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

Fewer Salmon in the Sea in 2021

Fewer fall-run ocean kings are said to be swimming in ocean waters off the coast of California in 2021. According to CDFW, we’ll likely see fishing restrictions again this fall in both the ocean, Sacramento and Klamath Rivers

The news wasn’t pretty at Thursday’s annual Ocean Salmon Information meeting. Not only are the Klamath salmon stocks struggling, the Sacramento stocks took a nosedive, as well. The Klamath River fall Chinook ocean abundance forecast in 2021 is 181,500. This is slightly higher than the 2020 forecast but still well below the long-term average. CDFW hinted there will likely be constraints to fishing opportunities north of Point Arena this season. The real damaging news came from the Sacramento River, where only 271,000 adult fall Chinook are said to be swimming in the ocean. That’s some 200,000 fewer salmon than the 2020 forecast. “Klamath River fall Chinook abundance forecasts and spawner returns have been low over the last few years. Fisheries were limited on the northern sections of the California coast last year to reduce impacts on this stock, and that will likely be the case again this year,” said Kandice Morgenstern, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Ocean Salmon Project. “Furthermore, with a reduced abundance forecast for Sacramento River fall Chinook, we could be looking at reduced fishing elsewhere along the coast, as well.” What the PFMC chooses to do with these forecasts will be determined in the next couple of months.

Up next, the PFMC will meet virtually March 2 through March 5 and March 8 through March11. Final regulations will be adopted at the April 6 to April 9 and April 12 to April 15 virtual PFMC meeting. Meeting information can be found at: www.pcouncil.org/council-meetings/upcomingmeeting. To view the salmon preseason process, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon/preseason.

The weather ahead
According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service Office, rain is in the forecast for later in the week. “The first system is well defined and will arrive Thursday evening and continue through Saturday morning,” said Zontos. “Del Norte could see 2 to 3 inches through Sunday and here locally we can expect 1 to 2 inches. Sunday through Wednesday looks wet as well. I don’t think we’ll see substantial totals, but it will keep things wet and keep the river levels up. Another system is developing for late next week but there’s a lot of uncertainty right now.”

Updated freshwater sportfishing regulations begin March 1
The CDFW announced on Monday new freshwater sport fishing regulations that will take effect on March 1, 2021,  and aim to simplify and streamline the laws regulating inland fishing while maintaining and protecting California’s fisheries. The package of updated regulations was adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission in October 2020. It was the largest regulatory inland sport fishing package in the Commission’s history. 
“The underlying goals were to reduce the complexity of inland sport fishing regulations, increase regulatory consistency and remove regulations that are no longer biologically justifiable,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Inland Fisheries Program Manager Roger Bloom. 

Major changes include: 

  • Separate regulations for inland trout (non-anadromous waters) from those for steelhead and salmon (anadromous waters) to make it easier to understand the bag and possession limits, 
  • Replacement of district regulations with statewide regulations separated for trout, and 
  • Standardize and consolidate ”special fishing” regulations. 

CDFW held a series of community meetings in 2018 and 2019 at locations across the state to publicly introduce and discuss proposed changes to simplify statewide inland sport fishing regulations. CDFW proposals and recommendations from the public were then vetted at the January and March 2020 Wildlife Resources Committee meetings. 
Anglers should review the changes as they affect most of the inland trout waters in California. Updates to the regulations can be found both at wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Inland and wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations.

Brookings ocean update
Calm ocean conditions resulted in very good lingcod and rockfish action Sunday and Monday reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Big swells return this week,” said Martin. “The best action is from Twin Rocks to House Rock. Surfperch are biting well at Crissy Field and Lone Ranch State Park, and the fishing pier next to the Coast Guard station in Brookings. Perch fishing will continue to improve in the coming weeks.”

The Rivers:
Chetco/Rogue
“Steelhead fishing was decent early last week on the Chetco but slowed by the weekend with mostly downers being caught,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Top boats are getting a fish or two per boat, with many now going fishless. Rain this week could draw in fresh steelhead and flush some of the downers from higher in the system. Although steelhead fishing is open through March on the Chetco, fishing likely will be on the slow side for the rest of the month. Rogue River anglers are hoping this week’s rain will bring in the first few spring salmon of the season. Steelhead fishing remains fair, with boaters anchoring and running plugs having the best success. Spring salmon season peaks in late April and early May, but rains in March often bring fishable numbers of springers into the Rogue. The Elk and Sixes are slow for steelhead,” added Martin.

Smith River
The Smith is currently low and clear, holding at just under 8 feet on the Jed Smith gauge. The fishing remains tough and not a lot of boats are still trying. Most have moved to other rivers. The storm coming later in the week could, however, breathe new life into the river. It’s predicted to reach 10.5 feet early Saturday morning. If there’s fish still waiting to come in, this jump should do it. It will also bring down the freshly spawned fish out of the tributaries.

Tyler Bishop, of Eureka, holds a nice steelhead caught Monday on the Eel River. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

Eel River (main stem)
Running at 2,900 cubic feet per second as of Thursday, the main Eel is in perfect shape. Boats drifting roe or beads are getting one to four fish per trip. There’s a mix of fresh steelhead and some downers are starting to show up. Windy conditions are predicted for both Thursday and Friday. Rain is forecast to hit Friday evening, which will blow the river out for the weekend. Flows are forecast to reach 6,000 cfs by Sunday morning

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork was in perfect shape over the weekend, and there was no shortage of boats. Scores ranged from zero to three fish for boats drifting from Benbow to the forks. The rain coming Friday will push the flows to 1,900 cfs on the Miranda gauge. It could fish again by mid-week with no rain.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was flowing at 300 cfs Thursday and is in perfect condition. Reports have been hard to come by, but plenty of bank anglers are giving it a go. Expect windy conditions Thursday and Friday, followed by rain on Friday night. It’s forecast to blow out Saturday with flows reaching 2,300 cfs.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, the river is in perfect shape and holding steady. “Conditions are just about perfect, but there aren’t a ton of fish around,” said Kelly. “They’re definitely scattered, with mostly fresh ones below the hatchery. There’s also a few above. It looks like the river will fish through Friday, then blow out on Saturday.” The river is predicted to hit 5,000 cfs (10.6 ft.) by Saturday morning.

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

Now or Never for Coastal Steelhead Season

Rivers conditions are trending toward perfection this week and it’s pretty much now or never for the 2021 winter steelhead season. In what has been called one of the toughest seasons anyone can remember, if the next week or so doesn’t produce some quality fishing, it’s likely the season will go down as a bust. There are plenty of theories about why the steelhead haven’t returned in big numbers but nobody knows for sure. With a little more than a month left in the season, there is time for a resurgence. And if there was ever a time, it would be this week. Conditions on just about every coastal river are — or soon will be — pristine. We’ve had a few “Miracle Marches” in the past and it’s looking like we’re going to need another.

Weather ahead
“We’ll have a few opportunities for light rain in the next few days,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service Office. “The six-day rainfall total, which goes through Monday, is showing less than a tenth of an inch of rain. There is a chance for some rain on Sunday and Monday, but there’s quite a bit of uncertainty right now. If the high pressure moves, we could see some rain. But right now, it looks like most of it will land more to the north. The Chetco is showing a slight increase in flows starting on Monday, March 1. If we do get some rain, it will likely have little impact on the river flows.”

The Beaches
The surfperch bite is starting to heat up along the beaches, depending on the weather conditions. One of the top spots this time of year is stinky beach. Limits are a real possibility using sand crabs or shrimp. King Salmon is also a good location. Surfperch are also biting well at Crissy Field and Lone Ranch State Park near Brookings according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters “The action has been improving, with limits possible,” said Martin

The Rivers:
Smith River
The Smith is dropping quickly and is clear, running right around 5,000 cubic feet per second Wednesday. According to guide Mike Coopman, the fishing has been really tough. “We’re getting one to three bites per day,” said Coopman. “There just doesn’t seem to be a bunch of fish around right now. The fish we are catching have been on the small side, running 5 or 6 pounds. I’m hoping we see some fish show up like they did last year in March.”

Parker Lowe, of Yuba City, holds a wild steelhead he caught and released Feb. 20 while fishing the Smith River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He was using a pearl-pink Corky and roe. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“Despite perfect green water, the Chetco is fishing slow after the latest series of storms, with steelhead few and far between,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Half a dozen boats managed just a handful of steelhead on Monday, even though conditions were good. Plunkers had even fewer fish. Spawned out steelhead should appear in the slower runs as the water drops but steelhead fishing likely will continue to taper off in the next few weeks. The Elk and Sixes also have been slow, but have a few steelhead around. The Rogue River is the best bet, with fair fishing.”

Eel River (main stem)
Running at 6.700 cfs as of Wednesday, the main Eel is starting to get a green tint but is still big. Flows are predicted to be around 4,800 cfs by the weekend. It should be in prime condition next week.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork dropped down to a fishable level Tuesday, as flows were right around 2,000 cfs on the Miranda gauge. That’s still a little pushy but the color is good. Fishing is still tough, with boats reporting up to a couple fish per trip. Lots of zeros, as well. River conditions should be good through the weekend as flows will be down to 1,100 cfs by Saturday morning.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was running right around 850 cfs Wednesday and is starting to get some nice color. Flows are predicted to be down to 550 cfs by the weekend and could be a good option.

Mad River The Mad was still high and off color as of Wednesday. Flows were 2,700 cfs and predicted to be down to 1,700 cfs by Saturday. According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, it won’t likely turn green until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Most of the fish being caught are coming just below the hatchery by the liners.

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

Another Low Return for Klamath Kings in 2020

Following a disappointing 2019 adult fall run on the Klamath, 2020 proved to be only slightly better. Unfortunately, the numbers weren’t enough to get us out of the “overfished” category, and it’s likely we’ll have some severe restrictions both in the ocean and in the Klamath and Trinity rivers in 2021. “Based on this year’s run size, I’d expect very limited fishing opportunity in the coming year,” said Wade Sinnen, senior environmental scientist on the Klamath/Trinity Rivers.

Cam Berloger with a Klamath River Chinook salmon from last fall. Photo courtesy of Fishing the North Coast Guide Service

According to CDFW, the number of returning fall run kings in 2020 was 45,407, which is about half of the long-term average and well short of the 59,068 adults predicted to return. In 2019 only 37,270 adult kings returned. The return of fall Chinook jacks was 9,037 fish, which is also below the long-term average of 17,740. 

Returns to Iron Gate and Trinity hatcheries increased in 2020. A total of 8,331 adults returned to the two hatcheries this fall, while in 2019 on only 5,178 returned. Spawning escapement to the upper Klamath River tributaries (Salmon, Scott and Shasta Rivers), where spawning was only minimally affected by hatchery strays, totaled 5,559 compared to 8,564 in 2019. In 2018 there were 21,109 adults spawned in these tributaries. 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 2020 to the Shasta Riverwas 3,775 adults. Escapement to the Salmon and Scott Rivers was 972 and 812 adults, respectively. 

According to the report, 5,117 fall Chinook adults were harvested in the Klamath Basin recreational fishery, which was well over the 1,296 quota. This was due to the fact that many of the 3-year-old kings were less than 23-inches, and were initially counted as jacks, but in fact were adults. 

Next up is CDFW’s Annual Salmon Information meeting on Feb. 25 from 10a.m. to 4 p.m. The meeting will provide the latest information on California salmon stocks and the outlook for ocean salmon fisheries for the upcoming 2021 season. The public is encouraged to provide comments on potential fishing alternatives for California ocean salmon fisheries in 2021. A panel comprised of fishery managers, scientists and industry representatives will be assembled to address questions and collect public input that will be used in developing a range of season alternatives for California salmon fisheries at the March 2-5 and 8-11 Pacific Fishery Management Council meetings. These meetings will be hosted as webinars only and the meeting links, agendas and other materials will be posted as they become available. Contact Ian Pritchard for more information at Ian.Pritchard@Wildlife.ca.gov.

The weather ahead
“We’ll see another round of rain this week that will bring rivers up again then mostly dry weather will follow into next week,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service office. “The next chance for widespread rain will come Thursday through midday Friday. Light rain will continue Friday afternoon into Saturday but will be focused primarily across Del Norte and Humboldt counties. Light rain will dissipate Sunday. Del Norte could see between 2 and 4 inches from Thursday through Sunday. In Humboldt, 1 to 2.5 inches is forecast. Moving into next week, models look really dry. Some models show indications of some very light rain late next week but as of now, it doesn’t look like enough to impact rivers.” 

The Rivers:
Smith River
The Smith was down to 14 feet on the Jed Smith gauge Tuesday and a few boats were plunking. The river will be back to driftable shape for Wednesday and Thursday before going back on the rise starting Friday. Flows are predicted to peak at 13,900 cubic feet per second (13.2 feet) on the Jed Smith gauge early Friday morning. Saturday looks like a plunk day but it should be in driftable shape by Sunday. Fishing remains tough.

Tom Chapman, of Fortuna, left, and son Michael, from San Diego, enjoyed a rainy day on the Smith River last week and landed a nice winter steelhead. Photo courtesy of Tyler Gillespie

Chetco/Rogue
High water has stalled steelhead fishing on the Chetco, keeping drift boats off the river and slowing catch rates for plunkers, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “The river has been blown out for several days and although it could fish Wednesday, it is expected to blow out again at the end of the week and through the weekend. Fishing was slow early last week before Thursday’s decent bite. It has been high and muddy since. The lower Rogue continues to be a solid bet but is also high and muddy now. Guides tried to fish the Elk Monday but it was too high. The Sixes is muddy and over its bank.”

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem is still big and off color and more rain is on the way. Forecast to reach nearly 13,200 cfs on Saturday morning. Will take a week to 10 days to clear, it could fish by next weekend.

Eel River (South Fork)
The higher reaches of the South Fork fished on Monday, but the fishing wasn’t red hot. The lower reaches were green on Wednesday, but not many boats and not many fish reported. Thursday will be it for a few days as the next round of storms will blow it back out. Predicted to reach 3,500 cfs on Friday night, but could be down to a fishable level by Sunday. Next week should be prime conditions.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was running at 1,360 cfs as of Wednesday and never did get close to green. The next storm will push flows back up to 4,000 cfs by early Friday morning. It may be fishable by late next week.

Mad River
The Mad was still flowing around 4,600 cfs on Tuesday and is big and brown. The next set of storms will push it back up to 8,300 cfs early Friday morning. Will likely be off color most of next week. Liners are catching a few right at the hatchery.

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

Rivers Are Green, But Steelhead Not Easy to Come By

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. The next round of storms is forecast for Thursday and that will likely be the end of the green water for now. If you were planning on fishing rivers other than the Smith or possibly the Chetco, you may be out of luck. Green rivers with perfect flows, unfortunately, are only half of the equation that make up winter fishing success. The other is the “silver bullets,” otherwise known as steelhead. And those seem to be lacking in numbers this year. Anglers caught fish over the weekend on all the rivers other than the main Eel but not as many as hoped for, given the conditions. Hopefully the fish show in better numbers soon — we’re starting to run out of days.

The weather ahead
“We’ll have multiple opportunities for rain starting Thursday evening,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The two systems on the way aren’t big storms but they will impact the rivers. The first one will arrive Thursday evening and stick around through Friday morning. A half inch of widespread rain is predicted from Del Norte to Humboldt. The next round will hit Saturday morning and linger into Sunday. This system will impact Del Norte a little more, with up to an inch of rain predicted. In Humboldt, we should see about a half inch.”

Free fishing days this weekend in Oregon
It’s free to fish, crab or clam on the Saturday and Sunday of President’s Day Weekend, Feb. 13-14. 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 https://myodfw.com/articles/2021-free-fishing-days-and-events

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The Chetco was blown out for a week but fished very well for plunkers Thursday and Friday, and was fair for drift boaters over the weekend, according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “Flows hit 20,000 [cubic feet per second] from rain and melting snow at the beginning of last week, and dropped to 3,700 by Sunday evening. Big numbers of steelhead shot upriver as flows dropped. Plunkers using large Spin-N-Glos from the gravel bars at Ice Box, Loeb Park and Social Security Bar caught several dozen fish late in the week. Drift boaters encountered dirty water over the weekend but got into a few steelhead side-drifting. Scores were better for boaters that anchored and ran 3.5 MagLips. Prime conditions are expected this week, with another rise by the weekend.”

Manhattan Beach resident Pete O’Campo landed this chrome-bright steelhead on a recent trip to the Chetco River. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

Smith River
The Smith is low and clear and the general consensus is the fishing is tough, reports guide Mike Coopman. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of fish in the river right now,” said Coopman. “There were a few days ago but the seals have pushed them through. The fish that are here are spread throughout the river. The fish we’re seeing continue to be real nice ones, with plenty of fish in the teens.” The Smith is predicted for a small rise Friday, with a bigger one coming Saturday. Flows are predicted to peak at 11,700 cfs Saturday evening.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem is starting to turn green but it’s still pretty big. Flows were down to 4,500 cfs on Wednesday but it doesn’t look like it will be in prime shape by the time the next storm hits. Flows are predicted to bottom out Thursday evening at 4,000 cfs, then rise steadily Friday, putting it back at square one.

Eel River (South Fork)
The higher reaches of the South Fork were in perfect shape over the weekend. As of Tuesday, it’s fishable all the way to the forks. Boat pressure was low over the weekend and so were the scores. There were a few more caught Monday and Tuesday, including some downers. The river should fish through Thursday, then increased flows are predicted starting in the evening. It’s predicted to peak at 4,800 cfs Friday afternoon with the next rise predicted for Saturday evening. It will likely be off color through the weekend.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was running at 545 cfs as of Wednesday and has good color. It will be in fishable shape through Thursday, when it’s predicted to blow out again and remain high and off color through the weekend.

Mad River
The Mad was just starting drop into real fishable shape on Tuesday with flows right around 1,300 cfs. The river was still big but the color was looking good. The steelhead fishing remains tough but a few are being caught mainly near the hatchery. With more rain on the way, the green water will stick around through Thursday. Flows are predicted to keep the river high and off color 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

Green Rivers Headed Our Way

Dick Nettell, of Sacramento, landed a nice winter steelhead Friday while drifting the Smith River. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

After a solid week of rainy weather that turned all the coastal rivers big and brown, it looks like we’re headed toward a green water convergence. Some rain is in the forecast for Wednesday but after that we should begin to see some sunshine and dropping water levels. The Smith will be the first to clear and should be in great shape to drift by Friday. The Chetco will be right behind it and should fish by the weekend. The South Fork Eel will also come into play over the weekend, especially in the higher reaches. The main stem will probably need another week to clear, as will the Van Duzen. The Mad is predicted to be high and off color through the weekend, but should start to green up by midweek. By this time next week, all the rivers should be some shade of green and hopefully loaded with steelhead.

The weather ahead
Following an impressive week of rain, it looks like we’re moving toward a drier weather pattern. “Rain is predicted to fall overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday, but after that, it looks dry,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The models are showing dry conditions through mid-February. There is a chance for rain on the 9th and 10th, but it’s really uncertain at this time. The Climate Center is predicting below normal rainfall through Feb. 15.”

CDFW seeks input on 2021 sport Pacific Halibut season dates
California anglers who are interested in the recreational Pacific halibut fishery are invited to participate in an online survey to help inform the CDFW about angler preferences for open fishing dates during the upcoming 2021 season. Results of the survey, which is open until Feb. 17, will be used to develop recommended season dates that will be provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Pacific halibut fishery takes place off Northern California. The 2021 quota will be 39,000 net pounds, the same quota as in 2019 and 2020.The online survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/RJ6LNGH. For more information on the Pacific halibut fishery in California, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Pacific-Halibut.

CDFW Annual Salmon Information Meeting
CDFW’s Annual Salmon Information Meeting will be held Feb. 25 from 10: a.m. until 4 p.m. The meeting will provide the latest information on California salmon stocks and the outlook for ocean salmon fisheries for the upcoming 2021 season. The public is encouraged to provide comments on potential fishing alternatives for California ocean salmon fisheries in 2021. A panel comprised of fishery managers, scientists and industry representatives will be assembled to address questions and collect public input that will be used in developing a range of season alternatives for California salmon fisheries at the March 2-5 and 8-11 Pacific Fishery Management Council meetings. These meetings will be hosted as webinars only and the meeting links, agendas and other materials will be posted as they become available. Contact Ian Pritchard for more information at Ian.Pritchard@Wildlife.ca.gov.

Brookings ocean update
Ocean anglers out of Brookings will have their first nice ocean conditions of the year this weekend out of Brookings, reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Small swells and lighter winds are expected. Fishing may still be tough because of all the freshwater from the Chetco, Smith and Rogue Rivers hitting the saltwater. Bottom fishing is open year round in Oregon.”

The Rivers:
Smith River
The Smith has been blown out the past few days but should be plunkable by Wednesday, according to guide Mike Coopman. “It’s still going to be on the high side the next few days but we should be back to side-drifting on Friday,” said Coopman. “Prior to the latest rise, fishing hadn’t been that great. The top guides were getting a handful of hookups per trip. The fish we’ve been catching, however, are all nice ones. They’re averaging a solid 10 to 12 pounds.”

Chetco/Elk/Sixes/Rogue
The Chetco was fishing well before the latest storms, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “Lots of wild and hatchery fish were showing up on the lower river and most guides were getting at least a couple steelhead a day. The river is now high and muddy again, but could fish before the weekend.”

The Lower Rogue has been a bright spot for the whole Oregon Coast and is the only system producing consistent limits or near limits, according to Martin. “Even during Sunday’s sharp rise, steelhead were being caught,” said Martin. “It will be fishable before the end of the week. The Elk reached 7 feet on Monday and is high and muddy. The Sixes is over the bank.”

Eel and Van Duzen rivers
It looks like the break in the weather will finally get these systems down to fishable levels. The top of the South Fork should be fishable by the weekend. Flows are predicted to be roughly 1,400 cubic feet per second by Saturday. The main is still dirty and big, but it’s dropping quickly. The top of the main should fish sometime next week. The Van Duzen peaked Tuesday and is on the drop. Flows are predicted to remain above 1,000 cfs, which will keep it off color.

Mad River
The Mad peaked at 6,700 cfs Tuesday morning and was on the drop. According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, it’s predicted for a small bump in flows Thursday night. “It should be on a slow descent through the weekend, but will likely remain high and off color,” said Kelly. “It should be bait-fishable by mid next week.” The hatchery saw a big return of fish over the last few days, which is good news.

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