Coastal anglers – and salmon – waiting on rain

The arduous wait for rainfall continues to drag on. For coastal salmon anglers waiting to drift the Smith, Chetco or Eel, it seems like a lifetime ago when the rivers last had enough flow for salmon to maneuver upriver. Hardly a drop has hit the ground since late October, when enough rain fell in the Smith Basin to put the Smith on the rise. Though the parched ground soaked up most of the moisture, the Smith did rise above 700 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge for a brief period of time. Since then, we’ve had very little, if any, rain to speak of. And Humboldt has been dry as a bone.

The culprit to all this dry weather is the recurring high-pressure ridge that’s been parked over the West Coast. This ridge has been either blocking or weakening systems that are trying to move onshore and forcing storms to track more north, keeping them from sagging into the Northern end of the state.

But changes to our weather patterns may finally be taking shape. Following another dry weekend, we may have some rain in the forecast by the middle of next week. “The models are going back and forth, but it’s looking like we’ll have a chance of rain on Wednesday and Friday of next week,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Right now, the models show more confidence for Friday. These fronts could be the beginning of a switch in the weather pattern as the last week of November is looking like we could potentially see above normal precipitation.” If this truly is the beginning of our rainy weather, it’s going be one heck of a Thanksgiving.

Marine forecast
The weekend marine forecast is looking pretty good for offshore crabbing. The forecast is calling for winds up to 5 knots out of the SW on Saturday, with waves W 6 feet at 12 seconds. On Sunday, the wind will be coming out of the N up to 5 knots with waves W 6 feet at 11 seconds. The forecast will likely change, so before you head out, check the marine forecast at and click on the marine tab. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit:

Sport crab fishing going strong
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sportfishing is reporting excellent crabbing out of Eureka. On a couple day soak, he’s been averaging anywhere from 12 to 15 keeper crabs per pot and limits are coming easy for the customers. Klassen and Gary Blasi of Full Throttle Sport Fishing are both booking crab trips out of Woodley Island. Trips will generally last two hours. Departure times will depend on the tides, but most often they’ll leave sometime in the morning. To book a trip with Reel Steel Sport Fishing, call 707-499-4925. Full Throttle can be reached at 707 498-7473. The weekend trips fill up quick, so you’ll want to call early to reserve your spot.

Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka reports the sport crabbing has been really good so far this season for anglers fishing out of Trinidad. “Overall, crabbing has been just as good as last year, and the crabs are in a little better shape. Crabbing in Humboldt Bay has been decent, with the south side of the jetty producing more keepers. South Bay has been pretty good too, but you’ll want to keep a close eye on your pots as a few have been raided. Squid chicken drumsticks, and turkey necks have been a good choice for bait,” Kelly said.

Chetco River bridge repair
Repair work on the Chetco River Bridge at mile post 1.0 of Forest Service Road 1376 that was scheduled to begin on November 14th, will now begin on November 16th. The project is located on the Gold Beach Ranger District, approximately nine miles northeast of Brookings. The closures on the bridge will be in place November 16th through November 18th, after which work will be put on hold until after January 1, 2019. Expected delays will be variable, with closures lasting 30 minutes to 8 hours at a time. This work is weather dependent and may be rescheduled if needed. For more information, visit

The Rivers:
Chetco River
Low flows continue to keep the Chetco above tidewater too low to fish from a drift boat reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “The low flows, now down to 80 cfs, also are preventing salmon from moving above the head of tide. A few fish a day are being caught in the estuary, with up to a dozen a few days last week. Most of the salmon caught in the estuary are being hook right at the tips of the jetties.”

Smith River
According to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, fishing has been slow on the lower river. “There’s been very few boats, if any, the last few days. There isn’t a ton of fish around, and the fish that are making their way through the mouth are being chased by seals. We’ve got some pretty good tides coming up, so hopefully we’ll see some fish start to move in,” Coopman said.

Truckee resident Darren Davis landed a nice hatchery steelhead on a recent float down the upper Trinity River. Photo courtesy of Steve Huber’s Guide Service

Upper Trinity
The steelhead action on the Trinity has been up and down reports guide Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “Cold mornings in the upper teens is making it tough, and we could definitely use some rain. Steelhead are coming on all methods from fly fishing, pulling plugs and side-drifting roe. Right now, we’re seeing one to four fish per day, and there are still a few salmon moving around. Even with the low water, you’re able to fish from the Lewiston Bridge down into Willow Creek,” Huber said.

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