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Short Season Ahead for Ocean Sport Salmon Anglers 

If the PFMC is right, we could see fewer salmon like the one pictured here with Colby Black, from Houston, Texas, this fall. The recreational ocean salmon season is tentatively scheduled to open either late June or July 1 and last through July. The final decision will come from the PFMC meetingsin April.

Looking at the ocean abundance of Sacramento and Klamath river kings and the numbers that returned to the rivers in 2020, I'd say we're pretty lucky to have any type of salmon season this fall. But we will and it looks to be comparable to last season. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) last Thursday released three preliminary alternatives for managing salmon fisheries from the Oregon-California border to Horse Mountain, which includes Humboldt County. According to the PFMC, 181,500 Klamath and 271,000 Sacramento fall Chinook are said to be swimming in the ocean, which will restrict the North Coast on season lengths and river quotas. The three alternatives currently on the table: June 28 to July 31; June 26 to July 31; or July 1 to July 31. All three scenarios have the same two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size.

From Horse Mountain to Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, the three alternatives are: June 28 to Oct. 31; June 26 to Oct. 24; or June 24 to Oct. 3. All three scenarios are the same, with two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size.

To view all of the salmon management alternatives, visit

Final season dates will be decided during the April 6 to April 9 and April 12 to April 15 PFMC webinar meetings, where the council will consult with scientists, hear public comment and revise preliminary decisions.

Klamath/Trinity fall salmon allocations

Not only will the recreational ocean salmon season be restricted, but sport anglers will have a few less Klamath/Trinity River fall Chinook to harvest this year, as well. The recreational allocations, or quotas, as proposed by the PFMC will range from 1,234 to 1,217 adult fall Chinook in 2021 across the three alternatives. Last year's basin-wide quota was 1,296 adults. If, for example, the first option is chosen, the quota for the Klamath and Trinity basins would be 1,234 adults. Of those, 617 would be allowed for sport harvest from State Route 96 bridge to the mouth of the Klamath. From the bridge to Iron Gate, 210 could be harvested. The Trinity would receive 407 adults for harvest. The Spit Area (within 100 yards of the channel through the sand spit formed at the Klamath River mouth) would close when 185 adult kings were taken downstream of the U.S. Highway 101 bridge.

The three quota alternatives are not final but will be decided during the aforementioned April PFMC webinar meetings. Once the quota is agreed upon, 50 percent will go to the lower Klamath basin, 17 percent to the upper basin and 33 percent will be allocated for the Trinity River. These quotas would go into effect Aug. 15.

The weather ahead

Rain is in the forecast for later in the week, which will impact all of the coastal rivers. The storm is predicted to hit early Thursday morning and stick around through Friday night, with lingering showers possible Saturday. One to 2 inches is expected in both Del Norte and Humboldt counties.

Bucksport Redtail Perch Contest

Bucksport Sporting Goods will be holding its third annual Redtail Perch Contest beginning on April 1. The contest will run through September and you can enter up to 10 fish per month. A point will be given for each ounce and for each quarter inch. The perch, Redtails only, must be measured and weighed at Bucksport. The top three fish at the end of the contest will win a prize. Entry is free and but limited to in-store registration only. Bucksport is located at 3650 Broadway in Eureka.

HSU looking for surfperch anglers/seiners

The HSU Dept. of Fisheries Biology are looking to hire students within the fisheries or related field to help angle for surfperch in Humboldt and seine along the Northern California coast. To apply, send cover letter to by April 1.

The Rivers:


"After slow fishing for a couple of weeks, steelhead action picked up again on the Chetco last week and over the weekend," said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. "Many guides were getting four to six steelhead a day, with a mix of downrunners and fresh fish. The steelhead are spread throughout the river. Good conditions are expected through Wednesday and then rain and high water return. The Rogue has been good for steelhead near Gold Beach and upriver near Agness, but slow for spring salmon. Anchoring with 3.5 MagLips plugs continues to entice steelhead, with bright hatchery fish still arriving."

Smith River

The Smith remains low and clear, running at 3,200 cubic feet per second on the Jed Smith gauge as of Tuesday. Nearly 2 inches of rain is expected Thursday and Friday, and flows are predicted to jump to 7,500 cfs by Saturday morning. This should bring in some new fish and kick-start the downers making their way from the tributaries.

Eel and Van Duzen rivers

The South Fork was in great shape over the weekend but blew out Monday. The fishing remains tough with lots of zeros. The rain coming Thursday and Friday is expected to push the flows to 3,600 cfs by Friday morning. It could be fishable by Monday. The main Eel was a day away from fishable before the rain on Sunday. With another bump in flows later in the week, it could fish late next week. The Van Duzen also got dirty Monday and will blow out again Thursday. Depending on snowmelt, anglers could fish sometime next week.

Mad River

The Mad was dirty Monday but dropping fairly quickly. It may be somewhat green before is rises again Thursday afternoon. Fishing remains slow but a few are being caught near the hatchery. Flows are predicted to reach 3,280 cfs early Friday morning, keeping it off color through the weekend.

Lower Trinity River

The winter fish that are moving through the Klamath are starting to make their way into the lower Trinity. Boats drifting the Willow Creek area are catching a mix of fresh steelhead and downrunners along with a handful of half-pounders per trip. Flows were running at 3,300 cfs on the Hoopa gauge as of Wednesday, but it predicted to rise to 6,400 cfs by Friday afternoon. Should be in fishable shape through the weekend.

Kenny Priest (he/him) 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

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