CA’s Ocean Salmon Season Shut Down – Again

by Kenny Priest

The Pacific Fishery Management Council officially pulled the plug on California’s ocean salmon season April 10. Pictured is Calvin Wagner of Boulder City, Nevada who landed a nice king while fishing out of Shelter Cove back in 2022. Photo courtesy of Jake Mitchell/Sea Hawk Sport Fishing

At the March Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting, the Council voted on and approved three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries along the California coast for 2024. Alternatives one and two lay out severely abbreviated seasons with strict harvest limits for commercial and recreational salmon fishing. Alternative three, if selected, would shut down the salmon season for the second straight year. After reviewing and commenting publicly on the options, sport anglers had some hope of a salmon season, albeit a short one.

That hope was quickly dashed. After pouring over the data and models at the current PFMC meeting being help in Seattle, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Director Chuck Bonham did the right thing and recommended the Council via a signed letter to close ocean salmon fisheries on the California coast to minimize impacts to Sacramento and Klamath origin Chinook salmon stocks.

Without any fishing in ocean fisheries South of Cape Falcon or inland in the Central Valley, returns of Sacramento River fall-run Chinook salmon are projected to be 213,600, which is slightly above the 2024 conservation objective and guidance provided by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of 180,000 salmon. However, this is still well below the historic average.

Still to be determined: The fate of the inland Central Valley fall Chinook fishery and the Klamath River fall and spring-run Chinook seasons. At the April 17-18 California Fish and Game Commission meeting, season proposals will be heard from California Fish and Wildlife staff. These proposals will be decided upon at the May 15 California Fish and Game Commission meeting.

Marine forecast
Ocean conditions are looking good for Friday, but winds will pick up through the weekend. Friday is calling for north winds 5 to 10 knots and northwest waves 4 feet at 11 seconds. Saturday is calling for winds out of the north 10 to 20 knots with north waves 9 feet at seven seconds. Sunday is looking a little worse with winds out of the north 10 to 20 knots and waves north 6 feet at seven seconds. Conditions can and will change prior to the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit or You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Upcoming events

Shelter Cove crab feed coming Saturday
Shelter Cove Fishing Preservation will be holding its Fourth annual crab feed fundraiser dinner and silent auction Saturday, April 13 at the Community Center/Club House in Shelter Cove. Tickets are $60 and can be purchased at the launch office. The event runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit

Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor Classes April 19-20
Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) is conducting a Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor class in Eureka, CA. This course is offered at a reduced cost to commercial fishermen thanks to support from NIOSH, the U.S. Coast Guard, and AMSEA members. Classes will be held April 16-17, 2024 at the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association, # 2 Commercial St. Eureka, CA 95501. Hours are: 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. April 16th, 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. April 17th. Cost is free for Commercial Fishermen, $225 for all others. The class will cover these topics: cold-water survival skills, EPIRBs, signal flares, and MAYDAY calls, man overboard recovery, firefighting, flooding & damage control, dewatering pumps, immersion suits and PFDs, abandon ship procedures, helicopter rescue, life rafts, emergency procedures drills, and in-the-water skills practice. This course meets the US Coast Guard training requirements for drill conductors on commercial fishing vessels, 46 CFR 28.270(c). Register online at or call (907) 747-3287.

“Wet” year designation for Trinity River
The April B-120 water year determination has been posted as “wet” with predicted inflow of 1,610,000 acre-feet into Trinity and Lewiston Reservoirs. A wet year requires 701,000 acre-feet to be released to the river for restoration purposes, out of an estimated inflow between 1,350 and 1,999 million acre-feet. This year’s recommended flows are scheduled to begin April 16, 2024. Flows will peak at 8,500 cubic feet per second on April 24 with a slow descend to maximize riparian habitat and vegetation objectives.
Visitors near or on the river can expect river levels to increase during the flow releases and should take appropriate safety precautions.
Landowners are advised to clear personal items from the floodplain prior to the releases. An up-to-date daily schedule of flow releases is available at the program’s website The public may subscribe to automated notifications of Trinity River release changes (via phone or email) at

The Rivers:
Reminder: The South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek and the Chetco all closed to fishing March 31.

Eel (main stem)
The main stem Eel is still big, but the color is coming around. It’s on a slow decent, but snowmelt is keeping it on the high side. Rain starting Friday will keep flows right around 7,000 cfs on the Scotia gauge through the weekend and likely into next week. It will need probably about 10 days of dry weather before it drops to a fishable level. The main stem Eel to the South Fork is open all year. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from April 1 through Sept. 30.

Smith River
The Smith is currently running low and clear, with flows right around 2,900 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge as of Wednesday. It will continue to drop slowly through the weekend as the light rain in the forecast isn’t expected to increase flows. Fishing pressure continues to be light. The main stem of the Smith will remain open through the end of April from its mouth to the confluence with the Middle and South Forks. The Middle Fork will also remain open through April from its mouth to Patrick’s Creek. The South Fork is open through April, as well, from its mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tryon) bridge and Craig’s Creek to Jones Creek.

Lower Rogue
“Spring salmon fishing was fair on the lower Rogue River this week, as a mix of hatchery and wild kings move in from the ocean,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Big tides this week could giving fishing a boost, as river conditions are prime. The springer run is off to a better-than-average start, with a large percentage of hatchery fish.”

Brookings ocean update
According to Martin, the ocean salmon season out of Brookings will run May 16-Aug. 31. “Halibut season opens May 1. Lingcod and rockfish action has been good on calm weather days out of Brookings. Surfperch fishing is excellent at Lone Ranch and Chetco Point.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email