Coastal rivers brace for rain

Coming off the first weekend of the winter steelhead season that saw all of the coastal rivers turn green, I was sure hoping to hear some better scores. From the South Fork Eel north to the Chetco, steelhead reports ranged from decent to tough – and everywhere in between. The Chetco likely fished the best, but there were plenty of boats that came up empty. The Smith has been tough all season, and not much changed over the weekend. The Mad River should have been the hot spot, but the bite never took off. For whatever reason, the bulk of the hatchery steelhead have yet to show up there. Both the main stem and South Fork Eel turned green over the weekend, but it was tough fishing for most. A few boats ran into some fish on the South Fork on Sunday, but again, lots of zeros. But just as your next cast could lead to a 20-pound steelhead, the next big storm, which is predicted for Sunday, could lead to North Coast rivers chocked full of winter steelhead.

The weather ahead
The North Coast can expect continued wet conditions according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The first front will move in on Wednesday night, with snow levels dropping to 3,000 feet overnight. Rain amounts for this front will be around an inch in Crescent City and maybe three-quarters in Eureka. Lingering showers are forecasted for Friday and possibly into Saturday where we can expect a quarter to a half-inch. The next system will arrive on Sunday, and this should bring some heavier rain. The mountain areas in Del Norte could see over three inches, with one and a half falling at the lower elevations. The Eel basin could see three inches in the hills and an inch down lower. Showers should last into Monday, with the next round of storms predicted for Tuesday or Wednesday. Next week is looking similar to this week, with another couple cold fronts predicted that will bring snow to the lower elevations and keep the rivers flowing,” Aylward said. 

Fishing Report Cards Due Soon
CDFW wants to remind anglers and divers that the due date for turning in steelhead, sturgeon, abalone and North Coast salmon report card data is Jan. 31, 2018.
Anglers and divers must report even if the report card was lost, they did not fish or they did not catch any fish. Cards should be reviewed carefully for accuracy prior to submitting. Harvest reporting can be submitted online at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing#44521416-harvest-reporting or by mailing the cards to the address listed on the report card.

HASA dinner scheduled for April 14
The annual Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers (HASA) fundraiser dinner and auction will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 14 at the Arcata Community Center in Arcata. Tickets, which are not yet available, are $25 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Food will be provided by Ramone’s and some great items will be auctioned and raffled off. For more information, email hasa6191@gmail.com. 

The Rivers
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“Last week’s rain brought in quite a few hatchery steelhead on the lower Chetco, but the upper river has been surprisingly slow,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “We caught most of our fish the last few days within sight of the takeout. The little bit of rain on Monday night brought in new steelhead on Tuesday, and the plunkers had one of their best days so far this season. This weekend looks like the river may be just a little too high, and then a major high-water event is in the forecast for early next week. The Elk and Sixes have been slow for steelhead, but the South Coquille has been really good, with most guides catching limits of hatchery steelhead. The Coquille has been crowded. The Elk may be the only river on the Oregon side still in play this weekend.”

Fishing the NC 1_18 photo

The Smith River kicked out this chrome-bright winter steelhead last week for Arcata resident Justin Kelly. All of the coastal rivers should see increased flows from the storms that are expected to hit the North Coast over the next few days. Photo courtesy of Alan Borges/Alan’s Guide Service

Smith River
“Fishing has been decent on the Smith this week, but it looks like we’ve got a pretty good blowout coming,” said guide Mike Coopman. “I’d say the average is about a fish per boat, with scores ranging from zero to three per day. The Chetco has been in good shape, so the fishing pressure has been fairly light here. It looks like we have quite a bit of rain coming on Thursday and Sunday, which should be the first real blowout of the season. Once the water comes back down, we’ll see what we have to work with.”

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem Eel turned green on Sunday, but there didn’t seem to be many fish around. The fish that were between Rio Dell and the forks last weekend likely moved up. The river remained fishable up until Tuesday, but it turned brown overnight on Wednesday and looks to be blown out for quite a while. Flows are predicted to hit 23,000 cfs on Monday.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork was in great shape over the weekend and there were quite a few boats taking advantage of the conditions. There were a few fish caught and scores ranged from zero to two fish per boat. Hopefully the next big rise will bring in some more fish. Forecasted to hit 6,500 cfs on the Miranda gauge on Monday morning.

Van Duzen
The river dropped into shape on Sunday, but blew out again on Tuesday. A few bank anglers were on the water, but scores were hard to come by. The storm on Sunday has the flows ramping up to nearly 13,500 cfs by Monday.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, fishing was tough over the weekend on the Mad. “There’s a few around, but not many. The few fish that are being caught are mostly wild as the hatchery fish have yet to show up in big numbers. The river was extremely crowded over the weekend, but the scores were pretty bad. Hopefully this rain that’s coming will bring in some fish.” Kelly added.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

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Posted in Current Fishing Reports

Steelhead season showing signs of life

Fishing the NC 1_11 photo

Fortuna resident Nick Watson landed this bright winter steelhead last weekend while fishing the Eel River. Most of the coastal rivers should be dropping back into fishable shape by the weekend following the rains that hit earlier in the week. Photo courtesy of Jeff Griffith

That little shot of rain seems to have done the trick. For the first time this season, just about all of the coastal rivers are starting to see winter steelhead show up in decent numbers. From the Chetco to the Eel, the reports have all been good. Boats drifting the Chetco are landing one to three fish a day, with some scoring two-fish limits. After a couple weeks of tough fishing, the Smith bounced back over the weekend and fished well. In Humboldt, the Mad is full of steelhead, and back anglers put the hurt on em’ pretty good over the weekend. The main stem Eel turned green on Saturday, and quite a few fish were reportedly caught on Sunday. And the conditions should only get better. Following a dry weekend, we’re right back into a rainy pattern beginning on Monday. It’s safe to say steelhead season is in full swing here on the North Coast.

Weather ahead
“It looks like we’ll have one more system move through the area, then we’ll be dry for a couple days”, said Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “A system will move through the area on Thursday, with the majority of the rain falling in the Smith basin. Up to an inch could fall in the hills, with a half inch expected on the coast. In Humboldt, we won’t see much, maybe a quarter in the hills and less on the coast. We’re looking dry Friday through Sunday, but a change in the pattern will start on Monday. A couple fronts will hit the area between Monday and Wednesday, dropping up to six inches in the hills of Del Norte and three in the lower elevations. In Humboldt, we could see up to three inches over the three-day period in the higher elevations, and an inch falling near the coast. The wet pattern doesn’t change much after Wednesday, it’s looking like we’ll have above normal rainfall for the next week or so.”

Humboldt Steelhead Days kickoff party this Saturday
Humboldt Steelhead Days Kick-Off Party and Pints for Non-Profits event will be held at the Mad River Brewing Co., Tap Room on Saturday, January 13 from 5 p.m. till 10 p.m.
Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson will MC the event, and 2nd District Congressman Jared Huffman will make an appearance as well. You can register to enter the fishing contest and talk to HSD event coordinators and other anglers. Learn more about the two rivers we’ll be fishing (Mad and Trinity) and pick up more information about the other events during HSD. A Limited Edition Humboldt Steelhead Days hoodie and hat will be raffled off, with plenty of items for sale. The band Ghost Train will play later in the evening and every pint sold will be donated to Humboldt Steelhead Days. For more information, visit http://www.humboldtsteelheaddays.com/event/humboldt-steelhead-days-kick-off-party/

Commercial crab season set to open Jan. 15
The northern California Dungeness crab fishery in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties will open 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. The opener will be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that will begin at 8:01 a.m. Jan. 12, 2018. Any vessel that landed crab from other ocean waters prior to the season opening in Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties) is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery in Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9, for 30 days following the opening of those areas. In Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9, the 30-day wait period ends on Feb. 14, 2018.

“Although we have witnessed delays in the opening of the Dungeness crab commercial fishery in recent seasons due to domoic acid, a delay in the northern portion of the fishery due to quality isn’t unprecedented. The last time the northern season opener was delayed due to quality occurred with the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons and both those seasons started on Jan. 15,” said Christy Juhasz, CDFW Environmental Scientist. There were also two areas in the north that were under a health advisory issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) due to domoic acid since the recreational fishery season opened on Nov. 4. These were lifted last month by CDPH after continual sampling of Dungeness crabs by CDPH showed the amount of domoic acid had declined to low or undetectable levels. Recreational crabbing remains open in California statewide. For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

Abalone meeting this Saturday
Recreational Abalone Advisory Committee (RAAC) will be holding a meeting on Saturday, January 13 regarding the Red abalone management plan along with the 2018 closure. The meeting will be held at the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control boardroom, 595 Helman Lane, Cotati, CA from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To conference call in, call 888-808-6929. When prompted, enter the Meeting Access Code: 9961539#
For more information, contact Ian Taniguchi, Senior Environmental Scientist at 562-342-7182 or email ian.taniguchi@wildlife.ca.gov

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“The Chetco has been in good shape since Saturday, with decent numbers of steelhead spread throughout the river,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “It blew out on Friday with muddy water from this summer’s fire, but had great color and flows since. There are quite a few hatchery fish. My customers were able to get their two-fish limits on Sunday and a couple more on Monday. The Chetco’s flow gauge had been malfunctioning, but was repaired early Tuesday afternoon. The river is expected to rise late this week but should remain fishable if flows stay below 3,000 cfs. The predication is around 2,900 cfs on Friday.”

Smith River
The Smith fished well over the weekend, and Monday too, but it’s gotten a little tougher the last couple days reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “The rise we had earlier in the week definitely brought in some fish, we’ve been seeing them in the tail outs, but the bite has been tough. The water got a little color, but it’s still pretty clear. The next rise, which is looking like Thursday and Friday, should bring in a bunch more fish and add some more color to the water. It should be a good weekend,” Coopman added.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem was fishable up until Tuesday, but it’s high and off color as of Wednesday reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. “Quite a few boats were out over the weekend, and there’s definitely some fish around. The river has peaked and is dropping, and it could fish later in the weekend or by Monday,” said Grundman.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork opened back up to fishing earlier in the week, and was on the rise for a couple days. It finally peaked at just over 3,000 cfs on the Miranda gauge on Tuesday afternoon. It’s predicted to drop quickly, getting down to 500 cfs by Saturday afternoon. Darren Brown of Brown’s Sporting Goods in Garberville reports the river was dirty all the way to Piercy on Wednesday.

Van Duzen
According to Grundman, the Van Duzen is off color from the rain, but also on the drop. “My guess is it will be fishable above Yager Creek by the weekend,” added Grundman.

Mad River
The increased flows brought quite a few fish up the ladder on Tuesday reports Jens Hansen of Mad River Tackle in Arcata. He said, “Prior to the rain, the fishing was excellent, especially on Saturday. Some of the bankies who know what they’re doing reported up to 10 hookups. Flows peaked at 1,700 cfs on Tuesday and it looks like a bunch of fish came into the river. The river was just starting to turn on Wednesday, and should be somewhat green by Thursday or Friday. The river should be in great shape by the weekend and the fishing should be excellent.”

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Posted in Current Fishing Reports

Rain on the way — hopefully steelhead too

Coming off one of the driest December’s in history, we really have nowhere to go but up as far as rainfall totals go. Eureka checked in with a measly 1.94 inches of rain for December, well below the 8.12-inch average. But there is a change on the horizon as the forecast is finally calling for some well-needed rain. The lack of rain has made it tough on the winter steelhead anglers, where options have been few. Other than the Smith and main stem Eel, all of the other coastal rivers that are subjected to low flow regulations have been closed for at least a week. The rain in the forecast should open some of the rivers back up to fishing, while others could remain closed. Could this be the start to our rainy season? No one really knows, including the weather forecasters. When you hear  the phrases, “models are in disagreement,” and “uncertainty in the models,” it doesn’t exactly ooze confidence that we’re back to our normal, wet pattern. But you have to start somewhere.

The weather ahead
We should see a shift towards more wet weather, with several days of rain in the forecast according to Kathleen Lewis of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Beginning on Thursday and into Friday evening, we should see a few fronts move through. Rainfall totals in the Smith basin over the two-day period will be between a half and an inch, with more falling in the hills. The same totals can be expected in the Humboldt area. Saturday is calling for a chance of some very light rain. Sunday and Monday are looking mostly dry with the next system forecasted for some time on Tuesday. The models on this system aren’t aligned yet, but it’s looking like we’ll get up to an inch of rain in both Del Norte and Humboldt counties, with more falling in the hills,” added Lewis.

Razor Clamming remains closed
A reminder for clam diggers, the recreational take and possession of razor clams is still prohibited on Humboldt and Del Norte county beaches. The razor clam season has been closed in Del Norte and Humboldt counties since April 26, 2016 because of high levels of domoic acid in the clams. If the season opens in 2018, it will be between Mad River and south of the boundary line due west from the Clam Beach south parking lot trailhead. In Del Norte County, the beach south of Battery Point would be open. For more information, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/health-advisories. Or you can call the Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at 831-649-2883.

Brookings rockfish opener
“The ocean opener for lingcod and rockfish out of Brookings was great,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The lingcod bite has been wide-open. The season had been closed since mid-September because Oregon went over its rockfish allocation. Flat weather the first two days of January resulted in quick limits for all the charter boats out of Brookings. The Bird Island and Twin Rocks area fished well.”

Angling Report Cards due
Anglers who were issued report cards for steelhead, sturgeon, North Coast salmon, and abalone must report their harvest or effort by Jan. 31, 2018. Anglers and divers may report online or mail their report cards to the address printed on the report card. To report online, please visit www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales/customersearch/begin

Fishing the NC_1_4 photo

Andrew and Anthony Zinselmeir of McKinleyville hold a pair of hatchery half-pounder steelhead caught Dec. 28 on the Chetco River while fishing with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The Chetco has had big numbers of half-pounders this season. Photo courtesy of Andy Martin/Wild Rivers Fishing

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“We’ve been needing rain and it looks like we are going to get a decent amount this week,” said Martin. “There are steelhead spread throughout the Chetco, but fishing has been tough in the low, clear water. Just about all the tail outs have a few fish, but they are spooked after the first boat goes by. The upper river is loaded with half-pounders.” The Chetco is predicted to peak at 3,250 cfs on Sunday morning.

Smith River
Fishing has been tough on the Smith due to low water conditions and lack of fish. Not many boats have been out, but that could change this weekend. Flows are predicted to jump 4,600 cfs by late Friday. This should bring in a new batch of fish, and push the old ones up river.

Redwood Creek
As of Wednesday afternoon, the river was closed to fishing due to low flows. If the forecast holds, it could open on Friday or Saturday. Minimum flow: 300 cfs at the gauging station near the Highway 101 bridge.

Eel River
Main Stem
There’s been a few boats working around the Rio Dell area and below, but not much is happening above reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. He said, “We’re supposed to get a shot of rain, and that will help. My guess is a lot of fish have come in with the king tides and are sitting down in the estuary waiting for the river to rise. If we don’t get a whole lot of rain, it could remain fishable and not blow out. It just depends on some of the creeks and how dirty they get.” As of Wednesday, flows were right around 600 cfs on the Scotia gauge, but predicted to hit nearly 1,900 cfs by Saturday afternoon.

South Fork
Remains closed to fishing, and isn’t predicted to rise enough to warrant opening over the weekend. Flowing at roughly 150 cfs as of Wednesday. Minimum flow: 340 cfs at the gauging station at Miranda.

Van Duzen
Flowing at around 65 cfs on Wednesday, the Van Duzen is also closed to fishing. If the rain falls as predicted, it could open by Friday as flows are predicted to jump to 1,100 cfs. Minimum flow: 150 cfs at the gauging station near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.

Mad River
Flowing at just under 200 cfs as of Wednesday, the Mad remains closed to fishing. If the rain comes as planned, it could open back up on Thursday as flows are predicted to jump to over 1,600 cfs on Friday. Word from the anglers who’ve been working with CDFW to supply broodstock fish to the hatchery is the river has quite a few fish in it. The rain should really put the fish on the move and bring in lots of new ones. Minimum flow: 200 cfs at the gauging station at the Highway 299 bridge.

Trinity
The Trinity is low and clear and could use some rain,” said Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “There’s some steelhead around, but they’re mostly hanging out waiting to head up the creeks. These are the fish that have been in the system for a while. The winter fish haven’t started to move through the Klamath yet in big numbers, it will take some rain to bring them up. Fishing pressure was heavy over the holidays, but has slowed since. Anglers are getting between one to three chances per day.”

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Posted in Current Fishing Reports

Humboldt Steelhead Days returns to its roots

The ever-evolving Humboldt Steelhead Days — which bills itself as more than just a fishing contest — is entering its fifth year and will continue to host an array of watershed-related activities throughout Humboldt County. The goal of Humboldt Steelhead Days (HSD) is to inspire community awareness, promote river restoration and the recovery of Humboldt’s iconic wild winter steelhead populations. Humboldt’s only annual signature wintertime event, HSD looks to build on its popularity with both local and out-of-area anglers.

This year, Humboldt Steelhead Days will run from Saturday, Jan. 13, to Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Event organizers decided against including the Eel River as part of the fishing contest in favor of hatchery fish located in the Mad and Trinity rivers. Licensed anglers can participate in the contest by registering online on at www.humboldtsteelheaddays.com. Registration is also available at RMI Outdoors, Mad River Tackle, and Mad River Brewing Tap Room. Anglers who catch the three biggest hatchery steelhead on either the Mad or Trinity rivers will be notified prior to the Steelhead Awards Ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Mad River Brewing Tap Room. Prize packages will include a Douglas steelhead spinning rod donated by rod designer Fred Contaoi, $300 worth of Willie Boat gear, four single guided river trips, and much more.

Once registered, anglers can fish the Mad and Trinity rivers from Jan. 13 to Feb. 16 with the requirement that they send in a photo of their hatchery fish catch to event organizers or post them on social media using the hashtags #humboldtsteelheaddays or #HSD.

mr sh with radio tag

Michael Sparkman of CDFW applies a radio tag to an angler-caught Mad River steelhead.

Radio tag research for Mad River steelhead
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is tagging wild and hatchery adult steelhead with radio tags during the 2017-18 season in the Mad River for research purposes. The work will help to determine how many days steelhead are in the river during their upstream migration, how many will survive spawning and migrate towards the ocean, and the timing of their downstream migration towards the ocean. If you happen to catch one of these tagged fish, please do not remove the tag. Simply release the fish back into the river. If you do catch and release a tagged fish, you are encouraged to contact CDFW Fisheries Biologist Michael Sparkman (Michael.Sparkman@wildlife.ca.gov), with details on location, time of capture, and gear type. The tags look similar to reward tags used for studies with fish in the Trinity River, but there is no reward for returning the Mad River tags. While we encourage the release of all radio-tagged steelhead, if you do harvest a tagged hatchery fish, please contact Mr. Sparkman at the above address so the tag can be returned and reused.

The weather ahead
The next chance of rain is Friday and into Saturday according to Jeff Tonkin of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The Humboldt area might see a quarter inch, and the Smith basin will likely receive somewhere around a half-inch. This started out as a much larger system, but the models have been trending downward on the rainfall amounts. After Saturday, we’re looking dry through next Friday, Jan. 5,” Tonkin added.

Rockfish season to close Dec. 31
The 2017 rockfish season in the Northern Management area, which runs from Cape Mendocino to the OR/CA border, will close for boat-based anglers on Sunday, Dec. 31. Rockfish is open year-round for divers and shore-based anglers. For more information about recreational groundfish regulations, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Groundfish-Summary#north

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“Last week’s rain brought in some adult steelhead, with decent fishing just before the weekend, said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “By Sunday the river was low and clear again and the rain expected on Christmas Day never materialized. The Chetco is full of half-pounders, but adult winter steelhead are again few and far between. Flows are hovering around 1,000 cfs again and fishing will likely be slow until we get a major rain. The Elk and Sixes are slow because of low, clear water. Few people are fishing them because of the low water.”

Smith
The Smith is flowing at just above 1,500 cfs at the Jed Smith gauge and is extremely clear. Not many anglers have been on the water due to flows, and reports have been hard to come by. Rain is in the forecast for Friday, and flows are predicted to jump to 3,000 cfs. If that happens, fresh steelhead should make their way into the lower river. With no other rain in the forecast, the flows will be headed back down by Sunday morning and are predicted to be back to 1,800 by early Monday morning.

Eel – main stem
The water is real clear, and starting to get low reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. He said, “I haven’t seen much activity on the river lately, but the conditions are excellent right now for fly fishing. We probably won’t get another good push of fish in until it rains, but there’s always a few around.” As of Wednesday, flows were right around 720 cfs on the Scotia gauge.

Fishing the NC 12_28 photo

Bill Pearcy caught this 6-pound fresh hatchery steelhead on a recent trip to the Mad River. The Mad is currently open to fishing, but the low and clear water conditions is making it difficult on anglers hoping to land a winter-run steelhead. Photo courtesy of Bill Pearcy

Mad
The Mad is low and clear, and fishing remains tough for most reports Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. He said. “The fishing is definitely better on the lower river where there’s some deeper holes. That seems to be where most of the fish are holding. Soft eggs or jigs under a float have been working well, and bait and yarnies are catching fish too. The river hasn’t been crowded at all, and it’s looking like it will stay open at least through the week.”

Redwood Creek, South Fork Eel and Van Duzen closed
As of Wednesday, these rivers remained closed to fishing due to low flows. Be sure and call the low flow closure hotline, 707-822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

 

Posted in Current Fishing Reports

Rain should jump start winter steelhead run

Fishing the NC_12_21 photo

Skip Congdon of Crescent City landed this bright winter steelhead last weekend while fishing the Smith River. The increase in flows spurned by Tuesday’s rain should make it a good weekend for steelhead fishing on most of the North Coast rivers. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

It wasn’t much, but it was a start. Tuesday’s storms brought just enough rain to bump up the river flows, and hopefully light a fire under the winter steelhead. Most of the rain fell from Eureka north, with the Smith and Chetco each jumping a couple feet. The Smith was dropping quickly and will likely be clear by Saturday, but the Chetco should be in great shape and fish through the weekend. Locally, the Mad River saw increase of roughly 300 cfs, which is plenty to pull some fresh steelhead from the salt. It should have plenty of color through the weekend, and could be your best bet. The Eel didn’t see much in the way of precipitation, but plenty of snow fell in the hills. The South Fork remains closed, and the main stem is running low and clear, but open. The next chance of substantial rain will likely be in 2018, so if you’re looking for some early-season steelhead action, this would be the weekend.

The weather ahead
According to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the next chance of rain will be late Sunday and into Monday. “Right now, this is looking like a pretty weak system and we’re not very confident it will hit the coast. There’s about a 40 percent chance we’ll see some rain out of this storm. The rest of the week looks mostly dry, with the chance of some showers, but not enough to raise any of the river levels. The good news is the long-term outlook, including January, is trending towards above normal precipitation,” Aylward added.

Crab gear needs to be clear of navigable channel within Humboldt Bay
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit issued a press release on Friday reminding recreational crabbers that placing crabbing gear in a navigable channel within Humboldt Bay and its entrance is a misdemeanor under Harbors and Navigation Code Section 131(a). Humboldt Bay is patrolled by the Marine Unit frequently and removes obstructions in the navigable channels for the safety of the general boating public.

If crab gear is located in a navigable channel, it’s moved out of the channel and a pink card is placed on the gear as a warning. If the same crab gear is found back in the channel after a warning card is issued, the gear is removed and taken to the Fish and Wildlife Office located at 619 Second Street, Eureka.

The Marine Unit would also like to remind recreational crabbers that each buoy must be legibly marked to identify the operator’s GO ID number as stated on their fishing license. The Marine Unit also suggests placing a current telephone number on each buoy so that owners can be notified of its change of location if found in the navigable channel.

Recreational crabbers who have lost crab gear this season should contact the Eureka Fish and Game Office to inquire if their gear has been placed at the office. For information regarding navigable channels of Humboldt Bay, contact the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit at 707-268-2537.

2018 Fishing license
A reminder that it’s the time of the year to purchase your 2018 license, which is required for residents 16 years of age or older to take fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, amphibians or reptile in inland or ocean waters. The cost of a new resident sport fishing license is $48.34. A North Coast salmon report card, which will run you $6.48, is required for all anglers taking salmon in the Smith River System or Klamath-Trinity River System. If you plan to fish for steelhead, you’ll need to purchase a steelhead report card, which will cost $7.30 this year. The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife does not accept cash for fishing licenses. For more info, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing

Reduced-Fee sport fishing licenses now available
Reduced-cost fishing licenses are available in 2018 for $7.56 (instead of $48.34) for those 65 or older on reduced income or disabled military veterans. For more information on all CA fishing licenses, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing#44521417-free–reduced-fee

Mattole River opens to fishing Jan. 1
The Mattole River will open to fishing on Monday, January 1 from 200 yards upstream of its mouth to the confluence with Stansberry Creek. Only artificial lures may be used and barbless hooks are required. The Mattole is also regulated by low flow closures, with a minimum flow of 320 cfs at the Petrolia gauging station.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Heavy rain on Tuesday finally has the Chetco approaching normal winter levels reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The river should be in good condition this weekend. Just before the rain, a few steelhead a day were being caught on the lower end, along with some dark salmon. There are still a lot of salmon spawning. Another storm is expected just after Christmas. The Elk and Sixes were too low to drift early this week but should be in good shape for the weekend. There should be a few bright kings, and maybe some early steelhead in both rivers.”

Smith River
The rain that fell on Tuesday should kick-start the steelhead season reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. He said, “Quite a bit of snow fell in the hills, so the river only came up a couple feet. This river should be driftable, and have some color for the next day or so, but you’ll want to be here today. It’s going to be a pretty short window. I fished last weekend under low and clear conditions, and there are some nice fish in the river. We really need some sustained weather to keep the flows going, and it looks like that may happen mid next week.”

Main stem Eel
“We didn’t get much rain upriver, so the increase in flows were pretty minimal,” said Paul Grundmans of Grundmans Sporting Goods in Rio Dell. “The river is low and clear, but we did have a pretty good run of adult steelhead that pushed through last week. I’m also hearing the river is full of half-pounders. The adults have likely moved upriver, be we should see more fish push in when the rains return.”

South Fork Eel and Van Duzen
As of Wednesday, both rivers remained closed due to low flows.

Mad
Following Tuesday’s storm, the river came up about a foot on Wednesday according to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. He said. “The water color was a little off on Wednesday, but should be decent on Thursday. Friday through the weekend should be just about perfect, conditions-wise. There’s been some fish around, with most coming on soft beads or yarn. The water running down the ladder to the river was turned on Monday, so that should definitely bring in some fish. It should be a good weekend.”

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Posted in Current Fishing Reports

Dry spell puts steelhead season on hold

Last year’s drought-busting rainfall is starting to fade from the rearview mirror, while thoughts of the dreaded-drought are slowly creeping back into focus. I catch myself thinking back to three or four years ago, and what a tough time it was for our state, Humboldt County, and our fisheries.

And then I remember, it’s only mid-December, and we’re one good storm away from being right back to normal.

And then I read the weather reports, and they’re telling me the current dry spell will continue for who knows how long. Arghh….

It’s way too early in the game to even begin thinking about a drought, so I won’t. The reality of the current dry spell only means that some of the North Coast Rivers will soon be closed to fishing, effectively putting a hold on the impending winter steelhead season. The Van Duzen and South Fork Eel were the first rivers to fall victim to the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,” and the rest of the rivers are on a slow decent to closure as well. I sure hope everyone is enjoying the prolonged break in the storms, but I for one, am not.

More dry weather ahead
According to Brad Charboneau of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the dry weather will persist for at least another week. “We’re stuck in a high-pressure pattern, and we’re not seeing a change anytime soon. We’re going to be dry through next week, and possibly longer.” Charoneau added.

Commercial Dungeness season delayed again
Based on the results of another round of pre-season quality testing conducted on Dec. 5, the director of the CDFW announced on Dec. 12 an additional 15-day delay for the upcoming commercial Dungeness crab season.  The tests continued to show that Dungeness crab are not yet ready for harvesting. The delay affects Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties). The season in these districts is now scheduled to open on 12:01 a.m. Dec. 31, 2017, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2017.

A third round of testing in areas not yet meeting the minimum will be scheduled with a target completion date of December 22. The Tri-State Dungeness Crab Pre-Season Testing Protocols specify that if any area does not meet the minimum meat recovery criteria (23 percent north of Cascade Head and 25 percent south of Cascade Head) a season delay is required and additional testing is necessary before a season opening date can be confirmed. If quality remains low, an additional delay until Jan. 15, 2018 will be issued by the director. This date is the latest the season can be delayed due to quality testing. More info can be found here, https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/northern-california-commercial-dungeness-crab-season-opener-pushed-back-to-dec-31/

Fishing the NC_12_14 Photo

Lester Phelps of Fortuna landed this nice vermilion rockfish while fishing near Cape Mendocino last Saturday. The Northern Management Area rockfish season, which opened May 1, will close on Dec. 31 for boat-based anglers. Rockfish is open year-round for shore-based anglers. Photo courtesy of Tim Klassen/Reel Steel Sport Fishing

Rockfish season to close Dec. 31
Pleasant ocean conditions the last couple weeks have allowed the boats still in the mood for rockfish to make the run south to the Cape, where the ling cod bite has been wide-open. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing has ventured to the Cape a few times this month and reports a red-hot ling bite, and near-limits of rockfish. The season on the North Coast will close on Dec. 31. For more information about recreational groundfish regulations, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/groundfish

2018 Oregon Groundfish regulations
Effective Jan. 1, 2018 through Dec. 2018, the bag limit adopted by the ODFW will be 7 bottom fish, including 5 rockfish and 2 ling cod. The fishery is open at all depths Jan. through March and Oct. through Dec. It will be open inside of 30 fathoms Apr. through Sept. For more information, visit https://myodfw.com/sport-groundfish-seasons.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Fishing has been slow on the Chetco as we wait for the winter steelhead run to get going reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “There are decent numbers of half-pounders spread throughout the river, but not many adults. Salmon are few and far between, although there are a lot of dark fish in the upper section. Rain will help. The Elk and Sixes are low and clear. They could have a few fresh kings with the next rain but until then it is slim pickings there.”

Smith
The river is low and clear, and it’s been pretty quiet reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “I don’t think many boats have been out, and I’m not hearing much in the way of steelhead being caught. We’ll need a decent rise to bring in some fish, but it’s still early in the season.”

Main stem Eel
The main stem is low, and starting to get pretty clear. The river is full of half-pounders from the forks down, along with a few adults. Most of the fish are in the deeper holes, anywhere there’s broken water. The flows were just above 1,000 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday afternoon and predicted to be around 850 cfs on Saturday. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 350 cfs on the Scotia gauge.

Mad
The river is holding some decent color, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fish around right now according to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. “There haven’t been many anglers trying this week, likely due to the lack of fish,” said Kelly. “There’s a few fish trickling in, but for the most part it hasn’t been very good. The river despite being low, is holding some good color, especially in the deeper holes. We probably won’t see a good push of fish come in until the next rise.” As of Wednesday, the Mad was flowing at 450 cfs and dropping very slowly. It should remain open to fishing through the weekend. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 200 cfs at the gauging station at the Hwy. 299 bridge.

South Fork Eel and Van Duzen
Both rivers closed to fishing as of Tuesday, Dec. 12 due to low flows.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Posted in Current Fishing Reports

Steelhead waiting game

Fishing the NC_12_7 photo

Pam Luther of Brookings landed this Chetco River trophy salmon last week while fishing with guide Mike Stratman, pictured right. The once-in-a-lifetime king, which likely weighed over 50 pounds, was released. Photo courtesy of Redwood Coast Fishing/Mike Stratman

With no rain in the forecast for at least the next 10 days, the end is in sight for the late, fall-run salmon season on the North Coast. The Chetco saw a pretty decent return, but the Smith was somewhat of a disappointment. The system had plenty of water, but the big pushes of kings never really materialized, forcing most of the anglers to throw in the towel at the end of November. With the calendar now saying it’s December, it’s transition time here on the coast. The majority of the salmon have reached their end destination, and we now wait for the winter steelhead to make their way into all of the coastal rivers.

The Chetco has seen a few adults make their way in along with a bunch of half-pounders, and the Smith steelhead should be right behind them. But don’t give up entirely on salmon just yet. The Smith, Eel, Mad, and Chetco should each see another spurt or two of fresh kings move in when and if the rivers rise.

Weather ahead
Not much in the way of rain headed our way according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The models are showing dry conditions will stick around through at least the end of next week. There are some really weak systems that are trying to reach the coast, but they’re dying off prior. We may see some drizzle, but that’s about it.”

Sport crab fishing update
Crabbing is still excellent offshore, as well as inside Humboldt Bay reports Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing.  He said, “There’s lots of crabs around, we’re not having to pull many pots to get limits for our customers. We’ve dropped some pots in the bay just in case we couldn’t get outside due to weather, and we’re seeing 12 to 14 keepers per pot. The crabs in the bay aren’t quite as clean as they are on the outside, but they’re just as tasty. Both outside and in the bay, the crabs are getting fuller — we’ve seen a definite improvement,” Klassen added. The weather looks good through the weekend, with light winds and swells running between five and seven feet.

The Rivers:
All North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Smith, Eel, South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, and Van Duzen are currently open to fishing. Some of the rivers could close next week due to low flows. Be sure and call the low flow closure hotline, (707) 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The Chetco has been in good shape for salmon and steelhead the past week, but we are at that transition period from the fall kings to winter steelhead reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Overall fishing is slow, but a few salmon are still being caught, along with some early steelhead. Most of the steelhead are half-pounders and have been holding between Loeb Park and Miller Bar. Salmon are now spawning in the upper river. With no rain in the forecast, the river will be low and clear soon, but will still be fishable. The next big rain should have steelhead season in full swing.”

Salmon fishing is winding down on the Elk and Sixes, although a few kings are still showing up. Both rivers will be low by this weekend according to Martin.

Smith
With no rain for a couple weeks, we’re dealing with low and clear conditions reports guide Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “There haven’t been many boats out as most of the guides have cancelled their salmon trips due to lack of fish. The steelhead should start to trickle in at any time. Even if the water is low, they can still make a pretty good showing, you just never know from year to year when that will be.” As of Wednesday, flows were right around 3,000 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge. 

Mad
The river isn’t loaded, but there are a few fish around according to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. He said, “Most of the guys who put some time on the water last weekend hooked a fish or two. The scores weren’t red hot, but there were fish to be had. There’s a pretty good mix of both salmon and steelhead in the river, with quite a few bright salmon still making their way up. Most of the steelhead caught have been wild, but there are a few smaller-sized hatchery fish around. The water is dropping, but it still has some good color. Even with the lack of rain, we should see the steelhead push in.” As of Wednesday, the Mad was flowing at 760 cfs and dropping but it should remain open through the weekend and early next week.

Eel
Main
The main stem is in good shape, with some really nice color reports Paul Grundmans of Grundmans Sporting Goods in Rio Dell. He said, “I haven’t seen much activity on the river, and haven’t heard of any fish being caught. We should see some late kings and a few early steelhead start to show, although we typically start to see the steelhead show up in bigger numbers by mid-December,” Grundman added.  The flows were 1,900 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday afternoon and predicted to be around 1,500 cfs on Saturday.

South Fork
The South Fork was running at just around 500 cfs on Wednesday, but holding decent color. It should remain open to fishing through the weekend, but could close next week due to low flows. There’s some older salmon around, along with a few fresh kings. A few half-pounders have made their way into the system, and the adult steelhead should be showing up any time.

Van Duzen
Running at just under 350 cfs as of Wednesday and not predicted to drop much more over the weekend. According to Grundman, “It’s plenty fishable but not a lot of people trying. “The water is a nice shade of green slate.”

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Posted in Current Fishing Reports

Plenty of fishable water for the weekend

For the first time this winter, just about all of our coastal rivers will come into play at the same time. Following last Sunday’s big rise —  and without any substantial rainfall since — the rivers have been dropping quickly all week. From the Smith down to the South Fork Eel, all the rivers should be some shade of fishable green by the weekend. The main stem Eel is the lone river that may need a couple more days to clear. What you’ll find swimming in these rivers, however, remains to be seen. The Smith and the Chetco, for the most part, are void of fresh kings. And the steelhead have yet to make a large showing. The Mad could be your best option as quite a few steelhead are already in the river. The Eel and Van Duzen should have some late arriving kings, as well as a handful of early-season steelhead moving through. The rivers may not be loaded with chrome, but at least we’ll have a few more options for the weekend.

Weekend forecast
Not much rain is in the forecast over the next week or so according to Matthew Kidwell of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Friday is looking dry, with the next chance of rain coming on Saturday. We probably won’t see much rain, up to an inch in the Smith basin and possibly a half-inch here locally. We’ll see some showers on Sunday, with less than a half-inch expected in Del Norte and Humboldt Counties. The beginning of the week we’ll be back to a dry pattern as Monday through Wednesday are looking dry.” Kidwell added.

Extreme tides could cause hazardous bar conditions, coastal flooding
Some of the biggest tides of the year will arrive this weekend, bringing with them the potential for flooding in some of the low-lying areas around Humboldt Bay and along the coast. They could also create hazardous bar conditions for crab fishermen heading out of Humboldt Bay during ebb tides as a large volume of water will be running directly into swells predicted to be 5-feet and larger.

According to the Eureka’s National Weather Service, the higher than normal tides are the result of Perigean Spring tide. This is when the moon is either new or full and closest to the earth.

Morning high tide predictions – Humboldt Bay (North Spit)

  • Sat., Dec. 2 (8.2-ft. high tide at 9:58 a.m. down to a low of -1.3 at 4:49 p.m.
  • Sun., Dec. 3 (8.5-ft. high tide at 10:40 a.m. down to a low of -1.6 at 5:35 p.m.
  • Mon., Dec. 4 (8.5-ft. high tide at 11:25 a.m. down to a low of -1.8 at 6:22 p.m.
  • Tues., Dec. 5 (8.4-ft. high tide at 12:13 p.m. down to a low of -1.8 at 7:10 p.m.

Eel River salmon returns
As of Nov. 21, a total of 105 Chinook salmon have entered the Van Arsdale fish count station according to Scott L Harris, an associate Biologist with the Northern Region. Making up that total is 41 males, 53 Females, and 11 jacks. According to Harris, all of the Chinook appeared as though they had spent quite some time in the lower river and this was reflected in darker coloration and some abrasions. No steelhead yet, but this is typical for Van Arsdale, located high in the Eel River Watershed. For more information, visit http://eelriver.org/interactiveresources/fish-count/

Fishing the NC_11_30 photo

Chico resident Jason Ferguson landed this hefty king salmon on a recent trip to the Smith River. The coastal salmon season is just about wrapped up, with most of the salmon having already made their way to the spawning grounds. Photo courtesy of John Klar’s Salmon & Steelhead Sportfishing

The Rivers:
Smith
Salmon fishing on the Smith was pretty good late last week, but it slowed by the weekend reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “After the big rise on Sunday, the fishing was decent on Monday and has slowed even more since. The water is dropping quick and is already clear. There’s not a lot of salmon in the system right now, and low and clear conditions will make it even tougher. There’s been a few steelhead caught, but not many. When the flows get down to around 2,000 cfs, the steelhead that are in the river will start to stack up. We’ll find out pretty quickly if they’re around in big numbers. With very little rain in the forecast, river conditions will be tough for the weekend,” Coopman added.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The Chetco was blown out for more than a week, but should be fishable most of this week and this weekend reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The color was good on Tuesday, but it was still a little high for drift boats. I will be focusing mainly on steelhead when I get back on the water Wednesday, along with running plugs through the likely salmon holes. The river got to 18,000 cfs last week and has been slowly dropping since.

The Sixes has been high for several days, while the Elk has been fishable according to Martin. “It has been slow, not a very big salmon run on the Elk this year. The Sixes has been good whenever it has been below 2.5 feet, and should be in prime shape for the rest of this week.”

Mad
The Mad was just beginning to turn olive green on Wednesday and may be the best bet for the weekend, or before. As of Wednesday, it was right around 8 feet, and it typically fishes well at 7.5 feet. There’s already been a few steelhead caught, and more should be on the way following the big rise earlier in the week.

Eel
Main
The main stem is still big and dirty as of Wednesday, but dropping quickly according to Paul Grundmans of Grundmans Sporting Goods in Rio Dell. He said, “The top of the main stem could fish by the weekend. We should see some late kings and a few early steelhead start to show, although we typically start to see the steelhead show up in bigger numbers by mid-December.” The flows were 7,000 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday afternoon, but it’s predicted to drop below 3,500 cfs by Saturday.

South Fork
The Leggett area is already clearing, and the Miranda area should drop back in by the weekend. There should be a few kings around and possibly some early steelhead in the mix as well.

Van Duzen
Running at just under 1,000 cfs as of Wednesday. According to Grundman, it should fish above Yager Creek by the weekend.

Upper Trinity
Very busy Thanksgiving weekend on the Trinity reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. He said, “Everything should get back to normal this week. With no rain in the forecast, the water will drop back to low and clear. We have cold weather, which will slow down the fishing. Take your time in these conditions. Most activity is fly fishing and the river conditions are good from Lewiston down to the South Fork. Fish are in the four to six lb. range, with boats averaging one to three adults landed.”

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Posted in Current Fishing Reports

Coastal king season winding down

Other than the Smith and Chetco, all of the North Coast rivers were still off color as of Wednesday. And with more rain in the forecast, all of the local rivers will likely see another bump in flows starting late Saturday. If you’re looking to get in on some coastal king action this weekend, the Smith may be your only option. But the Smith, along with the Chetco, have both seen the fish counts tail off this week. The good news with all of the rain that has fallen in November is the late run of coastal kings have had plenty of opportunity to make their way upriver and into their spawning areas. This is all perfectly normal, and hopefully we’ll reap the rewards of these excellent river conditions two or three years from now.

When the rivers do drop back into fishable shape, my guess is we’ll see the first signs of the impending winter steelhead run. There’s already been a few caught on all the rivers, but with more high water coming, expect the steelies to start showing in numbers. But don’t give up entirely on salmon just yet. The Smith is still seeing fresh fish coming in daily and there should be some smaller spurts of fish coming into the Chetco, Eel and Mad.

Weekend weather and marine forecast
Very little rain is forecasted for Humboldt on Thanksgiving Day, but the Smith River area could see anywhere from a half to an inch according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “We may see a couple tenths here locally on Thursday, with the bulk of the rain staying to the north. Friday is looking mostly dry, but two systems will arrive over the weekend. The heaviest rain will hit Saturday night and sometime late Sunday. Rainfall totals will be two to five inches in the Smith basin, with the larger totals falling in the mountains. The Eel and Mad basins will likely see two to three inches, with the mountain areas picking up the higher rainfall totals. A few lingering showers are in the forecast for Monday, with most of the rain falling to our north. Right now, Tuesday through Thursday is looking dry,” Aylward added.

Friday’s offshore forecast looks good, but the weekend is looking pretty rough for offshore crabbing. Friday’s forecast is calling for winds out of the NE up to 5 knots with SW waves 8 feet at 11 seconds. The wind will start to pick up on Saturday, coming from the S 10 to 20 knots. Waves will be out of the S 7 feet at 7 seconds and NW 10 feet at 15 seconds. Sunday is looking similar with SW winds 10 to 20 knots and S waves 6 feet at 8 seconds and W 13 feet at 14 seconds. The forecast will likely change, so before you head out, check the marine forecast at www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka and click on the marine tab. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit: www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan

Humboldt Steelhead Days announce fishing contest dates for 2018
The founders of Humboldt Steelhead Days, Mad River Alliance — in their 5th year of producing this annual wintertime event — announced this year’s fishing contest will occur on the Mad and Trinity Rivers and will be limited to hatchery fish only. The three biggest hatchery fish on both rivers, caught and measured, from Jan. 13 to Feb. 17, 2018 will be eligible to win prizes and bragging rights. Anglers must register with a $10 donation in order to be entered into the contest. For more info, visit http://www.humboldtsteelheaddays.com/

Crabs plentiful for offshore anglers
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing reports the sport crabbing remains excellent out of Eureka. He said, “On an overnight soak, we’re getting up to 25 keepers per pot. The crabs are big, and there starting to get a little heavier. Both the north and south sides of the entrance are fishing well, there’s lots of crabs out there. I’m hearing the same type of crabbing inside the bay as well,” Klassen added.

Nov. 24 and 25 free fish days in Oregon
ODFW is waiving all fishing licensing requirements on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to #optoutside with friends and family during the long holiday weekend. All fishing, crabbing and clamming in Oregon will be free for both Oregon residents and non-residents. No licenses, tags or endorsements are needed on those days, but all other fishing regulations apply.

Commercial crab season delayed north of Point Arena
In a press release issued on November 17, 2017, the Coastal Dungeness Crab Tri-State policy representatives from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife agreed to delay the opening of the 2017-18 Coastal Dungeness crab fishery from Point Arena, California north to the US/Canada border until at least December 16, 2017. This decision was based on crab condition tests conducted by WDFW, ODFW and CDFW which shows that all test areas do not currently meet the minimum meat recovery criteria. The Tri-State Dungeness Crab Pre-Season Testing Protocols specify that after the first round of testing, if any area does not meet the minimum meat recovery criteria (23% north of Cascade Head and 25% south of Cascade Head) a delay is required and additional testing is required before a season opening date can be confirmed. A second round of both meat recovery and domoic acid testing is scheduled to be conducted after Thanksgiving. For more info on commercial Dungeness crab, visit https://www.psmfc.org/crab/

The Rivers:
All North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Smith, Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, and Van Duzen are currently open to fishing. Be sure and call the low flow closure hotline, (707) 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing.

Fishing the NC 11_23 photo

Rohnert Park resident Tony Sargans landed this big Chinook salmon on a recent trip to the Smith River. With more rain the in the forecast, the quick-clearing Smith will likely be the only option this weekend for late-run fall king action. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

Smith River
It was pretty tough fishing last weekend reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. He said, “Scores were about a fish per boat, or less. Fish were rolling, but the bite was definitely off. The river went big on Tuesday, up to 35,000 cfs, and it was full of debris and leaves. Only a couple boats were out and I didn’t hear of any fish caught. This was the blowout that we needed, now we’ll see how many new fish move in on the drop. The river should be in good shape through Saturday. I haven’t seen any steelhead caught as of yet, but I’ve heard of a few. Steelhead season should start to take off in the next couple weeks,” Coopman added.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
According to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing, the Chetco was fishable over the weekend before it blew out again on Monday. He said, “It went from 3,000 cfs on Sunday to over 15,000 cfs on Monday and will probably be out of shape all week. Steelhead are now being caught. A plunker got one on Friday, then there were four caught on Saturday and another three on Sunday. A few boats that were salmon fishing caught steelhead on plugs, including a 15-pound hatchery fish caught by Mike Van Camp of the Chetco Outdoor Store. A few have also been caught by boater’s side-drifting roe. Salmon fishing was decent over the weekend, but the run will quickly wind down after this latest high water.”

The Elk and Sixes both fished late last week and over the weekend according to Martin. “The Sixes is fishing better than the Elk. Both blew out on Monday and will be out for a few days. These will be the best bets for salmon from this point on.”

Upper Trinity
If you’re headed to the Trinity, expect some heavy pressure over the holiday weekend reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “The rain we received definitely moved some fish around. Most of the concentration has been from Lewiston down to the Junction City area, with multiple boats and bank fisherman tossing mostly flies. Some of the boats are having success backtrolling plugs. The rain earlier in the week made the lower river a little big, but with no rain since, the Junction City to Willow Creek area will start fishing this week. The river is dropping quickly.” Huber added.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Posted in Current Fishing Reports

Rain and fresh kings both in the forecast

A series of rain storms moved across the North Coast late last week bringing sizable rises to the Chetco and Smith rivers over the weekend. With off and on rain in the forecast, both rivers will be up and down through the week and into the weekend. With the increase in flows, the rivers should see a pretty good influx of new kings, and should push the older fish into their spawning grounds. For the Humboldt rivers, including the Mad, Eel, and Van Duzen, the rain coming over the next few days will put them out of commission for a while. All three are forecasted for dramatic rises beginning Wednesday and more coming late in the weekend.

Weekend weather and forecast
Some pretty decent rainfall totals are expected in the Eel basin on Wednesday according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The heaviest rain should fall to our south on Wednesday, and we can expect off and on showers locally here on Thursday. Totals will be anywhere from an inch to a half-inch. The weekend is looking mostly dry, with the next system set to arrive late on Sunday. This system has a chance to be a big one, but we’re seeing conflicting models. The Smith basin could see up to two inches, and an inch and a quarter could fall in the Eel basin. Looking out further, we should continue to see storms coming one after another, but it’s hard to predict how long the breaks will be in between,” Aylward added.

The weekend marine forecast is calling for winds 5 to 10 knots out of the SE on Saturday, with waves NW 4 feet at 9 seconds. Sunday looks a little rougher, with winds out of the SE 10 to 20 knots and S waves 5 feet at 6 seconds and NW 4 feet at 13 seconds. The forecast will likely change, so before you head out, check the marine forecast at www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka and click on the marine tab. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit: www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan

Crabs plentiful for offshore anglers
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing is reporting excellent crabbing out of Eureka. On an overnight soak, he’s getting between 25 to 30 keepers per pot. According to Klassen, both the north and south side of the entrance are fishing really well, with limits coming easily. “The crabs are still light, but we’ve seen a slight improvement this week,” Klassen added. Crabbing has also been excellent inside of Humboldt Bay. It’s the same story as outside, plenty of crabs, but they’re light.

CA Dungeness crab update
The next round of quality testing is currently being scheduled, and will take place prior to Dec. 7. For more info and test results on commercial Dungeness crabs, visit https://www.psmfc.org/crab/

Domoic Acid testing is continuing, and the latest results show the crabs in the Eel River Area have come back clean. Back to back testing has resulted in zero percent of the samples exceeding action level, which means no more testing is required in that area. To see the latest DA test results, visit https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DFDCS/CDPH%20Document%20Library/FDB/FoodSafetyProgram/DomoicAcid/CrabDA17-18.pdf

The Rivers:
All North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Smith, Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, and Van Duzen are currently open to fishing. As of Wednesday morning, the South Fork Eel River remained closed to fishing. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. To see all the forecasted river levels, visit http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/index.php?type=ol&product=fcstPointsFcst

Main stem Eel
A few salmon were caught earlier in the week prior to the river becoming muddy on Tuesday. A big rise is predicted for the next couple days, it will likely take a couple weeks of dry weather for it to clear.

Smith River
Conditions continue to be up and down on the Smith reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. He said, “There’s been lots of debris in the river, which makes it tough to fish plugs. Since the weekend, we’re seeing about a fish per boat. I think there’s more fish around than it seems, but it’s been tough to get them to bite and as tough to land them. Another big rise is expected tonight, so we’ll have to wait and see what that brings,” Coopman added.

Reminder: A North Coast Salmon Report Card is required to fish for salmon on the Smith River. The daily bag and possession limit is 1 Chinook salmon and no more than 5 wild Chinook salmon over 22 inches per year.

Fishing the NC photo 11_16

Shannon Lemieux of Junction City, Ore., holds a 47-inch, 48-pound king caught Nov.12 on the Chetco River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The salmon hit a HawgNose FlatFish. Photo courtesy of Andy Martin/Wild Rivers Fishing

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The Chetco was high and unfishable most of last week, but dropped below 4,000 cfs on Sunday and fished well for a day before blowing out again Monday morning,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “It hit 10,000 cfs on Monday and was dropping back into shape, but will be out again with the storm expected the middle of the week. Plugs worked well on Monday, with just about every boat getting a fish or two early in the day. There were a lot of fish over 30 pounds caught on Monday. We caught a 47-inch, 48-pound king above Ice Box.”

“The Sixes was the best river on the coast over the weekend, with most boats catching the wild portion of their limits on Saturday and Sunday,” according to Martin. “It blew out again Monday, and even though it was pretty dirty on Tuesday it fished OK. The Elk has been in decent shape but the fishing has been slower there. It will probably be the best bet this week, however, with more rain expected.”

Upper Trinity
The rains earlier in the week really helped get the fish moving reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “It’s starting to get cold, which definitely tells me it’s steelhead season. Fishing was good from Lewiston all the way down into Willow Creek this week. Methods used right now are the fly fishing with a stone and a pin bead. We ran a combination of side drifting roe and mag lips 3.5’s and 3.0 this week. We’re seeing one to three adults per day. The weekend was really busy with the clear weather making pressures extremely tough and watching our counts go down. The forecast of heavy rains will help push more fish from the lower Klamath up to the Trinity,” added Huber.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Posted in Current Fishing Reports