Storms forecasted to muddy Coastal rivers

Father and son anglers Daniel and Wyatt, of Orange County, had their hands full putting this 35-pound king salmon in the net on a recent trip on the Smith River with Mike Coopman's Guide Service.

Father and son anglers Daniel and Wyatt, of Orange County, had their hands full putting this 35-pound king salmon in the net on a recent trip on the Smith River with Mike Coopman’s Guide Service.

Winter steelhead starting to show
The approaching storms will likely blow out most, if not all, of our coastal rivers by the weekend. Beginning Thursday in the Smith Basin and early Friday in Humboldt, as much as four inches of rain is predicted to hit the ground. And the series of storms are forecasted to stick around through early next week. Most of the rivers should be on the rise by Friday or early Saturday. The Smith and Chetco will be the first rivers to clear, and should be fishable by mid-week, or earlier. Depending on how much rain falls, the rest of the rivers could start to drop back into shape at the end of next week. That’s if the forecasts are spot on.

When the rivers do drop back into fishable shape, my guess is we’ll see the first signs of the impending winter steelhead run. There’s already been a handful caught on all the rivers, but with more high water coming, expect the steelies to start showing in numbers. But don’t give up entirely on salmon just yet. The Smith is still seeing fresh fish coming in daily and there should be some smaller spurts of fish coming into the Chetco, Eel and Mad.

Weekend forecast
The next four to five days are forecasted to be wet according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The rain will begin Thursday in Del Norte and Friday morning in the Humboldt area. The rain will stick around through next Tuesday, with the heaviest rain falling on Sunday and Monday. Three to 4 inches of rain is forecasted for the Del Norte region and 2.5 to 3.5 inches is likely to fall in Humboldt,” Kennedy said. Showers are on tap for next Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a few days of dry weather.

Smith River Rowdy Creek Hatchery update:
To date, the salmon run on the Smith has been a little bit better than average according to hatchery manager Andrew Van Scoyk. As of Tuesday 148 salmon have returned, which includes 52 males, 26 females, and 70 jacks. “We’ve spawned 8 pairs to date, last year we spawned 2 pairs the whole season,” Van Scoyk added. “Our goal is to spawn 24 pairs and I don’t think we’ll have a problem reaching that goal.” No steelhead had returned to the hatchery as of Tuesday according to Van Scoyk.

Commercial Dungeness crab season opens Dec. 1 in Northern California
The northern California Dungeness crab season will open at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 1, north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line.

Prior to the season opening, commercial fishermen are allowed a 64-hour gear setting period. This year, crab trap gear can be set no earlier than 8 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 28. Quality tests conducted in northern California in November indicate that California Dungeness crabs are ready for harvest. For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit

HASA meeting next week
The HASA Board of Directors will meet on Wednesday, Dec. 3, and the public is welcome to attend. The meeting will be held at McBain & Associates office, 980 7th Street, Arcata at 7 p.m. Agenda items include an update on Pacific Halibut, rockfish mortality, and a derelict crab gear update.

The Rivers:

Chetco River
The rain that fell last week pushed the river up and out for several days reports Val Early of Early Fishing Guide Service. She said, “The river was fishable on Monday, although it was very limited as the river was still quite high. Tuesday was better but the river was still pushy. The best days will probably be Wednesday and Thursday, possibly Friday although another storm is supposed to hit with rainfall predictions up to 2 inches. There was a little surge of new fish in the river but there are a lot of fish that are dark and should be released as their meat is past the prime by a long ways. We are seeing a few steelhead including a 15-pound hatchery male caught by a plunker at Social Security.”

California’s Recreational Pacific Halibut allocation to increase for 2015
The PFMC has made recommendations to increase the California Pacific halibut fishery allocation beginning in 2015 in response to greater interest in the northern California fishery, and new information indicating a higher abundance in California than when the formal Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) was originally adopted.

Pacific halibut is allocated among users on the West Coast (known as Area 2A) through a CSP that was developed in the late 1980s. Area 2A sectors include the recreational fisheries in Washington, Oregon and California, the coast-wide commercial fishery, and the tribal fisheries, which operate primarily in Washington.

The California recreational fishery allocation will increase from 1 to 4 percent of the non-tribal allocation by implementing a one percent reduction for the Washington recreational (35.6 percent), Oregon recreational (29.7 percent), and commercial (30.7 percent) sectors.

Additional changes for 2015 include in-season tracking and management of the California recreational fishery to stay within the CSP allocation. The California recreational season structure will be determined based on a catch projection method developed by California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff, and specific season dates will be developed with the input of stakeholder involvement. This process will begin in early 2015 after the Pacific halibut total allowable catch is established. For more information, visit

Smith River
According to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, there were quite a few salmon around on Wednesday, but the bite wasn’t red hot. He said, “We saw fish rolling in quite a few spots, but they didn’t bite real well. There are still quite a few jacks around, which tells me the salmon season is far from over. I didn’t see any steelhead rolling, but I did hear of one caught by a bankie.”

Eel River (main stem)
As of Wednesday, the main stem in the Rio Dell area was still a little murky and on the high side reports Fred Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. “My guess is it will fish by Friday, and possibly Thursday. I’ve heard reports of a pretty good push of steelhead had moved through the lower river,” Grundman added.

Eel River (South Fork)
Should be fishable through Friday, but predicted to rise on Saturday morning.

Van Duzen River
The river was in great shape as of Wednesday, with some steelhead starting to show according to Grundman.

Mad River
The last rise brought in quite a few bright salmon into the Mad. The river is in perfect shape and should fish through Friday. We should see the first push of winter steelhead following the next big storms. Humboldt Steelhead Days fishing contest coming up Jan. 24 – Feb. 7, 2015. Buy your tickets online at Proceeds from this event go toward restoration, education, and citizen monitoring in the Eel and Mad River.

Upper Trinity
Three days of rain has helped get the creeks running and the steelhead are on the move to their spawning grounds reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “The weather has just started to get cold, with more rain and possibly some snow on Monday. This week, we averaged 2 to 4 adult steelhead per trip fishing both roe and plugs. The fly fishermen are also catching a few fish,” Huber added.

Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to

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