Escape to California’s North Coast

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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Okay, so it’s overall been a pretty mellow summer but the weather this week has been a bummer. When the dog days are in full effect, I like to bail out to the mountains or the ocean. This time of year, you really can’t go wrong either way but I typically opt for the North Coast. Up in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, you have fantastic weather in late summer and fall (it’s been foggy in the mornings and sunny and 75-80 degrees every afternoon lately), great scenery — think redwoods meet the sea and you get the idea — plus tons of good fishing. And it doesn’t matter if you’re into freshwater or salt — there’s a little something in the area for everybody. Let’s take a look: Saltwater If you’re into Alaskan halibut fishing without the time and financial commitment of going that far north, try heading for Trinidad, an extremely quaint and scenic town (the wife will love it, too!) perched on the bluffs over the ocean about 30 minutes above Eureka. Charter boats that run out of this small port have been absolutely hammering big Pacific halibut to over 100 pounds all this summer. And the fish are close in — no long runs are necessary here. In addition to the big flatties, the waters off Trinidad are rich in rockfish and lingcod — not to mention salmon. Yep, that’s right. Salmon. This part of the coast is going to get the only recreational ocean salmon season in California this year, which will run Aug. 29-Sept. 7. For more fishing info, check out Off the shore, there’s also plenty to do up in this country. Many of the rocky outcroppings between Trinidad and Crescent City can be fished from shore on mellow ocean days and you can catch a whole host of rockfish by tossing swimbaits near the structure. If you’re more into perch fishing, many of the beaches in that same stretch of coast are absolutely loaded with huge redtailed surf perch that can top 5 pounds! I’ve been heading out to the beaches in the afternoon after guiding salmon trips on the Klamath (more on that later) and the perch bite, when the surf’s down, is pretty much a fish-a-cast type of affair. Give the boys at Mad River Outfitters (707-826-7201) a call to gear up and get info on the best spots. Freshwater In August and September, the Klamath River (20 miles south of Crescent City) is the place to be. It’s a world-class fishery that is on par with the best Alaska and Canada offer. When things are really ripping here, your boat may hook as many as 20-50 king salmon in a morning’s fishing. Things are currently just getting underway and over the past couple weeks, the fishing isn’t quite on par with that yet, but it’s still been pretty solid. Most days, we’ve been averaging 4 to 9 adult steelhead to 9 pounds, 20 to 50 half-pounders in the 14- to 19-inch class, a few jack salmon and up to 5 adult salmon to 28 pounds. Awesome fishing by most standards, but most Klamath regulars simply call that kind of action “fair.” In addition to the fishing, the scenery on the river is second to none. It’s wild, roadless country accessible only by jetboat and we’ve been seeing lots of osprey, bald eagles and black bears. For more info, guided trips and updated fishing reports from the Klamath, check out my Web page, And I’ve really only scratched the surface on this fantastic area. There’s a lot more to do that I don’t have space for here, but if you Google something like “Things to do in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties,” you get plenty of ideas. J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. Find him on the Web at