Minus salmon - coastal saltwater season set to take off

Dylan Jimenez of Eureka landed this nice Largemouth Bass last Friday while fishing with his dad Robert at Freshwater Lagoon. Photo courtesy of Robert Jimenez

by Kenny Priest
4-27-2017
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For North Coast saltwater anglers, the first of May couldn’t get here soon enough. Since the beginning of the year, it’s been nothing but doom and gloom for the fishing community. Our ocean salmon season out of Eureka, Trinidad and Crescent City has been shut down, Klamath salmon numbers are at an historic low, razor clam season remains closed due to domoic acid, and the abalone season was pushed back one month and shortened by two. With multiple fisheries finally set to open on May 1, it’s time to put all the bad news behind us and get back to doing what we do best — fish.

May 1 openers:
Pacific Halibut:
One of the bright spots to our saltwater season as our quota was increased by 4,940 pounds over the 2016 quota, allowing us 34,580 pounds in 2017. The season will  run from May 1 to June 15, July 1-15, Aug. 1-15 and Sept. 1-Oct. 31, or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. The limit remains at one, with no size restrictions. No more than one line with two hooks attached can be used.

Rockfish: Numerous changes were made within the Northern Management Area, which runs from the Oregon border to Cape Mendocino. The season for boat-based anglers will now run from May 1 through Oct. 31 within 180 feet and Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 with no depth restrictions. For the first time in more than a decade, anglers will be allowed to retain canary rockfish beginning in 2017.

Additional changes include: A new sub-bag limit of one canary rockfish within the 10-fish Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenling Complex bag limit; a decrease in the sub-bag limit of black rockfish from five to three within the 10-fish RCG Complex bag limit; elimination of the sub-bag limit of bocaccio within the 10-fish RCG Complex bag limit; a decrease in the lingcod bag limit from three to two fish; allowance of petrale sole and starry flounder to be retained year- round at all depths. For more information about recreational groundfish regulations, please call the hotline at 831-649-2801 or visit wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/groundfish

Important reminder:
When fishing for halibut, rockfish and salmon (Shelter Cove), or any combination of the three, the more restrictive gear and depth restrictions apply. When targeting salmon, or once salmon are aboard and in possession, anglers are limited to using barbless hooks (barbless circle hooks if fishing south of Horse Mountain) when fishing for other species.

When targeting rockfish, cabezon, greenling and lingcod, or once any of these species are aboard and in possession, anglers are limited to fishing in waters shallower than 120 feet when fishing for other species.

Abalone: Abalone season will open on Monday, May 1 along the North Coast from the San Francisco Bay north. The season runs from May 1st through October, excluding the month of July. Fishing for abalone will be allowed from 8 a.m. to one half-hour after sunset. What you’ll need:

1) Fishing license (not required for 15 years old and younger)

2) Abalone report card (must be in your possession while diving. Also required for those 15 years or younger)

3) Fixed caliper measuring device

Limit and size restrictions: Three per day, three in possession and no more than 12 per calendar year. Must be seven inches or larger. As in the past, no more than nine abalone may be taken south of the boundary between Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

The complete list of ocean sport regulations can be found here.

Big Halibut Contest
Don't forget, Eureka's Englund Marine will be holding its BIG FISH Halibut Contest this again year. The annual event runs from May 1 to October 31, 2017. There is no entry fee and you can enter as many fish as you’d like. Fish do not need to be gutted and gilled. Prizes will be awarded to the top three fish. A complete list of rules and regulations are available at Englund Marine, 2 Commercial St., Eureka, 707-444-9266.

Weekend marine forecast
For the coastal waters from Crescent City to Mendocino out zero to 10 nautical miles, Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 5 to 15 knots with waves out of the N 6 feet at 8 seconds. On Sunday, winds will be out of the north 10 to 15 knots with waves N 5 feet at 6 seconds and NW 4 feet at 10 seconds. For Monday’s halibut and rockfish openers, the winds will be increasing, blowing from the north 10 to 20 knots. Waves will be N 4 feet at 6 seconds and NW 4 feet at 10 seconds. These conditions can and will change. For an up-to-date marine forecast, visit wrh.noaa.gov/eka/

Monday, May 1 tides – Humboldt Bay
For anglers who aren’t aware, extreme caution should always be used when crossing the bar. The combination of large swells and outgoing morning tides could make for a dangerous bar crossing. If you’re planning on hitting the bar at daylight, always check the conditions first. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan or check out the bar cam.

Monday May1 (High: 3:48 a.m. (6.9 ft.) and 5:41 p.m. (5.5 ft.) (Low: 10:45 a.m. (-1.0) and 10:53 p.m. (2.7 ft.)

Trinidad Harbor information
The Trinidad launch should be open on Monday, but it will depend on the ocean conditions if they’ll be launching. The Gift and Tackle shop will be open beginning on Saturday, April 29. Best to call ahead at 707-677-3625 if you’re planning on launching on Monday.

Shelter Cove update:
According to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing, the salmon has been belly up for the few people who’ve been trying. “There hasn't been a whole lot of sign around lately, which isn’t very encouraging. The rockfish opener is looking fishable at this point, but it doesn't look like it will be real nice. Fishing will likely be tougher as we probably won’t be able to hit all the good spots. We’ll just have to wait and see.” Mitchell added.

Humboldt Bay dredging meeting
A public meeting will be held on Wednesday May 3 regarding the Humboldt Bay maintenance dredging and disposal options. The meeting will run from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at the Wharfinger Building, 1 Marina way in Eureka. For more information, email districtplanner@humboldtbay.org or call 707-443-0801.

Lower Rogue
A real good push of fish moved into the lower river earlier this week reports guide Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “Quite a few fish were caught this week, but the majority of the fish were wild and had to be released. Fishing was a little better on the lower river, and boats were averaging about a fish per trip. The pressure hasn’t been real heavy yet, probably due to the weather. Once the river starts to drop from the rain, fishing should really improve.” Huber said.

Find "Fishing the North Coast" on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.