Winter steelhead season coming to a close

Fishing the NC 3_29 photo

Arcata resident Scott McBain landed this nice winter steelhead on a drift down the South Fork Eel River in early February. Steelhead season will come to a close after Saturday for most rivers, including the South Fork Eel. The Smith and the main stem Eel will remain open to fishing. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest/Fishing the North Coast

Last weekend’s storms brought a little more rain than expected, with enough falling to keep the majority of the coastal rivers high and off color leading into the final week of steelhead season. As of Wednesday, only the Smith, Chetco, and the very upper reaches of the South Fork Eel were green. And it looks like those are the only rivers that will fish prior to the season closing after Saturday. The South Fork Eel could fish down to the Miranda area on Saturday if it drops as predicted.

As we head into April, it’s time to start preparing for ocean salmon and rockfish, spring salmon on the Klamath and Rogue, and redtail perch from just about all of the local beaches. The lagoons are full of trout, and what better way to get kids into fishing on a warm spring day. It’s been an interesting winter steelhead season to say the least, but I for one am ready for spring and all the new angling opportunities that come with it.

Steelhead rivers openings/closures
The main stem of the Smith will remain open through the end of April from its mouth to the confluence with the Middle and South Forks. The Middle fork will also remain open through April from its mouth to Patrick’s Creek. The South Fork is open through April as well, from its mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tryon) bridge and Craigs Creek to Jones Creek. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from the fourth Saturday in May through Aug. 31.Only barbless hooks may be used from Sept. 1 through Apr. 30. The bag limit remains the same, two hatchery steelhead per day.

The main stem Eel, from its mouth to the South Fork is open to fishing all year. From the mouth to Fulmor Road, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from April 1 through the Friday preceding the fourth Saturday in May. Only barbless hooks may be used from fourth Saturday in May through Mar. 31. From Fulmor Road to the South Fork, it’s open from April 1 through September 30. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. Only barbless hooks may be used from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31.

Sections of the Klamath and Trinity rivers are open to fishing, but are subject to in-season changes. For more information, visit http://www.eregulations.com/california/fishing/freshwater/. The following rivers will close to fishing after March 31: the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek, and the Chetco.

Freshwater Lagoon trout plants
According to the CDFW website, four trout plants have taken place at Freshwater Lagoon in March. The most recent plant was Sunday, March 25. Reportedly, the fishing has been excellent this month for keeper-sized rainbows. For more information, visit www.nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FishPlants or call (530) 225-2146.

Ban on lead fishing tackle being considered by Sacramento
Assembly Member Bill Quirk (Hayward) recently introduced Assembly Bill 2787, legislation that would ban lead fishing weights that are 1.75 ounces or less. Quirk claims the ban is needed because birds eat the lead weights and die. Five other states have banned lead weights to protect bottom-feeding and threatened loons.

According to California Sportfishing League, these weights can be found in just about every California angler’s tackle box. If this bill passes, fishing will become too costly and less accessible and could have a devastating impact on the state’s tourism industry and communities dependent on outdoor recreation for tax revenue and jobs. A hearing is scheduled for April 10 at 1:30 PM at the State Capitol, Room 44. For more information on the Assembly Bill 2787, visit http://www.savefishing.com/stopthefishingtackleban/

Brookings ocean update
“Ocean fishing has been good out of Brookings, although wind will keep boats in close for the remainder of the week,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The lingcod spawn is under way, so there are a lot of fish in shallow. Fishing for red tail surfperch has been very good at the port beach in Brookings.”

Coast Guard reminds mariners to participate in Pacific Seacoast study
The Coast Guard reminds boaters that there is still time to participate in a survey related to a study of aids to navigation in U.S. Pacific waters including the California coast. The survey is open to all categories of mariners to include commercial, passenger, recreational and sail and power boaters. Survey topics include international requirements, environmental concerns, user capabilities, available technology and available resources. Those interested can participate in the study by completing the survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PacSeacoastWAMS.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Rogue
According to Martin, the Chetco was back in fishable shape on Tuesday and still had a few fresh steelhead around, along with some down runners. “A handful of boats have been fishing the upper section, and all are catching fish. It should remain decent through the March 31 closure. Snowmelt had the Rogue dirty but fishable. There were a few hatchery spring salmon caught last week, and conditions are shaping up to be perfect this weekend.”

Smith River
The Smith is in perfect shape, sitting right at 10 feet on the Jed Smith gauge as of Wednesday. Pressure has been extremely light, but it could be a good choice for the weekend.

Eel River (main stem)
It will be at least 10 before the main stem is fishable reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. Running at 14,000 cfs as of Wednesday, it’s on a slow drop due to the snowmelt.

Eel River (South Fork)
As of Wednesday, flows were 3,100 cfs on the Miranda gauge and the river was still dirty below Benbow according to Darren Brown of Brown’s Sporting Goods in Garberville. Flows are predicted to be around 1,700 cfs by Saturday, so we should be able to get one day in prior to the river closing.

Van Duzen
Hovering just above 1,675 cfs, as of Wednesday, it’s predicted to get down to 1,000 by Saturday. Depending on the snowmelt, it could fish in the higher reaches on Saturday.

Mad River
The Mad is likely done for the season as it remains high and muddy. Flows are predicted to be right around 3,000 cfs on Saturday, which should keep it on the dirty side.

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

Rain could put an end to steelhead season

Other than the Smith and Chetco, all of the coastal rivers are currently running a little high and off color. And with more storms barreling their way towards the North Coast, the end is in sight for the winter steelhead season. The barrage forecasted for the weekend is predicted to turn the coastal rivers into raging muddy messes. And with plenty of snow in the hills still left to melt, it’s likely the rivers won’t clear in time prior to closing for the season. These late-season rain and snow storms may not bring much joy to the anglers, but they’re a godsend for the fish. The extra water will go a long way in helping the steelhead reach their spawning grounds and also provide a helping hand for the juvenile salmonids as they begin their journey down to the saltwater.

So as we head into another rainy and snowy weekend, it could be over for the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek, and the Chetco, which all close after March 31. The Smith will remain open through April, and the main stem Eel is open year-round. It would be nice to get a couple more days on the river, but I’m not holding my breath.

Weather ahead
More rain and snow is forecasted for the next few days, but the weather looks to improve following the weekend. “It’s going to be fairly wet overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning,” said Ryan Alward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “We could see up to an inch and a quarter at the coast and two to four inches in the mountains, with snow falling above 7,000 feet. A cold front will move in on Thursday night into Friday morning, adding another quarter to half-inch of rain. Snow levels will drop to 2,000 to 2,500 feet. More rain is expected through Friday night, where Del Norte could see up to two inches and we could see an inch in Eureka. Another system will arrive on Saturday afternoon, which could dump another half to an inch of rain in the hills. Showers will linger into Sunday morning, but after that we’re looking dry. So far all of next week is looking sunny.”

Freshwater Lagoon trout plants
Mad River Fish Hatchery has begun its springtime planting of Rainbow Trout in Freshwater Lagoon. The first plant occurred the week of March 4, with approximately 4,000 trout released. Plants are scheduled for every Sunday in March. For more information, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FishPlants/ or call (530) 225-2146.

Upcoming events

HASA dinner April 14
The annual HASA fundraiser dinner will be held Saturday, April 14, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The popular event will be held at the Arcata Community Center, 321 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway in Arcata. Tickets 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. Each ticket will get you a HASA annual 2018 membership as well as entry into the door prize. Dinner, auction and raffle tickets are available from any HASA board member or from the following Eureka merchants: Pacific Outfitters, Englund Marine, Bucksport Sporting Goods, and W&W RV & Sporting Goods. For more information, email hasa6191@gmail.com or visit http://humboldtasa.com/event/hasa-2018-annual-fundraising-dinner-auction/

Perch’n on the Peninsula coming April 28
The Samoa Peninsula Fire District will be hosting their 9th Annual Perch’n on the Peninsula Surfperch Fishing Tournament and Fish Fry Fundraiser on April 28, 2018.
The fishing tournament begins at sunrise with the check-in deadline at 2:00 p.m., prize presentations will begin at 3:00 p.m. with the fish fry beginning at noon. The fish fry fundraiser is open to the public and admission is only $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for juniors. Children 6 and under get in free. Adult fishing tournament entry is $20.00 and junior entry (under 16) is $10.00. Tournament day registration is available at the Peninsula Elementary School in Samoa beginning at 6 a.m. or your entries can be purchased at Mad River Tackle in Arcata, Pacific Outfitters, Englund Marine, or Shafer’s Ace Hardware in Eureka. For more information, call (707) 443-9042 or visit www.samoafire.org.

Fishing the NC 3_22 photo

Larry Jonas of Brookings, Ore., holds one of two steelhead he caught and released March 20 while fishing with guide Rye Phillips on the lower Chetco River. Photo courtesy of Rye Phillips

The Rivers:
Chetco River
The Chetco dropped back into shape over the weekend and fished well, with a mix of fresh fish and downers according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Guides drifting the upper river reported four to six fish a day, while boaters on the lower end caught two to three a day. Most of the lower river fish are still fresh. Rain will likely blow the river out by Thursday. The Elk and Sixes fished well at the beginning of the week according to Martin, with some guides getting close to double-digit hookups. There are still plenty of fresh steelhead.
“A few spring salmon were caught Monday on the lower Rogue, where fresh hatchery steelhead also are being caught. This week’s rain will probably bring in more springers,” added Martin

Smith River
The Smith has been at a fishable level since the weekend, but reports have been hard to come by. Most of the anglers have put away their steelhead gear for the winter, but the Smith is a real good option if you haven’t got your fill. It’s predicted to blow out on Thursday, jumping to 16 feet on the Jed Smith gauge by the afternoon. If the predictions are right, it should fish again early next week.

Eel River (main stem)
Running at 10,000 cfs on Wednesday and predicted to peak at 34,500 cfs on Saturday afternoon.  It will need at least a couple weeks of dry weather before it drops into fishable shape.

Eel River (South Fork)
As of Wednesday, flows were 2,400 cfs on the Miranda gauge and likely fishable above Benbow. That’s all forecasted to change with the rain beginning Wednesday night that will push the flows up to 9,600 cfs on Sunday. It’s going to have to drop quickly for it to be fishable before closing next Saturday.

Van Duzen
Hovering just above 1,575 cfs, as of Wednesday, it’s also predicted for a big rise on Thursday. Flows are predicted to be back down to 1,900 cfs by Monday, but snow melt will likely keep it from turning green prior to closing next Saturday.

Mad River
The Mad is still a little high and off color reports Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. He said, “The fishing pressure is pretty minimal, it looks like it’s done for the year. The ladder was turned off on Tuesday, and we’re going to see a big rise on Thursday. With all the snow melting, it probably will remain off color through next week.” The Mad will close to fishing after next Saturday, March 31.

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

Salmon seasons return to the North Coast

Ocean salmon, Klamath River king seasons are back after year hiatus…

In a process that had more twists and turns than San Francisco’s Lombard Street, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) on Wednesday released three preliminary alternatives for managing salmon fisheries from Humbug Mountain (OR) to Horse Mountain (which includes Humboldt County). According to the PFMC, 359,200 Klamath and 229,432 Sacramento fall Chinook are said to be swimming in the ocean, which should provide what we didn’t have last year – opportunity. As you recall, in 2017 the California KMZ was completely shut down, as was the Klamath River fall Chinook fishery. So the fact that we have a season this year is a huge step in the right direction. The three alternatives that are currently on the table:

Alternative 1) June 20 to July 31 and August 20 to Sept. 3
Alternative 2) July 1 to Sept. 3
Alternative 3) June 16 to Sept. 3

All three scenarios are the same, two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size. In August, the ocean salmon closure expands into the “Klamath Control Zone.” The Klamath Control Zone is defined in federal regulations as the ocean area at the Klamath River mouth bounded by 6 nautical miles north of the Klamath River mouth, on the west by 12 nautical miles offshore, and on the south by 6 nautical miles south of the Klamath River mouth.

From Horse Mountain to Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, the three alternatives are:
Alternative 1) July 15 to Oct. 31;
Alternative 2) July 1 to Oct. 31;
Alternative 3) July 21 to Oct.31

All three scenarios are the same, two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size. To view all of the salmon management alternatives, visit https://www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/E6a_Supp_STT-Rpt1_MarBB2018.pdf

Next up, the PFMC will tentatively adopt final regulatory measures for analysis by the Salmon Technical Team during the April 5-11 meeting to be held in Portland. More information is available at http://www.pcouncil.org.

Fishing the NC 3_15 photo

Brothers Nathaniel (left) and Finnigan Holmes of Loleta hold a pair of kings taken during the 2016 ocean salmon season. After a full closure in 2017, the North Coast is slated to have an ocean recreational salmon season in 2018. Season dates and lengths will be determined in April. Photo courtesy of Marc Schmidt/Coastline Charters

Klamath/Trinity fall salmon allocations
Not only will we have a recreational ocean salmon season, sport anglers will have an opportunity to harvest Klamath River fall Chinook this year. The recreational allocations, or quotas, as proposed by the PFMC will range from 5,762 to 1,785 adult fall Chinook in 2018 across the three alternatives. Tribal allocations run from 17,568 to 12,083 adult fall Chinook. These numbers are not final, next step is public review with a decision coming from the PFMC meeting on April 5-11. Once the quota is agreed upon, 50 percent will go to the lower Klamath basin, 17 percent to the upper basin, and 33 percent will be allocated for the Trinity River. When adopted, these quotas will go into effect August 15, 2018.

Weekend weather
A wet pattern will continue to hang around the North Coast for the next week according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The next system will hit Thursday morning, and it’s going to be a colder system with snow expected at the 2,000 foot level,” said Aylward. “Rainfall totals could reach three-quarters along the coast. Rain will taper off on Friday, but we could see another quarter-inch. Lingering showers are likely into Saturday morning, but the weekend and into Monday should be relatively dry. Another fairly large system is sitting off the coast that’s expected to arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday, but right now we’re not sure where it’s going to hit. Expect showers to stick around through next week.”

Brookings ocean report
The ocean out of Brookings has been fishing very well in between storms for lingcod and rockfish according to Andy Martin with Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “With high water from the Chetco, boats are having to run up toward Bird Island to get into the fish, but the lings and nice-size rockfish are biting well. The deeper spots, from 80 to 120 feet, seem to be fishing best. Fishing for surf perch off the beaches near Brookings has been very good, with plenty of redtail and striped perch.”

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk
According to Martin, the Chetco dropped enough for drift boats to get on the water Monday, with most of the upper river guides catching a mix of fresh and spawned out steelhead. “Heavy rain Monday night sent the river from 4,000 cfs to 10,000 cfs on Tuesday, and now it looks like it will be blown out all week. A few boats got into some steelhead on the Elk on Monday and again Tuesday, even though the river was on the verge of blowing out.”

Smith River
Since late last week, fishing has been tough on the Smith reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. He said, “I fished over the weekend and it was a grind. There’s some downers around, but I didn’t see many new fish. Between lack of fish and the seals, conditions aren’t very good right now.”

Eel River (main stem)
Running at 17,000 cfs on Wednesday, it will need a couple weeks of dry weather before it drops into fishable shape.

Eel River (South Fork)
As of Wednesday, flows were 3,200 cfs on the Miranda gauge and predicted for another rise Friday afternoon. Depending on snow melt, it could be fishable by sometime early next week.

Van Duzen
Hovering just above 2,500 cfs, as of Wednesday, it will take a week or more of dry weather for it to turn green. There’s lots of snow in the hills, which will keep the flows high through the weekend and into early next week.

Mad River
The Mad is currently running high and dirty, and not many anglers are fishing reports Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. He said, “There were a few fish caught on Sunday and Monday prior to it blowing out, but not much happening since.” Flows are predicted to stay above nine feet through the weekend and into early next week.

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

Jack returns bolster Klamath ocean abundance

Fishing the NC 3_8 photo

Ruben Rios and sister Deanna Rios Glaser landed a couple Klamath River kings last fall prior to the season closing on Aug. 15. CDFW predicts 59,733 fall adult Chinook will return to the Klamath basin this fall, compared to 31,838 last year. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest/Fishing the North Coast

The ocean abundance numbers are in for the Klamath and Sacramento Rivers, and the reviews are mixed. The Klamath stocks hit rock bottom last year, and the bottom wasn’t as far down as first thought. In 2017, 18,410 adult kings were predicted to return to the Klamath. But the actual numbers were much better – 31,838 to be exact. While these numbers still pale in comparison to the average returns (roughly 120,000), at least we’re headed in the right direction. And I think we’re going that way a little quicker than most people thought. At last Thursday’s annual Ocean salmon Information meeting in Santa Rosa, CDFW suggested 359,200 Klamath River fall Chinook adults are swimming in the ocean. At first glance, that’s not a very big number. Especially when you compare it to the 1.6 million Klamath salmon that were in the ocean in 2012. But in reality, this year’s ocean forecast is higher than the average of the previous five years. And you have the 21,903 jacks that returned last fall to thank for that. According to the Preseason Report 1 prepared by the PFMC, 59,733 adults are forecasted to return to the Klamath this fall. With a minimum 40,700 natural-area spawners needed for escapement, we could see a surplus of 19,000 kings this fall. Hopefully we’ll see some type of ocean season along with a fall sport quota in the Klamath basin.

Over on the Sacramento, the numbers weren’t as encouraging. The 2017 preseason ocean abundance was forecasted to be 230,700, but it turns out only 139,997 adult Sac Chinook were in the ocean. Of those, 70,000 were harvested in the ocean and 25,000 were harvested in the Sacramento River basin. That left an all-time low of 44,574 hatchery and natural area spawners. A long way from the expected 122,000. A total of 24,375 jacks were estimated to have escaped to Sacramento River basin hatcheries and natural spawning areas. These numbers equate to an ocean abundance of 229,432 fall Sacramento Chinook adults in 2018. You can count on a restricted ocean season down south as well as changes to the salmon regulations in the Sac basin this year to insure the 122,000 escapement goal is met.

What the PFMC chooses to do with these forecasts will be determined in the next couple of months. Up next, the PFMC is meeting March 8 through 14 in Rohnert Park. The Council will determine if any in-season action for fisheries scheduled to open in April is needed. They will also adopt three regulatory alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries in effect on or after May 1. Final alternatives for public review will be decided on March 14. For information on the meeting, visit, https://www.pcouncil.org. To view the salmon preseason process, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon/Preseason. To view the PFMC Preseason Report I, visit https://www.pcouncil.org/2018/03/52584/2018-preseason-report-i-available-online/

The weather ahead
A series of small storms will be moving through the region beginning on Wedneday. “The first system will hit Wednesday night and stick around through Thursday morning,” said Karleisa Rogacheski of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Rainfall totals will be small, anywhere from a tenth to a quarter inch. Another system will arrive mid-day on Thursday and will be with us through Saturday evening. Over the three-day period, the Smith basin could see up to an inch and a half of rain. Down in the Eel and Mad basins, a quarter to an inch is predicted. Sunday and Monday are looking mostly dry, with maybe a few sprinkles. A wetter system will arrive on Tuesday and stick around overnight into Wednesday morning. The Smith basin could see up to an inch, and Humboldt could see up to three-quarters. The next system arrives on Wednesday night, with the Smith seeing an inch or more and Humboldt getting up to three-quarters.”

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Rogue
“The Chetco was in prime shape to begin the week, with good numbers of fish on the upper end,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Many of the guides who fished high hooked four to six fish a day. Fishing was slow on the lower end, however, partly because the river was still high below Loeb. It appears this next storm will blow the Chetco out for several days. The Elk fished well Sunday and Monday, with quite a few fresh fish. It will be the first Southern Oregon river to fish again after the storm.
The lower Rogue was really good over the weekend and early in the week. Some of the guides anchoring and running plugs caught half a dozen or more fresh steelhead, with several hatchery fish. MagLip plugs are working best.” 

Smith River
The river is in perfect shape, and there’s some fish around reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. He said, “We’ve been hooking two to four a day, but landing them is a different story. The water is really cold, it was 39 degrees on Monday so we’re seeing some really light biters. We’ve seen some big fish around this week, and the fishing pressure continues to be light.”

Eel River (main stem)
As of Wednesday, the main was flowing at 8,000 cfs on the Scotia gauge. The river remains muddy from the forks down, and it predicted to rise to 12,000 cfs on Saturday. With more rain predicted for next week, it could be a while before it becomes fishable.

Eel River (South Fork)
The upper South Fork has been fishable for a couple days, and reports are there’s some downers around along with some fresh ones. As of Wednesday, flows were right around 1,800 cfs and dropping. It’s now forecasted to rise beginning Friday afternoon and peaking at 3,000 cfs on Saturday morning. The forecast center is calling for flows to be back under 2,000 cfs by Sunday morning.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen has also been fishable for a couple days, and bank anglers are catching a few. It’s forecasted to rise on Wednesday night and is predicted to peak at 2,500 cfs on Friday night. Whether it drops back into shape early next week will depend on the rain and snowmelt.

Mad River
A few fish are being caught, but it’s not red hot reports Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. “The fish that are being caught have been super bright. The river is in good shape, with two to two and a half feet of visibility as of Wednesday. It looks like it will blow out beginning Wednesday evening and will likely be muddy through the weekend.” 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

Posted in Current Fishing Reports

Storms breathe new life into steelhead rivers

Following a dry and unseasonably warm first half of February, there is finally some good news to report – widespread rain and heavy mountain snowfall are imminent across nearly all of California. For the North Coast, weather models are indicating above normal precipitation in the coming weeks, which could turn March into a heck of a month for steelhead fishing. Up until these last storms that hit on Sunday and Monday, the majority of the coastal rivers were running on fumes. Other than the main stem Eel, everything was low and clear, and steelhead were few and far between. The few fish that were being caught were low in the river systems, which could indicate there’s plenty of fish just waiting for the rivers to rise. Could we be in for another “Miracle March” ? I sure hope so.

The weather ahead
“We should see some decent rainfall totals over the next week, and we’ll continue to see low elevation snow”, said Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “We’ll see mostly rain on Wednesday, with two-thirds to an inch falling at the coast and one to one and a half in the mountains. Beginning Thursday, snow levels will drop to around 1,500 to 2,500 feet. We could see another two-thirds of an inch of rain, with snow falling above 2,500 feet. Friday’s forecast is calling for roughly the same. Rain will taper off on Saturday with only three-tenths falling in the mountains and maybe a half in Del Norte. Between Wednesday and Saturday, we’ll see about two inches of rain in Humboldt and up to three inches in Crescent City. Southern Humboldt could see three to four inches. Six to seven inches is forecasted for the hills, but most of that will fall as snow. Sunday and Monday are looking mostly dry, but there is another storm sitting off the coast that will hit sometime on Tuesday. The timing of this one is uncertain right now. It is looking like we’ll be in a wet pattern all next week, but the rainfall amounts are uncertain. It does look like we’ll see above average precipitation for the next few weeks.”

Klamath/Trinity springers could be added to protected list
Following a 90-day review, the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) on Tuesday published a notice in the Federal Register stating that the petition filed by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council to add Klamath Spring Chinook to the Endangered Species List provides “substantial information” and that “listing may be warranted” according to a press release.
The federal fisheries’ move comes after a UC Davis study showed the spring Chinook are more of an evolutionary rarity than realized when compared to Fall Chinook salmon that return later in the year. Before the age of dams, industrial mining, and clear-cut logging, spring Chinook salmon were the most abundant run of salmon in the Klamath and many other Pacific Northwest Rivers. Today these fish are nearly extinct throughout much of their historic range.
The report led the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council to petition NMFS to add Klamath-Trinity spring Chinook the Endangered Species List.
Spring Chinook enter rivers in the spring when snow melt swells rivers allowing the fish to travel into the upper reaches of a watershed. Then they must reside in cold water areas all summer until they spawn and die in the fall. Fall Chinook migrate into rivers in the fall where they spawn and die relatively soon after entering fresh water.

Tuesday’s notice initiates a 60-day public comment period to solicit information on Chinook salmon in the Upper Klamath/Trinity Basin. To read the notice or comment, visit https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/02/27/2018-03906/endangered-and-threatened

Fishing the NC 3_1 photo

Marc Scarr, pictured left along with brother Mike, landed the biggest fish during last weekend’s Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery Steelhead Derby. The steelhead, which measured 38-inches, was caught on the Chetco River with guide Chris Griffeth. Photo courtesy of Chris Griffeth/Get Sum Guide Service

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“The Chetco was back in shape on Tuesday, and just about everybody was catching fish,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Drift boats caught a mix of fresh hatchery and wild steelhead, and some downers, from the South Fork clear down to the water tower. The heavy rain in the forecast could blow the river out for the weekend, especially if the snow along the upper river melts. Should be good fishing again next week. The Elk fished well Monday, but was slower Tuesday. A few boats went to the Sixes on Tuesday but reported limited success. The Elk fishes best in high water, and should be in decent shape this weekend.”

Smith River
The Smith was low and clear over the weekend and fishing was tough. A total of 17 fish were caught during the two-day derby by a total of 80 anglers. The rains finally came on Sunday, and the river went up a couple feet by Monday. Unfortunately, the fishing didn’t improve much. Boats drifting from the top to the bottom reported very few fish caught. Another good rise is forecasted for Wednesday into Thursday, with flows hitting 12,000 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge by Thursday night. Hopefully we’ll see a new batch of fish enter the river, and we should see some more spawned out fish making their way down.

Eel River (main stem)
The rain over the weekend added some color, but the main stem never blew out reports Fred Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. “The river didn’t rise all that much, mostly because of the freezing in the mountains held the water back. We’ve had a real good stretch of fishable water this month, and the fishing has been pretty productive. There’s quite a few boats around, and they’re here for a reason. With the storms coming later this week, it looks like the main stem will blow out early Thursday morning,” Grundman added. The Eel is predicted to jump from 1,300 cfs to nearly 20,000 by Friday night.

Eel River (South Fork)
Not much to report for the last couple weeks, but the storms on the way should get the ball rolling again. Flows were right around 350 cfs on Wednesday afternoon and forecasted to hit 7,400 cfs by Friday morning. It will be blown out for the weekend, but could come back into play sometime next week, depending on the next round of storms. When the water turns green, there should be plenty of fish around – both fresh and downers.

Van Duzen
According to Grundman, the Van Duzen was muddy on Tuesday. If the forecast holds, flows are predicted to jump from 315 to 2,750 cfs by Thursday morning.

Mad River
The Mad has been pretty quiet this week reports Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. “There’s not a lot of hatchery fish in the river right now, which is likely why the pressures been light. The fish, which have been mostly wild, are still scattered. You can catch them from top to bottom. We’ve got a pretty good rise coming on Thursday, that will hopefully trigger some more fish to come in,” Kelly added.

According to Philip Bairrington, Anadromous Fisheries Resource Assessment and Monitoring Program for CDFW, 52 pairs of Mad River steelhead have been spawned as of Tuesday. He said, “On a normal year we would have spawned 104 by now. It is turning out to be a lower run amplitude year. I predict we’ll spawn another 10 to 20 pairs by the end of the hatchery’s spawning season. We’ll be okay, thanks to the Mad River Steelhead Stewards Volunteer Program.”

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

Klamath salmon on the rebound

We’ve got a long way to go, but it looks like the worst may be over for the run of fall kings on the Klamath. In 2016, the number of returning Fall Chinook adults to the Klamath River was estimated at 27,353. At the time, those were the lowest returns ever recorded. In 2017, CDFW predicted the numbers would go even lower. Only 18,410 kings were predicted to return, prompting a full closure of the fall season on the Klamath. North Coast ocean anglers also took a hit. Both the California and Oregon Klamath Management Zones (KMZ) were closed to recreational salmon fishing in 2017 due to the Klamath’s low returns. According to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which released its “Review of 2017 Ocean Salmon Fisheries” document last Thursday, the 2017 preliminary postseason river run size estimate for Klamath River Fall Chinook was 31,838 adults, a 42 percent increase of what was predicted. The escapement to natural spawning areas was 18,514 adults, which was 163 percent of the preseason prediction of 11,379 adults. Based on the 2017 returns, it looks like the stocks are rebuilding a year ahead of schedule.

The estimated hatchery return was 11,213 adults. Jack returns to the Klamath Basin totaled 21,903 including 16,522 that escaped to natural spawning areas. The average number of jack returns over the last 5 seasons is 13,398, so these are huge improvements and a good indicator of the number of three-year old’s that are in the ocean and could potentially return to the river next fall.

Spawning escapement to the upper Klamath River tributaries (Salmon, Scott, and Shasta Rivers), totaled 6,894 adults, up from 5,462 in 2016. The Shasta River has historically been the most important Chinook salmon spawning stream in the upper Klamath River, supporting a spawning escapement of 27,600 adults as recently as 2012 and 63,700 in 1935. The escapement in 2017 to the Shasta River was 3,287 adults. Escapement to the Salmon and Scott Rivers was 1,338 and 2,269 adults, respectively.

According to the report, the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes shared a federally-reserved right of 50 percent (814) of the available harvest surplus of adult Klamath fall Chinook. Tribal adult harvest was 1,876 (Yurok: 216 adults; Hoopa Valley: 1,660 adults), which was 230 percent of the tribal allocation. The river recreational fishery for fall Chinook in the Klamath Basin was closed in 2017. However, 71 fall Chinook adults were estimated to have been harvested, almost entirely during the spring Chinook fishery.

We’re not out of the woods by any means, but the numbers are now headed in the right direction. The hope is we’ll have some sort of fall quota for the Klamath Basin, and the recreational ocean salmon anglers will get some time on the water as well.

Next up is the annual Ocean Salmon Information meeting, which will be held March 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency office located at 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa. Ocean abundance will be discussed, which will then trickle down to river quotas. For more information on the meeting, please contact CDFW Environmental Scientist Kandice Morgenstern at 707-576-2879, Kandice.Morgenstern@wildlife.ca.gov.or visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon

The weather ahead
“The general weather pattern for the next week will remain the same, storm patterns will be coming out of the north with low elevation snow,” said Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “On Thursday, we’ll see a little precipitation. Most will fall in the mountains, where we could see close to a half-inch. We’ll see a couple tenths closer to the coast. Snow levels will be down to 1,000 feet. Friday is looking clear, with a weak system forecasted for Saturday. Snow levels will be between 1,500 and 2,000 feet, with the Smith River predicted to rise about a foot from the rain and snow melt. Another system will roll through on Sunday, and it’s looking a little more wet. The models are calling for three-quarters of an inch in the mountains of Del Norte, and a half-inch at the coast. Only a couple tenths are predicted for the Eureka area. Lingering showers are forecasted for Monday, we should see another couple tenths of an inch. Right now, Tuesday and Wednesday are looking dry.”

Leader Length Restriction begins March 1
A reminder that the new leader length restriction will go into effect on March 1. The regulation states: It shall be unlawful to use any configuration of fishing tackle in anadromous waters unless the distance between the terminal hook or terminal lure and any weight attached to the line or leader, whether fixed or sliding, is less than six feet. For purposes of this section, “weight” includes any product used to submerge the line or leader, including non-buoyant artificial flies or artificial lures, but does not include integrated or sinking fly fishing lines, lead core lines used while trolling from a boat, dropper weights used while trolling from a boat, or clipped weights used with downrigger systems.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“The Chetco fished decently during Monday’s winter weather, with some boats hooking up to four fish,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Things had slowed again by Tuesday. The freezing weather and snow has caused the river to drop even more. This weekend’s storm should provide relief to the low, clear conditions.”
Fishing has been slow on the Elk and Sixes. The Elk has remained around 3 feet according to Martin.

Smith River
The Smith remains low and clear and conditions are tough reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. He said, “Boats are getting a couple chances per day. There’s pods of fish in the river, just getting them to bite in the cold and low water is tough. We’re seeing quite a few fish spawning in the upper river, which is good. A few downers have been reported up high as well.”

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem is dropping and getting clear, but it’s the best game in town. Boats drifting from the forks to the lower river are averaging three to four fish per trip. Fish are coming on both yarn and bait as well as plugs. There’s some nice adults in the mix as well as a good number of half-pounders. Flows were right around 1,700 cfs as of Wednesday.

Eel River (South Fork)
According to Darren Brown of Brown’s Sporting Goodsin Garberville, the river is low and clear. He said, “Most of the anglers are down on the main stem, there’s a few guys around here. but not many. With the water conditions, you’ll need to cover some ground.” Flows are just over 300 cfs as of Wednesday.

Fishing the NC 2_22 photo

Fortuna resident Aaron May landed this quality winter steelhead while fly fishing on the Van Duzen River last weekend. The fish measured 31-inches. Photo courtesy of Aaron May

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen is low, hovering just above 200 cfs on Wednesday. Bank anglers are catching a few, but getting a little too low to drift.

Mad River
The Mad is still in good shape, but the fishing has slowed down from last week reports Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. “The water has some color, but it is starting to clear. We’ve got a little rain and snow melt coming through the weekend, so the bump in the flows should help. There’s still plenty of fish in the river, but they’re scattered. We’re starting to see a bunch of three to five-pound wild fish around now, but there are still a few hatchery fish in the mix. Fishing pressure has tapered off quite a bit.”  added Kelly.

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

Despite low flows, steelhead options are plenty

While the lack of rain has most steelhead anglers singing the blues, there are however, a few bright spots. Especially if you like to throw on a pair of waders and head to the river bar. The Mad River is probably as good now as it’s been all season. With plenty of bank access, it’s probably the best steelhead option at the moment. The river is on the low side, but the snowmelt has kept the color a beautiful shade of green. Chrome-bright hatchery steelhead are being caught by anglers working the river from the hatchery to the bridge. Both the South Fork Eel and the Van Duzen are getting too low for boats, but both have excellent bank fishing opportunities. Neither is chalked full of fish, but if you put your time in, a steelhead or two is not out of the question. You’ll want to cover some water, so comfortable wading shoes are a must. If you’d rather fish from a drift boat, you’re options are somewhat limited. The main Eel is your best bet as it still has plenty of green water. There’s also a real good chance of catching a few bright steelies. The Klamath and Trinity rivers are both good options as well. Both are green, and should have their share of winter steelhead moving through. With no substantial rain since the end of January, and very little predicted for the coming weeks, the coastal rivers are all headed towards low and clear conditions. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ample opportunities to hook into a big ole’ winter steelhead.

The weather ahead
“We’re heading into a more active pattern, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to see a lot of rain over the next two weeks,’ said Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “We’re going to see some low elevation snow, but not much in the way of moisture. The systems will be coming down from the north, which if they stay inland we’ll see mostly snow. If they come down near the coast, they can pick up moisture and we could see some rain. The next system should arrive on Sunday, with snow levels around 1,800 feet. A quarter-inch of rain is expected, but it will likely fall as snow. Another half-inch is forecasted for Monday, but with snow levels dropping to 700 feet, we won’t see much rain. Unfortunately, the next couple weeks are looking like we’ll see below normal precipitation.”

CDFW’s Annual Salmon Information meeting
CDFW invites the public to attend its upcoming annual Salmon Information Meeting to learn more about the state of California’s salmon fishery. The meeting will be held March 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa. The annual information meeting will cover the 2017 ocean salmon seasons, Central Valley and Klamath Basin river returns, and the 2018 abundance forecasts. Anglers are encouraged to provide input on potential fishing seasons to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and representatives who will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April. For more information on the meeting, please contact CDFW Environmental Scientist Kandice Morgenstern at 707-576-2879,  Kandice.Morgenstern@wildlife.ca.gov,  or visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon.

CDFW Seeks Input on 2018 Recreational Pacific Halibut Season Dates
The CDFW are inviting California anglers interested in the recreational Pacific halibut fishery to provide input via an online survey. The short survey, which will be open through Feb. 23, will help inform CDFW biologists about angler preferences for open fishing dates during the upcoming 2018 season. Results of the survey will be used to develop recommended season dates that will be provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The survey link is online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/LHHYJXG.

The Pacific halibut fishery takes place off the northern California coast. For more information on the Pacific halibut fishery in California, please visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut.

Free fishing days Feb. 17-18 in Oregon
It’s free to fish, crab or clam on the Saturday and Sunday of President’s Day Weekend, Feb. 17-18. During these two days, no fishing licenses or tags (including a Combined Angling Tag and a Columbia River Basin Endorsement) are required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon. Although no licenses or tags are required, all other regulations apply including closures, bag limits and size restrictions. For more information, visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2018/02_feb/020518.asp.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“The Chetco is now at its lowest level of the season, and steelhead fishing is hit and miss,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “During the cloudy and rainy weather on Sunday most boats had at least a couple of fish. With clear weather on Monday and Tuesday it was slow again. There are fish but they are easily spooked right now. This weekend’s rain isn’t expected to increase flows much, but could get the fish in the river to bite better. Boat pressure has been light as most of the out of town guides have moved to other rivers. The Elk and Sixes are low, clear and slow right now and very few anglers are trying.”

Fishing the NC 2_15 photo

Chico resident Evan Oetinger landed this nice winter steelhead on a recent trip to the Smith River. With very little rain in the forecast, coastal rivers are running low and clear, making conditions tough for steelhead anglers. Photo courtesy of Evan Oetinger

Smith River
The Smith remains low and clear and in need of a good shot of rain. Flows were 7-feet on the Jed Smith gauge on Wednesday and dropping. Boat pressure has been light as most guides have moved to other rivers. There are reportedly a few fish around, but overall, fishing is tough.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem is in great shape and holding a nice shade of green. Boat pressure was fairly heavy over the weekend, but has since slowed. Boats are averaging one to four fish per trip. There’s some nice adults in the mix and some bluebacks have shown up. There’s also a good number of half-pounders around. Flows are predicted right around 1,800 cfs by Saturday.

Eel River (South Fork)
According to Darren Brown of Brown’s Sporting Goods in Garberville, the river is low, but there’s still a few boats drifting. He said, “There were a couple boats at Sylvandale on Tuesday, but it’s definitely gotten quiet. Most boats have moved way down on the South Fork or to the main stem,” Brown added. Flows are predicted to be around 375 cfs on Saturday.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen is getting skinny, with flows hovering around 275 cfs on Wednesday. A few fish were caught by boats earlier in the week, but it’s getting too low to drift. The water is clearing, but bank anglers are still finding a few fish.

Mad River
The Mad is in great shape and holding color reports Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. “The fishing definitely got better this week, seems like there’s more fish around now. All the deep holes are holding fish. The fish are scattered throughout the river, but from the hatchery to the bridge has been good. There’s a pretty good mix of both wild and hatchery fish around, and lots of bright ones in the mix too.’ added Kelly.

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 rivers are in great shape, but bite remains tough

This past weekend saw all of our coastal steelhead rivers turn some shade of green – some emerald and some olive. Condition-wise, it was probably the best we’ve had this season. But pristine conditions only last so long. And now as we go another week deeper into a disheartening dry spell, some rivers are getting too low to drift and too clear to be good. The Chetco, Elk, and Sixes would fall into those categories. The Smith and the South Fork Eel are both dropping and clearing as well. Green rivers with perfect flows, unfortunately, are only half of the equation that make up winter fishing success. The other is the “Grey Ghosts”, otherwise known as steelhead. And those seem to be lacking in numbers this year. Sure, plenty of fish were caught over the weekend, but not as many given the conditions. Boats working the South Fork Eel, which had the most pressure over the weekend, landed anywhere from zero to five. The average was likely one or two per boat. Myself, along with everyone else on the water, were sure expecting better scores. And those low scores always lead back to the same question – is this the year that we start feel the effects of the drought? And the answer is always the same, who really knows? If the fishing continues to be subpar, the answer may become more clear.

Weather ahead
According to Scott Carroll of Eureka’s National Weather Service, there isn’t much of a change in store for the weather in the next week. “It looks like we’ll be completely dry through next week. And we’re looking at dryer than normal conditions for the next two weeks and possibly the rest of the month,” Carroll added.

HASA membership meeting February 12
HASA (Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers) will be having their general membership meeting on Monday, February 12, 2018 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Grace Baptist Church, 220 Buhne Street, Eureka. Agenda items include, BOD nominations, 2018 salmon update, rockfish and halibut updates, and Administrative Director discussion. For more information, email hasa6191@gmail.com or call 707-845-0101.

Mad River Hatchery update
So far this season, 34 steelhead pairs have been spawned according to Philip Bairrington, Supervisor of the Anadromous Fisheries Resource Assessment and Monitoring Program. “The theoretical number of pairings to date should be 62 pairs,” said Bairrington. “The effective genetic population size for Mad River Hatchery spawning is 250 fish, half of which (125) would be Natural Origin steelhead. The river has been muddy for the past few weeks, so it has been difficult for our Mad River Steelhead Stewards Volunteer Program to collect Natural Origin steelhead. Last week we notified the volunteers that they may collect seven days a week. The goal is to produce 150,000 yearlings for release on a high flow event in March every year. We are hoping that we can build up the numbers this year in the coming weeks to make up for some of the lower numbers recorded so far in the first half of the spawning season.”

“With the river clearing and no rainfall in the forecast, we should have a number of additional Natural Origin brood stock to spawn.” Bairrington added. Bairrington also noted that these fluctuations are natural, some years are higher and some years are lower. “In the lower years, ultimately, we will produce less than 150,000 yearlings and it could be that case this year, but we are less than half way through the season. The number of adults surviving all sources of mortality, returning to the river from the ocean, should be between 2 percent and 5 percent  of those 150,000 yearlings, or between 3,000 and 7,500 Hatchery Origin adult steelhead available for anglers to catch or harvest.”

Fishing the NC_2_8 photo

Bill Curry of Brookings, Ore., holds a hatchery steelhead he caught Feb. 6 while fishing the Chetco River. The Chetco, like most of the other coastal rivers, is getting low and clear, making fishing conditions tough. Photo Courtesy of Andy Martin/Wild Rivers Fishing

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“The Chetco is slowly dropping and will be low and clear soon,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There was plenty of water for side-drifting over the weekend, but by the end of this week conditions will be tougher. There are steelhead spread throughout the river, with decent numbers of hatchery fish. Most boats are getting one to three fish a day. Plunking was good last week, but now most bank anglers are drift fishing.”

The Elk and Sixes are now low and clear according to Martin. “Both fished fairly well last week but are now tough to get a drift boat down. The lower Rogue had its best week of the season last week, with some boats closing in on double-digit catches, but has slowed this week.”

Smith River
Similar to the Chetco, the Smith is low and clear and in need of rain. Flows were 8-feet on the Jed Smith gauge on Wednesday and dropping. It’s predicted to get down to 7-feet by early next week. Boat pressure has been light as most guides have moved elsewhere. Prior to the weekend, scores ranged from zero to three fish per boat.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem has good color, but it’s just a little on the high side reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. “Conditions will be great by the weekend. I’ve seen a few boats out, but haven’t heard if they’re catching fish. I saw quite a few rollers in the Rio Dell area last week,” Grundman added. Flows are predicted right around 3,500 cfs by Saturday.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork was in perfect shape over the weekend, and is still holding some color. Scores over the weekend were mostly one to two per boat, but some did better. Lots of zero’s in the mix as well. It will likely start to clear, with flows down to 650 cfs by the weekend.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen looks absolutely perfect according to Grundman, but reports have been hard to come by. “The water is green and flows are good, should be a good option for the weekend.”

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors, the Mad is just turning steelhead green, and there seems to be some fish around. “It’s still not red-hot, but there’s definitely some more fish around. Most of the fish are between the hatchery and the Blue Lake bridge, and just below the bridge. The fish are fairly spread out, and so are the anglers. Right now, there’s probably about a 50/50 mix of wild to hatchery fish. Conditions should be just about perfect this weekend with flows just above 7-feet,” Kelly said.

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

River conditions looking ideal for the weekend

It’s shaping up to be one heck of a weekend on the North Coast expect the green water euphoria to be in full effect. All of the coastal rivers, except for possibly the main stem of the Eel, will be some shade of green. This only happens about once a season, and it typically follows an extended period of dry weather. The lack of rain is certainly not optimal, but the other side of the coin is almost every creek and river from the Chetco down to the South Fork of the Eel should be fishable and likely full of steelhead as well. If you’re a winter steelhead fanatic, and I know most of you are, this is the weekend you’ve been waiting for.

Weekend Weather:
We’re going to be dry for the next couple of weeks according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The big ridge of high pressure is sitting off the coast, which will likely keep us dry for a while. We’re not seeing any rain through the 15th of the month, and after that, the models are showing less than normal precipitation.” Aylward said.

Salmon preseason process
The 2018 California ocean salmon sport and commercial fishing regulations have yet to be determined according to the CDFW website. Fishery regulations that take effect in April 2018 for the area south of Horse Mountain will be finalized at the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting in March. Regulations in effect on or after May 1, 2018 will be adopted at the PFMC meeting in April. Beginning in 2018, recreational ocean salmon fishing regulations in state waters will no longer be adopted through the Fish and Game Commission (FGC) rulemaking process, but will now automatically conform to federal regulations in accordance with Section 1.95, Title 14, CCR. For more information on the ocean salmon, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/regulations/salmon

Upcoming FGC meeting
California Fish and Game Commission meeting will be held Feb 7-8 at the Resources Building Auditorium, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento at 10 a.m. To view the meeting agenda, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=153396&inline. The Commission will be briefed on the PFMC process for developing ocean salmon seasons and will receive an update on the automatic process to conform state recreational fishing regulations to federal regulations.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The Chetco fished really well for the plunkers over the weekend. It was still high early in the week and slower than expected for the drift boats, but fish were spread throughout the river,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “It should be in prime shape all week. With a break in the rain, all the Southern Oregon rivers are now fishing. I had guides on the Elk and Sixes early in the week and they did well. I heard the best reports so far this season from the lower Rogue, with some guides getting six to eight fish a day sitting on anchor and running plugs.”

Smith River
The Smith is starting to clear, and the fishing has gotten a little tougher reports Mike Coopman. “The river was in great shape on Monday, it was on the drop and it fished really well. We hooked double-digits. But it’s gotten a little tougher each day. On Wednesday, I didn’t hear of many hooked, it was probably about a half a fish landed per boat. The river is still in good shape height-wise, the rain we had on Monday night helped out. There’s lots of seals around, but the boat pressure hasn’t been too bad,” Coopman added.

Eel River (main stem)
The Eel still has a lot of water, but the edges are starting to turn green according to Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. “The river should be in really good shape by mid next week, if not before, as flows continue to drop,” said Grundman.

Eel River (South Fork)
According to Darren Brown of Brown’s Sporting Goods in Garberville, the river in the Sylvandale area dropped about a foot and a half overnight on Tuesday. “We’ve got about a foot of visibility on Wednesday, and the water is turning nice and green. Should be in great shape by the weekend,” Brown added.

Van Duzen
According to Grundman, the Van Duzen should fish above Yager Creek by the weekend and should be fishable down to its mouth by early next week.

Fishing the NC_2_1 photo

Nine-year old Sean Jones of Santa Rosa landed this nice steelhead all by himself on a recent trip to the Mad River with his father Troy. This weekend should be ideal for winter steelhead anglers as most of the coastal rivers will be fishable. Photo courtesy of Troy Jones

Mad River
Fishing on the Mad isn’t red-hot, but it has improved reports Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors. “The river is just starting to turn green, and should be bait-fishable by the weekend. There’s fish spread throughout the river, but the biggest concentration is directly below the hatchery, which is where most of the anglers are as well. There’s a lot more hatchery fish around now too.” Kelly added. “The river was holding at 9 feet on Wednesday, but is predicted to drop down to 8.5 feet by Saturday.”

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

Green water on the horizon

Our coastal rivers are finally getting the flushing and scouring they desperately need. The latest round of storms has brought the rivers to their highest levels of the season, providing ample water for steelhead to make it back to the streams and creeks where they were conceived. The extra flows will also trigger the fish that are still swimming in the salt to begin their migration upriver. Following a very wet few days, the last decent shot of rain in this series of storms is predicted for Saturday. After that is looks like dry weather all next week. Starting on Sunday, all of the rivers are predicted to drop quickly, and we could be headed for a green water convergence. If the stars align and the forecasters are correct, all north coast rivers could be green by the end of next week, giving steelhead anglers options O’ plenty.

The weather ahead
The North Coast can expect continued wet conditions off and on through Saturday according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Thursday’s front should drop about an inch of rain in Del Norte, with snow falling as low as 2,000 feet. In Eureka, we could see a half-inch of rain at the coast and an inch in the mountains. Lingering showers are expected for Friday, with a quarter-inch in Del Norte and roughly a tenth here locally. Saturday should be the last decent day of rain, with the bulk of the rain falling to our north. Del Norte could see a couple inches in the mountains, and an inch at the lower elevations. Eureka may see up to a third of an inch. The next system will come in Monday night and into Tuesday, but it won’t be enough to see any increase in river flows. After Tuesday, it’s looking dry the rest of the week and into the weekend,” Aylward said.

Upcoming Humboldt Steelhead Days events
Humboldt Steelhead Days will be holding a Pints for Non-Profits event and fishing contest check-in on Thursday, Jan. 25 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the new Lost Coast Brewing Co., facility on Sunset in Eureka. For every pint sold, $1 will be donated to HSD and its programs. One lucky guest will win a Steelhead Days prize package. For more information, visit http://www.lostcoast.com/events/pints-non-profits-humboldt-steelhead-days

The Northcoast Regional Land Trust and Mad River Alliance will be taking a tour through the Wood Creek restoration project on Saturday, January 27th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Freshwater Farms Reserve. Humboldt Steelhead Days participants will learn about Coho salmon life history, the significance of estuarine habitat, large wood structures, fish monitoring technology, contextual historical regional land uses and project successes and challenges. Email Projects and Stewardship Director Kerry McNamee at k.mcnamee@ncrlt.org for more information. For more information about the tour, visit http://www.humboldtsteelheaddays.com/event/humboldt-steelhead-days-restoration-field-tour/ Freshwater Farms Reserve is located at 5851 Myrtle Ave, Eureka.

Dislodged Bell Buoy
Due to the latest series of storms, it was reported that Humboldt Bay Red Bell Buoy 2 (#8135) was off station and possibly aground according to Suzie V. Howser, Chair
Harbor Safety Committee of the Humboldt Bay Area. The Buoy has been located approximately one-eighth mile north of the North Jetty just outside the surf zone. It is unknown when the buoy will be recovered and replaced. All mariners are to use extreme caution when transiting near the entrance to Humboldt Bay. Contact USCG Sector Humboldt Bay at 707-839-6113 for more information.

Low flow fishing closures set to end
Special low flow regulations that went into effect on Oct. 1 for the Eel River, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Smith, Van Duzen, and Sept. 1 on the Mad, will end on January 31. Until then, low flow restrictions remain in effect. Currently, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures are open. For more information, visit http://www.eregulations.com/california/fishing/freshwater/low-flow-restrictions/

The Rivers
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“The Chetco fished surprisingly well over the weekend,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “For the first time this season, it had good color at 5,000 cfs instead of still being muddy. A lot of new fish came in last week. The plunkers did well on the lower end. We landed five steelhead on my boat Saturday. Most likely the Chetco will be blown out for a week or more with the latest storm. The Rogue is finally fishing well upstream from Gold Beach. Guide John Anderson landed four steelhead on Sunday running MagLip plugs while anchored from his jet boat. The Elk and Sixes were slow over the weekend, despite good conditions on the Elk.”

Smith River
Despite the unstable water conditions, the fishing has been pretty good on the Smith reports guide Mike Coopman. He said, “There’s definitely a few fish around. Boats are getting up to three per trip – somedays more and somedays less. The next few days the water is going up and down quite a bit. It’s looking like we’ll be doing a little plunking and hopefully some side-drifting. Boat pressure has been light, but with all the other rivers blown out, we’ll probably see a few more next week.”

Main stem Eel
Forecasted to peak at 39,500 cfs on Thursday and predicted to drop quickly. With no rain in the forecast after Saturday, there’s a chance it could come around by next weekend. How quickly it drops and turns green will be depend on the amount of snow that’s falling in the hills.

South Fork Eel
Peaking at 10,600 cfs on the Miranda gauge on Thursday morning, it should drop back into fishable shape by mid-week, depending on snowmelt.

Van Duzen
Flowing at just over 3,500 cfs on Wednesday afternoon and on a steep rise, it’s predicted to peak at just over 8,000 cfs Wednesday evening. With sparse rain predicted for next week, it may be fishable late next week or by the weekend. There’s quite a bit of snow in the hills, which if it melts, the river will remain off color. Your best bet will be above Yager Creek.

Fishing the NC 1_25 photo

Chris Anderson of Laytonville landed this bright hatchery steelhead at daybreak last week on the Mad River while fishing with guide Damon Albright. Photo courtesy of Damon Albright

Mad
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, fishing on the Mad has been slow. “The fish aren’t bunching up below the hatchery like years past. The river has definitely changed and the fish are more spread out. A few are being caught every day in the dirty water, but not a ton. With next week looking dry, we should be back to bait-fishing conditions by the end of next week.” Kelly added.

Upper Trinity
The upper Trinity is in great shape as we’re getting more snow than rain reports Tim Brady of Trinity Outdoors in Weaverville.  He said, “The fishing has been decent between Lewiston and Junction City. The winter fish are here, I’m guessing we’re right in the middle of the run. Guys I’m talking to are getting a fish here and there. The one thing I’m hearing is the fish are running a little smaller this year, but there are some nice ones around.”

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