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Halibut season cut short; tuna off Trinidad

Fishing the North Coast by Keeny Priest, author badge,

he ocean was teeming with boats on Wednesday, and likely for a variety of reasons; two-foot swells, sun-drenched weather, tuna water 20 miles offshore, a good salmon and rockfish bite at the Cape. But the biggest reason was because it happened to be the last day of our recreational Pacific halibut season. The season will be closed beginning Thursday, August 13 at 12:01 a.m. In a press release issued on Wednesday by the CDFW, they expect the 2015 quota of 25,220 pounds, based on the latest projections, will be exceeded unless the fishery is closed.

Excellent ocean conditions and a successful catch rate during July and early August contributed to the early closure of the fishery by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service following consultation with CDFW.

Daryl Blackwell is the current leader in the Englund Marine
Daryl Blackwell is the current leader in the Englund Marine "Big Halibut" contest with this 80.5 pounder caught Aug. 3 out of Eureka. The recreational halibut season was shut down Thursday at 12:01 a.m. as the season quota was projected to be met. Photo courtesy of Englund Marine, Eureka

This was the first year of a newly designed Pacific halibut season structure that provided for set open and closed periods of fishing. The short breaks between open periods were anticipated to spread fishing opportunity from May through October without exceeding the quota. The catch tracking system relies on the California Recreational Fishery Survey program, which assigns field staff to sample at public launch ramps and charter boats to record fish catch and effort information for all marine sport-caught fish. This information is utilized to produce in-season catch tracking projections and will ultimately be used to generate final catch estimates later in the year. For more information, visit this CA DFW website.

Weekend Marine forecast
After a week of beautiful ocean conditions, things are about to change for the weekend. Out 10 nautical miles north of the Cape, Friday’s forecast is calling for N winds 5 to 15 knots and waves out of the NW 6 feet at 7 seconds. Saturday and Sunday’s forecasts are calling for N winds 5 to 15 knots and waves NW 8 feet at 9 seconds. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit You can also call the National Weather Service at 707-443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 707-443-6484.

Hoopa Boat Dance/Trinity water release
The Bureau of Reclamation will be providing a short-term increase in Lewiston Dam releases for the Hoopa Valley Tribe's Boat Dance Ceremony. Flows will begin increasing to the Trinity River beginning Sunday, Aug. 16 and will peak Monday morning, Aug. 17, at 2,650 cfs. The peak will reach Hoopa on Tuesday, Aug. 18. Beginning Monday, Aug. 17, the flows will begin ramping back down to return to the summer base of 450 cfs. The estimated total for the release is 10,900 acre-feet.

Tuna out of Trinidad
A handful of boats ventured straight west of Trinidad on Tuesday in search of albacore. According to the Humboldt Tuna Club, the top boat landed eight and another had four. Not big numbers, but the fish were all large. Conditions on Wednesday were again ideal and more boats made the trek. The mid-afternoon report indicated the fishing was again slow.

The Oceans:

Cape Mendocino is still the lone holding area for salmon, and the Eureka charters are making the run south daily. According to skippers Tony Sepulveda of Shellback Sport Fishing and Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing, the fishing continues to be good. “We’re getting limits, or real close to it, everyday,” said Sepulveda. Klassen added, “It seems like it’s been an early-morning bite, you really need to make those bites stick, or you could be in for a long day. It’s been kind of weird, you can go for a long time with nothing, then in the afternoon they’ll start biting and you’ll be done quick.” The fish being caught have been a pretty good grade. Klassen’s limit on Monday averaged 16 to 17 pounds, with the biggest tipping the scales at 24 pounds.

According to Curt Wilson of Wind Rose Charter, this week’s calm waters did wonders for the rockfish catching. He said, “Everything is easier when the ocean is flat, and that was the case this week. The bite really picked up, and not just the lings and blacks. We had a real good variety each day, with some nice quillbacks and coppers coming over the rail.”

If you’re looking for some help cleaning your catch, 11 year-old Nate Ferguson of Westhaven has setup a fish cleaning stand on the beach below the launch. His prices are very affordable: $1 for rockfish and $2 for lings, cabezon, and salmon.

Shelter Cove
The salmon bite slowed down a little on Saturday, but Captain Trent Slate still managed to put his customers on 8 salmon to 20 pounds along with a pair of Pacific halibut at 37 and 34 pounds. The water temperature jumped up to 59 degrees at the Old Man and the Hat and may have played a part in the slower bite. The salmon bite reportedly picked right back up on Sunday.

Crescent City
According to Chris Hegnes of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, a handful of salmon were caught on Tuesday. “There’s definitely some cooler water sitting west of the Sisters approximately three miles out. The temps are 54 to 55 degrees, while the surrounding water is closer to 60. That looks to be the best spot right now. With the halibut season closing, the effort will turn back to the rockfish, which is still going strong,” Hegnes said.

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath

The lower river has been full of steelhead for a couple of weeks now, with a nice mix of half-pounders and adults to 8 pounds. With water releases scheduled for early next week for the Hoopa Boat Dance, we should see the first real push of fall kings. The Yurok commercial season in the estuary is scheduled to open this Friday, Aug 14.

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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