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Fort Bragg fishing

Denis Peirce

Last week’s column focused on salt water fishing out of Bay Area ports. Another option for foothill residents is Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg. If you head west on Highway 20 for four hours you reach the Mendocino coast and Fort Bragg.

The most significant feature of the ocean fishery in this area is how close the Japanese current and deep water are to shore. In the bay area boats have to travel up to 100 miles to reach the warm water currents. Out of Noyo Harbor boats can reach these warmer waters with in sight of shore.

Currently salmon is the target fishery. Most of the salmon caught off the Mendocino Coast originate in the Sacramento River system, although there are some fish from the Klamath system. These fish like mid 5-degree water. The warmer ocean current is moving closer to shore creating a narrow band of cool water from the shore out about three miles. This compresses the salmon fishing grounds and the fleet is roaming north or south out of the harbor at most a half an hour. This makes for short boat rides and more time fishing.

Noyo Harbor is the only port I know of that features many half day trips because of the short commute. Many boat owners, with ocean capable craft launch at Fort Bragg and fish just outside the harbor mouth.

The main forage for salmon in the area is bait fish; mostly sardines and needle fish. The most successful technique is trolling with hootchies, rotary salmon killers, or trolling flies. The peak of the salmon season in this area is mid-July to early August. By mid-August some schools of fish begin the migration back to fresh water but there remains a viable salmon fishery well into September.

Starting on the first of August the abalone diving season will reopen as well as the rock fish season. This will shift the focus off of salmon. Concurrent with these two seasons opening should be the start of the albacore trips off the coast. Albacore are world travelers and they move north along our coast, staying in waters above 60 degrees. There are water temps of 60 and above about 15 miles off the coast and in the last couple weeks anglers have successfully gone out in pursuit of these tuna. The main albacore run will be in late August through September.

The rock fish opener in August will start with the larger fish coming from deep water. These bottom fish migrate toward shore arriving in the coast shallows in October to spawn. When they get to shallow (50 to 90 feet) water you can target them with lighter tackle. That makes it much more fun than using the heavy gear required to get them out of 200+ feet of water. But because of the deep water close to shore out of Noyo Harbor, the boat time to reach these fishing grounds is much shorter than you will find in the bay area.

The Mendocino Coast offers many types of accommodations from camping at MacKerricker State Park to the nicest of bed & breakfast inns. For further information do a key word search on the web. You will find everything you need. I wouldn’t delay, the best months for this part of the coast are at hand.


Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio.


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