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Plenty of kings in the sea

Kenny Priest, Fishing the North coast author badge,

ith a hefty ocean abundance of adult salmon forecasted for this fall, all signs point towards another healthy season here on the North Coast. According to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, 652,000 Sacramento and 423,000 Klamath fall Chinook are said to be swimming in the ocean, which will provide ample opportunities for both sport and commercial fishermen, while still meeting the minimum spawning goals of both rivers.

KMZ salmon season alternatives on the table
Based on these forecasts, the PFMC last week released three preliminary alternatives for managing salmon fisheries from Humbug Mountain (OR) to Horse Mountain (which includes Humboldt County), any of which should keep local anglers smiling and happy.

The three alternatives are:

1. May 1 to Sept. 7, two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size.

2. May 9 to Sept. 7, two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size.

3. May 22 to Sept. 7, two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 24-inch minimum size.

Final recommendations will be made at their next meeting in Rohnert Park, CA on April 10-16.

Kenny Priest holding a very large silver fish while out at sea, photo by Kenny Priest
The North Coast can expect another solid ocean salmon season as the PFMC is predicting over a million adult salmon are swimming off the coast of California. The season could start as early as May 1 for recreational anglers fishing out of Eureka, Trinidad, and Crescent City. Photo courtesy of the author

Klamath/Trinity fall salmon quotas increase in 2015
Not only will the ocean anglers benefit from the large forecasted salmon population, the Klamath and Trinity quotas are on the upswing as well. The recreational allocations, or quotas, as proposed by the PFMC will range from 13,377 to 13,909 adult fall Chinook in 2015, which is about 3-times the size of last year’s quotas, which was 4,168. In 2014, the daily bag limit was three Chinook, of which only one could be an adult. With a much higher return predicted this year, my guess we’ll see another adult added to the daily bag limit. These numbers are not final, next step is public review with a decision coming from the Fish and Game Commission meeting on April 10-16. Once the quota is agreed upon, 50 percent will go to the lower Klamath basin, 17 percent to the upper basin, and 33 percent will be allocated for the Trinity River. When adopted, these quotas will go into effect August 15, 2015. For more information, visit this Council website.

Weekend weather
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, expect to see some rain beginning Friday evening and lasting overnight with showers through Saturday morning. “Totals aren’t going to be much, up to three-quarters in the Smith basin and maybe a half-inch in Humboldt. The next storm is looking a little stronger and will arrive Sunday evening. Rain will be off and on through Monday, with showers on Tuesday. Rainfall totals will range from an inch to an inch and three-quarters in Del Norte and one inch to an inch and a half in Humboldt,” added Kennedy.

Upcoming steelhead river closures
Except for the main stem of the Eel, Trinity, Klamath and the Smith, all other coastal rivers, including the Chetco, will be closed to fishing after March 31. The main stem Eel, from Fulmor Road to the South Fork, will remain open until September 30. Only artificial lures can be used, no bait. The Smith River, from its mouth to the confluence of the Middle and South Forks, will be open through April 30. Barbless hooks are required and bait is legal. The Klamath and Trinity rivers are open year-round. For up-to-date regulations, be sure to pick up the 2014-2015 supplement or see the regs at the DFW website.

Shelter Cove/Fort Bragg salmon season to open April 4
The recreational salmon season from Horse Mountain, Humboldt County south to the U.S. - Mexico border will open on Saturday, April 4. The daily bag and possession limit is two salmon of any species except Coho. Between Horse Mountain and Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, the minimum size limit is 20 inches total length for two of the three alternatives, the other is 20 inches through April 30, 24 inches thereafter. For areas south of Point Arena, the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length. The season south of Horse Mountain will extend through various dates in Sept, Oct, or Nov. The alternatives can be found at and will be finalized at the PFMC meeting on April 10-16 in Rohnert Park.

Razor clam tides are coming
A set of minus tides will begin this Saturday, March 21 and run through March 24. The low tides will be in the morning, which is usually the best time if the ocean is rough. This year, Little River Beach is open to razor clamming between Strawberry Creek and Moonstone Beach. In Del Norte County, the beach north of Battery Point is open to clamming. The limit is 20 clams and you must keep the first 20 dug regardless of size or broken condition. See tide information here.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
The Chetco jumped to just over 2,000 cfs on Sunday and fished pretty well on Monday according to reports. Only a handful of boats took advantage of the increased flows as the fishing pressure continues to be light. As of Wednesday, flows were back to 780 cfs and dropping.

Smith River
The Smith fished pretty good earlier in the week reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. He said, “I fished it on Monday and it was pretty good, we hooked eight. We didn’t see a lot of fresh ones around, but there were plenty of downers willing to bite.” After jumping to 3,450 cfs on Monday, it was quick to drop and is back down to 1,600 cfs.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem is low and clear according to Paul Grundman of Rio Dell's Grundmans Sporting Goods. “I’m sure there are some fish around, both downers and fresh ones, but you’ll need to be stealthy to get them,” said Grundman. The main stem was flowing at just 1,640 cfs on Wednesday.

Eel River (South Fork)
As of Wednesday, flows were 550 cfs on the Miranda gauge and not a whole lot to report. Fishing pressure has diminished along with the flows.

Van Duzen
Hovering just above 100 cfs, a few bank anglers are still giving it a go according to Grundman. “I haven’t heard if anyone is catching fish, but I’m sure there are a few around,” Grundman said.

Mad River
The Mad is low and clear, but a few fish are still being caught according to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. He said, “Most of the fish are being caught around the Blue Lake bridge as that’s one of the few deep holes left. The fish that are being caught have mostly been wild downers, with a few fresh ones mixed in. I haven’t heard of any hatchery fish being caught in a while.”

Trinity (Upper)
Most of the activity has centered around the Junction City area, where you’ll still find a crowd on the weekends. Lots of half-pounders, small adults, and downers are being reported, which is typical for March.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthejavascript:void(1426821274003);

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