California Halibut Still Biting
by Kenny Priest
The lack of rain isn’t doing the run of late-fall kings any favors but it is keeping the California halibut fishery alive. Without an influx of freshwater from the rains and with enough food to keep them happy, there’s no reason for the halibut to leave. Though the effort has dwindled, there are still enough halibut in the bay to make for a great day. The few boats still targeting the halibut are finding success using artificial baits, with swimbaits being the top producer. Most of the live bait left the bay toward the end of September but enough halibut have hung around to make it worth your while. And the smaller tide swings we’ve had lately also plays a role, as the halibut seem to bite better when there’s less water moving in and out. If you haven’t had your fill of halibut, there are still plenty left to catch. The north channel above the bridge, near the Coast Guard station and South Bay have been some of the best spots. The recreational fishery for California halibut is open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is three fish, with a minimum size limit of 22 inches total length.
More dry weather ahead
We’re looking at dry weather through this week, as the high pressure is staying put, according to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “There are some weak systems in the forecast for next Tuesday and Thursday, but they don’t look like they’ll do much for the river levels,” Zontos added.
After suffering through some rough seas for nearly two weeks, boats should be back on the water beginning on Thursday. Thursday’s forecast is calling for 5 knots of wind and 2-foot seas, so I’d expect quite a few boats will be headed south to Cape Mendocino. Offshore conditions look good through at least Monday. The all-depth fishery is slated to open Nov. 1 and run through the end of the year north of Point Arena. There are no special gear requirements, though unless otherwise specified, regulations require anglers to use not more than two hooks and one line to target groundfish. All other season dates, bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply.
Fishing has been good for rockfish and lingcod along the near-shore reefs reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Lots of bait has rockfish feeding near the surface. Pacific halibut season remains open through Oct. 31, with 800 pounds of quota remaining. Anglers will have a chance to get offshore Thursday and Friday.”
Currently, all the 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 Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to the Smith’s mouth. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2021. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 822-3164.
Willow Creek weir counts
For the trapping week of Oct 15 through Oct. 21, 4 jacks were trapped at the weir. To date, 42 jacks have been trapped compared to 738 for the entire 2019 trapping season. This past week, 17 adult Chinook were trapped, bringing the season total to 83. In 2019, 1,009 total adult Chinook were trapped. Fourteen adult Coho were trapped last week, bringing the season total to 29. In 2019, 139 adult Coho were trapped. The steelhead numbers remained steady compared to the previous week. A total of 49 adult steelhead were trapped. The previous week 58 were trapped. For the season, 184 have been counted compared to 703 for the entire 2019 season.
Very few salmon, if any, are entering the mouth of the Klamath. Most are in the upper reaches or are in the Trinity. There are a few adult steelhead along with some half-pounders making their way through the lower river.
“I’m starting to hear of salmon in the Douglas City area, so it sounds like there’s fish spread throughout the river,” reports Junction City Store owner Frank Chapman. “We’re not seeing a whole lot of steelhead right now. One boat drifted the upper end on Monday and only got a couple small ones. We really need some rain to put both salmon and steelhead on the move.”
According to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, there are a few salmon being caught at the mouth. “Guys tossing Cleos are catching a few each day,” said Carson. “There are quite a few jacks being caught and I’ve seen adults up to 30 pounds landed. Upriver, most of the deeper holes are full of salmon. We just need some rain in order to open the river to fishing,” added Carson. The river is currently closed to fishing above the mouth of Rowdy Creek due to low flows.
After a couple of weeks of good fishing, the Chetco estuary has slowed according to Martin. “Very few salmon are now being caught, as the fish staging near the mouth have moved upriver,” said Martin. “Most of the deeper holes on the Chetco are full of salmon, but fishing is closed above the estuary until significant falls rains.”
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