More rain on the way – and hopefully steelhead too

Winter steelhead season has yet to really take off here on the North Coast, but changes are on the horizon. We have a pretty decent storm headed our way that will put all of the coastal rivers on the rise. This is coming on the heels of the season’s biggest storms to date, which on Monday pushed the rivers to their highest levels of the young season. And more rain is on the way next week. Steady rain and pulse flows is just what we need to entice some steelhead from the salt. If the rains come as predicted, the Smith should remain in fishable shape. It’s predicted to hit just over 11-feet on the Jed Smith gauge on Friday. The Chetco will see a bump in flows as well, but it should remain fishable through the weekend as well.

The Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Mad will all see a rise in flows, and will likely be muddy next week. Once they recede to fishable levels, we should see the first wave of winter steelhead make their way into our coastal rivers. After another brief, or nonexistent late fall salmon season, seeing the rivers loaded with bright steelhead sure would be a welcome sight.

Weather ahead
“The North Coast can expect area-wide rain through Saturday,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “It looks like the heaviest rain will be Wednesday and Thursday. The rain will start to decrease on Friday – when the rivers will peak and begin to drop. Light rain is in the forecast for Saturday, then we’ll see the rain begin to taper off on Sunday. Monday is looking mostly dry. Another system is predicted for Tuesday, with rain in the forecast most of next week. Rainfall totals from Wednesday through next Tuesday in the Smith basin will be 3 to 4 inches. In the Mad basin, we could see 1.5 to 2.5 inches, with the potential for 3 inches in the mountains. One to 2 inches is predicted in the Eel basin,” said Zontos.

Mad River Steelhead Derby coming Jan. 1
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA.org) is producing an inaugural Mad River Steelhead Derby beginning Jan. 1 and running through Feb. 29, 2020. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered into this fishing contest. Anglers can sign up online at ncgasa.org or in person at RMI Outdoors and Bucksport Sporting Goods in Eureka. Entry fees are $30 for NCGASA non-associate members and $10 for current members. All entries include a yearly NCGASA membership and an additional prize raffle ticket. The largest hatchery steelhead entry will win $500, second place $300 and third place will receive $150. There will also be a youth division winner (16 years and under), who’ll receive $150 gift certificate from one of our sponsors. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler broodstock collection program. For more info. and derby rules, visit MadRiverSteelheadDerby on Facebook and Instagram or email madriversteelheaderby@gmail.com

Dungeness crab news

Northern Management Area
The northern California commercial Dungeness crab season has been delayed again due to poor quality. Results of the Dec. 3 quality test continue to show crab are below the minimum testing guidelines and are not yet ready for harvesting. This affects the entire northern commercial fishery in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties. The season is now scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2019. Additional testing will be scheduled to occur by Dec. 20 to determine whether the season can open on Dec. 31 or will be delayed once more until Jan. 15, 2020.

Domoic Acid Update
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) lifted a health advisory for recreational Dungeness crabs caught near Shelter Cove, Humboldt County south to Point Arena. CDPH lifted this advisory on Tuesday due to recent tests showing that the amount of domoic acid has declined to low or undetectable levels in Dungeness crabs caught in the area, indicating that they are safe to consume.

Central Management Area
On Nov. 22, the Central Management Area (Sonoma County and south) opener was delayed until Dec. 15 to avoid whale and sea turtle entanglements. At CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham’s request, the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group was convened on Dec. 4 to review new information and conduct an updated risk assessment. The Working Group provided a consensus recommendation to open the fishery as soon as possible, while providing the fishery sufficient notice prior to Dec. 15.  No minority recommendations were expressed. After considering the Working Group’s updated assessment, the Director is proceeding with the Dec. 15 opener. The Central Management Area will open at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15. This opening is preceded by an 18-hour gear setting period that will begin at 6:01 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14. For more information related to the risk assessment process or this delay, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Whale-Safe-Fisheries

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Salmon fishing has been slow on the Chetco since it opened last Saturday according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “I drifted from the South Fork on Tuesday, focusing on steelhead, and found a few half-pounders up high, said Martin. “Lots of salmon are spawning in the riffles. A few adult steelhead have been caught on the lower river, both by plunkers and drift boaters. A slide between Ice Box and Loeb will likely add lots of color to the river during the next few storms.”
According to Martin, the Elk is low, but the Sixes has been fishable, with decent catch rates for fall salmon. “Expect the Elk to rise with the latest series of storms this week. Both rivers will be the best bet for salmon this late in the season,” added Martin.

Cloverdale resident Scott Richardson landed a nice king salmon on Sunday while fishing the Smith River. The late-fall king salmon run is nearing the end on North Coast rivers, with the arrival of winter steelhead right around the corner. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

Smith
“Fishing is pretty slow right now on the Smith,” said Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “There’s still a few salmon on the lower end of the river, but I didn’t see much upriver on Wednesday. There hasn’t been much in the way of steelhead yet, but hopefully that will change with the next round of storms on the way. We’re predicted to get a decent rise for Friday, and more rain on the way for next week. This should open the door for the start of the steelhead run.”

Mad
The Mad was open to fishing as of Wednesday, but it could close Thursday morning if there isn’t sufficient rain to increase flows. There’s been a handful of nice steelhead caught, but no big numbers entering the river as of yet. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 200 cfs.

Main stem Eel
Flows are good on the main stem, but it’s still on the dirty side. The flows were just above 2,300 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday afternoon, but predicted to rise starting Thursday morning. The river is forecasted to peak Friday afternoon and will likely remain blown out for the weekend and into next week. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 350 cfs on the Scotia gauge.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork was open to fishing as of Wednesday, but could close on Thursday unless flows increase. It’s predicted to rise beginning Thursday morning and will probably be dirty through the weekend. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 340 cfs.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was open to fishing as of Wednesday, and should remain open until it starts to rise on Thursday morning. The river will likely be muddy through the weekend. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 150 cfs.

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

2019/2020 low flow information for North Coast rivers

Low Flow River Closures begin Oct. 1
North Coast rivers that are regulated by low flow closures, including the Eel River, Mad River, Mattole River, Redwood Creek, Smith River and Van Duzen River will begin angling restrictions on October 1st, except for the Mad River, which went into effect September 1st. The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public by a telephone recorded message updated, as necessary, no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any stream will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at anytime. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. NOTE: The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River will be closed until January 1, 2020

Areas subject to low flow closures:

Mad River: The main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to Cowan Creek. Minimum flow: 200 cfs at the gauging station at the Highway 299 bridge.

The main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road with the Eel River to the South Fork Eel River. Minimum flow: 350 cfs at the gauging station near Scotia.

The South Fork of the Eel River downstream from Rattlesnake Creek and the Middle Fork Eel River downstream from the Bar Creek. Minimum flow: 340 cfs at the gauging station at Miranda.

Van Duzen River: The main stem Van Duzen River from its junction with the Eel River to the end of Golden Gate Drive near Bridgeville (approximately 4,000 feet upstream of Little Golden Gate Bridge. Minimum flow: 150 cfs at the gauging station near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.

Mattole River: The main stem of the Mattole River from the mouth to Honeydew Creek. Minimum flow: 320 cfs at the gauging station at Petrolia.

Redwood Creek: The main stem of Redwood Creek from the mouth to its confluence with Bond Creek. Minimum flow: 300 cfs at the gauging station near the Highway 101 bridge.

Smith River: The main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its confluence with Patrick Creek; the South Fork Smith River from the mouth upstream approximately 1000 ft to the County Road (George Tyron) bridge and Craigs Creek to its confluence with Jones Creek; and the North Fork Smith River from the mouth to its confluence with Stony Creek. Minimum flow: 600 cfs at the Jedediah Smith State Park gauging station.

Steelhead up next for coastal rivers

With very little rain over the past two months, the end is near for the late, fall-run salmon season on our coastal rivers. The season, much like last year, has been somewhat of a disappointment to anglers. Only a couple smaller storms hit the coast and dropped enough rain to bring the Eel, Smith and Chetco up to levels where fish could pass somewhat safely. While the fishing window was very small or non-existent, that doesn’t necessarily mean the number of returning salmon was small. Even during the low water conditions, salmon were seen making their way upriver on all of our coastal streams. Typically, the season’s first big rains come in October, leaving us a good four to five-week window to fish. That hasn’t been the case the last few years as the salmon didn’t bother to wait for us, or the strong flows to get them to their end destinations.

On the other hand — with the calendar now saying it’s December — it’s winter steelhead time on the coast. All of the rivers have seen a few adults push in, with plenty more on the way. But don’t give up entirely on salmon just yet. The Smith, Chetco and the Eel should each see another spurt or two of fresh kings move in on the next substantial river rise, which just happens to be this weekend.

Weather ahead
Through the weekend, we can expect widespread rainfall along the North Coast according to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “This will be a much warmer system, so we can expect to see some snow melt as well, which will add to the river levels,” said Zontos “We should begin to see the rain early Friday morning, with the heaviest rain falling throughout the day. Showers are then predicted off and on through Sunday. In the Smith basin, we’re expecting two to three inches and up to four in the mountain areas. The Mad River area will see about the same. The Eel basin could see a little more rain, with three to four inches predicted through Sunday and some places could see five. Right now, Monday is looking dry, then we should see chances of rain daily through next Friday,” added Zontos.

Humboldt Bay crabbing

Sport Crabbing inside Humboldt Bay is improving according to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. He said, “I’ve heard that more crab are showing up, but they’re smaller. There’re also quite a few females around. The best spots have been between the Coast Guard station and the entrance. Squid and chicken seem to be the bait of choice,” Kelly added. Typically crabbing is best an hour and a half on both sides of the slack tide.

Re-adoption of emergency regulations to allow the take of Klamath/Trinity springers on the table
On Nov. 25, the CDFW requested that the Fish and Game Commission re-adopt the emergency regulations set to expire on December 24, 2019 that allowed the take of Klamath/Trinity river spring-run Chinook salmon. The Department and Commission staff are currently working towards a certificate of compliance rulemaking to permanently adopt the limited fishing opportunity. Upon the completion of the certificate of compliance rulemaking (anticipated June 2020), the permanent, non-emergency regulations would be effective in time for the season to open July 1, 2020. The emergency regs adopted in 2019 allowed limited fishing on both the Klamath and Trinity rivers beginning on July 1, with a bag limit reduced from two to one salmon. For more info, visit https://fgc.ca.gov/Regulations/2019-New-and-Proposed#kt_2084_2

River closures
The South Fork Eel, Mad and Redwood Creek were all closed to fishing as of Wednesday due to low flows. The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

Craig Nunley of Caldwell, Idaho, holds a chrome-bright king salmon caught Nov. 27 on the Smith River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The Smith has only been open to fishing a few days this fall due to low-flow closures. That should change this weekend as heavy rains are in the forecast. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

Smith
The first part of December is typically transition time for the Smith River. The majority of the salmon have moved upriver and we’re now waiting for the steelhead to show. Flowing at just under 700 cfs on Wednesday, the river has been closed to fishing since Tuesday. While it was open on Monday, some salmon were caught, but the majority were dark. The majority of the salmon have likely already entered the river on the few small rises we’ve had. It was definitely a short fishing window, with the river only open a handful of days. Now is typically when we see the steelhead start to show. We have a pretty big rise coming this weekend, so hopefully we’ll see the first wave of steelhead enter the river.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Heavy rain is expected the end of this week, which should finally get the fall salmon seasons going on the Southern Oregon coastal rivers reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “ODFW has indicated the Chetco could open by the weekend, although the river could be blown out by Saturday morning,” said Martin. “Fishing has been slow in the Chetco estuary. A few boaters are floating and dragging the Sixes between Edson Creek and the Grange and catching a few salmon. The Winchuck is open above Peavine Bridge, but there isn’t enough water to effectively fish. All the rivers are expected to have plenty of water by the weekend.”

Mad
Currently closed to fishing. Predicted to peak at nearly 2,000 cfs by Sunday morning.

Redwood Creek
Closed to fishing as of Wednesday. Predicted to hit 1,400 cfs by Sunday morning.

Eel
Main
The main Eel has been open to fishing for the past week, and reports have been hard to come by. Like most of the other rivers, the meat of the salmon run has likely entered the river and are making their way to the spawning grounds. The rain forecasted for the weekend should allow the salmon to reach some of the higher tributaries and we should see a few more spurts of fresh fish move in. The higher flows should also bring in the first big push of the winter steelhead. Predicted to peak at 17,800 cfs on Sunday afternoon.

South Fork
Running at 120 cfs as of Wednesday, it has remained closed to fishing. Should open with the weekend storms, predicted to peak at 4,800 cfs on Sunday morning.

Van Duzen
Open to fishing as of Wednesday and flowing at just under 180 cfs. It’s predicted to peak at 5,200 cfs early Sunday morning.

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

Wild steelhead harvest could end on the Chetco

A petition requesting a temporary rule change restricting harvest of wild winter steelhead in the Oregon Southwest Zone, which includes the Chetco River, was submitted on Nov. 4 by a group of Oregon fishing guides to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. If accepted, the emergency rule change would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. According to the petition, the proposed temporary regulation changes will provide angling opportunity while reducing direct harvest and increase spawning escapement of wild winter steelhead. Proposed measures are needed to protect winter steelhead fishing opportunity for future fisheries according to the petitioners. Due to low population forecasts and poor ocean conditions for the 2019-2020 season, ODFW implemented protective measures for wild fall Chinook salmon populations on the Oregon Coast that were based on actions developed through the 2015 Coastal Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plan and 2013 Rogue Fall Chinook Conservation Plan. It is expected that poor ocean conditions would similarly impact winter steelhead populations on the Oregon south coast, and fisheries closures around the region are going to result in angler effort shift to the remaining open fisheries. Other Southwest rivers that would be impacted by the restriction include the mainstem East Fork Coquille, Illinois, Elk, Pistol, Rogue, Sixes and Winchuck rivers along with Hunter and Euchre creeks.

According to Harvey Young, who’s leading the petition, amending the regulations management of steelhead fisheries will be consistent with wild steelhead angling regulations in the entire Southwest Zone as well as Oregon’s Willamette, Central, and Northeast Zones, and all but two rivers in the Northwest Zone (Salmon River and Big Elk Creek); as well as wild steelhead fishing regulations for every river in California, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia. “Since wild steelhead can be caught multiple times in the same season, or when they return in future seasons to spawn, releasing wild steelhead provides more angling opportunity by keeping wild steelhead in the system,” said Young. “Keeping wild steelhead in the river, rather than in the possession of the first angler that harvests it, will increase overall catch rates for anglers, and increase satisfaction with the fishery. In turn, this will encourage more steelhead anglers to participate in the fishery. This will also increase license sales.”

Tim Call of Eureka caught and released this native steelhead last January on the Chetco River. A petition to end the harvest of wild steelhead on some of Southern Oregon’s rivers, including the Chetco, has been submitted to the ODFW Commission. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

There’s plenty of opposition to the petition as well. Andy Martin, who runs Wild Rivers Fishing out of Brookings, will be at the commission meeting speaking about the petition. “Like many other anglers, I personally like to release wild steelhead,” said Martin. “But I am not about to say other fishermen should be forced to release them if there is no science to back it up. The ODFW opposed the previous petition to ban wild steelhead harvest because the runs in Southern Oregon are healthy. The Chetco has the highest spawning density of wild steelhead in the state. It can sustain limited wild harvest. Instead of forcing the biologists to change the rules, we should applaud them for successfully balancing harvest, spawner escapement and fishing opportunity. Habitat, ocean conditions and predation play a lot bigger role in steelhead populations than sport harvest. If the petitioners want to release wild steelhead, nobody is stopping them. If anglers want to keep a very limited number of wild fish, and the run is healthy enough to maintain itself, then they should be allowed to do so.” The current regulations for wild steelhead harvest allow for no more than one per day and three per year.

The ODFW Commission meeting will be held on Friday, December 6th 2019 in Salem beginning at 8:00 a.m. To view the agenda, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/19/12_Dec/index.asp

Weather ahead
Following Tuesday and Wednesday’s widespread rain, the next round of storms are set to arrive Friday evening according to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The next storm will focus more to the south,” said Zontos. “From Friday evening through Sunday evening, we could see one to two inches in the Eel basin and a half to one inch in the Smith basin. Another system is forecasted early next week, and again, more rain will fall in the Southern Humboldt/Mendocino areas. Through Tuesday evening, we could see anywhere from a half-inch to an inch and a quarter in the Eel basin,” added Zontos.

The Rivers:
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Smith, Redwood Creek and Mad were the only rivers open to fishing that are subjected to low flow closures. The Eel and Van Duzen remained closed. The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

Smith
After exceeded predicted flows, the Smith was the first North Coast river to open on Wednesday morning. Reportedly, there were plenty of fish being caught. As of mid-morning Wednesday, flows were right around 1,100 and starting to level off. It will likely stay open through Thursday, but may close before the weekend. More rain is on the way, and it could open back up early next week. For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=CREC1

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Most anglers have given up on the Chetco estuary for the season, as most of the salmon are now upriver, above the deadline reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “ODFW will make a decision on when the river will open after the storm is over. Right now, the biggest increase isn’t forecasted until the end of next week. ODFW did its final hatchery netting last week and found big schools of salmon at the Highway Hole to meet its broodstock collection goals. Most of the fish netted last week were released.

Heavy rain is falling near Port Orford, and could boost flows any time for the Elk and Sixes, which have been too low to float with a drift boat. Call Elk River Hatchery’s flow hotline at 541-332-0405. Flows on the Elk need to be around 3.5 feet to safely float. They were only 1.7 feet the beginning of this week.”

Mad
The Mad opened Wednesday morning as flows were right around 400 and rising. According to the low-flow hotline, it will close to fishing prior to Thursday unless increased flows warrant keeping it open. For river predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=ARCC1

Redwood Creek
Redwood Creek was hovering at 600 cfs late morning on Wednesday, and was open to fishing. Like the Mad, it is scheduled to close prior to Thursday according to the low-flow hotline. For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=ORIC1

Eel
Main
Flows were right around 300 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday morning, but it’s not likely to open. Following the weekend rain, it could open to fishing early next week. For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=SCOC1

South Fork
The Miranda area was around 140 cfs on Wednesday morning and still rising. Not predicted to open over the next couple days, but early next week could be a different story. For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=MRNC1

Van Duzen
Peaked at just under 90 cfs on Wednesday morning, and not predicted to rise again until Sunday. For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=BRGC1

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

Holiday rain could open rivers to fishing

Corey Allen, of McKinleyville, landed a nice late-fall king salmon last November on the Smith River. With rain in the forecast for next week, the Smith and Chetco Rivers could open to fishing over the Thanksgiving holiday. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest

If you see a family member duck out early on Thanksgiving Day, or fail to show up at all, you can bet it’s raining and the rivers are either open or on the verge. After suffering through an extremely dry November, it looks like our weather pattern is about to change. The ridge of high pressure that’s been parked off our coast is finally breaking down, and it looks like a wet weather pattern is on the horizon. According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, rain could start to fall as early as Sunday night and will stick around at least through Wednesday evening. “Right now, it looks like the heaviest rainfall amounts will be on Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Zontos. “From the period beginning Monday night and ending Wednesday evening, the Smith basin could see an inch up to an inch and three-quarters. Here locally, we can expect to see anywhere from a half-inch up to an inch and possibly more. The models for Thursday and Friday aren’t in agreement as of yet, so we could go either way on those two days,” added Zontos. Whether this rain event will be enough to open any of the rivers is anybody’s guess. The good news is the storm door looks like it’s starting to crack open, albeit slowly.

For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/index.php?type=ol&product=fcstPointsFcst. For the Smith to open, the gauging station at the Jed Smith State Park will need a minimum of 600 cfs. For the Eel to open up, a minimum of 350 cfs are needed at the gauging station at Scotia. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 707-822-3164.

Commercial crab season on the North Coast delayed
In a memo released on Nov. 15, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham delayed the Northern California commercial Dungeness crab season due to poor crab meat quality test results. The delayed area in the north includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties (Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9).

The northern Dungeness crab fishery is delayed until 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 pending another round of testing tentatively scheduled on or around Dec. 1. If these results indicate good quality and there is no area under an additional domoic acid delay, the fishery will open Monday, Dec. 16, and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin 8:01 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

Crab are evaluated to compare meat weight to total crab weight to determine whether they are ready for harvest under testing guidelines established by the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Committee in conjunction with tests done in Oregon and Washington. If results indicate poor crab quality, the CDFW director may delay the fishery under authority of Fish and Game Code, section 8276.2.

If the next round of quality testing continues to show low quality crab, Director Bonham has the authority to delay the season an additional 15 days, until Dec. 31. The season can be delayed no later than Jan. 15, which is what happened in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons. The first round of quality tests showed Eureka at 21.9, Trinidad 20.2, and Crescent City at 21.4 percent meat recovery. Pots were pulled on Nov. 3.

Nov. 29 and 30 free fish days in Oregon
ODFW is waiving all fishing licensing requirements on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to experience fishing with friends and family during the long holiday weekend. All fishing, crabbing and clamming in Oregon will be free for both Oregon residents and non-residents. No licenses, tags or endorsements are needed on those days, but all other fishing regulations apply. Visit https://myodfw.com/articles/2019-free-fishing-days-and-events for more info.

CDPH Lifts Warnings about Certain Shellfish from Humboldt County
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has lifted the shellfish safety notification related to sport-harvested mussels, whole scallops, and clams (other than razor clams) in Humboldt County. The safety notification was issued due to dangerous levels of naturally occurring domoic acid, also referred to as Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP), that can cause illness or death. Recent testing shows concentrations of domoic acid are now at safe or undetectable levels for bivalve shellfish other than razor clams.

The warnings against eating sport-harvested bivalve shellfish (including mussels, clams, and whole scallops) from Mendocino County and sport-harvested razor clams in Del Norte and Humboldt counties remain in effect, due to continued elevated levels of domoic acid. For more information, visit https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/SN19-014.aspx

The Rivers:
Smith
The Smith remains closed to fishing above Rowdy Creek, but there is enough water for fish to move into the river according to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. “The little bit of rain we had earlier in the week didn’t do much as far as opening the river, but fish are still moving in,” said Carson. “Some of the deeper holes on the lower river have quite a few salmon in them already. Once we get a good rise, those fish should be able to move into the spawning tributaries and hopefully we’ll see a bunch of fresh fish move in form the ocean.”

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“Salmon fishing has slowed in the Chetco estuary, and most of the fish have moved into the upper tidewater, which remains closed to fishing,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Heavy rain is expected next week, and ODFW could open the river above river mile 2.2 the first week of December. Seinings for the hatchery program revealed hundreds of kings have stacked up at Social Security Bar. A few salmon are being caught near the mouth of the Elk River, but fishing is slow. Expect a crowd on the Elk and Sixes after next week’s expected big rain.”

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

Late fall kings – and anglers – waiting on rain

The wait for rainfall has been nothing short of grueling for coastal salmon anglers chomping at the bit to drift the Smith, Chetco or Eel. Humboldt and Del Norte Counties have been bone dry since mid-October, when enough rain fell to put all the local rivers on the rise. Though the parched ground soaked up a lot of the moisture, the rivers came up enough to push the salmon out of the estuaries and into the lower sections of the rivers. Since then, we’ve had very little, if any, rain to speak of. The culprit to all this dry weather is the recurring high-pressure ridge that’s been parked over the West Coast. This ridge has been either blocking or weakening systems that are trying to move onshore and forcing storms to track far to our north, keeping them from sagging into the Northern end of the state as well as Southern Oregon.

Alfredo Mendoza of Hillsboro, Ore., holds a salmon caught Nov. 5 in the Chetco River estuary with guide Shane Brooks of Wild Rivers Fishing. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

But changes to our weather patterns may be afoot. Rain is in the forecast for Thursday and Friday, but it will be really light. “The next chance of rain will be Monday and Tuesday,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “This system won’t add up to much either, certainly not enough to raise any of the local river levels. We’re really keeping an eye on next weekend. The models are showing it could be wet, but there isn’t a lot of confidence there yet. It looks like as we get closer to the end of the month the ridge of high pressure will start breaking down, but we’re still looking at below normal rainfall for the next few weeks,” added Zontos.

Marine forecast
The weekend marine forecast looks a little rough for offshore crabbing. The forecast is calling for winds up to 10 knots out of the N on Saturday, with waves W 9 feet at 12 seconds. On Sunday, the wind will be coming out of the N 5 to 10 knots with waves N 4 feet at 6 seconds and W 7 feet at 15 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://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 (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Sport crab fishing going strong
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sportfishing is reporting the crabbing has improved out of Eureka. On a one-day soak, he’s been averaging anywhere from 15 to 20 keeper crabs per pot, up from 5 to 10 last week. “We’ve been fishing the south side, and from what I hear it’s been slightly better on the north side,” said Klassen. “We’ve been dropping our gear right around 100 feet, with most of the gear in between 60 and 120 feet.” The quality of crab is good and getting better. Reportedly the crab out of Eureka tested between 21 and 22 percent meat yield last week. Crabs need to be at 25 percent prior to commercial harvest.

Oregon commercial Dungeness crab season delayed
The opening of the commercial Dungeness crab season will be delayed from Dec. 1 until at least Dec. 16 along the entire Oregon coast as testing shows crabs are too low in meat yield according to press release issued on Wednesday by the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. The target opening of the ocean commercial Dungeness crab season in Oregon is Dec. 1, but can be delayed to ensure a high-quality product to consumers and avoid wastage of the resource. Crab quality testing in early November showed that none of the test areas met the meat yield criteria for a Dec. 1 opening. The delayed opening will allow crabs to fill with more meat. 

A second round of crab quality testing will occur in late November or early December, and the results will be used to determine if the season should open Dec. 16, be further delayed, or be split into areas with different opening dates.

Recreational harvest of Dungeness crab in the ocean off Oregon will open Dec. 1 as scheduled in all areas. Recreational crab harvesting is currently open coastwide in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties. For more information, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2019/11_Nov/111319.asp

Brookings
“Lingcod fishing busted wide-open out of Brookings last week and continues to be solid,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Many of the lings are being caught while targeting rockfish with shrimp flies and Farallon Feathers. They have moved into shallow water to stage before spawning. Big swells are expected this weekend.”

The Rivers:
River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth, the main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth.

The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

Klamath River creel season comes to a close
According to Dan Troxel, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River Project, just two-thirds of the lower river quota was reached, and just a little less for the sub-area quota below the 101 bridge. “As nearly all of the fish have moved out of the lower river, and spawning grounds surveys have begun, we are seeing a similar trend in the tributary rivers and creeks further up in the basin,” said Troxel “The fish are there, but seemingly only in middling numbers. The size of the fish has been a constant inquiry to us, a lot of “micro jacks” and presumably small adult fish. But we’ll have to wait until late January before we have the aging analysis done.”

Final quota numbers for the season from the Highway 96 bridge to the mouth: 2,494 adults harvested towards the quota of 3,819 (65.32 percent). The spit fishery harvested 736 adult kings below the 101 bridge towards the quota of 1,145. (64.26 percent)

Smith
Not much has changed on the Smith since last week, the river remains closed to fishing above Rowdy Creek due to low flows. According to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, there are a few being caught at the mouth and a few at the Sand Hole as well.

Chetco
With no rain in weeks, the Chetco estuary remains the best bet for salmon on the Southern Oregon Coast reports Martin. “Fishing is fair, with half a dozen to a dozen kings a day being caught by 10 to 15 boats. A few salmon also are being caught from shore at the mouth of the Elk River,” added Martin.

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

Quality start to the Dungeness crab season

Typically, the start of the sport crab season can go two ways. If the crabs are abundant, the meat content is usually on the lighter side. If there are fewer crabs around, they are typically heavier and in better shape. This is all due to their food source – lots of crabs equals less food for them to divide, fewer crabs usually means plenty of food to go around.

Six year-old Ridge Bermers of Eureka holds a jumbo Dungeness crab caught last Sunday off of Eureka. Ridge was crabbing with his dad Blaine and brother Ryker.
Photo courtesy of Chuck Petrusha

This year’s crab season is starting off as the latter. There are fewer crabs, but the quality is pretty good for this time of the year. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing fished the opener and reports the crabs are in good shape, and they’re big. “I’d say they’re right around 70 to 80 percent full,” said Klassen. “Almost all of the crabs are jumbos, we’re not seeing a lot of medium-sized crabs. Very few are not commercial grade.” As for some of the better locations, the north side outside of the Humboldt Bay entrance fished better than the south. “On the south side, we were getting four to eight keepers per pot on an overnight soak in 100 feet of water. On the north side, they were averaging around a dozen per pot,” added Klassen. Crabbing in Humboldt Bay was reportedly slow, but better than last year. Up in Trinidad, the kayaks and small boats plugged the bay with pots and rings and enjoyed lake-like conditions. The fishing reports were similar to everywhere else, not a ton of crab around, but the quality was good. A few experienced kayakers did manage to pull limits.

Reminder: CDFW strongly encourages anglers to follow the Best Fishing Practices Guide developed by the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. Voluntary actions anglers can employ include keeping the line between the pot and main buoy taught and vertical, reducing the amount of vertical line at the surface, avoiding setting gear in the vicinity of whales and turtles, and marking gear consistent with regulations. Best Fishing Practices Guide can be found here: http://www.opc.ca.gov/webmaster/_media_library/2019/11/2019-20_BPG_Final.pdf

Commercial Dungeness crab season delayed south of Mendocino/Sonoma
On Tuesday, the CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham issued a declaration delaying the Nov. 15 start date for the California Dungeness crab fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line after making a preliminary determination that there is a significant risk of marine life entanglement due to fishing gear.

The opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in that area (Districts 10, 17,18 and 19) will be delayed until Nov. 22. Pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 8283, traps may be set and baited 18 hours in advance of the opening date. A pre-soak period can commence at 6 a.m. on Nov. 21, 2019.

Before taking this action, the Director considered all recommendations and information provided within the public notice period that ended at 5 p.m. on Nov. 4 in advance of enacting this delay. The comments resulted in the Director shortening the delay from eight to seven days.

For more information related to the risk assessment process or this delay, please visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Whale-Safe-Fisheries. Commercial fishery participants should also be aware that additional delays are possible due to human health risks from domoic acid and should monitor the https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DFDCS/Pages/FDBPrograms/FoodSafetyProgram/DomoicAcid.aspx for the latest results.

For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Invertebrates/Crabs

All depths rock fishing
For the first time in nearly 20 years, North Coast saltwater anglers aren’t limited to depth restrictions while fishing for rockfish within the Northern Management Area. According to Klassen, this opens up new water and a new variety of fish options that we don’t normally get. “Chilipepper and Widow rockfish are a couple species that we don’t get to target with depth restrictions,” said Klassen. “We also see some really nice Canary and Yellowtail rockfish.”

Weekend weather and forecast
According to the National Weather Service, dry weather is in the forecast at least the next seven days. The ridge of high pressure sitting off the coast continues to push any threats of rain to our north. There is a slight chance of a change coming next weekend, but it’s not looking very reliable.

The weekend marine forecast looks decent for offshore crabbing, with very little wind in the forecast. The forecast is calling for winds up to 5 knots out of the N on Saturday, with waves NW 4 feet at 6 seconds. The wind will pick up slightly on Sunday, coming out of the N 5 to 10 knots with waves N 5 feet at 6 seconds and NW 4 feet at 14 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://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 (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Brookings
Lingcod are moving into shallow water to spawn close to Brookings reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Limits are being caught when weather conditions are calm,” said Martin “The weekend forecast looks good. Fishing for rockfish also is good, especially from Bird Island north.”

The Rivers:
River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth, the main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth.

The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

Smith

The Smith remains closed to fishing above Rowdy Creek due to low flows, and not much has changed since last week reports Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. He said, “Fishing is still really slow. There are a few being caught at the mouth and a few at the Sand Hole as well.”

Chetco
“Low flows in the Chetco have the bulk of the fall salmon run still holding in the estuary and in the ocean just off the mouth,” said Martin. “Fishing has been good, with a fish or better per rod for guides and many private boaters also catching fish. The estuary will continue to fish until a major rain storm arrives.”

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

Sport crab season slated to open Saturday

The uber-popular recreational Dungeness crab season is slated to open state-wide this Saturday, Nov. 2. The season’s first traps can legally be deployed at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning. Anglers will get their first peak into the health and weight of this season’s crop as the pre-season quality tests have not taken place or the results have yet to be made public. One thing we do know is the domoic acid levels shouldn’t be an issue. Tests conducted in Eureka, Trinidad, and Crescent City all came back clean.

Word on the street is there’s plenty of crab, but they aren’t as meaty as we’d like. A typical year will find the meat content at around 20 percent, with the theory being that crabs will add one percent of meat a week and reach the 25 percent mark for the commercial opener of Dec. 1. Meaty crabs or not, we’re just happy that the season is opening on time.

Submitted photo

The season runs from Saturday, Nov. 2 through July 30, 2020. The minimum size is five and three-quarter inches measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines) and the limit is 10. A valid California sport fishing license is required. For more information regarding recreational Dungeness crab fishing regulations and other crab species, visit http://www.eregulations.com/california/fishing/saltwater/invertebrate-regulations/

As of this writing, CDFW has not issued any information to the public regarding the upcoming sport season. We’re under the assumption here that it will open on time with no delays.

Below is a list of the state regulations that went into effect on Aug. 1 2016, regarding the crab fisheries and crab trap requirements. Dungeness crab size and bag limits are now uniform statewide.

1) Crab trap buoys must display the “GO ID” number of the operator of the trap.

2) Crab traps must contain at least one destruct device made from a single strand of untreated cotton twine size No. 120 or less that creates an unobstructed opening anywhere in the top or upper half of the trap that is at least 5 inches in diameter when this material corrodes or fails.

3) Crab traps must not be deployed or fished seven days prior to the opening of the Dungeness crab season.

4) Every crab trap must be outfitted with two rigid circular escape openings that are a minimum of 4.25 inches in diameter and located so that the lowest portion is at the most five (5) inches from the top of the trap. This is to allow small crabs to easily escape from the trap.

For a complete list of crab trap regulations, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=150181&inline

Crabbing locations
If you’re planning on heading offshore out of Eureka and leaving pots overnight, your best bet is to start setting gear in 100 to 150 feet of water. Historically, crabs tend to be in deeper water at the beginning of the season and will move in towards the beach later in the year. If you’re soaking for just a few hours and don’t have the equipment to go deep, dropping pots just outside the entrance in 50 feet is a good option.

If you don’t have means to head offshore, you can still find plenty of crab. One of the top spots to soak a few rings is Crab Park, located at the end of Cannibal Island Rd., in Loleta. There’s access to launch a kayak or canoe in the estuary of the Eel River. You can also launch your boat at Pedrazzini Park at the end of Cock Robin Island Rd., and make your way up the estuary towards the mouth of the Eel.

Humboldt Bay also has a few good locations to catch some crab. Out in front of the PG&E plant is a good spot as well as the flat off of the South Jetty parking lot. Another top location is either side of the channel leading into the South Bay. Up north, inside Trinidad Harbor is another popular spot among the locals. You can launch your small boat, kayak or canoe right off the beach and head out to Prisoner Rock, where the bottom is sandy and 40 to 50-ft deep. Launching here requires a relatively calm ocean, which looks to be the case this weekend.

Marine Forecast
Ocean conditions look good for Saturday’s crab opener, with no advisories posted as of Wednesday. Saturday’s forecast is calling for N winds to 5 knots with NW waves 3 feet at 7 seconds and NW 3 feet at 12 seconds. Sunday is looking a little rougher, with winds out of the NW to 5 knots and NW waves 4 feet at 5 seconds and NW 3 feet at 12 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://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 (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Weekend Tides – Humboldt Bay
• Sat., Nov. 2 (High: 5:08 a.m. and 3:50 p.m.) (Low: 10:02 a.m. and 10:59 p.m.)

Standard time begins at 2:00 a.m. Sunday
• Sun., Nov. 3 (High: 5:14 a.m. and 3:49 p.m.) (Low: 10:12 a.m. and 10:59 p.m.)

North Coast all-depth recreational fishing to begin Nov. 1
In a press release issued last Friday, the CDFW announced a new recreational fishing opportunity for groundfish north of Point Arena from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2019.

For two decades, recreational fishing for groundfish species in deep waters off the California coast has been completely off limits, driven by the need to protect certain stocks that have been overfished. This marks the first time anglers off the northern California coast will be allowed to fish for groundfish without needing to abide by fishing depth limit regulations.

The all-depth fishery will take place only in November and December 2019, and only north of Point Arena. The newly open areas will allow anglers to target groundfish species in the midwater column, such as widow and yellowtail rockfish, as well as species found on the bottom. There are no special gear requirements, though unless otherwise specified, regulations require anglers to use not more than two hooks and one line to target groundfish. All other season dates, bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply.

While the all-depth fishery has been proposed since 2017, encounters with yelloweye rockfish in 2017 and 2018 exceeded the federal limit. In-season regulatory action in those years was needed to restrict depth limits in most areas of the state and also prevented the all-depth fishery from occurring. Following the outcome of the most recent yelloweye stock assessment indicating the population is rebuilding much sooner than expected, the federal limit increased in 2019, allowing the all-depth fishery this year. For more information on all-depth fishing, visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2019/10/25/north-coast-all-depth-recreational-fishing-to-begin-nov-1/.

For more information regarding groundfish regulations, management and fish identification tools, please visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Groundfish

Weekend Weather forecast
Dry weather continues to dominate the North Coast, and it looks to be more of the same for the next seven days. “There aren’t any signs of rain through next week,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “But there is a possibility that we’ll begin to see a pattern change – possibly a wet one – beginning the week of Nov. 11.”

River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth, the main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth.

The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

Smith River
The Smith remains closed to fishing above Rowdy Creek due to low flows, and the fishing has been really slow below according to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. He said, “Very few salmon are being caught at the mouth, maybe one or two a day. There isn’t much happening at the Sand Hole either, it’s been slow all over.”

Chetco Estuary
“The Chetco estuary is fishing well, with lots of fish caught each day, especially at the beginning of the outgoing tide,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Bigger numbers of hatchery fish arrived last week. A few fish to 35 pounds have been caught, but most are 15 to 20 pounds. With this week’s extra high tides, some of the fish are moving above the fishing deadline into the upper tidewater. The estuary will continue to fish until rain arrives.” From Oct. 1 through December 31, the daily bag limit for salmon is two adult fish per day. No more than one adult wild Chinook salmon may be harvested per day as part of the daily bag limit and no more than two total from Oct. 1 through December 3. Anglers may harvest adult hatchery Chinook salmon until their daily bag limit has been met. The daily limit for jack salmon is five fish per day and does not count towards the adult daily limit. Once the adult daily limit is harvested, anglers cannot continue to fish for jacks.

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

Humboldt Bay continues to kickout CA halibut

If you thought the California halibut season was over, you might want to rethink that. While the swells are too big to get offshore, and the rivers are too low to fish, Humboldt Bay just keeps producing. According to Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing, who fished the bay a couple times last week, there’s plenty of fish around to make for a great day. “The fish aren’t in every spot like they were earlier in the year, so you may have to hunt around a little to find them,” said Klassen. “We’ve had some good success in the middle channel just above the bridge. The fishing should continue to be excellent as there’s still plenty of bait in the bay, which should keep the halibut close by.” According to Klassen, about the only thing that can slow the bite is the rain. Once the freshwater infiltrates the bay, both the halibut and the bait will likely head back to the ocean. The recreational fishery for California halibut is open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is three fish, with a minimum size limit of 22 inches total length.

Betty Chinn of Eureka, left, is all smiles after landing her first-ever California halibut in Humboldt Bay last Thursday. Also pictured is Capt. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. Photo courtesy of Paul Shanahan

No rain in sight
We’re looking at dry weather at least through early November according to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “A ridge of high pressure continues to sit off our coast, which is moving systems to the north. As of now, there isn’t any rain forecasted through the first week in November,” Zontos added.

Focus group study seeks participants
The NNC is recruiting participants for focus group studies as part of a research project with NOAA about the use of National Weather Service flood forecast and warning tools. Nurture Nature Center (NNC) is a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization with a focus on flood issues, and has been working with NWS to help improve its flood forecast products. The focus groups, one for Humboldt County residents and the other for water resource and emergency management professionals, will help inform product recommendations to improve the display and delivery of forecast information in the region and nationally. The meeting for water and emergency professionals will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Monday, November 4 at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center. The meeting for residents is Monday, November 4 at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Participants should live or work in the Humboldt County area and be at least 18 years of age. To participate, contact Rachel Hogan Carr at rhogan@nurturenature.org or 610-253-4432 for more information. You can also register online at www.focusonfloods.org 

Willow Creek weir counts
For the trapping week of Oct 15 through Oct. 21, 42 jacks were trapped at the weir. To date, 646 jacks have been trapped compared to 251 for the entire 2018 trapping season. This past week, 122 adult Chinook were trapped, bringing the season total to 819. In 2018, 1,341 total adult Chinook were trapped. Twenty-eight were Coho trapped last week, bringing the season total to 61. In 2018, 25 adult Coho were trapped. The steelhead numbers picked up this week as well compared to the previous week. A total of 240 adult steelhead were trapped. The previous week 13 were trapped. For the season, 649 have been counted compared to 510 for the entire 2018 season.

Pacific Halibut season coming to the end
The recreational Pacific Halibut season will come to a close next Thursday, Oct. 31. As of Wednesday, 17,852 net pounds have been harvested towards the 39,000-pound quota.

Shelter Cove
Rockfish remain the focus for the few still fishing out of the Cove according to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. He said, “Rock fishing was good around the Old Man the couple days I went. We’re starting to see some nice ling cod move in on the reef. I didn’t hear of any salmon caught this week and only heard of one boat trying.”

Brookings
Ocean fishing has been fair out of Brookings, but a big swell and northwest winds have limited the window to fish early in the morning reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “We ran trips Monday and got limits of rockfish and a few lingcod, but had to run up the coast to Mack Arch. 

The Rivers:
River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth, the main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth.

The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

Lower Klamath
A few fish are still being caught at the mouth, but the effort has dwindled. Same can be said for upriver where a total of four adult salmon were caught last week. Through Oct. 21, 2,473 adult kings have been harvested towards the quota of 3,819, leaving 1,346 left for harvest. The spit fishery still has plenty of fish to catch as well. Anglers have harvested 718 adult kings below the 101 bridge, leaving 427 left to catch. Anglers may keep track of the Klamath and Trinity river quotas by calling 800-564-6479.

Lynn Mimidas of Lancaster, Pa., and Kathie Jeffery of Emerson, N.J., hold a pair of king salmon caught Sunday on the Smith River with guide Rye Phillips They used 4.0 MagLip plugs. Submitted

Smith
Enough rain fell late last week to open the Smith River to fishing last Friday. Reportedly, fishing was slow on the lower river although a few fish were caught. Most of the fish landed were on the small side. The river closed on Tuesday morning, and with no rain in the forecast, it probably won’t open again until sometime in November.

Chetco
The Chetco estuary slowed with higher water, which is allowing salmon to move into the upper tidewater according to Martin “Fishing should improve as the river drops. Tides are ideal this week, with an incoming in the morning. A few salmon were caught early in the week on the Rogue Bay,” added Martin.

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

More rain on the way, Smith may open to fishing

If you’ve been waiting for your shot at some Smith River kings, you may get your wish this weekend. It seems likely there won’t be enough rain to open the Humboldt rivers that are currently closed due to low flows, but up in Crescent City, the Smith River could come into play. According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the Smith River basin could see up to two inches of rain at the coast and possibly three in the higher elevations. If that comes to fruition, the levels could jump substantially.

As of Wednesday, flows were predicted to push well over the minimum flow of 600 cfs at the Jed Smith gauge. After a small rise on Thursday, the river is forecasted to reach nearly 2,500 cfs by late Saturday night. On paper, it looks like the river could open sometime Saturday late morning and close again on Monday. Whether the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife chooses to open the river to fishing will likely be a game-time decision.

Here in Humboldt, rainfall totals will be much less. In the Mad and Eel basins, we could see anywhere from a quarter on the coast and up to an inch in the mountains. Not nearly enough to open the Mad or Eel rivers to fishing. For low flow closure information, call the hotline at 707-822-3164.

Weekend marine forecast
Gusty south winds and steep seas will build into Thursday and gradually diminish through the weekend. South winds are forecasted for Friday 5 to 10 knots with waves NW 13 feet at 13 seconds. Saturday forecast is calling for S winds 5 to 10 knots and waves NW 12 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking a little better, with SE winds up to 5 knots and NW waves 9 feet at 13 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://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 (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Local crabs being tested for domoic acid
The season’s first domoic acid crab survey was taken on Oct. 2 in Eureka and Trinidad. Six crab were tested in the Trinidad north region, and another six in the south region. Six crabs were also tested to the north and south of Eureka. Zero percent of the crab’s samples exceeded action levels. Crescent City’s tests were pending as of Wednesday. Results of future testing can be found here: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DFDCS/Pages/FDBPrograms/FoodSafetyProgram/DomoicAcid.aspx

Entire Oregon coast now open for razor clamming
In a press release issued last Friday, the Oregon Department of Agriculture has opened the Razor clam season for the entire Oregon coast. The elevated presence of domoic acid kept the coastal area between the south jetty of the Umpqua River and the Coquille River closed to shellfish harvesting, but recent samples revealed an amount below the closure limit. Now all areas of the Oregon coast are opening for razor clamming. For more information on shellfish safety, call the ODA hotline at 800-448-2427 or the agency’s food safety division at 503-986-4720. For more information, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2019/10_Oct/100419b.asp

Mussels off limits in Humboldt/Mendocino counties
In a press release issued on Tuesday, Oct. 15, The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is advising consumers not to eat sports-harvested mussels, clams, or whole scallops from Humboldt and Mendocino Counties due to dangerous levels of domoic acid. The naturally occurring toxin is also referred to as Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) and can cause illness or death in humans. This shellfish safety notification is in addition to the annual mussel quarantine. The annual quarantine applies to all species of mussels harvested along the California coast, as well as all bays and estuaries, and will continue through at least October 31. The warning against eating sport-harvested razor clams in Del Norte and Humboldt counties also remains in effect, due to continued elevated levels of domoic acid. You can get the most current information on shellfish advisories and quarantines by calling CDPH’s toll-free Shellfish Information Line at 800-553-4133. For additional information, visit: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DRSEM/Pages/EMB/Shellfish/Marine-Biotoxin-Monitoring-Program.aspx

Fishing vessel drill conductor training
The Alaska Marin Safety Education Association (AMSEA) will be conducting hands-on survival skills on Oct. 28 and 29 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Woodley Island Marina in Eureka. The training will include: Cold-water survival skills, EPIRBs, signal flares and mayday calls, man overboard recovery, firefighting and more. Fees are $95 to commercial fisherman, $195 to all others. Training meets the U.S. Coast Guard requirements for drill conductors on commercial fishing vessels, 46 CFR 28.270(c). Register online at www.amsea.org or call 907-747-3287.

Klamath River quota update
According to Dan Troxel, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River Project, we’re just about two-thirds through the lower river quota, with angler effort dwindling. Through Oct. 14, 2,463 adult kings have been harvested towards the quota of 3,819, leaving 1,356 left for harvest. The spit fishery still has plenty of fish to catch as well. Anglers have harvested 711 adult kings below the 101 bridge, leaving 434 left to catch. Once this quota is met, only the spit area will close to fishing. Fishing will remain open upriver of the spit until the 3,819 quota is met. Once the lower river quota is wrapped up, anglers may still retain a limit of Chinook salmon under 22 inches in length. Anglers may keep track of the Klamath and Trinity river quotas by calling 800-564-6479.

Trinity flows dropping
Flows coming out of Lewiston Dam were reduced beginning Monday, Oct. 14, going from 450 cfs down to 300 cfs by Wednesday, Oct. 16.

The Oceans:
Eureka
This week’s calm conditions allowed what’s left of the ocean fleet to get back on the water. According to Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing, the rock fish at the Cape are still biting and there were a few Pacific halibut caught over the weekend. “There’s a real good variety of rockfish coming out of the Cape right now, and they’re a good grade as well,” said Klassen. “The ling cod bite has been a little tougher, but most days we’re getting at least one per angler. The Pacific halibut bite has been a little up and down. One day we boated limits for five and the next day we only landed one. Most of the action has been a little north on the 50-line in 250 to 350 feet of water.” As of Oct. 13, 17,852 net pounds have been harvested towards the 39,000-pound quota.

Shelter Cove
Rockfish has been the choice for the few boats fishing out of the Cove this week. According to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing, it’s still worth the effort. He said, “We fished up at Gorda three days and one down at the Hat this past week. Rock fishing was great up north, but the lingcod bite was tough, although we did get limits. There seems to be a lot more ling cod around the Hat, but the quality of snappers down there isn’t as great as up north. There were a few pacific halibut caught over the weekend as well. A couple were caught outside of the Old Man and a handful were caught at Gorda. A couple salmon were also caught this week near the whistle.”

Brookings
“The ocean has fished very well for rockfish and lingcod in recent days, but swells to 15 feet will keep boats at the docks through the weekend,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters.

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath
Fishing on the lower Klamath has slowed considerably. A few kings are still around, and some more steelhead showed up. There’s also some Coho that are starting to show. Boat pressure has been light as most guides have moved on.

Smith River
A few salmon were caught at the mouth on Tuesday evening according to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. He said, “So far, that’s the most fish I’ve seen caught, with most of them coming on Cleo’s. Not many fish have made it up to the Sand Hole yet.”

Glen Green of Montana and Janae and Chris Nelson of Denio, Nev., and deckhand Shane Brooks hold salmon caught Oct. 5 at the mouth of the Chetco River while fishing with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The Chetco, along with the Smith, should see a push of fresh salmon with the rise in flows. Photo courtesy of Andy Martin

Chetco Estuary
The Chetco estuary fished well over the weekend before the action slowed Monday and Tuesday according to Martin. “Big swells and strong southerly winds likely will make it tough to fish the rest of the week. With dry weather expected to return next week, the estuary could heat up again, although a portion of the run will shoot upriver with increased flows from this week’s rain,” Martin added.

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