Since just before Labor Day weekend, the Klamath River has been stuffed with salmon. The number of jacks has been amazing and we're seeing some nice adult kings in the river, as well. The bulk of the run started a little late this year, most likely due to the unusually high water temperatures. Smoke-filled skies and cooler weather finally began cooling the water just enough, and the salmon came charging.
For the last three weeks, the fishing has been nothing short of spectacular. To see the number of fish in the river is certainly good news, especially considering the numbers of adult salmon returning in previous years has been so dire.
Since the complete salmon fishing closure in 2017, adult salmon returns have fallen well short of the 40,700 minimum floor escapements. In 2019, a return of approximately 87,000 was predicted but the actual returns were only 37,270. In 2020, CDFW forecasted a modest 48,274 natural area spawning salmon would return but only 26,190 were counted. This fall, 31,574 natural area spawning adults are forecasted to return.
So, while it's easy to speculate this year's returns could be more robust due to the harvest and catch rates, it's way too early to celebrate. We won't know the size of the run until sometime early next year. But it does feel good to see the river full of fish again. The lower Klamath adult salmon quota was met Sept. 7. You can still keep two jacks (less than or equal to 23 inches) per angler. Anglers may still fish for adult Chinook salmon in other sections of the Klamath Basin, including the main stem of the Klamath River above Weitchpec and the entire Trinity River, until their quotas are met. Anglers may keep track of the Klamath and Trinity river quotas by calling (800) 564-6479.
Weekend marine forecast
Hazardous seas warnings are in effect for the outer waters as steep waves and gusty winds continue through the work week. Conditions are expected to ease just before the weekend. As of Wednesday, the forecast out 10 nautical miles for Friday is calling for winds out of the south 5 to 10 knots with northwest swells 5 feet at 10 seconds. Saturday looks similar, with winds from the south up to 10 knots and northwest swells 6 feet at 11 seconds. Sunday the winds will be from the west up to 5 knots and northwest swells 8 feet at 12 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.
According to Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing, the Pacific halibut bite was pretty good prior to the latest ocean blowout. "We had fairly easy limits on Friday and Saturday," he said. "There seems to be plenty of fish around. Most of the action is in roughly 250 feet of water just north of the entrance and the fish are averaging 15 to 25 pounds. The California halibut bite is still going, too. We fished Monday in the bay and landed five keepers. There's a lot of smaller fish as well, which is good for the future. There's quite a bit of bait in the bay right now."
According to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing, the rock fishing and lingcod bite has been excellent all week. "From the Old man to down below the Hat, that area all seemed to produce equally good results. There are still some salmon around as well. Two days we had a fish per rod and two days we had zero. Still lots of bait right below the Cove and that's where all the action has been. There's still some nice fish around, two 36-pounders were caught this week."
A 65-pound Pacific halibut was caught on Friday, according to Britt Carson of Crescent City's Englund Marine. "Most of the fish are being caught near the South Reef in 225 to 300 feet of water. The rockfish and lingcod action remains excellent, with most boats getting easy limits of both." A few tuna were caught late last week 25 miles from the harbor. The next weather window looks to be Friday.
"Lingcod and rockfish was very good out of Brookings last week before a big swell and strong winds returned on Sunday," said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. "A few boats ventured offshore for tuna Saturday and found a handful of albacore 22 miles out. With rough weather this week, tuna won't be an option any time soon. Halibut fishing has slowed, but remains decent for Pacific halibut. The limit is now two fish a day."
There are still quite a few jacks in the lower river, along with some nice adult kings. The fish are spread out from the Glen to Johnson's. As a reminder, the lower river quota has been met and salmon longer than 23 inches must be released. Your adult Chinook releases need to be recorded on your North Coast Salmon Report Card as normal. The bag limit is two salmon less than or equal to 23 inches and two hatchery steelhead.
The Chetco estuary fished surprisingly well last week, with many boats getting multiple fish, reports Martin. "It is still early, with the best estuary fishing at the end of September and early October," he said. "The Rogue Bay is fair for salmon, with a mix of jacks and larger adults. Salmon fishing has improved near Grants Pass, and indication much of the fall run has already moved through the bay."
Kenny Priest (he/him) operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email firstname.lastname@example.org