All North Coast rivers to open Saturday — but probably not for long

CDFW requesting low-flow closures through April 30
Rain, and just in the nick of time! Wednesday’s storm system dropped just enough water to get most of our rivers flowing at a decent level, allowing steelhead to move in and hopefully inch closer to their spawning grounds — and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Come Saturday morning, all North Coast rivers currently subjected to low-flow closures will be open to fishing, regardless of flows. The lack of water, coupled with the amount of fish in the rivers, had the potential of turning the weekend into a real fish in the barrel scenario. It appears however, the situation will be lessened with the tiny bit of rain that fell. However, smaller streams like the Van Duzen, Mattole and South Fork Eel won’t see very much in the way of increased flows and could be susceptible to extreme angling pressure.

In addition, more changes could be coming to our rivers next week. In a press release issued by the CDFW on Wednesday, CDFW has the authority under Title 14, Article 4, Section 8.00(c) to close south central coast streams to fishing from December 1 through March 7 and as a result of the inadequate flows, seven Central Coast rivers have been closed to fishing. Furthermore, CDFW also has the authority to close North Coast streams to fishing from September 1 (Mad River) and October 1 (all others) through January 31 when it determines that the flow at any of the designated gauging stations is less than minimum flows stated in regulation. CDFW is now requesting this closure to be extended to April 30. The extension will be one of a handful recommendations presented at the February 5 Fish and Game Commission meeting. The recommendation reads; “Extension of the low flow restrictions angling closures for the north coast and central coast areas (above San Francisco Bay) through April 30.” For more information on the potential river closures, visit

Best bets for the weekend:
By Friday, the Chetco and Smith should be in great shape for steelhead anglers. The Klamath as well as the Trinity both will see increases in flows, which should bring in some fresh fish from the ocean. Fish that have been holding in the Klamath could also make their way into the lower Trinity.

Tread lightly
If you plan on fishing some of the smaller rivers this weekend, pay attention to where you step if you’re wading in or crossing a river. Persistent low flows has forced many salmon to spawn in the main stems and their redds could be right at your feet.

Boats classes/vessel exams
The USCG Auxiliary has scheduled a recreational boating safety class for Saturday, February 22 in the Woodley Island Marina Conference Room from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The class is open to all boaters, not just the recreational fishing fleet. Persons wishing to take the class need to pre-register by calling Thom O’Connor at (707) 954-4481. Cost of the class is $20 per person.
2014 vessel exams have also begun. If you are interested in getting your boat stickered for the coming fishing season, call Maggy Herbelin at (707) 445-2401 to schedule an appointment.

Weekend Weather:
A tiny bit of rain is in store for Thursday and into the evening, and then we’ll head back into a dry pattern according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Our next chance of precipitation looks to be on Wednesday, Feb 5, with the area seeing possibly a quarter inch. After that, the next chance will be February 9 or 10. I don’t have a whole lot of confidence as most of the systems look good and then they fall apart,” Kennedy added.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
Running at 1,190 cfs and rising as of Wednesday evening. Should be in great shape by Friday. There hasn’t been a lack of fish as the river has dropped out for boats, only a lack of water. If you’re looking to get away from the pack, the Chetco will not be the place. Predicted to peak at just over 2,000 cfs on Thursday evening.

Smith River
Open to fishing as of Tuesday and predicted to peak at just over 3,400 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge Wednesday night. According to Crescent City guide Mike Coopman, expect to see some new fish moving into the system. “If the rain comes as predicted, we should have some really good fishing for a few days. Anytime we see a rise like this, it’s basically out with the old and in with the new. Should be good,” Coopman added.

Mad River
Chocked full of steelhead and should open to fishing no later than Friday. Predicted to peak at just above 300 cfs on Thursday morning. Make sure and call ahead prior to fishing to confirm the river is open. If you don’t like crowds, this isn’t the place to be.  Low flow hotline is (707) 882-3164.

Lower Klamath
The lower river has been producing big, bright winter steelhead the last couple weeks, but will likely color up with the rain that fell Wednesday. It’s currently on the rise and predicted to peak at just below 5,500 cfs. Should be in perfect shape by early next week.

Lower Trinity
Reports coming from the lower section of the Trinity have remained unchanged over the last few weeks, but the little rise we’re seeing could finally break things loose. Lots of half-pounders and the occasional adult steelhead has been the norm, but the rain should bring in some adult winter fish that have been hanging below the confluence.

Upper Trinity
The conditions as well as the fishing haven’t changed much this past week reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “We’re seeing some good numbers making it to the hatchery, but those are the fall fish. A few winter fish are around, but not many. Hopefully we’ll see a little bump in the flows, which would pull some fish from the lower river and the Klamath,” Huber said.

Main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Redwood Creek will open Saturday, February 1, if not earlier, depending on the flows. Daily bag limits is two hatchery steelhead and only barbless may be used.

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