Salmon Seasons Finalized for the California Coast

man with Chinook salmon
Sport fisherman with a nice Chinook salmon caught off Devil’s Slide
photo courtesy of D. Laughlin

Ocean salmon anglers across the California coast will be spending less time on the water this year chasing after king salmon, also known as Chinook.

At its virtual meeting last week, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) finalized and adopted the 2021 ocean salmon seasons. Sport fisheries on much of the coast have yet to open, except for the Monterey area which opened on the traditional first Saturday in April.

The season dates are the outcome of a months-long public process and reflect efforts to maximize recreational angling opportunity in light of the stock conservation objectives prescribed by the PFMC and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for 2021. The persistent low abundance of Klamath River Fall Chinook again drove the need for season reductions this year, coupled with a pessimistic Sacramento River Fall Chinook abundance forecast.

The 2021 recreational ocean salmon season dates and size limits for the California coast are as follows:

  • In the Klamath Management Zone, which is the area between the Oregon/California border and 40°10’00” N. latitude (near Cape Mendocino), the season will open June 29 and continue through August 1. Size limit: 20 inches total length.
  • The Fort Bragg area, which extends from 40°10’00” N. latitude to Point Arena (38°57’30” N. latitude), opens June 29 and continues through October 31. Size limit: 20 inches total length.
  • The San Francisco area, from Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37°11’00” N. latitude), opens June 26 and continues through October 31. Size limit: 20 inches total length.
  • The Monterey area, from Pigeon Point to the U.S./Mexico border, opened on April 3 and will continue through September 30. Size limit: 24 inches total length through May 15; 20 inches total length thereafter.

The daily bag limit is two Chinook salmon per day. No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. Once brought ashore, no person shall possess more than two daily bag limits. Retention of coho salmon (also known as silver salmon) is prohibited in all ocean fisheries off California.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife would like to inform anglers of a change to the boundary line between the northern management areas effective this season. The line between the Fort Bragg and Klamath Management Zones has been moved five nautical miles north from Horse Mountain (40° 05’ 00” N. latitude) to 40° 10’ 00” N. latitude (near Cape Mendocino). This change was made in an effort to simplify fishing regulations by aligning the salmon management boundary line with the existing groundfish management boundary line.

Anglers are advised to check for updated information when planning a salmon fishing trip. Season dates, bag/possession limit information and gear restrictions can be found on CDFW’s ocean salmon web page or by calling the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429. Public notification of any in-season change to conform state regulations to federal regulations is made through the National Marine Fisheries Service ocean salmon hotline at (800) 662-9825.


post by Kandice Morgenstern, CDFW Environmental Scientist