When the ocean has been fishable, the Pacific halibut have been chomping baits at a pretty good clip out of Eureka. Most of the charters and sport boats still fishing are scoring their one-fish-apiece limit. The biggest detriment has been the weather. Large swells have been the norm over the past few weeks, limiting the fleet to just a day here and there on the water. When the stars do align, the fishing has been very good. "There's plenty of fish out there," said Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. "Most of the action has been in the same general area, between the 49 and 54 lines in 200 to 300 feet of water." According to Klassen, the majority of the fish are running between 10 and 20 pounds, but a few bigger fish have shown up. The top baits have been herring along with salmon and tuna bellies. Rough ocean conditions are in the forecast at least through the end of the week. The good news is with no fishing, the quota will last longer. The halibut fishery will run through Nov. 15, or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. As of Sept. 12, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife hadestimated 26,118 net pounds of Pacific halibut had been harvested toward the 39,260-pound quota. To view the latest catch projection information, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Pacific-Halibut#31670772-in-season-tracking.
Weekend marine forecast
Northerly winds will continue through the week before increasing and spreading north late Thursday and into the weekend. As of Tuesday, the forecast out 10 nautical miles for Friday is calling for winds out of the north 5 to 15 knots with north swells 10 feet at eight seconds. Saturday is calling for winds from the north 5 to 15 knots and northwest swells 7 feet at 11 seconds. Sunday the winds will be from the north 5 to 10 knots and north swells 4 feet at 6 seconds and northwest 7 feet at 14 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.
Recreational crab regulation changes for 2021
The California Fish and Game Commission adopted new regulations for the recreational crab fishery in 2021. The revised regulations include the following new requirements when fishing with crab traps:
A standardized buoy and additional red buoy marker for each trap
All crab traps must be serviced at least every nine days
A Recreational Crab Trap Validation is required when fishing crab traps
A limit of 10 traps per person
Also note that the CDFW director can now implement a season delay or early season closure due to marine life entanglement risk. Notices of delay or closure will be posted on the CDFW's Whale Safe Fisheries web page at least five days before any delay or closure. The Dungeness season is expected to reopen on Nov. 6. Crabbers can also sign up to receive important season information and updates on the web page. The new regulations are in effect beginning Nov. 1. The Recreational Crab Trap Validation can now be purchased at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Fishing as well as from other approved license sales agents. For more information on regulations changes, visit www.nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=195067&inline.
Rough ocean conditions have kept the boats tied up since Monday and it looks like more of the same all week. The Pacific halibut bite remains solid between the 49 and 54 lines, weather permitting. According to Klassen, the rockfish action near Cape Mendocino was tougher than usual over the weekend. "There's still lots of blacks but not big numbers of the other species," he said. "The ling cod bite wasn't that great, either. The ocean conditions could have put them off the bite."
The rockfish bite was great all week, according to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. "We made it up to Rodgers break in marginal conditions and did really good for a couple days," he said. "The weather finally laid down enough for us to get up to Gorda on Sunday, and we had limits of rockfish and lings along with four Pacific halibut. We fished for salmon for about a total of eight hours this week and landed seven fish to 27 pounds right out front inside of the whistle."
According to Britt Carson of Crescent City's Englund Marine, tuna were caught last weekend 40 miles from the harbor. "Since Sunday, the ocean has been really rough," he said. "When the boats can get out, the rockfish and lingcod bite is still excellent. The California halibut are pretty much done."
Lingcod and rockfish action has been good on calm-weather days, which have been few and far between in recent weeks, reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. "Friday yielded limits for most boats, while rougher weather returned over the weekend. The Chetco River bar was closed Monday. Big swell will limit action much of this week. Pacific halibut season remains open."
Low Flow River Closures begin Oct. 1
North Coast rivers that are regulated by low flow closures, including the Eel, Mad, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen will begin angling restrictions on October 1 through Jan. 31, except for the Mad River, which went into effect Sept. 1. 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 any time. 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 Jan. 1, 2022
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 cubic feet per second at the gauging station at the State Route 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 U.S. 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 1,000 feet 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.
Salmon fishing slowed slightly late last week, as the mouth was reportedly sanded over. The fishing picked up on Sunday, with jacks and some adults caught between Starwein and Blue Creek. With more than an inch of rain on Monday and flows jumping up 400 cfs, there should be plenty of fish moving through the mouth into the lower river.
"Salmon fishing has heated up at the mouth of the Chetco, where a dozen or so kings are being caught daily by anglers trolling along the jetties," said Martin. "Bigger numbers of hatchery fish showed up last week, a sign the run is accelerating. Low-flow regulations are in effect upriver, as kings begin to move out of the estuary and into the tidewater. Rain early this week increased flows, but not enough for drift boat fishing upriver."
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.