Midway between Ferndale and Arcata and five hours north of San Francisco sits the historic seaport of Eureka, capital of the fabled Redwood Empire. This friendly town in the heart of California’s northern coast is the central hub of business and administration of Humboldt County. This area was home to the native Wiyot people, who took advantage of the regional geography, thriving on an endless supply of food from the many local waters, for thousands of years. European settlers discovered Humboldt Bay in 1849, and the secret was out. Eureka was founded in 1850, and quickly became an important home for northern California’s government and the lumber industry; and the fishing has only gotten better. Instant lumbering success led quickly to development and great prosperity. A number of historic Victorian mansions and homes still stand as testament to this town’s rich, interesting history and culture. With the opening of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in 1914 Eureka was connected to San Francisco, and the town began to benefit from more modern settlers, and tourism. But Eureka’s livelihood will always be linked to Humboldt Bay (second largest in California), many other bountiful local waters, and the Pacific Ocean.
Ten minutes north of Eureka is the historic fishing town of Arcata, once an important location for the Gold Rush. Arcata Marsh and Klopp Lake at the northern edge of Humboldt Bay are easily-accessible, well-maintained sources for great local fishing. The Smith, Klamath, Trinity, Mad, Eel, and Van Duzen Rivers all flow from the Coast Range northeast of Eureka. Smith River is California’s only major river without dams, clear and unspoiled. The Klamath River features beautiful canyons and runs of Salmon. Excellent roadside access makes the Trinity River popular for impulse fishing. Eel River is known as the birthplace of fly fishing for Chinook and Steelhead. The town’s proximity to these waters of Six Rivers National Forest make it the perfect place from which to access some of the best Steelhead and Salmon fishing in California, especially during winter. Woodley, Indian, and Daby Island all lie just off Eureka’s Front Street and Waterfront Drive, and have ideal access to fish from shore. Further west is the Pacific Ocean, where bigger and badder sport fish lurk in far deeper water.
The Port of Humboldt Bay cannot accommodate large vessels, and strong southwestern winds make it difficult for other craft to navigate; but outstanding fishing action takes place within the bay’s generous expanse. Some of the many popular game fish in the bay include Perch, Leopard Sharks, Jacksmelt, California halibut, Bat Rays and salmon, among others. From Eureka’s waterfront you can drive east and north along the bay, towards Arcata Marsh, Klopp Lake, and the Mad River. These areas hold many prime spots to fish from land for limits of Steelhead (especially during winter), King, Chinook and Silver Salmon. The Samoan Bridge will take you from Eureka, west over Woodley and Indian Islands toward the coast, where many people fish from rugged, serene beaches for Surf Perch and Surf Smelt traffic, and along the jetties for Salmon. Fields Landing, Hookton Slough, the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, the Coast Guard Station at Samoa Peninsula, and Eureka Public Marina are only a few of many boat launch locations along the bay. Fishing charters operate from the port, and out of Woodley Island Marina. A number of capable captains and guides can take you quickly and affordably to some of the best fishing spots around the bay or further inland, so you can tap into the local supply of Coho and Chinook Salmon, Cutthroat, Steelhead and Rainbow Trout, White Sturgeon, Sacramento Blackfish, and Mosquito Fish, among many others.
Eureka’s entire Old Town area has been declared a Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places, and it remains vibrant, filled with art galleries, quaint shops, antique stores, and many interesting folks. This town is bordered on one side by beautiful, rich Humboldt Bay, and on the other by lush mountainous redwood forests. Aside from hiking, observing wildlife, kayaking, and white-water rafting, fishing still draws the majority of tourists to this wonderful location along the exciting northern California coast. Eureka is a Greek word meaning “I have found it”, and this place is aptly named.