Wind Continues to Hamper Offshore Angling

Les Whitehurst of Anderson, CA landed this nice vermilion rockfish while fishing near Cape Mendocino last Thursday with Tim Klassen aboard the Reel Steel. Photo courtesy of Reel Steel Sport Fishing

It’s been a very quiet start to the saltwater season, especially for boats looking to head offshore. The north wind has been prevalent for almost two weeks, letting up just enough to allow boats to venture outside Humboldt Bay for a couple days. Trinidad, Shelter Cove and Crescent City have faired slightly better in terms of days on the water based purely on proximity to the fishing grounds. But even those fleets have been hampered by horrible conditions. Conditions aren’t looking any better in the coming days. Thursday is marginal but then we’re right back to gale force winds through at least Saturday. In the meantime, anglers anxiously await the California halibut action to ramp up. A few are being caught but it hasn’t quite taken off. Bait is starting to show up in the bay, so we’re getting close to having another solid alternative when heading offshore isn’t an option.

Weekend marine forecast
Winds will weaken slightly Wednesday and Thursday before strengthening back to gale force Friday and Saturday. Friday, north winds will be 5 to 15 knots with northwest waves 7 feet at eight seconds. Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 10 to 20 knots with northwest waves 11 feet at 10 seconds and southwest 2 feet at 17 seconds. Sunday’s prediction is looking slightly better, with northwest winds 10 to 15 knots with northwest swells 8 feet at nine seconds and southwest 2 feet at 16 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484

The beach/jetties
The wind has made the beaches tough for anglers looking for redtail perch. When the ocean is rough, the mouth of the Elk River or King Salmon are two of the better options to get out of the wind. Both have been producing some quality perch. Both of the  jetty’s have been slow due to the wind. Your best bet is to get out there early as the wind comes up around 10 a.m. A few black rockfish are being caught along with the occasional keeper lingcod. Half-ounce jig heads with four to five inch swimbaits have been a solid producer.

Pacific Halibut quota update
The CDFW has projected 326 net pounds of Pacific Halibut has been harvested through May 9. In 2021, the Pacific halibut allocation for California is 39,000 pounds. To view the latest catch projection information, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut#31670772-in-season-tracking

The Oceans:
Eureka
Another quiet week for the Eureka fleet as the wind continues to keep the fleet tied to the dock. The brief weather window last Wednesday and Thursday provided hope for a good Pacific halibut and rockfish season. Boats fishing north on the 50-line in 300 feet of water did very well on halibut, with some limits reported. The boats that made the trip south to Cape Mendocino were rewarded with a variety of rockfish and quality lings. Thursday is looking like it may be fishable but the wind is forecast to return Friday and continue through the weekend.

Trinidad
Being close to where the fish are is huge advantage for Trinidad boats and Captain Curt Wilson of Wind Rose Charters has been making the most of tight weather windows. “We were able to get out Saturday and Tuesday in pretty tough conditions,” said Wilson. “We’ve been staying close to home fishing outside of Flat Iron rock in 100 feet of water. The black rockfish bite has been wide-open, so it hasn’t take much time to get everyone limits. The crabbing is still good, we’re averaging 40 to 60 male keepers per pot,” Wilson added.

Shelter Cove
After canceling trips over the weekend, Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing ventured out in rough conditions Tuesday in search of rockfish. “Conditions weren’t very good but we made quick work of it,” said Mitchell. “We made our way to the Old Man and put in limits of rockfish and lings and finished the day with 37 keeper crabs.”

Crescent City
Steve Huber of Crescent City Fishing was able to get offshore Wednesday and found some quick success. “We found a pretty good bite south near the Sisters and we filled the boat quickly,” said Huber. “We didn’t find any lingcod, but the quality of the black rockfish was excellent. Conditions weren’t very good and we didn’t see anyone else out. The ocean looks good for Thursday, then it looks like we’re back to some rough weather Friday and Saturday.” According to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, there were a few Pacific halibut caught last week, all under 50 pounds. “Most were caught outside of the South Reef. A few boats have been trolling for California halibut off South Beach but none have been caught as of yet,” Carson added.

Brookings
“The ocean out of Brookings has been rough, but rockfish and lingcod are still being caught on the nearshore reefs,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “A few halibut were caught offshore during the brief break in the wind last Wednesday. Several salmon also were released by rockfish anglers the middle of last week. Salmon season opens June 12 out of Brookings, with hatchery silvers allowed the first week. King season opens June 19.”

Anglers aboard the Miss Brooke of Brookings Fishing Charters hold limits of lingcod caught May 5 near the Point St. George Reef lighthouse between Brookings and Crescent City. Photo courtesy of Brookings Fishing Charters

Lower Rogue
With very slow spring salmon fishing on the lower Rogue, most anglers have given up for the season, reports Martin. “The best action on the Rogue is the salmon fly hatch near Shady Cove, which is just beginning. The Chetco, Elk and Sixes rivers are closed but open May 22. Look for sea-run cutthroat trout on the lower ends when the river open. Tossing spinners is a good bet,” said Martin.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Breezy Start to the Saltwater Season

Mother Nature can be so cruel. In the week leading up to Saturday’s rockfish and Pacific halibut openers, ocean conditions out of Eureka were pristine. Then, as if someone was playing a bad joke, the north winds picked up and the ocean swells grew steep, spoiling the weekend plans of the Eureka fleet. That’s the bad news. The good news is the seas have since subsided and boats will be headed out through Humboldt Bay Wednesday in search of the season’s first haul of halibut and rockfish. But the weather window could be small. Winds will begin to pick up Friday and the weekend is again looking very breezy. There’s plenty of season ahead of us and this won’t be the last time Mother Nature has her way.

Razor clam fishery opens back up in Del Norte
After a five-year closure, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife director has re-opened the recreational razor clam fishery in Del Norte County following a recommendation from state health agencies that the consumption of razor clams in the area no longer poses a significant threat for domoic acid exposure according to a press release issued Friday. During the closure, state health agencies have continued to assess domoic acid levels in razor clams. Razor clams have consistently exceeded the federal action level of 20 parts per million. However, clams recently collected from Crescent City in March and April 2021 all had lower concentrations. CDFW, the California Department of Public Health and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment continue to monitor domoic acid in razor clams to determine when the recreational fishery in Humboldt County can be opened safely. CDFW reminds clammers that the daily bag limit for razor clams is 20 and the first 20 clams dug must be retained regardless of size or condition. The fishery in odd-numbered years is open north of Battery Point, Crescent City in Del Norte County. Effective March 8, 2021, each person is required to keep a separate container for their clams and is not allowed to commingle their take with another person when digging and transporting clams to shore.  Visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Sport-Fishing/Invertebrate-Fishing-Regs#mollusks for specific razor clam regulations.

Sport-Harvested Mussels quarantined

In a press release issued on April 30, The California Department of Public Health announced the annual quarantine of sport-harvested mussels gathered along the California coast. The quarantine begins May 1 and applies to all species of mussels that are recreationally harvested along the California coast, including all bays and estuaries. The quarantine is in place to protect the public against poisoning that can lead to serious illness, including coma and death. The quarantine is designed to prevent paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and domoic acid poisoning, also known as amnesic shellfish poisoning, in people who might otherwise consume sport-harvested mussels. Both of these syndromes are from naturally occurring toxins produced by certain phytoplankton consumed by shellfish, including mussels and clams. Cooking does not destroy the toxins. Commercially harvested shellfish are not included in the annual quarantine because all commercial harvesters in California are certified by CDPH and subject to strict testing requirements to ensure that all oysters, clams, and mussels entering the marketplace are safe. Visit www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/SN21-003.aspx for more information.

Weekend marine forecast
Breezy conditions are once again in the forecast for the weekend. Saturday is calling for north winds 10 to 20 knots with waves out of the northwest 9 feet at 10 seconds. Sunday is looking similar, with winds out of the north 15 to 25 knots. Waves will be northwest 10 feet at 9 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

The Oceans:
Eureka
Ocean conditions improved dramatically Wednesday and a few boats took advantage. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing was one of the boats making the trip to the halibut grounds and he reported some pretty good fishing. Klassen was targeting the area out 300 feet around the 50-line where he boated limits for his clients of halibut in the 10 to 20-pound range. Conditions look excellent for Thursday but the wind is forecast to blow starting Friday.

Nine-year-old Joey Swancey, of Palo Cedro, scored a pair of black rockfish while fishing out of Trinidad Monday. Photo courtesy of Curt Wilson/Wind Rose Charters

Trinidad
Captain Curt Wilson, who runs Wind Rose Charters, was able to put clients on limits of black rockfish and crab over the weekend. “We only had a to hit a couple spots towards Patrick’s Point to score limits of quality black rockfish,” said Wilson. “Conditions weren’t great but we were able to get in and out early before the wind picked up. We’ll have a little more time this week to look around for some variety as conditions will be much better.”

Shelter Cove anglers were all smiles after scoring limits of rockfish and lingcod on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing

Shelter Cove
Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing took advantage of Wednesday calm seas and put together a pretty good rockfish trip. “We fished The Hat for limits of lings and rockfish, finishing up at 11 a.m., said Mitchell. “We have more territory this year with the extra 40 feet of depth. That’s going to be big for us. The crabbing was good too, we pulled the gear and had 24 keepers.”

Crescent City
Despite the conditions, a few boats trudged their way to the rockfish grounds before the winds came up Saturday. Steve Huber, who runs Crescent City Fishing, battled minus tides and rough water to put his clients on some quality rockfish. “We started north of the harbor and found a decent bite,” said Huber. “We made a couple of moves before the weather go too bad.” Huber was back on the water Monday and found plenty of hungry rockfish and a few lingcod south near the Sisters.

Brookings rockfish update
“Rough ocean conditions put a damper on the halibut opener out of Brookings as well as the Point St. George Reef opener south of the border,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “The inshore reefs still produced limits of rockfish and a few lingcod during the windy weekend. Calmer conditions are expected Wednesday before a storm brushes the area Thursday and Friday.”

Lower Rogue
A few spring salmon were caught on the lower Rogue after last week’s rain but overall catch rates remain poor, reports Martin. “This year’s springer run has been well below average. Rogue anglers looking for action are waiting with anticipation for the salmon fly hatch on the upper river, which produces the best trout fishing of the year,” added Martin.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Saltwater Season Kicks Off Saturday

This Saturday marks day one of our ocean sport fishing season on the North Coast as both rockfish and Pacific halibut will finally open, bringing with it tons of excitement, optimism and relief. Following a year we’d all like to forget, a little saltwater therapy sounds pretty relaxing. As anglers take to the ocean Saturday — weather and conditions permitting — the hope is all the negativity will slowly fade into the horizon, leaving only happy thoughts of big lings and barn door-sized halibut.

The Pacific halibut season opens Saturday, May 1 on the North Coast. The season will run through Nov. 15 or until the quota is met. Pictured is Cloverdale resident Fred Kramer, right, with one of the 2019 season’s first Pacific halibut. Kramer was fishing out of Eureka with skipper Marc Schmidt (left). Photo courtesy of Coastline Charters

May 1 openers:

Pacific Halibut: The 2021 Pacific halibut fishery will open May 1 and run through Nov. 15, or until the quota is reached. There won’t be any in-season closures as was the case in 2019. The quota in 2021 will once again be 39,000 pounds. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will again monitor catches of Pacific halibut during the season and provide catch projection updates on the CDFW Pacific halibut webpage, www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Pacific-Halibut#31670772-in-season-tracking. The limit remains at one, with no size restrictions. No more than one line with two hooks attached can be used.

Rockfish: The boat-based rockfish season in the Northern Management Area, which runs from the California-Oregon border to the 40°10′ North latitude (near Cape Mendocino), will run through Oct. 31 within 180 feet. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, rockfish may be taken at any depth.

New sport rockfish regulations for 2021
In December of 2020, CDFW announced multiple changes to the sport rockfish regulations starting in 2021. Changes that pertain to the Northern Management area include:

  • Elimination of sub-bag limits for black rockfish, canary rockfish and cabezon within the 10-fish rockfish, cabezon, and greenling (RCG) complex daily bag limit.
  • A new sub-bag limit of five vermilion rockfish within the 10-fish RCG complex daily bag limit.

The daily bag limit of lingcod remains at two per person and they must be 22-inches in length. The take and possession of cowcod, bronzespotted rockfish and yelloweye rockfish is prohibited statewide. Petrale sole and starry flounder can be retained year-round at all depths with no size limit. For more information about recreational groundfish regulations within the northern mgt. area, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Groundfish-Summary#north.

Important reminder:
When fishing for halibut and rockfish, the more restrictive gear and depth restrictions apply. When targeting rockfish, cabezon, greenling and lingcod, or once any of these species are aboard and in possession, anglers are limited to fishing in waters shallower than 180 feet when fishing for halibut.

Marine forecast
Ocean conditions for the weekend aren’t looking very favorable for boats heading offshore, especially out of Eureka. Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 10 to 20 knots with waves out of the north 8 feet at 7 seconds and northwest 3 feet at 18 seconds. Sunday is looking similiar, with winds out of the north 10 to 20 knots. Waves will be north 7 feet at 7 seconds and west 4 feet at 16 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Weekend tides – Humboldt Bay
For anglers who aren’t aware, extreme caution should always be used when crossing the bar. The combination of large swells and outgoing morning tides could make for a dangerous bar crossing. Saturday, 7 feet of water will be flowing out down to an -1.1. This could make for a dangerous bar crossing if the swells are large. If you’re planning on hitting the bar at daylight, always check the conditions first. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan.

Saturday May 1: High: 3:03 a.m. (7.6 feet), Low: 10:22 a.m. (-1.12 feet) and High 5:26 p.m. (5.4 feet), Low 10:05 p.m. (3.41 feet)

Sunday May 2: High: 3:58 a.m. (7.1 feet), Low: 11:23 a.m. (-.66 feet) and High 6:37 p.m. (5.4 feet), Low 11:19 p.m. (3.5 feet)

Trinidad launch ready to go
The Trinidad launch will be in service and launching boats beginning Saturday, May 1. Call 677-3625 for more information.

Brookings ocean update
Halibut season opens May 1 out of Brookings. “With calm weather in the forecast, expectations are high,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Lingcod and rockfish action has been good out of Brookings, especially on calm weather days. Lings have started to move into deeper water. An abundance of anchovies close to shore has already drawn salmon into the shallows to feed. Charters released a handful of feeder kings the past week. Salmon season opens June 12 for coho and June 19 for Chinook out of Brookings.”

The Rivers
Main Stem Eel

The main stem Eel is still in fishable shape, but it’s clear. It was flowing at 1,300 cfs on the Scotia gauge as of Wednesday. Fishing reports have been hard to come by.

Smith
The Smith River from its mouth to the confluence of the Middle and South Forks; Middle Fork Smith River from mouth to Patrick Creek; South Fork Smith River from the mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tryon) bridge and Craigs Creek to Jones Creek, will close after Friday, April 30.

Lower Rogue
Southern Oregon coastal rivers remain closed to fishing until May 22, except for the Rogue River, where spring salmon fishing remains dismal, reports Martin. “This year’s springer run has been disappointing so far, with only a handful of hatchery salmon caught,” Martin added.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Ocean King Season Set to Open June 29

Limited by a low-abundance forecast of Klamath River fall Chinook, North Coast recreational salmon anglers will have a little more than a month on the water this season. Management measures were designed to provide fishing opportunity for the more abundant Sacramento fall Chinook while reducing Klamath River impacts. Due to our proximity to the Klamath, this scenario never plays out well for our local fleet. Based on the 181,500 Klamath River kings forecasted to be swimming in the ocean, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) came up with a short 34-day season for the CA KMZ (Oregon-California border south to the 40°10’00” N. latitude (near Cape Mendocino). The CA KMZ recreational salmon season will open June 29 and continue through August 1.

Fishing will be allowed seven days per week for all salmon except coho, two fish per day and a minimum size limit of 20 inches total length for Chinook.

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

Sport salmon anglers won’t have much time on the water this year as the season will run for only 34 days on the North Coast, beginning June 29. Pictured are Chico residents Ryder Gregory and Heidi Musick, who caught a pair of nice kings in 2019 while fishing in Trinidad. Photo courtesy of Curt Wilson/Wind Rose Charters

With only 271,000 Sacramento fall Chinook said to be swimming in the ocean, the seasons for areas to our south will also face restrictions. The area from Horse Mountain south to Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, will open June 29 as well, but will run through Oct. 31. The San Francisco area will open June 26 and also run through October. Typically these areas open to fishing in April but were pushed back this year to mitigate impacts on the fall Klamath River kings. Fishing will be allowed seven days per week for all salmon except coho, two fish per day and a minimum size limit of 20 inches total length for Chinook.

To the north in the Brookings area (OR KMZ), the Chinook season will open June 19 and run through Aug. 15. Fishing will be allowed seven days per week, two fish per day and a minimum size limit of 24 inches total length for Chinook. The hatchery coho season will begin June 12 and run through Aug. 28 or earlier if the 120,000 Cape Falcon to OR/CA border quota of coho is met. Fishing is allowed seven days per week. All coho must be fin clipped and a minimum of 16 inches.

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

Klamath/Trinity river quota update

Along with ocean salmon seasons up for final approval, the PFMC allocated 1,221 adult Chinook for the Klamath Basin quota. Bag and possession limits will be determined at the California Fish and Game Commission meeting on May 11. The tribal allocation is 8,135 adult Klamath River fall salmon, split between the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes.

Increased flows coming down the Trinity

The Trinity River flows will begin to increase Thursday, April 22, as releases from Lewiston Dam will increase to 1,450 cubic feet per second and then reach 1,500 cfs Friday. Flows will be reduced until next Wednesday, when they’ll hit a spring-high of 3,550 cfs. Residents near or recreating on the river can expect levels to increase and should take appropriate safety precautions. A daily schedule of flow releases is available at www.trrp.net/restoration/flows/current.

Marine forecast
Ocean conditions are looking decent for the weekend, although south winds are in the forecast. Friday is calling for northwest winds 5 to 10 knots and northwest waves 5 feet at eight seconds. Saturday is calling for winds out of the south 10 to 15 knots with 3-foot swells at five seconds out of the southwest and west 2 feet at 10 seconds. Sunday is looking favorable, as well, with winds out of the south 5 to 10 knots with 5-foot swells at nine seconds out of the west. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or www.windy.com.

The Beach/Jetties

The redtail perch bite wasn’t wide open over the weekend, but there were fish caught. Fishing was reportedly better from the beaches south of Trinidad. Both jetties are providing a good mix of rockfish and a few lingcod. Tossing swimbaits has been one of the better options. Fishing is typically best two hours prior to high tide to an hour after the slack for the beach as well as jetty.

Brookings ocean update
“Lingcod and rockfish action was good over the weekend and again Monday, but windy weather is expected mid-week,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “A gale warning has been posted. Calmer seas are expected for the weekend. The best fishing has been from Bird Island north. Anchovies have arrived at the Port of Brookings, a good sign for the June salmon opener. Salmon season opens June 12 out of Brookings.”

Eel River steelhead returns
As of April 11, a total of 199 steelhead have entered the Van Arsdale fish count station, according to Andrew Anderson, an Aquatic Biologist with PG&E. Making up that total are 74 males, 84 females, nine subadults and 32 unknowns. The Chinook count stands at 65 and is done for the season. For more information, visit www.eelriver.org/the-eel-river/fish-count/.

Eel (main stem)
As of Thursday, the main was flowing at 1,320 cfs on the Scotia gauge. Reportedly, there are some steelhead around but fishing is tough due to the clear water. The main stem Eel to the South Fork is open all year. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used through Sept. 30.

Lower Rogue

According to Martin, the Rogue continues to be slow for springers, but reports of ocean anglers catching and releasing a few hatchery kings near Gold Beach has anglers hopeful some salmon may finally be arriving. “The water is low but rain expected this week will give flows a boost. Catch rates have been poor all season on the Rogue,” Martin added.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Brookings Kicking Out Limits of Rockfish and Lingcod

While we wait for the rockfish season to open in the Northern Management area, which includes Eureka, Trinidad and Crescent City, there’s a pretty good alternative right across our northern border. Rockfish and lingcod season is open year-round out of Brookings Harbor, and the last couple months have produced some excellent fishing opportunities. When the weather has permitted, the lingcod bite has been better than average, with limits common for private and charter boats. The rockfish bite has been equally good. “The lingcod bite, when the ocean has been flat, has been wide-open,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “The Bird Island and House Rock areas have been best.” When conditions keep the boats closer to the harbor, there’s still good fishing available. “Close-in fishing also has been good, with easy limits of rockfish just past Chetco Point,” added Martin. Brookings Harbor features an excellent launching facility with self-payment, courtesy dock, freshwater boat rinse and a large fish-cleaning station. The general marine daily bag limit is six fish per angler per day, along with two lingcod 22 inches or larger. Visit www.myodfw.com/sport-bottomfish-seasons for a complete list of bottom fish regulations.

Wesley Brown, of Carson City, Nevada holds the limit of lingcod he caught recently aboard the Nauti-Lady of Brookings Fishing Charters. He was using a P-Line Lazer Minnow tipped with squid. Photo courtesy of Andy Martin

Marine forecast
Ocean conditions are shaping up nicely for the weekend. Friday is calling for north winds to 5 knots and northwest waves 2 feet at six seconds and west 3 feet at 13 seconds. Saturday is calling for winds out of the north up to 5 knots with 3-foot swells at 11 seconds. Sunday is looking favorable as well with winds out of the north 5 to 10 knots with 3-foot swells at five seconds out of the northwest and 3 feet at 11 seconds  For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or http://www.windy.com.

The Beach/Jetties
Howling winds over the weekend made for some tough fishing conditions off the beach and jetties. The best option was the mouth of Elk River inside Humboldt Bay for redtail perch. It’s one of the few locations not affected by heavy winds. The fishing was good this weekend, with some limits reported. Conditions look excellent through the weekend.

Pacific halibut season set

The PFMC announced recently that the 2021 Pacific halibut season will run from May 1 to November 15, or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. There won’t be any in-season closures as was the case in 2019. The quota in 2021 will again be 39,000 pounds. CDFW will monitor catches of Pacific halibut during the season and provide catch projection updates on the CDFW Pacific halibut webpage, www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Pacific-Halibut#31670772-in-season-tracking. The limit remains at one, with no size restrictions. No more than one line with two hooks attached can be used.

“Critically Dry” year designation for Trinity River
According to a press release issued by the Bureau of Reclamation April 9, the lack of precipitation and snowpack in the Trinity Mountains this winter means the flow schedule for 2021 is scaled to a “critically dry” water year for the Trinity River. Critically dry is one of five water year types used by the Trinity River Restoration Program to decide how much reservoir water will be released in support of the program’s goals to improve habitat for anadromous fish — fish that migrate to fresh water from salt water to spawn — like salmon and steelhead. This year marks the third critically dry year in the last five for the Trinity watershed. This year’s flow schedule will begin April 16. Key dates and flow releases are:

  • April 16-17: Increase daily average flows from 300 cubic feet per second to 1,300 cfs
  • April 21: Decrease flows to 500 cfs
  • April 23: Increase flows to 1,500 cfs
  • April 28: Increase flows to peak release of 3,550 cfs

Two additional flow increases to 1,950 cfs on May 6 and 1,600 cfs on May 28 are scheduled before flow decreases to summer baseflow (450 cfs) on June 18, which continues until Sept. 30. Visitors near or on the river can expect river levels to increase during the flow releases and should take appropriate safety precautions. Landowners are advised to clear personal items from the floodplain prior to the releases. A schedule of daily flow releases is available at: www.trrp.net/restoration/flows/current/.

The Rivers:
Reminder: The South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek and Chetco rivers all closed to fishing March 31.

Lower Rogue
The slow spring salmon fishing on the Rogue continued over the weekend, prompting some guides to start canceling trips, according to Martin. “Very few hatchery springers are being caught. The other Southern Oregon Coast rivers are closed until late May,” added Martin.

Eel (main stem)
As of Wednesday, the main Eel dipped under 1,800 cfs on the Scotia gauge. The river is clear and the fish will be holding in the deeper slots. There should be quite a few steelhead making their way downriver, though the fishing pressure has been light. The main stem Eel to the South Fork is open all year. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Rockfish Are Snapping at the Jetties

Nick Cutler, of Arcata, landed a nice lingcod on Saturday while fishing off the south jetty. Photo courtesy of Nick Cutler

The boat-based rockfish season on the North Coast is still three weeks away but that certainly doesn’t mean rockfish can’t be on the dinner menu. The jetties, the breakwater constructed to protect Humboldt Bay, are currently providing some excellent rockfish action. Over the weekend, the north jetty was the place to be for black rockfish, along with the occasional lingcod. A few anglers were lucky enough to land their limit of 10 rockfish, while most caught enough to make plenty of fish tacos. The south jetty hasn’t been as good but that will likely change as water conditions improve. There are a few different techniques anglers use on the jetties. One of the most popular is fishing with small swimbaits or scampi jigs. You can use a half-ounce or three-quarter ounce, depending on the tide and depth of water. Another popular method is a two-hook setup rigged with bait. For bait, squid or shrimp work well. You can also cast and retrieve egg sinkers or banana weights rigged with a herring. This works well for lingcod. While we wait for the May 1 boat-based rockfish opener, the jetties are always an excellent year-round option to put fresh fish on the table. For a complete list of rockfish regulations, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Groundfish-Summary#north.

Marine forecast
Ocean conditions don’t look promising for the weekend. Friday is calling for north winds to 15 knots and north waves 6 feet at six seconds. Saturday is calling for winds out of the north 15 to 25 knots with 12-foot swells at 10 seconds. Sunday looks a little better. Winds will be from the north 10 to 20 knots with waves 9 feet at 11 seconds. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or www.windy.com.

Brookings ocean update
Fishing for rockfish and lingcod has been very good out of Brookings, especially on calm weather days, reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He says, “Boat limits of lingcod have been common when swells and winds allow anglers to get to House Rock or Mack Arch. Close-in fishing also has been good, with easy limits of rockfish just past Chetco Point. Crabbing is slow. Halibut season opens May 1 out of Brookings.”

Bucksport Sporting Goods fishing contests
Bucksport Sporting Goods will be holding its third annual California Halibut Contest beginning April 1. Entry is free, and can be completed before or during a weigh in. The top three halibut will win various prizes from the store contest will run until Sept. 31. Bucksport will also be holding its third annual Redtail Perch Contest beginning on April 1. The contest will run through September and you can enter up to 10 fish per month. A point will be given for each ounce and each quarter inch. The perch, redtails only, must be measured and weighed at Bucksport. The top three fish at the end of the contest will win a prize. Entry is free but limited to in-store registration only. Also starting April 1 is its 13th annual Lingcod Spearfishing Contest. Limit two fish per month. A point will be given for each pound and for each inch. Top three fish will win prizes. Bucksport is located at 3650 Broadway in Eureka.

The Rivers:
Reminder: The South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Cree and Chetco rivers all closed to fishing March 31.

Lower Rogue
Spring salmon fishing continues to be slow on the lower Rogue River, according to Martin. “Very few hatchery springers are being caught,” says Martin. “Boaters are anchoring close to shore and running anchovies with spinner blades. Flows at Agness are 2,900 cubic feet per second, with a water temperature near 55 degrees. Steelhead fishing also is slow.”

Smith
The Smith was right around 1,750 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge on Wednesday. Fishing reports have been hard to come by as most anglers have moved on for the season. There should be some downers around a few fresh ones still making their way upriver.

Eel (main stem)
As of Tuesday, the main Eel was running at 2,350 cfs on the Scotia gauge. The river is in perfect shape and there should be quite a few steelhead making their way downriver. Fishing pressure has been light. The main stem Eel to the South Fork is open all year. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Tough Steelhead Season Comes to a Close

Ana Gonzalez of Point Reyes Station landed a nice winter steelhead Saturday on the lower Eel River. Conditions were perfect over the weekend, and the lower Eel will continue to be a good option through April. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest/Fishing the North Coast Guide Service

One of the toughest and most frustrating steelhead seasons in many years will close Wednesday, March 31. From the Chetco south to the South Fork Eel River, and all the rivers in between, the fish just never showed up in numbers we’re accustomed to. No one knows for certain what caused the decline but it’s safe to say  we’ll all be holding our collective breath when next season rolls around.

Now, as the calendar nears April, it’s time to change gears and look toward the next angling opportunity. The rockfish and Pacific halibut openers are right around the corner, and ocean salmon season will be coming in late June. It’s also time to start thinking about spring salmon on the Klamath (hopefully) and the lower Rogue rivers. There are redtails to be had from all the local beaches and the lagoons are full of trout. Steelhead season has been a real downer and I for one am ready to put this season in the rearview mirror.

Upcoming meetings
The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and its advisory bodies will meet April 6 to April 9 and April 12 to April 15 by webinar only to address issues related to groundfish, salmon, Pacific halibut, coastal pelagic species and administrative matters. One of the key agenda items is to adopt final management measures for 2021 ocean salmon fisheries. Also on the agenda are the 2021 Klamath River Basin quotas of adult Klamath River fall Chinook. For more information, visit www.pcouncil.org/documents/2021/03/april-2021-meeting-notice-and-detailed-agenda.pdf/.

The California Fish and Game Commission meeting will be held via webinar and teleconference on April 14 starting at 9 a.m. to adopt and discuss changes to the upcoming sport fishing seasons. The meeting will be live streamed for viewing and listening purposes only. On the agenda is status review of Upper Klamath-Trinity rivers spring Chinook salmon and Northern California summer steelhead. Proposed changes to the Klamath River Basin sport fishing will also be discussed. For a complete agenda and comment submission, and viewing information, visit www.nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=190629&inline.

The Beach/Jetties
When the ocean’s been calm, the redtail perch action has been decent along the beaches. There are some spots that are typically better than others but you can catch them just about anywhere this time of the year. Reportedly, the beaches are full of sand crabs, which is the one of the top choices for bait. Conditions look fishable for the weekend, with waves in the 5 to 6-foot range and wind 5 to 10 knots. Black rockfish and the occasional lingcod are being caught on the north jetty. Fishing has been slower on the south side. Five to 6-inch Gulp jerk shads are a popular bait as well as smaller swimbaits. Egg sinkers or banana weights rigged with a herring also work well.

Brookings ocean update
“Lingcod fishing busted wide open out of Brookings on Sunday, as calm weather allowed boats of all sizes to get out and find easy limits of lings and rockfish,” said Andy Martin with Brookings Fishing Charters. “The lingcod fishing has been better than normal, with charter boats getting limits of lings while targeting rockfish with light gear. Another round of nice weather is expected this weekend. The best fishing is Bird Island north, with limits coming from 30 to 60 feet.”

The Rivers:
Reminder: The South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek, and the Chetco all closed to fishing on March 31.

Chetco/Rogue
According to Martin, steelhead fishing remained good on the Chetco right up to the March 31 closure. “The most consistent fishing of the season was in March, after the crowds left, and the few boats still fishing had decent numbers every day,” said Martin. “The bulk of the run came in during high water periods, and big numbers of downrunners were caught late in the season. Spring salmon fishing has been slow on the Rogue River. Just a handful of springers have been caught so far. Fishing usually improves in April and early May. With low catches, pressure is light.”

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem is in perfect shape, running at 3,100 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday. The few boats still fishing were averaging two or three fish per day, mostly downers along with some half-pounders. The main stem Eel, from its mouth to the South Fork is open to fishing all year. From April 1 through Sept. 30, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Late-Season Steelhead Anglers Have Plenty of Weekend Options

If you’re looking to get that one last steelhead trip in, this could be the weekend to do it. All the rivers are green and have plenty of water. The main stem Eel and Chetco have good color and ample water, and that’s probably where you’ll find the majority of the boats. The Smith is low and clear, but still producing for the few anglers still trying. The Mad is turning green and is another good option for the weekend. Reports from all rivers are the same: Fishing isn’t great. If you get a chance at a couple fish, consider that a good day. But now with hungry downers on their way back to the salt, the opportunities to hook a few should improve. With sunshine predicted through the weekend, this is a golden opportunity to get in on some late-season steelhead action.

Upcoming steelhead river closures
After next Wednesday, March 31, the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek and Chetco will all be closed to fishing. A few others however, will remain open. 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, May 21. Only barbless hooks may be used from May 22 through Mar. 31, 2022. From Fulmor Road to the South Fork, it’s open all year. From April 1 through Sept. 30, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. Only barbless hooks may be used from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31, 2022.

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 Craig’s Creek to Jones Creek. Only barbless hooks may be used from Sept. 1 through Apr. 30. The bag limit remains the same at two hatchery steelhead per day.

Sections of the Klamath and Trinity rivers are open to fishing, but are subject to in-season changes. For more information, visit www.nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=190456&inline.

The weather ahead
Sunny and breezy conditions are expected through the weekend. There is a slight chance of rain Wednesday night but not enough to impact river levels. Wind gusts could be as high 23 miles per hour through Thursday.

Recreational Red Abalone fishery to remain closed until 2026
In a press release issued March 19, the CDFW announced the extended closure of the recreational red abalone fishery until April 1, 2026. Red abalone stocks continue to be impacted by large scale die offs in northern California due to the collapse of the bull kelp forest, which is their primary food. The Commission closed the fishery in 2017 because of the mortality of red abalone populations due to environmental stressors. Recovery of bull kelp forests and the diverse ecosystem they support will take time. Thus, the extension of the abalone fishery closure is needed to allow for recovery and protection of surviving abalone. When reopening of the fishery is considered, it will be guided by the Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan, which is currently under development. To learn more about the plan, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Red-Abalone-FMP. For more information on the closure, visit www.cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2021/03/19/the-recreational-red-abalone-fishery-to-remain-closed-until-2026/

Brookings ocean update
“Lingcod and rockfish action out of Brookings has been very good whenever ocean conditions cooperate,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Lingcod fishing was wide open Sunday and Monday, despite windy conditions. Lings remain in shallow water spawning. Marine conditions look good for Saturday and Sunday, but strong winds are expecting prior to the weekend.”

The Rivers:
Smith River
The Smith is low and clear, running just under 8 feet on the Jed Smith gauge as of Thursday. A few boats are still trying but fishing remains very tough. The few that are being caught are fresh. Light leaders and a stealthy presentation are required.

John Fendick of Redding landed this bright steelhead while drifting the Smith River last weekend. For most of the coastal rivers, steelhead will close March 31st. The Smith, however, will stay open through the end of April. Photo courtesy of Tyler Gillespie Guide Service

Chetco/Lower Rogue
Steelhead season ends March 31 on the Chetco. “Just a few guides are still fishing but catch rates are still decent with two to four steelhead per boat,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “A few bright steelhead are still being caught but the majority of the fish are downrunners. Conditions are prime for the final week of the season. Spring salmon fishing remains slow in the Rogue. Just a couple of hatchery springers have been caught so far. Steelhead fishing is still fair to good, with fresh hatchery fish still arriving.”

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem is green but still a little wide. It dipped below 4,500 cubic feet per second as of Thursday. Will be in great shape by the weekend.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork is clearing, running under 800 cfs on the Miranda gauge as of Thursday. A few boats were out over the weekend and had some success on downers. The lower end should have better fishing this weekend as the upper reaches are getting low and clear.

Van Duzen
Flowing at 550 cfs Thursday, the Van Duzen is dropping into shape. Conditions for the weekend should be prime for bank anglers.

Mad River
The Mad is green, but still running a little high as of Thursday. Flows are predicted to be right around 1,100 cfs by Saturday, which is about perfect. According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, the fishing has slowed. He said, “The number of fish has tapered off significantly but there are some downers around as well as a few fresh ones. Conditions should be excellent for the weekend.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Short Season Ahead for Ocean Sport Salmon Anglers

Looking at the ocean abundance of Sacramento and Klamath River kings and the numbers that returned to the rivers in 2020, I’d say we’re pretty lucky to have any type of salmon season this fall. But we will and it looks to be comparable to last season. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) last Thursday released three preliminary alternatives for managing salmon fisheries from the Oregon-California border to Horse Mountain, which includes Humboldt County. According to the PFMC, 181,500 Klamath and 271,000 Sacramento fall Chinook are said to be swimming in the ocean, which will restrict the North Coast on season lengths and river quotas. The three alternatives currently on the table: June 28 to July 31; June 26 to July 31; or July 1 to July 31. All three scenarios have the same two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size.

From Horse Mountain to Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, the three alternatives are: June 28 to Oct. 31; June 26 to Oct. 24; or June 24 to Oct. 3. All three scenarios are the same, with two fish per day, seven days a week, Chinook only, 20-inch minimum size.

If the PFMC is right, we could see fewer salmon like the one pictured here with Colby Black, from Houston, Texas, this fall. The recreational ocean salmon season is tentatively scheduled to open either late June or July 1 and last through July. The final decision will come from the PFMC meetings in April. Photo courtesy of Tony Sepulveda/Shellback Sport Fishing

To view all of the salmon management alternatives, visit www.pcouncil.org/press-release-pacific-fishery-management-council-releases-alternatives-for-2021-west-coast-ocean-salmon-fisheries.

Final season dates will be decided during the April 6 to April 9 and April 12 to April 15 PFMC webinar meetings, where the council will consult with scientists, hear public comment and revise preliminary decisions.

Klamath/Trinity fall salmon allocations
Not only will the recreational ocean salmon season be restricted, but sport anglers will have a few less Klamath/Trinity River fall Chinook to harvest this year, as well. The recreational allocations, or quotas, as proposed by the PFMC will range from 1,234 to 1,217 adult fall Chinook in 2021 across the three alternatives. Last year’s basin-wide quota was 1,296 adults. If, for example, the first option is chosen, the quota for the Klamath and Trinity basins would be 1,234 adults. Of those, 617 would be allowed for sport harvest from State Route 96 bridge to the mouth of the Klamath. From the bridge to Iron Gate, 210 could be harvested. The Trinity would receive 407 adults for harvest. The Spit Area (within 100 yards of the channel through the sand spit formed at the Klamath River mouth) would close when 185 adult kings were taken downstream of the U.S. Highway 101 bridge.

The three quota alternatives are not final but will be decided during the aforementioned April PFMC webinar meetings. 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. These quotas would go into effect Aug. 15.

The weather ahead
Rain is in the forecast for later in the week, which will impact all of the coastal rivers. The storm is predicted to hit early Thursday morning and stick around through Friday night, with lingering shower possible Saturday. One to 2 inches is expected in both Del Norte and Humboldt counties.

Bucksport Redtail Perch Contest
Bucksport Sporting Goods will be holding its third annual Redtail Perch Contest beginning on April 1. The contest will run through September and you can enter up to 10 fish per month. A point will be given for each ounce and for each quarter inch. The perch, Redtails only, must be measured and weighed at Bucksport. The top three fish at the end of the contest will win a prize. Entry is free and but limited to in-store registration only. Bucksport is located at 3650 Broadway St, in Eureka.

HSU looking for surfperch anglers/seiners
The HSU Dept. of Fisheries Biology are looking to hire students within the fisheries or related field to help angle for surfperch in Humboldt and seine along the Northern CA coast. To apply, send cover letter to jrm261@Humboldt.edu by April 1.

Customers of the Miss Brooke of Brookings Fishing Charters hold limits of lingcod caught March 12 near Harris Beach north of Brookings.

Brookings ocean update
Ocean fishing out of Brookings was exceptionally good Friday and Saturday, with the majority of boats getting a limits of lingcod reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Many of the charters had limits of lingcod before they limited on rockfish,” said Martin. “The lings are in shallow water spawning and are aggressively biting. Numbers appear to be above average this winter. The best fishing is from Bird Island to House Rock. Surfperch continue to bite well near Brookings.”

The Rivers:
Chetco/Rogue
“After slow fishing for a couple of weeks, steelhead action picked up again on the Chetco last week and over the weekend,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Many guides were getting four to six steelhead a day, with a mix of downrunners and fresh fish. The steelhead are spread throughout the river. Good conditions are expected through Wednesday and then rain and high water return. The Rogue has been good for steelhead near Gold Beach and upriver near Agness, but slow for spring salmon. Anchoring with 3.5 MagLips plugs continues to entice steelhead, with bright hatchery fish still arriving.”

Smith River
The Smith remains low and clear, running at 3,200 cubic feet per second on the Jed Smith gauge as of Tuesday. Nearly 2 inches of rain is expected Thursday and Friday, and flows are predicted to jump to 7,500 cfs by Saturday morning. This should bring in some new fish and kick-start the downers making their way from the tributaries.

Haley Richards of Salem, Ore., holds a steelhead she caught and released March 13 while fishing the Smith River with guide Rye Phillips of Wild Rivers Fishing.

Eel and Van Duzen Rivers
The South Fork was in great shape over the weekend but blew out Monday. The fishing remains tough with lots of zeros. The rain coming Thursday and Friday is expected to push the flows to 3,600 cfs by Friday morning. It could be fishable by Monday. The main Eel was a day away from fishable before the rain on Sunday. With another bump in flows later in the week, it could fish late next week. The Van Duzen also got dirty Monday and will blow out again Thursday. Depending on snowmelt, anglers could fish sometime next week.

Mad River
The Mad was dirty Monday but dropping fairly quickly. It may be somewhat green before is rises again Thursday afternoon. Fishing remains slow but a few are being caught near the hatchery. Flows are predicted to reach 3,280 cfs early Friday morning, keeping it off color through the weekend.

Lower Trinity River
The winter fish that are moving through the Klamath are starting to make their way into the lower Trinity. Boats drifting the Willow Creek area are catching a mix of fresh steelhead and downrunners along with a handful of half-pounders per trip. Flows were running at 3,300 cfs on the Hoopa gauge as of Wednesday, but it predicted to rise to 6,400 cfs by Friday afternoon. Should be in fishable shape through the weekend.


Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

River Conditions Look Excellent for The Weekend

As we move toward the end of the winter steelhead season on the coast, river conditions are shaping up nicely for the weekend. All the rivers, except for the main Eel, should be some shade of green. The catching, on the other hand, may be a different story. It’s been a struggle all year as the steelhead seemed in short supply. Whether the lack of fish can be attributed to the previous drought is hard to say. Whatever the reason, I sure hope it’s short lived. And speaking of conditions, the rain and snow that fell over the past week has been a blessing. The late-season rains may not bring much joy to 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.

The weather ahead
“Following a fairly wet Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll finally start to dry out on Thursday,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service Office. “No rain is in the forecast Thursday through Sunday, so we should start to see the rivers recede. There are a few chances for rain next week that could impact the rivers. There is a chance of rain Monday but it’s not certain. Some models are showing up to 1 inch falling in Del Norte and up to a ½ inch falling in Humboldt. The next chance is for next Thursday and Friday, but there’s also some uncertainty about this system,” said Zontos.

Brookings ocean report
“Calm weather is expected the second half of this week, good news for saltwater anglers,” said Andy Martin with Brookings Fishing Charters. “Lingcod and rockfish action has been good out of Brookings when the wind and swells settle down. The best fishing has been in the Bird Island to House Rock area. Surfperch fishing also has been very good from Brookings-area beaches, especially at Crissy Field and Lone Ranch state parks. There is a nice mix of striped and redtail surfperch.”

Fred Simon and Teresa Sharp of Klamath Falls, Ore., hold the results of a double hookup while fishing the Smith River in late February. Photo courtesy of Mick Thomas/Lunker Fish Trips.

The Rivers:
Smith River
The Smith hit 10-feet on the Jed Smith gauge Saturday morning, and was in really good shape the past few days. According to guide Mike Coopman, the fishing is still pretty tough. He said, “We had a really good day after the rise but since then it’s been pretty tough. There are a few around though. We haven’t seen any downers yet, but that will probably change after the next rise. We should also see more fresh fish enter the river.”

Chetco/Rogue
The crowds have left the Chetco, leaving decent fishing for the few guides still working it, according to Martin. “Most of the steelhead are downrunners but a few bright fish also are being caught,” said Martin. “Most of the fresh steelhead are less than 5 pounds. Some of the downrunners have been in the mid-teens. Rogue River anglers are still waiting for the first spring salmon of the year. There have been a few unconfirmed reports of springers but no photos and no fish weighed in at Rogue Outdoor Store or Jot’s. Steelhead fishing is fair, with the best fishing near Agness. Fishing has been slow on the Elk and Sixes.”

Eel River (main stem)
The main Eel has been in fishable shape since Sunday but that was changing Tuesday. Flows were predicted to reach 7,600 cubic feet per second Thursday morning. Dry weather beginning Thursday, will keep it on the drop through the weekend, but another rise is forecast for Monday. It may fish on the weekend. Boats drifting early last week from the forks down were getting two to four fish per trip.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork was dirty Saturday but quickly turned green by Sunday. The rain falling Tuesday and Wednesday are predicted to blow the river out, but it will be on the drop by Thursday. Conditions look excellent for the weekend, but another rise is predicted for Monday.

Van Duzen
Like the Eel, the Van Duzen was dirty Saturday, but quickly cleared and was fishable through Monday. It was on a steep rise as of Tuesday, but only topped out at 1,000 cfs by nightfall. With dry weather predicted by Thursday, it could drop down into fishable shape by late in the weekend. Another rise is predicted for Monday, so the fishable window could be small.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, the river never really blew out as predicted on Saturday. “The river looked really good above the North Fork over the weekend,” said Kelly. “With the cold temperatures, I think we got a lot more snow in the hills than rain. The fishing was decent over the weekend — there seems to be a few more fish around now. We’re starting to see some downers but there are still fresh ones to be had. A couple small rises are predicted for this week but there’s a good chance the water will be green by the weekend.” Another bump in flows is predicted for Sunday night that will likely turn the river muddy.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com