2017 Groundfish Summer Report

Tom MarkingGroundfish

TUNA, TUNA, TUNA…that’s the best news we’ve had this summer!  For a brief period in early August, with a cut-off low calming down the water off Northern California, we were treated with a flurry of tuna action.  It started in Ft. Bragg and moved north up to Shelter Cove, Eureka and then up to the Crescent City area before the wind machine started up again.  Ft. Bragg seems to have the best action.  It’s been about three years since the tuna showed up here in any numbers, so this was a treat.  Oddly, the albacore are scarce up north in Oregon and Washington this year, so we are the where the action is at currently.  Its mid-August as of this report and we don’t expect another weather window until about the last week in August.  Let’s hope the chlorophyll and the temperature holds for us during this blow.


Halibut fishing has been slow this summer with the winds keeping most off the water.  As of the closure in mid-July the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) web site only reported about 11,000  lbs being harvested, but that will increase substantially for the first two weeks in August when they post new numbers.  But I expect we will have a lot of time in September for those not able to get a few this year.  The California halibut fishing in Humboldt Bay has been very busy during the windy periods.  It’s not uncommon to see a half-dozen or more Charter boats up there working through the shorts to get the minimum 22” fish for their clients.  Slow trolling with ‘chovies or live bait has done well, with few throwing some small lures with some success.


Fishing at the Cape has been good, when folks can get down there between wind storms.  Boats out on the water have reported seeing lots of salmon feeding on the surface.  Hopefully, the Klamath will have a better than expected return of 4 year olds; but we will have to wait and see what happens for next year.  With no fall fishing, we should get some consideration next year for the Eureka-Crescent City area.  Word is the southern salmon fishing out of Half Moon Bay has been wide open, but I can’t confirm that as of yet.


The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) instituted 32 sample stations for halibut in California this summer and all have been sampled, with the results closely guarded until the December interim meeting in Seattle.  This past year, our 2A allocation was reduced from 2.78% down to 2.2% of the overall population, so hopefully the increased sampling will give us some improvement over that reduced amount.  Currently California has 4% of the non-tribal portion and we are once again trying to get that boosted to 6%.  CDFW tossed out a mix of proposals at the September meeting suggesting California should get about 7.15% and that it be shared between the sports and commercial guys.  The first 30,000 lbs would go to the sports, and above that amount, the sports and commercial would split the poundage.  That proposal is not getting much traction with the sports guys and will be adamantly rejected by the commercial guys up north.  At the  September meeting we’ll see what the Council Staff analyzed over the summer and what alternatives the Council will select to release for public review prior to making a decision in November.


During the CDFW phone conference, the Crescent City guys have taken an interest in commercial fishing and caught several thousand pounds of halibut this year in the two ten hour openers.  This makes sense, since the black cod guys have all the gear to jump into this fishery.  It will be interesting to see if the California commercial guys start to take advantage of this fishery.  It doesn’t cost them anything, they only have to apply with the IPHC for a permit to enter the fishery.


HASA prepared a letter and sent it to the CDFW on our preferences to the suggestions made at the June Council meeting regarding Pacific halibut.  The September meeting will sort through all this and some decisions will be made. I am very interested to see what the 32 stations sampled this summer provide in additional harvest.  Hopefully, they picked up some fish that will help us out for next year.  That decision won’t be made until the January Annual IPHC meeting in Portland.


So, we look forward to a good fall fishery for halibut, albacore and Cape fishing.


Tight lines.