While we wait for rain that will fill our rivers with much-needed water and late fall Chinook salmon, the North Coast is not without angling options. Offshore, the boat-based rockfish and lingcod season will run through the end of the year. Beginning Nov. 1, both may be taken at any depth. Angling from the shore is open year-round. On Nov. 5, the uber-popular sport Dungeness crab season will commence. The California Fish and Game Commission is meeting this week to discuss and consider adopting emergency regulations to amend and clarify hoop net regulations to minimize entanglement risk for whales. If you haven't got your fill of Pacific halibut, you can hop over the border to Brookings where the fishing is still going strong and the season will run through Oct. 31. If it's river salmon you're after, the Trinity will be your best bet. Both the upper and lower sections remain open to the harvest of adult fall-run Chinook salmon. The daily bag limit on the Trinity River is two fall-run Chinook salmon with no more than one adult greater than 23 inches. The Chetco estuary is another good option as it continues to produce big kings to anglers trolling anchovies. Hopefully the wait for rain won't be a lengthy one, but if it is, you've got options.
365-day fishing licenses will begin in 2023
In a press release issued last week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will begin selling 365-day fishing licenses far sooner than expected, thanks to extensive efforts by staff to expedite sales. Beginning Nov. 15, California anglers will be able to purchase a 2023 fishing license that will take effect Jan. 1 and last the entire year. All licenses purchased on or after Jan. 1 will be effective from the date of purchase for a continuous 365 days. To purchase a fishing license, visit ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales. At checkout there is an additional option to enroll in auto-renewal for fishing licenses, which allows anglers to automatically purchase and receive their new license when their current one expires. For more information, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/News/cdfw-to-begin-offering-365-day-fishing-licenses-for-2023
Dungeness crab testing ongoing
Domoic acid testing in Dungeness crabs is roughly a third complete on the California coast. To date, samples from Trinidad, Half Moon Bay/San Francisco and Monterey have all been tested at least once. None of the tested ports had crabs that exceed the action level of 30 parts per million. For more information, visit www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DFDCS/Pages/FDBPrograms/FoodSafetyProgram/DomoicAcid.aspx
According to Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing, Cape Mendocino continues to provide solid rockfish action. "The fishing is still really good and we're catching a very wide variety. Last time out we landed 11 different varieties. The lingcod bite is good as well as they've moved into shallower water for spawning. The rockfish season will go through December and starting Nov. 1 there will be no depth restrictions," added Klassen. The water offshore has cooled and moved out. It's likely the tuna season is over for the year.
According to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing, the rock fishing is still really good. He said, "We haven't needed to go far to get all we need. From the whistle down to the Old Man has been producing great action. The lingcod fishing is still tough, but we're getting some if we work at it. A couple boats had some decent albacore scores last week around the Knoll, but that may have been the last shot."
Halibut season remains open through Oct. 31 out of Brookings reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. "Fishing is good on calm weather days," said Martin. "Sport crabbing closes Oct. 14. Lingcod fishing is fair, while limits of rockfish are common."
Willow Creek weir counts
The week ending Oct. 7, a total of 467 adult kings were counted at the Willow Creek weir. The jack count for the week was 246. For the season to date, 812 (adults and jacks) have been counted, including both hatchery and wild. The totals are for only 15 trapping days as the weir was late getting in place due to the fires in the area.
North Coast river closures
Currently, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Smith River from its mouth to the mouth of Rowdy Creek. New in 2022, a low-flow angling restriction was added to the section of the Eel River from the mouth to Fulmor Road at its paved junction with the south bank of the Eel River, Sept. 1 through April 30.
The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1 2023. The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river 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.
Boat pressure has been extremely light, but there are some fish to be had. Fresh kings, both adults and jacks, are scattered throughout the lower river. With very little pressure, there seems to be enough fish around to make for a decent day. The daily bag limit is two jack Chinook 23-inches or less and two hatchery steelhead.
According to Martin, "Salmon fishing remains decent in the Chetco estuary but catch rates have dropped as kings begin to transition from the bay to the tidewater. "Large numbers of jacks and adults are now holding upriver at Tide Rock and Morris Hole, where anglers can still target them, but bobbers must be used until Nov. 4," said Martin. "The river is still too low for drift boat fishing, except in the deep tidewater holes. Kings continue to show up in the catch in the Rogue Bay, where hatchery coho also are available. The Coos has slowed but coho are still plentiful."
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 email@example.com.