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Closing CA waters to fishing a last resort

Fishing the North Coasty by Kenny Priest, author badge,

s the effects of the ongoing drought continue to mount, the California Fish and Game Commission has put in place emergency regulations that give the CDFW the authority to temporarily close fisheries experiencing low, warm, and oxygen depleted water conditions according to a press release issued on Monday by the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

The press release states that statewide, the water in many systems is likely to be inadequate to support fisheries as the summer progresses, resulting in impeded passage of spawning fish, increased vulnerability to mortality from predation and physiological stress, and increased angling harvest and/or hooking mortality.

The historically low water conditions will concentrate coldwater fish populations into shrinking pools of cold water habitat making them easy prey for illegal angling methods such as snagging, increased hooking mortality due to legal catch and release, over-harvest, as well as other human-related disturbances within their freshwater habitat.

To ensure that fisheries are protected under critical conditions stemming from the drought, the Department is proposing a set of triggers to guide fishing closure and reopening decisions. The Department’s decision to close or open a water will be based on the most current information available, collected by professional staff trained in the associated fields. Criteria for evaluating aquatic conditions are based on site-specific monitoring efforts with an emphasis on listed fish species, species of special concern, and gamefish.

Any water of the state not currently listed in Section 8.00 of these regulations (Section 8 refers to the Mad, Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole and Smith rivers & Redwood Creek) may be closed to fishing by the Department when the Director, or his or her designee, determines one or more of the following conditions have been met:

  • Water temperatures in occupied habitat exceed 70° Fahrenheit for over eight hours a day for three consecutive days.
  • Dissolved oxygen levels in occupied habitat drop below 5 mg/L for any period of time over three consecutive days.
  • Fish passage is impeded or blocked for fish species that rely on migration as part of a life history trait.
  • Water levels for ponds, lakes and reservoirs drop below 10% of their capacity.
  • Adult breeding population levels are estimated to be below 500 individuals.

If and when these conditions are reversed, the department will re-open any closed waters.

Prior to any closure, CDFW will seek input from local stakeholders and provide information on the approach. CDFW will consider fishing closures as a last resort, and urges all those who fish California’s waters to adopt good preventative practices now.

For more information on the evaluation process and proper catch-and-release techniques, visit here.

Marine forecast
The ocean is forecasted to be a little bumpy on Thursday and Friday, but the weekend looks much better. Out 10 nautical miles, Friday’s forecast is calling for winds out of the south 5 to 10 knots with NW swells 8 feet at 10 seconds. The weekend is looking much improved, with Saturday’s forecast calling for SW winds 10 to 20 knots and swells NW 5 feet at 10 seconds. The wind will shift on Sunday to the NW, with winds up to 5 knots. Swells will be 4 feet at 10 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For up-to-date weather forecast, visit You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit here, or check out the bar cam.

Upcoming events:
July 1
- Northern California red abalone fishery closed through July 31. For more information, visit marine/invertebrate/abalone.asp

July 4 - Free Fishing Day, statewide. On this day, people may fish California's waters without a sport fishing license. All regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect. Every angler must have the appropriate report card if fishing for steelhead, sturgeon, or salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity River systems. For more information, visit here.

The Oceans:

A few salmon are being caught out of Eureka, but it has yet to catch fire. Both Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing and Gary Blasi of Full Throttle Sport Fishing found some good looking water off the Eel River canyon on Tuesday. The place was loaded with whales and krill, but the bite never materialized for either boat. On the way back from the Cape, where both captains limited on rockfish, Blasi and Klassen dropped the gear just south of Centerville on another fishy patch of birds and bait. Each got bit, but nothing landed. That seems to be the story of the season so far; everything is here but the salmon. “There are a lot of different types of water conditions out there right now, and the temps are all over the place. The fish will show up at some point, the question is where and how many,” said Klassen.

 Joe Munoz of Redding, aboard the Full Throttle, landed a nice salmon . Phto courtesy of full throttle Fishing
Joe Munoz of Redding landed a nice salmon out of Eureka earlier this week while fishing with Full Throttle Sport Fishing. The salmon season has yet to take off along the North Coast, but hopes are high the fish will show in big numbers in July and August. Photo courtesy of Full Throttle Sport Fishing

On the other hand, rockfish and lingcod bite continues to be unbelievable at Cape Mendocino. The weather has been decent enough for most boats to get there and it looks like the weather will again cooperate this weekend. A nice plan B for most years, the Cape has been the place to be with the salmon fishing yet to take off.

The rockfish and lingcod bite remain wide-open reports Curt Wilson of Wind Rose Charters out of Trinidad. He said, “It’s been real good right out front around Flat Iron, there hasn’t been a real big need to travel far. There’s been quite a few fish in the 25 to 27-inch range, as well as fish up to 25-pounds. As for salmon, I heard of about 10 caught on Tuesday, with a couple boats getting limits. Hopefully we’ll start to see a few more show up.”

Crescent City
Rockfish is about the only bite going on right now, and it’s wide-open according to Chris Hegnes of Crescent City’s England Marine. “There’s very little salmon fishing happening now, even though there’s quite a bit of bait around. They just don’t seem to be here yet, but I did hear of a pretty good bite happening up into Oregon,” said Hegnes. The rockfish, and especially the lingcod, has been as good as it gets. The Sisters has been one of the better spots from what I’ve heard,” Hegnes added.

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath

Springer fishing has come to a standstill on the Klamath, with very few boats still sitting on the anchor. The majority of the action has taken place at the mouth of the river, where fish have been moving in and out due to the warm river water temperatures.

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

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