“Miracle March” doing a number on coastal rivers

FNC 3_10 photo

Arcata resident Mike McCasland landed this nice hatchery steelhead on a recent float down the Chetco River. The Chetco, along with most of the coastal rivers, remain unfishable due to the recent storms. Photo courtesy of Mike Stratman/Redwood Coast Fishing

With the “Miracle March” in full swing, options for winter steelhead fishing will remain few and far between over the next week. An atmospheric river that’s set up over the Pacific Ocean is taking aim at the North Coast and will deliver several powerful storms starting Thursday. More than six inches of rain is on track to come down across the region, with potentially more falling in the mountains. Other than the Smith, every coastal stream has been blown out since last week, with plenty more precipitation on the way that’s sure to keep them big and brown.  Let’s hope there’s a break in the weather prior to the end of the month — providing that one last opportunity to do battle with the ever-popular winter steelhead.

Weather update
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, rain is in the forecast daily at least through Monday. “On Thursday, both Humboldt and Del Norte could see up to an inch and a half of rain. Another two inches is in the forecast for Friday, followed by a very wet weekend. Rainfall totals for the weekend could reach up to six inches in both counties. Another three-quarters of precipitation is forecasted for Monday, followed by lingering showers into Tuesday morning. We should see a break from the rain from Tuesday to Friday, with more systems predicted to roll in the following weekend,” Kennedy added.

Fewer salmon swimming off the North Coast
Following years of robust salmon numbers swimming off the North Coast, it appears the drought and poor water conditions are finally taking hold. The PFMC held their annual salmon abundance meeting last Wednesday in Santa Rosa, where discussions centered on in-river data from the 2015 season and to project the number of salmon swimming in coastal waters in 2016. What the data revealed — at least for the Sacramento and Klamath — is the numbers are far lower in comparison to previous years. The PFMC projected an ocean population of 299,600 Sacramento and just 142,200 adult Klamath River salmon. The majority of California’s ocean and inland fisheries come from these two runs.

These forecasts, which are significantly lower than last year, will be used over the next few months to set sport and commercial fishing season lengths, sport and commercial quotas, and size and bag limits.

Next up, the PFMC is meeting March 8-14 in Sacramento to consider its recommendations for the length of this year’s salmon season, with a final decision to come later in the spring. For more information on this meeting, visit http://www.pcouncil.org/council-operations/council-meetings/current-meeting.

To view the PFMC Preseason Stock Abundance Analysis and
Environmental Assessment Part 1 for 2016 Ocean Salmon Fishery Regulations, visit http://www.pcouncil.org/salmon/stock-assessment-and-fishery-evaluation-safe-documents/preseason-reports/2016-preseason-report-i/

Proposed Klamath River regulation changes
The CA Fish and Game Commission are proposing a couple changes to the Klamath River for the upcoming fall salmon season. The first proposed change involves the take of adult salmon during a closure. The current language reads, “Anglers shall not remove any adult Chinook salmon from the water by any means, such as by dragging the fish on shore or using a net.” The proposed language states, “It shall be unlawful to remove any adult Chinook salmon from the water by any means.”

The second proposed change affects the Blue Creek fishery closure that was enacted in 2015. The Commission is proposing a modification that will change the fishing boundary from a half-mile to 500 feet downstream of the mouth of Blue Creek from June 15 through September 14. The 500-foot closure above the mouth of Blue Creek will remain. These two proposals will be voted on at the April 18 meeting. For the complete list of proposed regulation changes, visit http://www.fgc.ca.gov/regulations/2016/7_50_kt_regs.pdf

2016/17 ocean sport regulation booklets now available online
Regulation changes for 2016 include:
Groundfish regulations that went into effect on March 10, 2015 are now included in the booklet. Changes included new season dates and fishing depths in some groundfish management areas, a lingcod bag and possession limit increase to 3 fish, a new sub-bag limit of 5 black rockfish within the RCG Complex bag limit of 10 fish, and statewide closure of the California scorpionfish fishery from Sept. 1-Dec. 31.
Pacific Halibut regulations that went into effect on April 30, 2015 are now included in the booklet. New state and federal regulations are in effect for the Pacific halibut fishery, including a new, federally set quota system. Once the quota (or the end of the season) is reached, the recreational fishery will close. New season dates and methods of take are also in effect. The booklet is available here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Sport-Fishing

The Rivers:
Chetco River
The Chetco remains high and off color following the recent rains, with no green water in sight. Flowing at 9,200 cfs on Wednesday, it’s predicted to peak at nearly 20,000 cfs on Sunday evening.

Smith River
The Smith dropped back down to a fishable level on Wednesday, but very few, if any took advantage reports Crescent City guide Mike Coopman. “I didn’t see any boats, and only a few plunkers were out. The reports I heard were that quite a few fresh fish still coming, and good number of downers were in the river as well. With more rain on the way, it doesn’t look like it will fish this weekend, though if the color doesn’t get too bad it could be plunkable,” Coopman said.

Eel and Van Duzen rivers
All of these systems remain high and muddy from last week’s storms, with no real end in sight. The storms hitting the area now will keep all of these rivers high and muddy for the foreseeable future.

Mad River
Like the rest of the smaller coastal rivers, it’s been blown out since last week. Flowing at nearly 6,000 cfs on Wednesday, it’s predicted to climb daily and reach monitor stage by Saturday evening.

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