Pacific halibut flying over the rails

Eureka Coast - Eureka, CA (Humboldt County)

Rod Rodriquez of Winters landed this 70-pound halibut on 5-inch swimbait while fishing near Cape Mendocino on Sunday. The big flattie rounded out full limits of shallow water halibut for Skipper Tony Sepulveda of Shellback Sport Fishing and his customers.
Photo Credit: Tony Sepulveda/Shellback Sport Fishing

by Kenny Priest
7-13-2018
Website

The Pacific halibut bite all along the North Coast has been nothing short of spectacular this week. Since last Thursday when the ocean finally calmed, limits have been the rule. “It’s as good as I’ve seen it,” said Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. “There’s been quite a few caught at the Cape in shallow water while rock fishing, and the Eel River Canyon area has been good too. They seem to be all up and down the line clear to Trinidad in 250 to 300 feet of water.” Not to short-change the halibut fishery, but there’s a reason it’s grabbing all the headlines – the salmon continue to be MIA from Eureka to Crescent City. With the calendar saying it’s mid-July, it’s no wonder we’re all starting to get a little nervous. Sport and commercial boats have covered a lot of water, and the salmon just don’t seem to be here in big numbers – yet. There were good reports out of Fort Bragg over the weekend, and Shelter Cove is seeing some keeper kings as well. Next week will be the true test. Pacific halibut season will close after Sunday, which should put the focus squarely on the salmon. I know my fingers are crossed.

Marine Forecast
Out 10 nautical miles from Pt. St. George to Cape Mendocino, conditions for the weekend are looking plenty fishable. Friday’s forecast is calling for SW winds up to 5 knots and swells 7 feet at 11 seconds. On Saturday, winds will be out of the NW 5 to 10 knots and waves NW 2 feet at 5 seconds and NW 6 feet at 11 seconds. On Sunday, winds will be out of the NW 5 to 10 knots and waves NW 5 feet at 6 seconds and NW 2 feet at 15 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 707-443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 707-443-6484.

Pacific Halibut closes after Sunday
The Pacific halibut season will close after Sunday, July 15 and open back up on August 1 and run through the 15th. The remainder of the seasons open dates are: Sept. 1-Oct. 31, or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. To date, the CDFW has projected 11,178 net pounds have been harvested towards a quota of 30,940 pounds. For up-to-date harvest tracking information, visit wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Pacific-Halibut#31670772-in-season-tracking.

Sport Crab season coming to a close
The 2018 sport Dungeness crab season in Humboldt, Mendocino, and Del Norte counties will close on Monday July 30. The season will re-open on Nov. 3.

The Oceans:
Eureka

Skipper Tony Sepulveda of Shellback Sport Fishing has been running combo trips since last week, but they aren’t your typical combos. Most of the combos usually include salmon, but not this week. With the salmon yet to show, Sepulveda has been at the Cape targeting both rockfish and Pacific halibut. “I decided to make an effort to try and target Pacific’s in a little different habitat, but in the same general area and water depth. The results have been pretty impressive, we’ve landed fish every day, and even put limits for six in the box on Sunday. The fish have been a good grade as well, we had a 58, 64, and a 70-pounder this week. The rockfish bite has been amazing too, with lots of great variety – coppers, vermilions, quillbacks, and canaries – coming aboard. We’re also seeing some big lings, we had a few over 30-pounds this week,” said Sepulveda.

Trinidad
According to Curt Wilson of Wind Rose Charters, the halibut bite was wide-open this past week, with lots of limits reported. “There’s a lot of fish around, but there hasn’t been a ton of effort. There’s some salmon around too, but you’ve got to put in lots of time. A few boats were working south and they did really well. If you find some good patches of bait, you’ll likely catch a few. The rockfish are still biting, and we’re seeing more of a variety now. Some vermilion and canaries have shown up, and there’s more lings around too. The crabbing is still going good, we’re getting lots of big keepers daily,” Wilson added.

Shelter Cove
The salmon bite remains fairly consistent, but you really have to wade through a lot of silvers and shakers to get some keepers reports Captain Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. “We've been fishing from the Canyon down to The Hat and it's been pretty much the same story everywhere. The rockfish bite has been a bit slow as of late, with the ling cod being pretty hard to come by. There is some warm tuna water within reach, a friend of mine ran offshore 50 miles last Thursday and boated 13,” said Mitchell.

Crescent City
There’s been a few halibut caught this past week reports Leonard Carter of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. “One of the charters did really well on the backside of the South Reef in 200 feet of water. It seems when the boats can get out, they’re definitely catching a few. There are some salmon being caught, I heard of a few around the South Reef in 90 feet of water. Not a lot of effort on the salmon however. The rockfish bite has been really good, there’s lots of lings around,” Carter added.

Brookings
Salmon fishing remains slow to fair out of Brookings according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “For every good day, when some boats get two or three kings, the next few days are slow.”

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath

With the river still loaded with moss, most of the salmon action continues to be in the estuary where trollers are catching a few salmon each day. The bite has been best on the incoming tide, but it’s been really inconsistent fishing. If you’re there when they come in, you’ll have a real good chance at catching a few.

Lower Rogue
According to Martin, the Rogue Bay busted open this week. “The incoming tide has been fishing well in the morning, then the afternoon runoff has been good. There are a lot of fish along the jetties, and they are suspended, with 2 1/2 ounces fished 35 to 40 feet out working well,” added Martin.

 Junction City weir in place
The Junction City weir was installed on June 11 according to Mary Claire Kier, an Environmental Scientist with the CDFW Trinity River Project. “We’ve got a new JC weir configuration this year based on what we tried at Willow Creek last year,” said Kier. “It’s an upriver extension from the weir line to the trap. It seems to entice more fish into the trap. The weir is open for easy passage of fish every weekday afternoon and it is open from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening as well,” added Kier.

Through 18 trap days this year, 765 adult salmon have been trapped along with 19 jacks. A total of 150 adults and 58 jacks were trapped in 2017, so we’re off to a really good start.


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.


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