Rain on the way — hopefully steelhead too

Coming off one of the driest December’s in history, we really have nowhere to go but up as far as rainfall totals go. Eureka checked in with a measly 1.94 inches of rain for December, well below the 8.12-inch average. But there is a change on the horizon as the forecast is finally calling for some well-needed rain. The lack of rain has made it tough on the winter steelhead anglers, where options have been few. Other than the Smith and main stem Eel, all of the other coastal rivers that are subjected to low flow regulations have been closed for at least a week. The rain in the forecast should open some of the rivers back up to fishing, while others could remain closed. Could this be the start to our rainy season? No one really knows, including the weather forecasters. When you hear  the phrases, “models are in disagreement,” and “uncertainty in the models,” it doesn’t exactly ooze confidence that we’re back to our normal, wet pattern. But you have to start somewhere.

The weather ahead
We should see a shift towards more wet weather, with several days of rain in the forecast according to Kathleen Lewis of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Beginning on Thursday and into Friday evening, we should see a few fronts move through. Rainfall totals in the Smith basin over the two-day period will be between a half and an inch, with more falling in the hills. The same totals can be expected in the Humboldt area. Saturday is calling for a chance of some very light rain. Sunday and Monday are looking mostly dry with the next system forecasted for some time on Tuesday. The models on this system aren’t aligned yet, but it’s looking like we’ll get up to an inch of rain in both Del Norte and Humboldt counties, with more falling in the hills,” added Lewis.

Razor Clamming remains closed
A reminder for clam diggers, the recreational take and possession of razor clams is still prohibited on Humboldt and Del Norte county beaches. The razor clam season has been closed in Del Norte and Humboldt counties since April 26, 2016 because of high levels of domoic acid in the clams. If the season opens in 2018, it will be between Mad River and south of the boundary line due west from the Clam Beach south parking lot trailhead. In Del Norte County, the beach south of Battery Point would be open. For more information, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/health-advisories. Or you can call the Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at 831-649-2883.

Brookings rockfish opener
“The ocean opener for lingcod and rockfish out of Brookings was great,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The lingcod bite has been wide-open. The season had been closed since mid-September because Oregon went over its rockfish allocation. Flat weather the first two days of January resulted in quick limits for all the charter boats out of Brookings. The Bird Island and Twin Rocks area fished well.”

Angling Report Cards due
Anglers who were issued report cards for steelhead, sturgeon, North Coast salmon, and abalone must report their harvest or effort by Jan. 31, 2018. Anglers and divers may report online or mail their report cards to the address printed on the report card. To report online, please visit www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales/customersearch/begin

Fishing the NC_1_4 photo

Andrew and Anthony Zinselmeir of McKinleyville hold a pair of hatchery half-pounder steelhead caught Dec. 28 on the Chetco River while fishing with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The Chetco has had big numbers of half-pounders this season. Photo courtesy of Andy Martin/Wild Rivers Fishing

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“We’ve been needing rain and it looks like we are going to get a decent amount this week,” said Martin. “There are steelhead spread throughout the Chetco, but fishing has been tough in the low, clear water. Just about all the tail outs have a few fish, but they are spooked after the first boat goes by. The upper river is loaded with half-pounders.” The Chetco is predicted to peak at 3,250 cfs on Sunday morning.

Smith River
Fishing has been tough on the Smith due to low water conditions and lack of fish. Not many boats have been out, but that could change this weekend. Flows are predicted to jump 4,600 cfs by late Friday. This should bring in a new batch of fish, and push the old ones up river.

Redwood Creek
As of Wednesday afternoon, the river was closed to fishing due to low flows. If the forecast holds, it could open on Friday or Saturday. Minimum flow: 300 cfs at the gauging station near the Highway 101 bridge.

Eel River
Main Stem
There’s been a few boats working around the Rio Dell area and below, but not much is happening above reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. He said, “We’re supposed to get a shot of rain, and that will help. My guess is a lot of fish have come in with the king tides and are sitting down in the estuary waiting for the river to rise. If we don’t get a whole lot of rain, it could remain fishable and not blow out. It just depends on some of the creeks and how dirty they get.” As of Wednesday, flows were right around 600 cfs on the Scotia gauge, but predicted to hit nearly 1,900 cfs by Saturday afternoon.

South Fork
Remains closed to fishing, and isn’t predicted to rise enough to warrant opening over the weekend. Flowing at roughly 150 cfs as of Wednesday. Minimum flow: 340 cfs at the gauging station at Miranda.

Van Duzen
Flowing at around 65 cfs on Wednesday, the Van Duzen is also closed to fishing. If the rain falls as predicted, it could open by Friday as flows are predicted to jump to 1,100 cfs. Minimum flow: 150 cfs at the gauging station near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.

Mad River
Flowing at just under 200 cfs as of Wednesday, the Mad remains closed to fishing. If the rain comes as planned, it could open back up on Thursday as flows are predicted to jump to over 1,600 cfs on Friday. Word from the anglers who’ve been working with CDFW to supply broodstock fish to the hatchery is the river has quite a few fish in it. The rain should really put the fish on the move and bring in lots of new ones. Minimum flow: 200 cfs at the gauging station at the Highway 299 bridge.

The Trinity is low and clear and could use some rain,” said Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “There’s some steelhead around, but they’re mostly hanging out waiting to head up the creeks. These are the fish that have been in the system for a while. The winter fish haven’t started to move through the Klamath yet in big numbers, it will take some rain to bring them up. Fishing pressure was heavy over the holidays, but has slowed since. Anglers are getting between one to three chances per day.”

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