Shelter Cove salmon opener set for Saturday

Klamath River - Lower - Klamath, CA (Humboldt County)

Tyler Jabbour captured first place in last year’s Perch'n on the Peninsula Surfperch Fishing Tournament with his 16.34 inch Redtail. This year’s event, which benefits the Samoa Peninsula Fire District Volunteer Organization, will take place on April 8
Photo Credit: Samoa Peninsula Fire District

by Kenny Priest

On Saturday, California’s recreational ocean salmon season will open from Horse Mountain south to the U.S./Mexico border. The area to the north of Horse Mountain, which includes Eureka, Trinidad, and Crescent City, will be sitting on the sidelines this season due to a record low 54,200 Klamath River fall Chinook salmon forecasted to be swimming in the ocean. The ocean abundance of Sacramento River kings is also low, but there’s enough to give the anglers to our south at least a limited season.

Between Horse Mountain and Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, the minimum size limit is 20 inches total length. The daily bag limit is two Chinook per day and no more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. The PFMC will meet April 6-11 to determine the season lengths. The three options on the table are:

1) April 1-May 31 and August 15-November 12; 2) April 1-May 31 and July 1-12;

3) April 1-30. For more information, visit For salmon regulations for the month of April, visit

Shelter Cove outlook
“It’s going to be a pretty tricky launching situation this weekend with big swells and low tides.” said Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. “I would try to avoid coming or going during low tide. My guess is it will be fishable on Saturday and questionable on Sunday. The cove can surprise you quite often, for better or worse, and you never really know until you see it. The launch hours have yet to be determined, but they will be there at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday. They won't be launching boats without side bunks during big swells as it's too dangerous.” Anglers are encouraged to call Matt Kempe, who operates the Shelter Cove launch for the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, ahead of time at 707-223-3399. Cost to launch is $35.

“With all the rough weather we've had, there hasn't been much time to go scouting,” said Mitchell. “It's been a while since I've been out, but there was some good sign down on the inside near the crab gear. Also, there seems to be quite a few whales hanging around on the outside of the whistle so that may be a good spot to go look as well. And it’s been a good spot the past few years on the opener.”

As of Wednesday, winds were forecasted to blow from the N 10 to 20 knots on Saturday with NW waves 12 feet at 15 seconds. Sunday is looking worse, with winds out of the NW predicted at 15 to 25 knots and waves out of the NW 14 feet at 15 seconds. Visit for an up-to-date marine forecast. On Saturday, a low tide of -0.4 will be at 9:35 a.m. and Sunday’s low will be -0.34 at 10:40 a.m.

Upcoming steelhead river openings/closures
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 Craigs Creek to Jones Creek. Bait can be used and barbless hooks are still required. The main stem Eel, from its mouth to the South Fork is open to fishing all year. From the mouth to Fulmor Road, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from April 1 through the Friday preceding the last Saturday in May. From Fulmor Road to the South Fork, it’s open from April 1 through September 30. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. Sections of the Klamath and Trinity rivers are open to fishing, but are subject to in-season changes. For more information, visit and click on the Freshwater Sport Fishing link.

The following rivers will close to fishing on March 31: the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek, and the Chetco.

Reminder: Abalone Season Opens May 1 in 2017
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reminds divers and rock-pickers gearing up for the start of the red abalone season that the season has been shortened by two months, with an opening date of May 1 instead of April 1, and a closing date of October 31 instead of November 30.  In addition, the annual limit has been lowered from 18 abalone to 12. The California Fish and Game Commission approved a shortened season and reduced take limit at their Dec 7, 2016 meeting due to concerns about the declining health and number of red abalone on the northern California coast.

The Rivers:

The Chetco was still too high to fish this week and will probably be above 4,000 cfs through Friday, the last day of the season,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The river has been blown out for the past two weeks, pretty much ending steelhead season early. The river re-opens in late May for cutthroat trout. The Elk River dropped to a fishable 4.9 feet on Tuesday. It should be low enough to fish for the last few days of the season. There should still be a few late steelhead around. The Sixes is still high and muddy and will probably remain so through the week.”

Smith River
“Fishing is pretty tough on the Smith right now,” said guide Mike Coopman. “For whatever reason, we haven’t seen a good push of downers in the lower river yet. They’re getting some upriver, but they seem to be just trickling down. We’ve been getting one to two hookups per trip this week.”

Eel River (main stem)
“The main stem is still big and brown,” said Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. “We’ll need a couple weeks of dry weather before it drops into shape.”

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork is fishable above the East Branch, and should fish below Benbow on Friday if the rain doesn’t pan out. You’ll want to take advantage as the South Fork will close on Friday, March 31.

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More Reports

Fishing the North Coast Reports
for Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Smith River: Late-season steelhead anglers slowed by rain
: Shelter Cove/Fort Bragg salmon season to open April 1
Chetco River: Chetco high and slow
Smith River: The Smith is keeping us hooked
Eel River: Main stem holds out hope through April
Eel River - South Fork: South Fork running out of steam
Van Duzen River: Van Duzen to get more rain
Mad River: Mad looking for green water

Fishing the North Coast Reports
for Thursday, March 16th, 2017

: Shelter Cove/Fort Bragg salmon season opens April 1
Chetco River: Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Smith River: Smith river steelhead
Eel River: Eel turning colors
Eel River - South Fork: Eel south looking good
Van Duzen River: Van Duzen is tempting
Mad River: Mad river not looking happy