Plenty of fishable water for the weekend

For the first time this winter, just about all of our coastal rivers will come into play at the same time. Following last Sunday’s big rise —  and without any substantial rainfall since — the rivers have been dropping quickly all week. From the Smith down to the South Fork Eel, all the rivers should be some shade of fishable green by the weekend. The main stem Eel is the lone river that may need a couple more days to clear. What you’ll find swimming in these rivers, however, remains to be seen. The Smith and the Chetco, for the most part, are void of fresh kings. And the steelhead have yet to make a large showing. The Mad could be your best option as quite a few steelhead are already in the river. The Eel and Van Duzen should have some late arriving kings, as well as a handful of early-season steelhead moving through. The rivers may not be loaded with chrome, but at least we’ll have a few more options for the weekend.

Weekend forecast
Not much rain is in the forecast over the next week or so according to Matthew Kidwell of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Friday is looking dry, with the next chance of rain coming on Saturday. We probably won’t see much rain, up to an inch in the Smith basin and possibly a half-inch here locally. We’ll see some showers on Sunday, with less than a half-inch expected in Del Norte and Humboldt Counties. The beginning of the week we’ll be back to a dry pattern as Monday through Wednesday are looking dry.” Kidwell added.

Extreme tides could cause hazardous bar conditions, coastal flooding
Some of the biggest tides of the year will arrive this weekend, bringing with them the potential for flooding in some of the low-lying areas around Humboldt Bay and along the coast. They could also create hazardous bar conditions for crab fishermen heading out of Humboldt Bay during ebb tides as a large volume of water will be running directly into swells predicted to be 5-feet and larger.

According to the Eureka’s National Weather Service, the higher than normal tides are the result of Perigean Spring tide. This is when the moon is either new or full and closest to the earth.

Morning high tide predictions – Humboldt Bay (North Spit)

  • Sat., Dec. 2 (8.2-ft. high tide at 9:58 a.m. down to a low of -1.3 at 4:49 p.m.
  • Sun., Dec. 3 (8.5-ft. high tide at 10:40 a.m. down to a low of -1.6 at 5:35 p.m.
  • Mon., Dec. 4 (8.5-ft. high tide at 11:25 a.m. down to a low of -1.8 at 6:22 p.m.
  • Tues., Dec. 5 (8.4-ft. high tide at 12:13 p.m. down to a low of -1.8 at 7:10 p.m.

Eel River salmon returns
As of Nov. 21, a total of 105 Chinook salmon have entered the Van Arsdale fish count station according to Scott L Harris, an associate Biologist with the Northern Region. Making up that total is 41 males, 53 Females, and 11 jacks. According to Harris, all of the Chinook appeared as though they had spent quite some time in the lower river and this was reflected in darker coloration and some abrasions. No steelhead yet, but this is typical for Van Arsdale, located high in the Eel River Watershed. For more information, visit

Fishing the NC_11_30 photo
Chico resident Jason Ferguson landed this hefty king salmon on a recent trip to the Smith River. The coastal salmon season is just about wrapped up, with most of the salmon having already made their way to the spawning grounds. Photo courtesy of John Klar’s Salmon & Steelhead Sportfishing

The Rivers:

Salmon fishing on the Smith was pretty good late last week, but it slowed by the weekend reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “After the big rise on Sunday, the fishing was decent on Monday and has slowed even more since. The water is dropping quick and is already clear. There’s not a lot of salmon in the system right now, and low and clear conditions will make it even tougher. There’s been a few steelhead caught, but not many. When the flows get down to around 2,000 cfs, the steelhead that are in the river will start to stack up. We’ll find out pretty quickly if they’re around in big numbers. With very little rain in the forecast, river conditions will be tough for the weekend,” Coopman added.

The Chetco was blown out for more than a week, but should be fishable most of this week and this weekend reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The color was good on Tuesday, but it was still a little high for drift boats. I will be focusing mainly on steelhead when I get back on the water Wednesday, along with running plugs through the likely salmon holes. The river got to 18,000 cfs last week and has been slowly dropping since.

The Sixes has been high for several days, while the Elk has been fishable according to Martin. “It has been slow, not a very big salmon run on the Elk this year. The Sixes has been good whenever it has been below 2.5 feet, and should be in prime shape for the rest of this week.”

The Mad was just beginning to turn olive green on Wednesday and may be the best bet for the weekend, or before. As of Wednesday, it was right around 8 feet, and it typically fishes well at 7.5 feet. There’s already been a few steelhead caught, and more should be on the way following the big rise earlier in the week.

The main stem is still big and dirty as of Wednesday, but dropping quickly according to Paul Grundmans of Grundmans Sporting Goods in Rio Dell. He said, “The top of the main stem could fish by the weekend. We should see some late kings and a few early steelhead start to show, although we typically start to see the steelhead show up in bigger numbers by mid-December.” The flows were 7,000 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday afternoon, but it’s predicted to drop below 3,500 cfs by Saturday.

South Fork
The Leggett area is already clearing, and the Miranda area should drop back in by the weekend. There should be a few kings around and possibly some early steelhead in the mix as well.

Van Duzen
Running at just under 1,000 cfs as of Wednesday. According to Grundman, it should fish above Yager Creek by the weekend.

Upper Trinity
Very busy Thanksgiving weekend on the Trinity reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. He said, “Everything should get back to normal this week. With no rain in the forecast, the water will drop back to low and clear. We have cold weather, which will slow down the fishing. Take your time in these conditions. Most activity is fly fishing and the river conditions are good from Lewiston down to the South Fork. Fish are in the four to six lb. range, with boats averaging one to three adults landed.”

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