North Coast recreational Dungeness crabbers from Shelter Cove to Crescent City are enjoying one of the best seasons in recent memory. Since opening day, the crabs have been abundant and the meat content has been excellent. So good, in fact, that the commercial season has a solid chance of opening on time Dec. 1, barring any last-minute price disputes. Sport boats fishing out of Eureka are dropping pots anywhere between 80 to 130 feet on either side of the entrance, and are pulling easy limits, according to Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. "Both sides have been fishing well but the north might be slightly better," he said. "We've been averaging about 13 keepers per pot and that's with a lot of gear nearby. Bait jars stuffed with squid along with rockfish carcasses in the chew bags has been working well." Not only is the offshore crabbing going strong, plenty of limits are coming out of Humboldt Bay. The best bite has been south near King Salmon away from the heavy currents coming from north bay. If you haven't gotten your fill of the tasty crustaceans yet, you'll want to do so before the commercial fleet hits the water next week.
Weekend Weather and Marine Forecast
According to Eureka's National Weather Service office, we are looking dry through the weekend and into early next week. The next chance of rain is Dec. 1 but rainfall amounts are uncertain.
The weekend marine forecast is looking good for offshore crabbing and possibly rockfish. As of Wednesday, Saturday's forecast is calling for north winds up to 5 knots with west waves 7 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking similar, with winds coming out of the north up to 5 knots with northwest waves 6 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.
CDFW releasing juvenile salmon saved from drought conditions
In a press release issued Nov. 19, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has begun releasing juvenile fall-run Chinook salmon into the Klamath River now that river conditions have improved with cooler temperatures and increased flows that give the young salmon their best chance at survival and reaching the Pacific Ocean.
More than 2 million baby Chinook salmon that were hatched in early 2021 at CDFW's Iron Gate Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County were held over the summer at three different CDFW facilities, including 1 million fish trucked to the Trinity River Hatchery through Redding in triple-digit heat. All three groups of fish did exceptionally well over the summer and thrived despite challenging circumstances.
Drought conditions impacting the Klamath River – including a disease outbreak – would have killed about 90 percent of the young fish according to scientific projections, had those fish been released this past spring as is the standard practice.
CDFW so far has released into the Klamath River the 1.1 million juvenile Chinook salmon held over the summer at the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery and at a nearby satellite facility at Fall Creek. Those releases provide room and sufficient water quality for the 1 million fish relocated to the Trinity River Hatchery to return to Iron Gate. This group has spent several weeks at Iron Gate to reacclimate to the Klamath River and will be released later this month. For more information, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/News/cdfw-saves-more-than-2-million-chinook-salmon-from-drought-begins-releasing-fish-into-klamath-river-as-conditions-improve
Eel River salmon returns
As of Nov. 14, a total of 364 Chinook salmon have entered the Van Arsdale fish count station, according to Andrew Anderson, an Aquatic Biologist with PG&E. Making up that total are 132 males, 146 females and 69 jacks. A total of 65 Chinook ascended the fish ladder in 2020. No steelhead yet but this is typical for Van Arsdale, located high in the Eel River Watershed. For more information, visit www.eelriver.org/the-eel-river/fish-count.
Nov. 26 and 27: free fish days in Oregon
ODFW is waiving all fishing licensing requirements on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to experience fishing with friends and family during the long holiday weekend. All fishing, crabbing and clamming in Oregon will be free for both Oregon residents and non-residents. No licenses, tags or endorsements are needed on those days, but all other fishing regulations apply. Visit www.myodfw.com/articles/2021-free-fishing-days-and-events for more info.
According to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing, rock fishing is still going strong, with limits coming fairly easily. "Ling cod is a little tougher but if you can find them, they're usually piled up together," said Mitchell. "We've been bouncing around from the Old Man to Rogers; it's pretty much the same everywhere. The crabbing is still good; we're getting limits daily of quality crab." The launch will be closed Tuesday through Thursday this week.
Ocean conditions were good on Monday, and there was quite a bit of effort on the rockfish according to Chis Hegnes of Crescent City's Englund Marine. "South Reef produced some really good ling fishing," he said. "The crabbing is still really good. Boats have been doing well south in 40 feet of water and also above Battery Point Lighthouse in 120 to 140 feet of water."
Ocean fishing turned on over the weekend out of Brookings, and lingcod are now in shallow water, preparing to spawn reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. "Limits of rockfish have been quick, and anglers targeting lingcod with while herring or large jigs are doing well near Bird Island and House Rock," he said. "The best fishing is in 40 to 60 feet of water. After unusually calm conditions for late November on Sunday and Monday, a bigger swell is expected the rest of the week. Conditions look decent for the weekend."
As of Thursday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Smith, Eel, South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen are open to angling. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline at 822-3164 to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. NOTE: The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam, the Mattole River and the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream are closed until Jan. 1, 2022
The Mad is green and fishable, but still a little early for steelhead in big numbers. A few have reportedly been caught. There are some older salmon around. Expect the steelhead numbers to improve on the next significant rise.
Main stem Eel
Flows were down to 1,650 cubic feet per second on Wednesday and it's getting clear. The king run is pretty much over for the year but there are some coho making their way through the lower river. More salmon should arrive after the next significant rainfall, as well as the first of the steelhead.
Was down to 230 cubic feet per second on Wednesday. Will be low and clear until the next rain.
South Fork Eel
Low and clear conditions will persist until the next big rain. There are some coho making their way upstream and the steelhead should begin to trickle in mid-December.
The late-fall run of salmon is just about over on the Smith. Rain is needed to bring in the last of the salmon and to kickstart the steelhead run. Flows were down to 1,560 cfs on Wednesday and the river is low and clear. Roe under a float or back-bouncing the deeper holes are your best bet until we get some significant rainfall.
"Anglers on the Chetco are experiencing the in-between time for salmon and steelhead, as the fall salmon run is nearly over, and winter steelhead are still a few weeks away from catchable numbers," said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. "A few salmon are still being caught, but the overall action is slow. More fish could arrive after the next big rain, but steelhead catches will soon out-number salmon, and the best steelhead fishing won't arrive until January."
The Elk and Sixes are low, clear and slow according to Martin. "Don't expect much action until a major rain," he said. "Salmon fishing usually continues well through mid-December, but anglers need a boost in flows for a decent chance from the drift boats."
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.