We are still in the dead period for fishermen in Northern California. Although there are still a few down-running steelhead being caught on the Smith River, fishing pressure has been pretty light as anglers are starting to prepare for the ocean season, or moving on to target spring salmon on the Rogue River or stripers on the Sacramento and Feather rivers.

Ocean fishing in Northern California is just around the corner with bottomfishing and halibut fishing set to open up on May 1. Meanwhile, anglers are still having lots of luck targeting bottomfish out of Brookings, where groundfish and lingcod fishing remains open year round. The halibut season in Southern Oregon is also scheduled to open on May 1.

Oregon’s first of four free fishing weekends will be held today and tomorrow. Anglers are allowed to fish all over the state without a license or tag.

Meanwhile, it has been officially announced that the Klamath fall run Chinook, expected to be the worst on record, will be closed starting on Aug. 15. Steelhead fishing on the Klamath River will be allowed, however.

Klamath salmon closure

Last week the California Fish and Game Commission voted to close all fall run Chinook salmon fishing on both the Klamath and Trinity rivers. The fall seasons begin Aug. 15 on the Klamath River and Aug. 30 on the Trinity.

Until then, spring-run regulations will be in effect on both rivers, allowing Chinook fishing on the Klamath River downstream of the Highway 96 bridge through Aug. 14. The Trinity River will be open from the Old Lewiston Bridge to the confluence of the South Fork Trinity River through Aug. 29. The limit on both rivers is two kings of any size.

Though the fall salmon will be off limits to fishermen, anglers will still be allowed to target steelhead on the Klamath and Trinity rivers.

This fall’s predicted salmon run is an all time low of 12,000 spawners — down from over 300,000 just five years ago. Ocean salmon season had previously been closed in the California and Oregon Klamath Management Zones, which stretch from Humbug Mountain north to Horse Mountain.

On the ocean

Bottomfishing out of Oregon has remained strong whenever conditions allow boats to get out, and many anglers are hauling in a bright orange fish that was off limits for many years.

Ian, of Chetco Outdoor Store, said lots of canary rockfish are being caught this year, including several nice-sized fish. Canaries were off limits until last year in Oregon, when the bag limit was increased to one. This year, anglers are allowed to keep up to seven canaries.

“When we first heard about (a bag limit of seven canaries) we were all wondering why they went from one to seven after all these years of none, but there are a lot of them around,” Ian said. “The conservation effort has obviously had an impact, which is very cool to see.”

Meanwhile, anglers on shore are still reporting lots of surf perch bites. Several anglers fishing the surf are also nabbing some leopard sharks, which are starting to move closer to shore.

Smith River

The steelhead run on the Smith River is starting to tapper off, though without much fishing pressure on the river anglers targeting the fish are still reporting catching a few downrunners. Late April is also the time of year to nab bluebacks on the Smith River. Bluebacks are a slightly smaller species of steelhead which gets its name from the blue color along its back.

Fishing contacts: Chetco Outdoor Store at 541-469-9151; Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 206-388-8988.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com.

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