and changes in accessibility to other fisheries, such as salmon.
During the salmon closure in 2008 and 2009, fishing effort shifted to California halibut and the estimated recreational catch in northern California surpassed 54,000 and 43,000 fish, respectively. By 2013, the catch had dipped to just below 5,000 California halibut. The catch remained below 20,000 fish for several years (2011-2016) following the closure.
Recreational anglers have expressed a desire for proactive management to lessen the effect of the anticipated fishing effort shift on the California halibut resource. This anticipated shift coincides with a cold-water period, which is correlated with lower California halibut egg and larval survival. The fishery began to rebound from the 2008-2009 salmon closure in 2017, following warm water periods that began in 2014. A bag limit reduction will help to support California halibut population levels through the current cold-water period.
Based on California Recreational Fisheries Survey estimates, a bag limit reduction from three to two fish could result in protecting about 13 percent of fish that would otherwise be taken. For more information, visit cdfwmarine.wordpress.com/2023/04/13/cdfw-considers-reducing-california-halibut-bag-and-possession-limit-in-northern-california/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
Brookings ocean update
"Lingcod and rockfish action is good out of Brookings on calm weather days," said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. "Good weather returns on Friday. Halibut season opens May 1. Some halibut have already been released. Deeper water fishes best early in the season, with fish in 220 to 300 feet of water. Fishing for hatchery coho opens June 17 out of Brookings."
Reminder: The South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek and Chetco rivers all closed to fishing March 31.
Main Stem Eel
The main stem Eel remains high and off color. As of Wednesday, flows were right around 8,500 cubic feet per second on the Scotia gauge. Warm weather the this week has started the snowmelt, raising flows nearly 4,000 cfs since Saturday. With plenty of snow in the hills, it doesn't look like it will drop to a fishable color or level anytime soon. The main stem Eel to the South Fork is open all year. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30.
The Smith was hovering around 9.5 feet on the Jed Smith gauge Wednesday and is plenty fishable. Fishing reports have been hard to come by as most anglers have moved on for the season. There should be some downers around a few fresh ones still making their way upriver. After Sunday, the Smith will close to fishing from its mouth to the confluence of the Middle and South Forks; Middle Fork Smith River from mouth to Patrick Creek; and from the 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.
The lower Rogue is producing its best spring salmon fishing in years, with high catch rates of hatchery fish, according to Martin. "Guides anchoring and running anchovies and spinner blades, and shore anglers plunking Spin-N-Glos or 4.0 MagLips are getting into good numbers of fish, and many are getting limits. The peak of the season is here, but decent fishing will likely continue into June with high flows this spring. Wild springers must be released through May. The Umpqua also is having a strong springer run."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.