Green Water Awaits Weekend Steelhead Anglers

Sisters, Oregon, resident Taylor Robertson landed this beautiful winter steelhead Jan. 21 on the Smith River. Photo courtesy of Josh Smith Guide Service

If you’re in search of your first winter steelhead of the season, you’ll want to be on a river this weekend. The lack of rainfall for the past two weeks, both a blessing and a curse, has allowed most rivers to drop and turn the shade of green that keeps steelhead anglers awake at night. Another reason to make this weekend count is these ideal conditions could be short-lived. Rain is predicted to return early next week and signs are pointing toward above normal rainfall for the next eight to 14 days.

As for the weekend options, most of the rivers from the Chetco to the South Fork Eel will be in some type of fishable shape. The Chetco and Smith are starting to clear and will need a shot of rain. Here in Humboldt, the Mad should be rounding into shape by the weekend for bank anglers and possibly boats. The main stem Eel is still too high, but it has started to turn. It will need another week of dry weather before it’s fishable. The South Fork Eel and Van Duzen rivers will be in pristine shape by the weekend and will likely draw a crowd. If it’s steelhead you’re after, you’ll want to take advantage of the river conditions this weekend.

Weather outlook
According to Scott Carroll of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we’ll remain dry through the weekend but could start to see some changes next week. “There is some rain in the forecast for Del Norte County and northern Humboldt for early next week,” said Carroll. “At this point, it looks fairly light. This should be the beginning of a pattern change that will bring cooler temperatures and a potential wet pattern. Both the six-to-10 and eight-to-14-day outlook are calling for better chances of above normal precipitation.”

The Rivers:
All North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures including the Mad, Smith, main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen were open to fishing. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 at any time. The low-flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/

Mad
The Mad is still a little pushy and off color as of Thursday, but it’s predicted to be down to 800 cfs by the weekend and should be starting to turn green. Despite the color, some fish are being caught.

Main stem Eel
The main stem is still big, but starting to turn green as of Thursday, flowing at 10,200 cfs and dropping quickly. With rain potentially in the forecast next week, it probably won’t drop into fishable shape. Flows are predicted to be around 6,800 cfs by Monday morning.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork is green, but still a little pushy. Flows on Thursday at Miranda were 2,400 cfs, which is a little high. It will start to fish best once it dips below 2,000 cfs.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was near 700 cfs as of last Thursday and fishable. It should be in great shape by the weekend. Flows are predicted to be just above 425 cfs by Monday morning.

Smith River
The Smith gave up some nice fish late last week and weekend as conditions were excellent. It’s now getting low and clearing, sitting at just below 8 feet at the Jed Smith gauge as of Thursday. There are fish to be had, but you’ll need to be stealthy with these conditions. Predicted to be 7.6 feet by Saturday morning.

Chetco

Despite near-perfect water conditions, steelhead fishing was slow over the weekend on the Chetco, with just a one-fish average for most boats, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Catch rates improved Monday as dropping flows and fresh fish arriving on the tides have boosted the action,” said Martin. “A mix of wild and hatchery fish are being caught. No rain in the forecast should keep flows near ideal for the next week, but low, clear water could challenge anglers by the weekend.”

Guide Mike Stratman of Redwood Coast Fishing holds a dandy steelhead landed by one of his clients last Monday on the Chetco River. Photo courtesy of Redwood Coast Fishing

Rogue/Elk
A few steelhead are being caught in the Lower Rogue and the Elk rivers, according to Martin. “Action is fair at best. The Sixes and Coquille will come into play this week.”

Brookings ocean update
According to Martin, fairly calm ocean conditions are expected this weekend as wind and swells subside. “Oregon waters are open year-round to lingcod and rockfish. Sport crabbing has reopened out of Brookings.”

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 fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

2022/2023 low flow information for North Coast rivers

Low Flow River Closures begin Sept. 1 and run through April 30, 2023
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 September 1st, and run through April 30th 2023. 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. Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once minimum flows are reached. 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, 2022.

Section of river that is open to fishing is the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth.

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 Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2023.

The main stem Eel River: New in 2022, a low-flow angling restriction was added to the section of the Eel River from the mouth to Fulmor Road at its paved junction with the south bank of the Eel River, Sept. 1 through April 30. The stream flow will be monitored as follows: Minimum Flow: 350 cubic feet per second at the gauging station near Scotia.

The South Fork of the Eel River: 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.

Much-Improved Conditions Ahead for Steelhead Anglers

Folsom resident Tony Davidson landed a nice winter steelhead last week while fishing the Smith River. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

There is light at the end of the tunnel, finally. After watching high, brown water flow down our local rivers for nearly a month, green water is finally within reach. Following the rain that fell Wednesday, we’re looking a stretch of dry weather that could last for 10 days, or more. And that means one thing – emerald green steelhead water. The Smith has been green for a while, and has been fishing off and on for a week. Conditions should finally stabilize and we should see the catch rates improve. The Chetco hasn’t been driftable in weeks, but that should change by the weekend. Plunkers have been catching a decent number of steelhead, and now it’s the boats turn. The South Fork Eel will be next in line and should be fishable by sometime mid next week. The Mad and Van Duzen rivers will likely round into shape by late next week. The main stem of the Eel River will be the last to turn green. It won’t likely fish until the last week of January. If you’re looking to try and catch a winter steelhead, you’ll have plenty of options coming soon.

The Rivers
Mad
The Mad is still high and off color, running at 10.9 feet as of Thursday. With no rain in the forecast for the next 10 days, it should continue to drop. It could be at a fishable height and color by late next week. Despite the conditions, a few fish are being caught. The river fishes best between 7 and 8 feet.

Main stem Eel
The main stem is dropping fairly quickly. After topping 111,000 cfs Sunday at Scotia, flows were down to 26,000 cfs by Thursday. It’s predicted to be below 13,000 cfs by Monday, but will need close to another couple weeks of dry weather before it’s green.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork in the Leggett area has started to turn green as of Tuesday. The Benbow area and below remain off color, but that should change soon. Flows are predicted to be near 2,000 cfs by Tuesday. It should start to fish by mid next week.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was running at 1,500 cfs Wednesday afternoon, but shot back up to 2,240 cfs by the evening. From there, it will be on the drop for at least the next 10 days. Predicted to be below 600 cfs by Tuesday. Could drop into fishable shape late next week.

Smith River
The Smith dipped below 11 feet (7,500 cfs) on the Jed Smith gauge Thursday and is predicted to drop through the weekend. With no rain on the horizon, it will be in great shape this weekend before conditions get tougher next week. Just a handful of boats were out the last few days and scores ranged from zero to two per boat. Boat pressure should lighten up by the weekend as boats will be headed to the Chetco.

Chetco/Rogue/Elk

After weeks of high water, the Chetco is finally dropping into shape, with prime conditions expected this weekend reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing “Plunkers have been catching steelhead, and good fishing is generally the norm in mid-January,” said Martin. “Hatchery fish will likely be stacked up in the lower river, while wild fish will be spread throughout the system. Flowers crested at 22,000 cfs and will be below 4,000 cfs by Saturday evening. Boats anchoring with plugs have been catching steelhead on the lower Rogue. Prime flows are expected by the weekend. Most guides use 3.5 MagLips. The Elk also will be in prime shape this weekend. 

Brookings ocean update
According to Martin, ocean anglers will get a rare January window to fish on Friday, with small swells and light winds expected out of Brookings. “Larger swells return for the weekend. Lingcod and rockfish is open year round in Oregon.”

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

Steelhead Fishing on Hold as Storms Keep Coming

Crescent City resident Sebastian Holmes landed a nice Smith River winter steelhead last week while fishing with guide Tyler Gillespie. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

Relentless storms, one after the other, have steelhead anglers sitting idly by. And that’s about all there is to do at the moment, and in the near future. The only chance to throw a line into anything resembling green water has been on the Smith River. And even that has been hit and miss. Flows finally receded enough Tuesday and Wednesday, providing drift boats with one of the handful of days of prime conditions. Come Wednesday, the river will be back on the rise and likely too big to drift by Thursday. It will remain green, so it will likely be a plunking show through the weekend. As for the local rivers, all I can say is patience.

Weather outlook
According to Jonathan Garner of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, a series of storms systems are on tap for the next seven days. “We’ll see a break Tuesday night but another front is approaching Wednesday that is a little more uncertain,” said Garner. “In the Smith basin, between Tuesday and Sunday, 5 inches of rain are predicted. Here locally, we could see up to 5 inches around Humboldt Bay, with 6 to 8 inches likely in the higher elevations. In the Eel basin, we’re looking at another 5 to 7 inches through Sunday. The next seven days look to be wet, but the 10-day outlook is potentially showing a dryer pattern.”

CDFW lifts trap restrictions in the commercial and sport Dungeness crab fisheries
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will lift the Dungeness crab trap prohibition in Fishing Zones 3-6 (all areas south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line) for the recreational fishery on Jan. 14, 2023 at 8:01 a.m. CDFW will lift the 50 percent commercial fishery trap reduction in Fishing Zones 3-6 on Jan. 15, 2023 at 8:01 a.m. The current 50 percent trap reduction for the commercial fishery and trap prohibition in the recreational fishery will remain in place until lifted on the respective dates.

Based on available data and as indicated by historical migration patterns, humpback whale abundance is at or near a seasonal low within the Dungeness crab fishing grounds. As a result, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham is lifting the trap restrictions in Fishing Zones 3-6 for both fisheries because of lowered entanglement risk. However, a Fleet Advisory will be issued for the recreational fishery and will be continued for the commercial fishery to remain vigilant and avoid setting gear in areas where whales are transiting or foraging. All anglers are also strongly encouraged to follow best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide. CDFW anticipates the next risk assessment will take place in mid-February 2023.

The Rivers:
All North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures including the Mad, Smith, main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen were open to fishing. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 at any time. The low-flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/.

Mad
The Mad receded to 8,000 cubic feet per second Wednesday, but with additional rain this week, the drop will be short-lived. Flows are predicted to rise throughout the week and top out at just about a half a foot above monitor stage at 13,700 cfs (15.5 feet) Sunday morning. It will need a couple weeks of dry weather to be fishable, especially with Ruth Lake full and spilling.

Main stem Eel
The main Eel remains extremely high and muddy as flows were over 90,000 cfs as of Thursday. Additional rain in the coming days will push flows to nearly 124,000 cfs by early Sunday morning. Fernbridge is predicted to remain at or above monitor stage through the weekend.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork was flowing at 15,500 cfs as of Thursday, but flows will be headed back up and down over the next few days. Flows are predicted to peak at 33,000 cfs Saturday evening before receding into Sunday. If and when the rain subsides for a few days, the South Fork would be one of the first coastal rivers to come into play. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case anytime soon.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was down to 7,000 cfs Thursday, but is forecast to be up and down the next few days before peaking at 12,500 cfs Saturday. Expected to drop through Sunday, but will remain high and off color.

Smith
Tuesday and Wednesday provided the best conditions to drift the Smith as flows dropped below 12 feet on the Jed Smith gauge. These conditions will likely be short-lived as more rain during the week will keep flows above 13 feet beginning Thursday and through Monday. The river will likely continue to hold its green color and plunking will be the best option through the weekend. Steelhead fishing has yet to take off as just a handful of fish have been caught this past week.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“Plunkers are catching a mix of hatchery and wild steelhead on the Chetco as flows drop, but drift boaters are waiting for the river to drop below 4,000 cfs,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “That won’t happen any time soon, as another storm is expected by the weekend. Driving to the Elk or Sixes also isn’t an option, as U.S. Highway 101 is closed because of a major slide between Gold Beach and Port Orford. Road officials have estimated one lane could be open by Friday.”

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 fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Smith River Only Option for Green Water

Bill Maple, of Sonoma, holds a nice winter steelhead caught while drifting the Smith River Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Andy Martin/Wild Rivers Fishing

As the rain continues to fall along the already saturated North Coast, the number of fishable rivers has dwindled to one. And if you’re from here or spent any time here, it comes as no surprise it’s the Smith. While all the other coastal rivers are raging and muddy, the Smith has remained emerald green since blowing out briefly last Saturday. For now, and in the immediate future, it will be the only option if you’re looking for steelhead-green water. To date, the fishing has started out slow. Only a handful of adult winter steelhead have been caught this past week but look for that to change very soon.

Weather ahead
The next major storm system is slated to begin Wednesday into Thursday with heavy rainfall, flooding and high winds. “The storm door is definitely wide open and we’re in the midst of an active weather pattern,” said Josh Wood of Eureka’s National Weather Service office. “Starting Wednesday, the Smith basin will see up to two inches through Thursday, with lighter rain Friday. Higher totals are predicted for the mountains. Another stronger system is lining up for Saturday afternoon into Sunday. In the Humboldt area, we’ll see somewhere around two to four inches between Wednesday and Friday with up to six inches in the higher elevations. A stronger system coming in Saturday afternoon has the potential to bring quite a bit of rain and increased river levels Sunday and into next week.”

The Rivers:
All North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures including the Mad, Smith, main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen were open to fishing. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 at any time. The low-flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/.

Mad
The Mad is still off color, but flows were down to 3,000 cubic feet per second (10.5 feet) Wednesday morning. Another big rise is predicted for Thursday with flows once again nearing monitor stage at 15 feet Sunday morning following heavy rain Saturday. With more rain coming next week, it won’t be fishable any time soon.

Main stem Eel
The main Eel was down to 14,000 cfs Wednesday, but the few inches of rain coming Wednesday will push flows back to over 100,000 cfs at Scotia by Friday morning. Fernbridge is again forecast to surpass monitor stage (14 feet) by Thursday evening, topping out at 17 feet. Additional rain Saturday will push it above flood stage by Sunday afternoon.

South Fork Eel
Once the rain subsides for a few days, the South Fork would be one of the first coastal rivers to come into play. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case anytime soon. Following a good soaking Wednesday, flows are forecast to reach 17,500 cfs Thursday afternoon on the Miranda gauge. Another wet system arrives Saturday that will likely push flows over 45,000 cfs. The Miranda area will start to fish once flows reach 2,000 cfs, which looks to be a way away.

Van Duzen
After peaking at over 18,000 cfs Friday night, flows were down to 1,075 cfs Wednesday morning. Wednesday’s rain is forecast to push flows back up to 18,000 cfs Thursday morning. After a brief reprieve Friday, flows will be back on the way up Saturday. It will need a solid week of dry weather before it’s close to fishable.

Smith
Boats were back to drifting the Smith Monday following a pretty big rise late last week. Conditions were just about perfect Tuesday and Wednesday, but that will likely change. The next rise is forecast to begin Thursday morning, but only peaking at 13.6 feet at the Jed Smith gauge. There is another system predicted to hit the Smith area Saturday afternoon that has the potential to be a much stronger system. As for fishing, it’s been a little slow. Just a handful of boats were out Monday and Tuesday and only a couple adults were landed.

Chetco
The Chetco reached 27,000 cfs last week, and was down below 4,500 cfs late Monday, putting it in shape for drift boats reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “A few steelhead were caught over the weekend and on Monday by plunkers,” said Martin. “Another rise is expected Thursday, but the river should remain fishable for anglers anchoring with plugs or casting Spin-N-Glos from shore. Side-drifting is best when flows are below 4,000 cfs.”

Elk/Sixes
According to Martin, a few steelhead were caught Monday on the Elk River, while the Sixes remained blown out. “More high water is expected this week. The best steelhead fishing usually takes places in February and early March on the Elk and Sixes.”

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 fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

Rivers Flush with Water, Soon to be Steelhead

Don Williams, of Brookings, holds a hatchery steelhead caught a few days before Christmas on the Chetco River. The Chetco has been the best bet for winter steelhead this season. Photo courtesy of Brookings Fishing Charters.

The transition to steelhead season is taking a bit longer than anticipated. So far, though it’s still early, steelhead fishing has been slow on popular rivers like the Smith, Mad and Eel. But that should change soon. Following a good amount of rain overnight Monday, the rivers Tuesday finally got the flushing they needed. Once the rivers drop down to fishable heights and color, we should see the first big wave of winter steelhead. The Smith will be the first to round into shape, but that may be a few days away. It’s predicted to be in the 12- to 15-foot range through the weekend, but should be in great shape by the start of next week. The Chetco could be high and off color all next week if the rain continues as predicted. The rest of the coastal rivers, well, it’s going to be a while.

Weather ahead
The North Coast can expect continued wet weather, with on and off rain through next week, according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service office. “We’re not expecting any major storms or atmospheric rivers, but we’ll continue to see plenty of rain,” said Aylward. “We’ll see most of the rivers recede the next few days, but they’ll come right back up. Especially the more southern rivers, like the Eel. Beginning Tuesday morning through next Monday, the higher elevations in the Smith basin could see over eight inches of rain. Five to six is predicted for the lower elevations. In the Eel basin, up to seven inches could fall in the mountains and five to seven may fall in the lower reaches through Monday morning. The whole region will see similar rainfall totals but will fall at different times. Next week is looking wet as well, with multiple storms landing throughout the week.”

2023 fishing license
A reminder that it’s the time of the year to purchase your 2023 sport fishing license, which is required for residents 16 years of age or older to take fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, amphibians or reptiles in inland or ocean waters. The cost of a new resident sport fishing license is $58.58. A North Coast salmon report card, which will run you $8.13, is required for all anglers taking salmon in the Smith River System or Klamath-Trinity River System. If you plan to fish for steelhead, you’ll need to purchase a steelhead report card, which will cost $9.21 this year.
NEW in 2023: California anglers will be able to purchase a 2023 fishing license that will take effect Jan. 1 and last the entire year. All licenses purchased on or after Jan. 1 will be effective from the date of purchase for a continuous 365 days. To purchase a fishing license, visit ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales. At checkout there is an additional option to enroll in auto-renewal for fishing licenses, which allows anglers to automatically purchase and receive their new license when their current one expires. For more info, visit wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing.

Reduced-fee sport fishing licenses available
Reduced-cost fishing licenses are available in 2023 for $9.46 at CDFW offices (instead of $58.58) for disabled military veterans and recovering service members. For those 65 or older on reduced income, licenses are available for $9.01. For more information on all CA fishing licenses, visit wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing#44521417-free–reduced-fee

Rockfish season to close Dec. 31, changes coming in 2023
The 2022 rockfish season in the Northern Management area, which runs from 40°10′ N. latitude (near Cape Mendocino) to the Oregon-California border, will close for boat-based anglers on Saturday, Dec. 31. Rockfish is open year-round for divers and shore-based anglers. Many changes to the recreational boat-based rockfish season will be implemented in 2023. In the Northern Management area, the season will open May 15 and run through Oct. 15, open at all depths. The RCG bag limit will remain at 10 fish in combination of rockfish, cabezon and greenlings, with sub-bag limits of not more than four vermilion, one copper and one quillback rockfish. Take and possession of cowcod, yelloweye and bronze spotted rockfish will remain prohibited.

The Rivers:
All North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures including the Mad, Smith, main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen were open to fishing. As a reminder, the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream, the main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River are all closed until Jan. 1, 2023. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 at any time. The low-flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/.

Mad
The Mad is high, muddy and still dropping as of Thursday afternoon as flows were down to 3,500 cubic feet per second (9.5 ft.). The best is yet to come as its forecast to surpass monitor stage (15 ft.) by Friday evening and peaking at over 17 feet Saturday afternoon. With more rain in the forecast this week, it won’t be green any time soon.

Main stem Eel
The main Eel hit 78,650 cfs overnight Tuesday but was on the drop Wednesday and Thursday. It’s predicted to reach 150,000 cfs early Sunday morning and then will start to recede. Flooding is predicted at Fernbridge where the river is expected to peak at over 20 feet Saturday evening. Won’t be fishable any time soon, especially with more rain next week.

South Fork Eel
Flows on the South Fork were dropping Wednesday afternoon after peaking at over 19,000 cfs. It dropped all the way down to 2,700 cfs Thursday afternoon, but the next big rise is predicted to push it back to over 29,000 cfs early Saturday morning. Will need a few days of dry weather before the upper reaches turn green.

Van Duzen
Peaked at over 13,000 cfs Tuesday and dropped all the way to 2,000 cfs by Thursday. Forecast to rise again starting Thursday afternoon, peaking at over 17,000 cfs Friday night. With more rain in the forecast next week, it will be a while before it’s fishable.

Smith
The quick-clearing Smith will provide steelhead anglers the first and best option once the rains subside. It peaked at nearly 54,000 cfs (22.13 ft.) on the Jed Smith gauge Tuesday morning. The lower river peaked at just above monitor stage at Dr. Fine Bridge at 27.12 feet. Continued but lighter rain will keep the river between 11 and 15 feet through early next week. It could be a little too high to drift safely but should be plunkable. Depending on how much rain we get next week, conditions could be excellent by mid-week.

Chetco
Steelhead were being caught by plunkers over the Christmas weekend on the Chetco, before the river turned muddy late Monday afternoon, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “High flows will sideline plunkers for a few days, and drift boaters into next week. Expect good fishing when the river drops back into shape. Flows could reach 40,000 cfs, which will put the river out for at least five days. A few late salmon were caught last week.”

Elk/Sixes
According to Martin, salmon fishing closes Dec. 31 on the Sixes, although most of the run has already spawned. A few steelhead have shown up already on the Elk and Sixes. The Elk should fish by the middle of next week.

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 fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Harvesting Chetco Winter Steelhead Will Come at a Price

Eric Howard holds a winter steelhead he caught and released Dec. 19 while fishing with guide Michael McGahan on the Chetco River. Photo courtesy of Brookings Fishing Charters

If you plan on harvesting a winter steelhead from the Chetco River in 2023, it’s gonna cost you some money. Starting Jan. 1, 2023, all winter steelhead anglers in the Rogue Basin and on the south coast (which includes the Chetco) will need a new harvest tag to keep wild winter steelhead in this area. In addition, anglers will need a Rogue-South Coast Steelhead Validation.

To fish for steelhead in the Rogue/So. Coast, all anglers will need:

  • Annual angling license (12 years and older) and combined angling tag
  • OR Daily or multi-day angling license with valid ODFW ID number.

Purchasing daily or multi-day licenses through “guest checkout” doesn’t include the ID number (a full account is required to purchase a validation). Pre-paid daily licenses do not qualify to purchase a validation.

  • AND 2. Rogue-South Coast Steelhead Validation.

To KEEP wild winter steelhead, anglers (regardless of age) will need:

  • All the above

And Rogue-South Coast Wild Steelhead Harvest Tag:

Wild steelhead kept are recorded here, not the statewide combined angling tag.

Not needed for catch-and-release or keeping hatchery steelhead only.

Bag limit: 1 wild steelhead/day, 3 per season (Dec. 1 – Apr. 30).

Check the sport fishing regulations or myodfw.com to know where and when wild steelhead may be kept. Return or report paper tags to ODFW after each winter steelhead season and before the next begins Dec. 1.

COST: Validation: $2 residents, $4 non-residents.

Harvest Tag: $10 residents, $20 non-residents.

Validation and harvest tag are valid for one full season (Dec. 1 through April 30), even when using daily or multi-day licenses.

Weather ahead
According to Doug Boushey of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, the North Coast can expect a few weak systems between Thursday and Sunday. “The Smith basin will see the most rainfall, with a couple inches between Thursday and the end of the weekend,” said Boushey. “Here locally, we can expect about a half-inch on the Mad and a little less in the Eel basin. On Monday, we’re really going to see some changes with the potential of a couple atmospheric rivers. The first is set to arrive Monday night and stick around through Wednesday. The heaviest rainfall is expected Monday night into Tuesday. Rainfall totals coastwide for the mountain areas will be 4 to 7 inches. In the lower, coastal zones, 2 to 3 inches is expected. This has the potential to see drastic rises in the local rivers. There is another atmospheric river forecast for later in the week which could push the rivers to monitor or even flood stage, but it’s a little too early to be certain” It’s definitely looking more like the type of weather that’s typical for December.”

Mad River Steelhead Derby Starts Jan. 1
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA) is hosting its fourth annual Mad River Steelhead Derby from Jan. 1 through Feb. 28. Anglers must be signed up prior to the start date to be eligible to win cash and prizes. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered. The largest steelhead in the adult division will win $500 for first place, $300 for second place and $150 for third place. The three largest fish entered into the youth division (16 and under) will win gift cards to local tackle stores. Plus, the three best steelhead fishing videos will win product packages from our sponsors. Anglers can sign up online or in person at RMI Outdoors. Part of the proceeds benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler’s brood stock collection program that works in concert with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information, visit madriversteelheaderby.com.

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

The Rivers:
As of Thursday, only the South Fork Eel was closed to fishing. All other North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures including the Mad, Smith, main stem Eel, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen were open. As a reminder, the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream, the main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River are all closed until Jan. 1, 2023. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 at any time. The low-flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/.

Mad
The Mad was on a slight rise Thursday and it’s predicted to peak Friday at about 1,900 cubic feet per second (8.7 ft.). It should drop and stabilize to a fishable level through the weekend, but the water will likely be off color. A bigger rise is expected for late Monday morning that will likely blow it out. As of Thursday, the hatchery was void of clipped steelhead, but that should change with the next big rise.

Main stem Eel
Was running just above 1,000 cfs as of Thursday, but changes are on the way. A small rise is predicted for the weekend with a larger rise beginning Monday evening. Only a handful of adult steelhead have been caught the last few weeks, but that should change soon.

South Fork Eel

The South Fork was closed to fishing as of Thursday as flows dipped below 215 cfs at Miranda. There’s a slim chance it could open to fishing over the weekend if the rain comes as predicted. The next big rise is forecast for Tuesday morning.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was rising slightly Thursday afternoon, flowing at 445 cfs. Flows are predicted to rise following rain Thursday night, peaking at 2,050 Friday morning. Will likely be muddy through the weekend. The next rise, which should be substantial, if forecast to begin Monday afternoon.

Smith
The Smith gained about 950 cfs on Thursday and was flowing at 1,960 cfs at Jed Smith. A decent rise is predicted for Friday morning and another smaller bump is likely for Sunday morning. The next big rise is forecast to begin late Monday morning. This has the potential to blow the river out for a few days, depending on how much rain we get next week.

Chetco
Steelhead are trickling into the Chetco River, with a handful of fish being caught each day by plunkers and drift boaters reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “A mix of wild and hatchery fish are in the river,” said Martin. “A boost in flows with this week’s rains should bring in bigger numbers. A few late salmon also are being caught.”

Elk/Sixes

According to Martin, the Elk and Sixes are still producing late salmon. “Most are dark but a few bright kings are in the mix. High flows around Christmas should bring in another shot of salmon in the week leading up to New Year’s Day.”

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 fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

Rivers Turning Green, Dropping Quickly

Alex Fulks, of Sacramento, landed a nice hatchery fish Friday, Dec. 9, while drifting the Mad River. Photo courtesy of Justin Winkle

After a very wet weekend that saw all our coastal rivers plum full of water, just about all are now in fishable shape. And the ones that aren’t will be in the next couple days. The reason behind the quick clearing of the rivers is twofold. After years of drought, the soil is extremely thirsty. Water from the season’s first big rain is typically gobbled up by the soil, leaving less to flow into the rivers. Also, the surrounding mountains received a lot of snow over the weekend. Combined with extremely cold temperatures, not much runoff is making its way to the rivers. What all of this means is the rivers are dropping quickly, and will be low and clear before we know it.

Both the Smith and Chetco rivers were fishable Monday following some impressive weekend rain. In the Humboldt area, the main stem Eel will likely be one of the better options this week. It was a bit off color Wednesday, but the way it’s dropping, it should be in great shape by Thursday. The South Fork Eel and Van Duzen rivers are both dropping out, but should remain open to fishing through the weekend. The Mad will be another top option. The river was nearing perfect flows Tuesday and was close to turning green. It’s still early in the winter steelhead season but, if you’re jonesing to try your luck, there is green water to be had.

Weather ahead
According to Jeff Tonkin of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, there isn’t any substantial rainfall in the forecast for at least the next 10 days. “With a big high pressure aloft, it will keep us dry for a while,” said Tonkin. “Conditions will remain cold, so we don’t expect to see a lot of snow melt affect the rivers either.”

Weekend ocean conditions/crabbing
Conditions look excellent for the rest of the week and into the weekend. Winds are forecast up to 5 knots through Sunday with waves up to 4 feet at 8 seconds. The crabbing remains excellent off shore with private and charter boats scoring easy limits. Crabbing out of Trinidad has slowed slightly, but boats and kayaks are still getting limits of Dungeness crab.

Mad River Steelhead Derby Starts Jan. 1
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA) is hosting its fourth annual Mad River Steelhead Derby from Jan. 1 through Feb. 28, 2023. Anglers must be signed up prior to the start date to be eligible to win cash and prizes. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered. The largest steelhead in the adult division will win $500 for first place, $300 for second place and $150 for third place. The three largest fish entered into the youth division (16 and under) will win gift cards to local tackle stores. Plus, the three best steelhead fishing videos will win product packages from sponsors. Anglers can sign up online or in person at RMI Outdoors. Part of the proceeds benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler’s broodstock collection program that works in concert with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information, visit madriversteelheaderby.com.

The Rivers:
As of Thursday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures including the Mad, Smith, main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen were open to fishing. As a reminder, the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream, the main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River are all closed until Jan. 1, 2023. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 at any time. The low-flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/.

Mad
The Mad is rounding into shape after peaking at 10 feet over the weekend. Was green Wednesday and will fish into the weekend. With no rain this week, expect clear conditions next week.

Main stem Eel
After peaking at just over 22,000 cubic feet per second Sunday, it was fishable Wednesday. Flows at Scotia are predicted to be under 3,000 cubic feet per second Thursday. Should be in great shape through the weekend. There should be some early steelhead around.

South Fork Eel

The South Fork reached 6,300 cfs Sunday but is dropping out quickly, to under 550 cfs by Thursday. It should remain open to fishing throughout the weekend. There should be a few steelhead on the lower end.

Van Duzen
Flows were down to 340 cfs Thursday after reaching 4,400 Sunday. It will be low by the weekend but should be fishable.

Smith River

The Smith was below 7 feet on the Jed Smith gauge by Thursday morning after peaking at 12.75 feet Saturday night. The river is low and clearing, and will remain that way through the weekend. There should be some early steelhead around but the season typically gets going after Christmas.

Chetco
“The Chetco was in good shape for salmon and steelhead Monday, but catch rates were poor,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “A few steelhead were caught by plunkers at Social Security Bar. Flows hit 10,000 cfs and were down below 3,500 cfs on Monday. Expect a few late salmon and early steelhead this week. Peak season for steelhead begins after Christmas.” 

Elk/Sixes
According to Martin, another big school of salmon showed up at Elk River Hatchery Sunday and Monday with the latest rain. “Catch rates were good, but many of the fish were already dark. The Sixes was still high and muddy on Monday, but should fish well this week. Salmon season closes Dec. 31 on the Sixes.”

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 fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

Storms and Steelhead in the Forecast

Amber Bray of Brookings, Oregon, landed an early-arriving hatchery steelhead while fishing the Chetco River Monday. Photo courtesy of Michael Poly

With the late-fall king season all but wrapped up on the coast, it’s time to turn our attention to winter steelhead, the crown jewel of the North Coast. With plenty of water in the rivers and more on the way, the excitement for the impending run-start is palpable. There’s been a smattering of steelhead caught on most coastal rivers but the incoming storms should really get the party started.

A couple decent storms are headed our way later in the week and should put all of the coastal rivers on the rise, with most seeing peak flows Saturday evening. According to the National Weather Service, more rain is in store next week, which should really open the door. Steady rain and pulse flows are just what we need to entice some steelhead from the salt. If the rains come as predicted, the Smith and Chetco should be in prime shape early next week.

Weather ahead
Following a couple dry and cold days, rain is back in the forecast starting Thursday. According to James White of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, rain is forecast to begin early Thursday and we could see anywhere from three-quarters to one inch of rain. “The next system is predicted to begin Friday afternoon, and we may not see much dry weather in between the two systems,” said White. “Friday’s storm will stick around through Saturday and could bring an additional one to one and a half inches of rain to the area. There’s lots of uncertainty about next week, but the models are starting to agree that we could be in for another wet one.”

Commercial Dungeness crab season delayed again
The ocean commercial Dungeness crab season remains closed as round two of pre-season testing shows crabs remain too low in meat yield in some areas. Elevated domoic acid is still detected in some crab viscera (guts). Round three of crab meat yield and biotoxin testing will occur in the coming weeks. Results help determine if the season opens Dec. 31 or is further delayed or split into areas with different opening dates.

Targeted to open Dec. 1, the ocean commercial Dungeness crab season can be delayed so consumers get a high-quality product and crabs are not wasted. Oregon, California and Washington coordinate Dungeness crab quality testing and the commercial season opening dates. Oregon and Washington also are delaying their commercial seasons until at least Dec. 31. Coastwide test results can be found here, psmfc.org/crab/2022-2023%20files/Tri-State%20PreseasonCoastwideResults_2022.pdf

Mad River Steelhead Derby Starts Jan. 1
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA) is hosting its fourth annual Mad River Steelhead Derby from Jan. 1 through Feb. 28. Anglers must be signed up prior to the start date to be eligible to win cash and prizes. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered. The largest steelhead in the adult division will win $500 for first place, $300 for second place and $150 for third place. The three largest fish entered into the youth division (16 and under) will win gift cards to local tackle stores. Plus, the three best steelhead fishing videos will win product packages from our sponsors. Anglers can sign up online or in person at RMI Outdoors. Part of the proceeds benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler’s broodstock collection program that works in concert with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information, visit madriversteelheaderby.com.

The Rivers:
As of Wednesday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures including the Mad, Smith, main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen were open to fishing. As a reminder, the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream, the main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River are all closed until Jan. 1, 2023. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 at any time. The low-flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/

Mad

Forecast to peak at 8,360 cubic feet per second Saturday evening. Will likely be off color most of, if not all, of next week. A few steelhead were caught last weekend.

Main stem Eel
Flows were right around 2,000 and dropping Thursday morning. Big changes are forecast for the weekend with flows predicted to reach 28,120 cfs Sunday morning. It will be off color all week if the predictions pan out. There have been a few adult steelhead caught.

South Fork Eel

Finally opened to fishing Monday and flows were 286 cfs and dropping Thursday morning. Predicted for a big rise beginning Thursday afternoon and peaking Saturday night at 7,400 cfs. Don’t expect green water until it comes down under 2,000 cfs, which could be early next week.

Van Duzen
Flows were hovering right around 280 cfs Thursday afternoon. Rain beginning late Thursday will put it back on the rise through Saturday where it’s predicted to peak above 4,950 cfs. It will likely by off color next week, depending on how much rain we get.

Smith

The Smith is low and clear, but that is about to change. With rain in the forecast beginning Thursday, the Smith will see a couple flow increases. The first will be Friday morning, with flows predicted to reach 3,800 cfs. The second, bigger rise is forecast for Saturday evening. If the rain falls as planned, flows could hit 17,000 cfs. Conditions could be about perfect the beginning of next week. As of Thursday morning, flows were 1,200 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Drift boat anglers got another shot at fall kings on the Chetco, Elk and Sixes late last week, with attention now turning to steelhead reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.  He said, “Adult steelhead have been confirmed in the catches on all three rivers, along with late kings. The Elk was wide open for salmon on Thursday and Friday, with big numbers for the few guides on the river. The Sixes fished well Friday and Saturday. Salmon fishing also was good on the Chetco, but a handful of early steelhead to 12 pounds grabbed most of the attention. High flows are expected over the weekend and early next week, and as the rivers drop, expect decent catches of steelhead. Early spawning surveys also revealed above-average salmon runs in the Chetco, with big numbers of kings still spawning in the tail outs.”

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

Rain Should Provide Last Shot at Late-Fall Kings

Former Blue Lake resident Justin Winkle landed this monster hatchery king salmon back in early November on the Smith River. With rain in the forecast, all North Coast rivers should open back up to fishing this week. Photo courtesy of David Wilson

The rains that fell in early November were a godsend for our late-fall salmon runs. The increased flows allowed some of the salmon milling in the estuaries and lower sections of the rivers to get to their spawning grounds. But just as quickly as the rain fell, it stopped. Now, nearly a month later, additional rain is finally filling our rivers. The timing of these November and December rains can be a double-edged sword. While it could allow salmon to reach the protected upper tributary spawning areas, it can also cause considerable harm. In the month or so between storms, many salmon have had no other options than to spawn in the mainstem of the rivers or the lower reaches of the tributaries. A large flow increase could scour the streambeds and wash away the redds. The best we can hope for is just enough water to get the salmon to where they need to go, while leaving the already-deposited salmon redd intact. But we’ll take whatever we can get.

As for fishing, the incoming storms should provide one last shot at some late-fall kings. And we’ll likely see the first sign of the impending winter steelhead run. Per usual, the quick-clearing Smith and Chetco will provide the best opportunity. As of Thursday morning, the Smith has peaked at 5,530 cubic feet per second, making for prime weekend conditions. Flows on the Chetco reached just above 3,000 cfs on Thursday morning. Keep in mind river level projections for all North Coast rivers are changing every hour.

The main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen and Mad will all see flows begin to rise either late Wednesday or Thursday morning. Once all the rivers crest and begin to recede to fishable levels, we should see the first wave of winter steelhead. After a tough late-fall salmon season, seeing the rivers with bright steelhead sure would be a welcome sight.

The Rivers:

As of Thursday morning, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures including the Mad, Smith. main stem Eel, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen were open to fishing. Only the South Fork Eel remained closed, but should open by Friday. As a reminder, the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream, the main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River are all closed until Jan. 1, 2023. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 at any time. The low-flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/.

Mad

Forecast to reach 1,668 cfs by Thursday afternoon. Will likely be off color over the weekend.

Main stem Eel
Flows are predicted to hit 1,930 cfs Friday evening, followed by another larger rise Monday. When flows drop to a fishable level, we should start to see some steelhead as well as a few late-arriving kings.

South Fork Eel
Like the main stem, the South Fork will start to rise Thursday, reaching 940 cfs Friday morning. Another smaller rise is predicted for Monday. Will likely be muddy over the weekend, depending on how the East Branch looks.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen opened Thursday morning as flows are forecast to reach 630 cfs by the afternoon. The water could be muddy depending on rainfall totals.

Smith

Big changes are coming by Thursday as the Smith is forecast to rise following some decent rain projections Wednesday. The Smith will likely be the hot spot Friday and over the weekend as it will be the first river to fish. Expect to see some late kings as well as the first wave of winter steelhead.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“Heavy rain the middle of this week could set up good flows for late-season salmon on the Chetco, Elk and Sixes rivers,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “All of the rivers should be in play by Saturday, and depending how much rain falls, prime conditions are possible through the weekend. If too much rain falls, the Elk and Smith would be the best options, as the Chetco and Sixes could blow out. Big numbers of kings remain in all of the rivers, but low flows have limited opportunities for drift boaters. Expect a new batch of kings, and the first winter steelhead of the season after the rain. The Chetco is expected to pass 3,000 cfs and could get muddy on Saturday. Flows on Monday were only 200 cfs.”

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 fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Sport Crab Trap Restrictions to End Monday

Hoop nets filled with Dungeness crabs are pulled aboard the Reel Steel last week out of Eureka. Beginning Monday Nov. 28 at 9 a.m., sport crab anglers will again be able to fish with crab traps. Photo courtesy of Mackgraphics Humboldt

In a press release issued Monday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will lift the recreational crab trap restriction in fishing zones 1 and 2, which run from the California/Oregon border south to Point Arena, on Nov. 28 at 9 a.m. In the meantime, recreational crabbers that take Dungeness crab by other methods, including hoop nets and crab snares, are still allowed during the temporary trap restriction. The balance of the state, from Point Arena south to the USA/Mexico border (zones 3-6), is continuing the temporary recreational crab trap restriction due to the presence of humpback whales and the potential for entanglement from trap gear.

On the commercial side, the Northern California commercial Dungeness crab season has been delayed due to poor crab meat quality test results for Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties (zones 1 and 2). The commercial Dungeness crab fishery in this area is delayed until 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 16, pending another round of meat quality testing. If results indicate good quality, the fishery will open and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that will begin at 8:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

The commercial Dungeness crab fishery in fishing zones 3-6 will also remain delayed due to presence of high numbers of humpback whales and the potential for entanglement with lines and traps in this fishery. CDFW anticipates the next risk assessment will take place on or before Dec. 7, at which time CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham will re-evaluate the temporary recreational crab trap restriction and commercial fishery delay.

Weekend weather and marine forecast
After an extended dry spell that has kept the rivers closed to fishing due to low-flows, some substantial rain is finally in the forecast. In the Smith basin, light rain is predicted to begin Sunday and remain in the forecast throughout the week. Wednesday looks to be the day with the heaviest rainfall, with up to an inch predicted. In the Eel basin, rain is also expected throughout the week beginning on Sunday. A little over a half inch is forecast for Wednesday and additional rain is expected through at least Friday.

The weekend marine forecast isn’t looking great for offshore crabbing or rockfish. As of Wednesday, Friday’s forecast is calling for north winds 10 to 15 knots and north waves 4 feet at six seconds and west 10 feet at 15 seconds. Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 10 to 20 knots with north waves 8 feet at nine seconds and northwest 8 feet at 15 seconds. Less wind is forecast for Sunday, coming out of the northwest 5 to 10 knots with northwest waves 7 feet at 12 seconds and 3 feet at 21 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or www.windy.com. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Nov. 25 and 26 free fish days in Oregon
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 dfw.state.or.us/news/2022/11_Nov/111522.asp for more info.

The Oceans
Eureka
Ocean conditions have been excellent all week, but that looks to change by Friday when seas are forecast to reach 10 feet. Crabbing has been really good up and down the coast, and Eureka was no exception. “It’s been great all week, but Monday was exceptional with at least 10 keepers per hoop net,” said Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. “We’re soaking the nets a little longer now with hanging bait, and that seems to be working. Boats are fishing both sides of the entrance and having success from 40 to 100 feet of water.” The rockfish season will run through December with no depth restrictions.

Trinidad
The best crabbing so far this season has been in Trinidad. Small boats and kayakers launching from the beach have been scoring quick limits inside the harbor. When the ocean has allowed, boats have done well near the bell buoy in 200 to 300 feet of water. Just outside of Prisoner Rock has also been a top spot. The rockfish season will go through December with no depth restrictions.

Shelter Cove

According to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing, ocean conditions were perfect last week. “Some of the best conditions we’ve had all year,” said Mitchell. “We’ve had limits of rockfish, lings and crabs each day. Most of the time has been spent at Rogers Break and Gorda. There are still a few Bluefin around, but they’ve moved a little south. One was landed out of Fort Bragg on Saturday.”

Brookings
“Calm ocean conditions allowed boats to get out over the weekend, with good action on lingcod and rockfish,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters.  “Lingcod are in shallow water, staging to spawn. Big swells return this week. Sport crab season opens Dec. 1 on the Oregon side of the border. Surfperch continue to bite at Lone Ranch and Crissy Field. 

Eel River salmon returns
The first fish of the 2022/23 salmonid migration season arrived at Van Arsdale Fisheries Station (VAFS) on Monday, November 7, 2022. A total of 82 Chinook salmon were observed migrating upstream on the video monitoring system at VAFS; the season total stands at 82 (12 Female, 23 Male, 25 Unknown, and 22 Subadult). No steelhead yet but this is typical for Van Arsdale, located high in the Eel River Watershed. For more information, visit www.eelriver.org/the-eel-river/fish-count.

The Rivers:
As of Wednesday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Mad, Smith, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen, are closed. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream, the main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River are all closed until Jan. 1, 2023. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/.

Chetco/ Elk/Sixes
The Chetco is low and clear, but full of salmon on the lower river reports Martin. “Bobber fishing remains the best bet with low flows, although the gear restriction has been lifted,” said Martin. “Above Loeb Park, the spawn is in full swing, with salmon spawning in nearly every tail out. Rain is expected this weekend, which should give anglers another chance at drifting the Chetco, Elk and Sixes.”

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 fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com