Sport and Commercial Ocean Salmon Season Shuttered

Sport and Commercial Ocean Salmon Season Shuttered
Due to low abundance, the sport and commercial Chinook salmon season has been shut down statewide in 2023. The decision was made last Friday by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Anglers will have to wait until at least 2024 to catch a salmon like the one pictured with Riley Skillman from Mesa, Arizona, a few years ago out of Shelter Cove.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Jake Mitchell/Sea Hawk Sport Fishing

by Kenny Priest

Management Council on March 10 provided three options for recreation and commercial salmon fishing from the California/Oregon border all the way south to the California/Mexico border. Unfortunately, but not surprising, all three options included the words “CLOSED.” In an unprecedented decision, the PFMC was left with little choice but to close recreational and commercial salmon fishing this season statewide. Southern Oregon, which also impacts Sacramento and Klamath River fall Chinook, will also be closed from Cape Falcon south.

The sport fishery had been scheduled to open off California in most areas on April 1. The closures were made to protect Sacramento River fall Chinook, which returned to the Central Valley in 2022 at near-record low numbers, and Klamath River fall Chinook, which had the second lowest abundance forecast since the current assessment method began in 1997.

Yet to be determined are the fishing seasons within the Sacramento and Klamath Rivers. It’s widely believed neither will be open to the retention of fall Chinook, but two of the alternatives included both Klamath recreational and tribal allocations. Alternative one and two called for 1,804 recreational quota and 1,872 tribal allocation. Alternative three, which agency representatives and industry advisors view as the most likely, have zero recreational fall Chinook and just 68 for tribal. To view all salmon management alternatives, visit

Up next, the PFMC will hold a public hearing March 21 in Santa Rosa to receive public comment on the three proposed regulatory alternatives. The PFMC will then meet April 1 through April 7 in Foster City to procedurally finalize the closures. Details on how to attend the public hearing and PFMC meeting, as well as instructions to provide public comment, can be found at

Weekend weather
According to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we’ll begin to dry out following Tuesday’s rain. “Wednesday and Thursday are looking dry,” said Aylward. “We may see a few showers on Friday and through the weekend, but not enough to raise the river levels. Monday, we’re looking at more widespread rain in the area, and we could see the rivers go back on the rise. And more rain is expected through the week.”

The rivers:
The Mad nearly reached flood stage, peaking at over 20-feet Tuesday but is now dropping slowly. With only a couple weeks left in the steelhead season, it’s unlikely it will be anything close to green, especially with Ruth Lake dumping over the spillway.

Main stem Eel
The main Eel reached 162,200 cubic feet per second early Wednesday morning on the Scotia gauge. Needless to say, it will be blown out for weeks. The main stem Eel, from its mouth to the South Fork is open to fishing all year. From April 1 through Sept. 30, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork peaked at over 37,000 cfs at Miranda Tuesday and is also big and brown. It’s going need to stop raining soon or it may not be fishable prior to closing at the end of the month.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen topped monitor stage Tuesday, peaking at over 13 feet at Bridgeville. It will be on the drop from Wednesday through the weekend, but more rain is in the forecast next week. Like the SF Eel, it may not have time to turn green before the season ends.

The fast-clearing Smith reached monitor stage, 25 feet at the Jed Smith gauge, Monday night. As crazy as it sounds, it could be in fishable shape by Thursday. Conditions for Friday and the weekend are looking even better, when it will be under 11-feet. There were some fresh steelhead caught late last week and there should be some downers starting to make their way to the ocean.

Southern Oregon rivers
The Chetco rose 14 feet in one day, cresting at 18 feet, or 40,000 cfs, Monday night reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing, “It was back down to 20,000 cfs Tuesday morning,” said Martin. “The river may briefly be in shape by Friday, before another rise is expected. Steelhead fishing was fair early last week, before the rise. The recent high water should jump start spring salmon fishing on the Rogue. Fishable conditions are expected by the end of the week.”

Brookings ocean report
Stormy conditions have kept boaters at the docks in Brookings according to Martin. “Better conditions are expected this weekend. Salmon season is expected to open June 17 for hatchery coho on Brookings. Halibut opens May 1. Lingcod and rockfish are open year-round.”

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

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