Powerful storms curtail wide-open steelhead action

Upper Trinity best bet for weekend, Mad River Hatchery begins spawning steelhead
The timing isn’t the greatest for the storms currently making a mess of our rivers, but it’s not likely you’ll hear much complaining from the angling community. Even in the midst of a steelhead bite that was bordering on epic for the Smith and Chetco, we’re all happy — and somewhat relieved — to be sitting on the sidelines for a few days while Mother Nature attempts to put a dent in the statewide drought. If the rainfall totals make land as predicted, we could be in for some world-class steelhead fishing once the rivers recede and clear. And it’s certainly going to help the fish. A lot of them have been in the river quite some time and will finally be able to reach their spawning tributaries and creeks. The fish that have been staging in the ocean, waiting to feel that surge of water pouring out of the river mouths, can now begin their journey unabated to their spawning grounds. As for the weekend fishing opportunities, the upper reaches of the Trinity might be your only option. The Smith and Chetco, both of which clear quickly, are likely to be big and brown through the weekend and into the early part of next week. That is, if the weather forecasters are on the money…..

Weekend Weather
It’s certainly no secret we’re in for quite a bit of rain over the next few days. According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the majority will start to fall Thursday night and continue through Saturday night. Some of the rivers are in for a significant rise coupled with the impressive projected rainfall amounts. Most of the rivers should peak and begin to recede by late in the weekend or early next week, except maybe the Klamath. According to Kennedy, after a break on Sunday, another system will arrive Monday afternoon and will bring rain and snow through Thursday. “This system won’t be as wet, we may only see an inch to an inch and a half, but we should see some snow in the hills as it will be a much colder system coming down from Alaska. On Tuesday, the snow level may drop to 2,000 to 3,000 feet,” Kenned added.

Court Action Allows Mad River Hatchery to Start Steelhead Spawning Operations
According to a press release issued Feb 12, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel at Mad River Hatchery began allowing wild origin steelhead and hatchery origin steelhead to enter the hatchery Feb. 4, to start spawning operations. The hatchery startup is based on an amended court-ordered stay, signed by Judge M.M. Chesney, allowing hatchery operations to proceed with conditions agreed to by CDFW and the plaintiff EPIC.

The court action allows Mad River Hatchery to collect, trap and spawn wild origin steelhead for brood stock for one year. Two of the main conditions of the action were the belief by National Marine Fisheries Service that progress was made on the development of a Hatchery Genetic Management Plan and agreement on the collection of natural origin steelhead trout in the coming year.

“Collection operations went very smoothly today,” said Shad Overton, Mad River Hatchery Manager. “It is critical we include both wild and hatchery origin fish to ensure the best genetic diversity of eggs possible for future releases. Our goal is to release 150,000 yearlings next year.”

Trapping, collection and egg take were delayed due to litigation. Spawning usually starts in January and continues through March. This time window allows the hatchery to spawn returning fish throughout the run. This year’s later start is not expected to affect overall spawning operations. For more information, contact Philip Bairrington, CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist (707) 825-4859
or Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478.

Rowdy Creek Steelhead Derby
The 32nd annual Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery Steelhead derby will take place February 20 thru 22. This is the only derby being held this year after quite a few changes at the hatchery. There will be 25 teams, with prices being $3,000 per team or $750 per person. Participants will fish the Smith one day and the Chetco the next. For more derby information, visit www.rowdycreek.com/derby.

The hatchery will also be hosting the first annual community dinner and fundraiser on Friday, February 21 in conjunction with the derby. The “Feed the Fishery” event will be held at the Tolowa Event Center at the Lucky 7 Casino in Smith River, CA. Tickets are $50. For more information, please contact 954-2260.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
Guide Val Early of Early Fishing Guide Service reports the rain had already started as of Tuesday evening and it was coming down steadily on Wednesday. “The past few days had been decent fishing. It was getting better each day and the river fished really well on Tuesday for both the boats and bank fishermen. Monday was the first day that was good — especially for the plunkers as the level was a bit pushy for boats. However, this rain is supposed to push the river to around 19 feet according to the prediction and it will take a bit to clear. There is a new (or renewed) slide above the Ice Box bridge that was active even the past few days. If all goes well we should get back on the Chetco the first of the week, but it could go out again with continued rain. If the rain comes in as heavy as some forecasts then it could be mid-week before the river fishes again,” Early added.

Smith River
After couple days of epic steelhead action, the Smith was on a steep rise as of Wednesday evening according to guide Mike Coopman. “The river fished really well the last couple days and there were lots of fish around. It’s high and muddy now, and I don’t expect it will fish this weekend,” Coopman said.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem was only a couple days away from being fishable reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. “It doesn’t look like we’ll get the big rise on the main stem, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Grundman added. For current river conditions and predictions for the Scotia area, visit www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=SCOC1.

Eel River (South Fork)
The Piercy area of the South Fork was still dirty as of Wednesday, so it’s not likely to fish any time soon. Predicted to peak at 6,600 cfs on the Miranda gauge early Sunday morning. The upper reaches may come in mid to late week. http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=MRNC1

Van Duzen
Five to six inches are forecasted to fall within the basin over the next few days putting the Van Duzen back on the rise. Should peak at just over 6,000 cfs early Sunday morning and may drop quickly. Higher reaches may fish mid to late week. Current conditions and forecasts can be found at http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=BRGC1

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s Redwood Marine, there were quite a few bright fish in the river as of Wednesday. “The liners had been doing good all week, catching some nice, bright fish. The river just started to green-up above Lindsey Creek before it started raining. The river is predicted to jump to 6,000 cfs by early Sunday morning, meaning we probably won’t see any green water until mid to late next week,” Kelly said. River conditions can be found at http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=ARCC1

Upper Trinity
The rain that’s coming should really help the Douglas City area reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “My guess we’ll see about a 100 cfs rise on the upper river, which should really bring in the winter fish. The creeks are flowing and there’s some snow in the hills, so we’re in good shape now. The hatchery has seen a good number of fish return the last week, so the fall fish should be done. Anywhere above the North Fork should be a good option for the weekend,” Huber said.

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

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