Rain keeping steelheaders on the move

Public salmon meeting next Wednesday in Santa Rosa

It appears Tuesday evening’s rain threw a big, fat “Barry Zito” style curveball at North Coast steelhead anglers. Prior to that unexpected shower, several of our rivers — that have yet to see a boat — were just about to turn green and start to fish. And others that were already fishable were about to become pristine. The Smith would fall into the latter category. It was just beginning to dip below 12-feet on the Jed Smith gauge on Tuesday, and by early Wednesday morning it had spiked to a very big 14.5-feet. Both the middle section of the South Fork and main stem Eel were a couple days away from turning steelhead green. Now we’re looking at a couple more days for the South Fork to turn and 3 to 4 days before the main Eel is fishable. The Benbow area of the South Fork didn’t see the affects of the rain and is still at a fishable height and color. The Mad and the Van Duzen both saw a bump in flows, adding a couple days to when they’ll be fishable. With the rain behind us for a few days and the rivers on the drop, it looks like just about every steelhead river on the North Coast will be fishable by the weekend, a first for 2014.

Weather update
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, expect to see dry conditions until at least next Tuesday along the North Coast. “The ridge of high pressure is moving back in, but it looks like it will move to the north next week. There’s a pretty good chance for some fairly wet weather beginning Wednesday,” Kennedy added.

Big Lagoon breaches
Full from the recent rains, the north end of Big Lagoon broke open last Sunday according to Eureka’s National Weather Service. Once the water clears, steelhead and cutthroat fishing should be good as the fish make their way towards Maple Creek.

Rowdy Creek Steelhead Derby this weekend
If you plan on heading to the Smith or Chetco this weekend, keep in mind Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery Steelhead Derby is taking place Friday and Saturday. A total of 13 teams, consisting of 26 boats will be splitting time between the two rivers.

CDFW to Hold Public Meeting on Ocean Salmon Fisheries
The Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites the public to attend its upcoming annual ocean salmon information meeting. A review of last year’s ocean salmon fisheries and spawning escapement will be presented, in addition to the outlook for this year’s sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa. For more information, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/salmonpreseason.asp or contact Erick Anderson at (707) 576-2879.

Regulation changes for Eel and Van Duzen Rivers in 2014
After last year’s controversial change to the Eel River system, which made targeting Chinook salmon against the law, “catch and release” will be allowed in 2014/15.

On page 33 of the online 2014-2015 booklet under General Provisions, the sentence that reads, “every body of water listed below (meaning the alphabetical list of waters with special fishing regulations) is closed to the take of salmon and salmon fishing, unless otherwise noted” remains unchanged. However, on pages 41 and 42, in the alphabetical list of waters, the main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, and the Van Duzen, all have “catch and release of Chinook salmon” in the daily bag and possession limit column. Hats off to our local CDFW folks for pushing this change through. For more information, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations.

2013 Klamath River Fall Chinook returns
According to preliminary estimates, 179,541 Fall Chinook salmon made their way back up the Klamath in 2013. Of those, 165,125 were adults and 14,415 were jacks, or two-year old salmon. The preseason predicted run size estimate was roughly 272,000. According to Sara Borok, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River, the floor escapement was met as 69,989 total natural spawners returned (59,619 adults and 10,367 jacks). “The numbers are looking good for 2014 said Borok. “We should see a lot of jacks coming back from the record 2012 run, in which 291,877 adults returned.” That was the largest return since DFGW began compiling data from the entire basin back in 1977.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
As of Wednesday, the Chetco was still running close to 10,000 cfs, but is predicted to drop quickly through the weekend. Forecasted at a pushy 5,500 cfs for Friday’s derby opener, it should be in perfect shape by Sunday, running at 3,500 cfs.

Smith River
After Tuesday’s rain, the Smith was big on Wednesday, but there were fish to be had reports guide Mike Coopman. “The water color was good on Wednesday, and it looks like conditions will only get better prior to the weekend. The river should be in perfect shape and there should be plenty of fish around. With the derby, expect lots of pressure, which could make catching a little tougher,” Coopman said.

Eel River (main stem)
Fred Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods reports the main stem Eel was starting to turn, but the rain that fell on Tuesday was just enough to set it back a few days. “My guess is it will be at least 3 to 4 days at the earliest before the upper reaches of the main stem are fishable,” said Grundman.

Eel River (South Fork)
Darren Brown of Brown’s Sporting Goods in Garberville reports anglers were fishing down to Sylvandale on Wednesday, and it will probably fish all the way down to the forks by the weekend.

Van Duzen
After a slight rise Tuesday evening, it was flowing at 1,000 cfs and dropping on Wednesday. Predicted to be in the 500 cfs range by the weekend, fishing above Yager Creek would be your best bet.

Mad River
Tuesday’s rain bumped up the flows about 400 cfs, but I think it will be fishable for the bait guys by the weekend reports Justin Kelly of Eureka’s Redwood Marine “Before Tuesday’s rain, there were a lot of older fish in the river. Hopefully this little bump will bring in some new, bright fish,” Kelly added. The Mad was at 1,800 cfs as of Wednesday, but predicted to drop below 800 cfs by Saturday.

Upper Trinity
Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service reports the Douglas City area is back to low and clear after seeing a slight increase in flows from last weeks storm. “Conditions are once again low and clear, but we are seeing some winter fish move in. They were moving pretty good earlier in the week with the higher flows, but they’ve probably slowed down. My guess is there’s a bunch of fish below Junction City that are slowly making their way up,” 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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