Bottomfish Buffet On The North Coast

The following appears in the July issue of California Sportsman:

By Chris Cocoles

Like so many professions, fishing guides like Tony Sepulveda had their own pratfalls and issues stemming from the COVID-19 shutdown.

Eureka-area guide Sepulveda lost the five weeks he usually spends guiding striped bass trips in the Central Valley’s Sacramento River system.

But the state’s loosening of restrictions in recent weeks has included allowing charter boat captains to begin booking trips again. Good timing for Sepulveda, who operates Green Water Fishing Adventures (707- 845-9588; greenwaterguides.com). The fishing action off the North Coast has been strong and should get even better through July and into August.

“It’s been great. We’re fishing lingcod and halibut, which have been the mainstay here,” Sepulveda says. “Salmon has been a little slow, but everything has been clicking really well.”

Photos by Tony Sepulveda/Greenwater Fishing Adventures

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS TAKEN

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t hit the North Coast as hard it has more populated regions of California, but there are still cases in and around Humboldt County, so like most business owners Sepulveda is doing what he can to ensure the safety of anglers who fish aboard his six-pack boat, the Shellback.

Face coverings and hand washing stations are now a big part of every trip. Most fishing boats get an intense cleaning after each time out on the water even when we’re not in the middle of coronavirus precautions, but it’s even more of a priority now to help prevent the spread of the illness.

(After trips) we’re trying to bleach everything down,” Sepulveda says.

“We’re also trying to maintain space,” he adds about social distancing whenever possible.

The good news for Sepulveda is that trip reservations are filling up fast. And why not with the fishing so solid right now?

“We’re full pretty much every day and we only had about three empty seats for most of July. And we’re thinking August will fill up by then,” Sepulveda says. “We’re pretty solid for the whole summer.”

HOT HALIBUT

The waters off the Northern California coast contain both California and larger Pacific halibut, and they’ve been the main event for most trips. Limits – three for the former species, one for the latter – have been common for those aboard the Shellback.

“It’s really been some of the best Pacific halibut fishing we’ve ever seen,” Sepulveda says. “Not real big ones necessarily, but a lot of 10- to 20-pounders. (Recently) we got one that was 58 pounds, so that was one of the bigger ones around.”

On another recent trip, the boat came back with five halibut over 30 pounds, topped by a 37-pounder, so big fish can be had, but there’s just as much quantity as quality right now.

Many of the fish being caught are between 200 and 300 feet down, with frozen herring the bait of choice while drifting.

“The (commercial fishing) draggers in the water started talking that they were getting a lot of bycatch halibut in their nets – the most they’ve ever seen – and sure enough, there’s a lot of them out there,” Sepulveda says.

California halibut limits are also common. On a recent trip toward the end of June, six guests landed their limits of 18 total halibut by 11:30 a.m.

LIMITING OUT ON ROCKFISH

Prized lingcod and rockfish are also providing almost daily limits and should continue to do so well into July, as long as the weather cooperates.

“We’ll use a lot of frozen baits, swimbaits, shrimp flies – all that stuff,” Sepulveda says. “We’re just getting started. The weather should get better and we’ve got that to look forward to.

And the fishing should stay great.”

SALMON OFF TO SLOW START

There weren’t high hopes for salmon runs returning to the coastal rivers this year. The Klamath forecast of 186,600 adult Chinook was lower

than what was projected in 2019, which prompted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to temper big expectations.

“Who knows? I know there are some fish to the north of us. They’re catching some up in Brookings (in Oregon), and Shelter Cove (an hour or so south of Eureka) has some fish,” Sepulveda says. “But for whatever reason they’re just not here right now. But that can change at any minute.” CS

Editor’s note: Follow Green Water Fishing Adventures at facebook.com/Green-Wa- ter-Fishing-Adventures-Tony-Sepulve- da-201765639888892.

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