Located at the northern end of Arcata Bay, just 10 minutes north of Eureka, and 250 miles north of San Francisco, is the cozy, historic town of Arcata. Settled in 1850 as “Union” and changed to its present name in 1860 this town was an important supply and shipping center for miners on the Trinity River during the great Gold Rush. By the end of World War I gold fever had long since run its course, and the town became refocused on the lumber industry and education. Presently more than half of Arcata’s residents are in some way affiliated with Humboldt State University, and this friendly college town enjoys a reputation as a center of environmental leadership, creativity, and radical thought, with a deep respect for history. For thousands of years before any Europeans explored this region the land belonged to the native Wiyot people, who found prosperity in the exceptional confluence of land and waters. The main food source for these people was indeed the local waters. Throughout many periods of change during Arcata’s history one thing has remained constant: its prominence as a fruitful location for fishing.
Humboldt Bay has been likened to San Francisco Bay, without the traffic. Its entrance is not convenient for large boats or ships, and strong southwest winds make it extremely difficult for any kind of vessel to gain passage. This is a large body of water that remains happily quiet and little-trafficked – good news for the wide variety of game fish that call Humboldt Bay – along with many other local fishing spots – home; and this is all the better for anglers. Between the Bay and the Arcata lies the world-famous Arcata Marsh, a wildlife habitat noted for public recreation and responsible water treatment methods. Connecting Arcata Marsh to Humboldt Bay is a body of water called Klopp Lake. Just a few miles north of the town winds the Mad River, with miles of shoreline convenient for easy angling access. This is one of the salmon-stocked waterways – along with the Smith, Klamath, Trinity, Eel, and Van Duzen Rivers – flowing from Six Rivers National Forest a short drive east. As if these options weren’t enough there is great bounty in the Pacific Ocean, which is only five miles due west.
Whether fishing from any of the numerous spots along Humboldt Bay’s shore or pursuing your quarry by boat, there is more than enough action to go around. One can reach the bay just south of Arcata by taking either the Redwood Highway south, or Samoa Road west. Popular spots on land include Buhne Point in King Salmon, Elk River spit, Elk River (below the railroad bridge), the Del Norte Street Pier in Eureka, and the north and south jetties. Launching facilities are numerous: Fields Landing, Hookton Sough on the Humbolt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, near the Coast Guard Station at Samoa Peninsula, Eureka Public Marina, and other smaller ramps along the bay. All of these options can lead you to good numbers of Perch, Leopard Sharks, Jacksmelt, California halibut, Bat Rays and Salmon, among others. Arcata Marsh and Klopp Lake, along with numerous creeks and lagoons, host great numbers of regional favorites such as Coho and Chinook Salmon, Cutthroat, Steelhead and Rainbow Trout, White Sturgeon, Sacramento Blackfish, and Mosquito Fish. Along the Mad River and Blue Lake on the south side, are many locations to haul in good numbers of Steelhead (especially during winter), King, Chinook and Silver Salmon, and many other species. The best areas lie from the Mad River Fish Hatchery to the mouth of the river. Along the beaches west by the ocean Surf Perch and Surf Smelt traffic is busy, while Salmon are popular targets off the jetties. Numerous fishing charters are available for access to deeper-water game such as Rockfish, Albacore, Rock Cod, Red and Black Snapper, and Sharks.