Smith, Chetco best bets for green water

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Willie Patton of McKinleyville holds a nice steelhead landed last week while fishing the Eel River. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

If you’re on the hunt for green water this weekend, you’ll want to head north. The Smith and Chetco will both be on the drop and should be in prime shape. All stretches of the Eel, Van Duzen, Mad and Redwood Creek are currently blown out, with very little relief in sight. A chance of rain is in the forecast almost daily for the next few days before a bigger system arrives next Wednesday. This is great news for the quick-clearing rivers to our north. The Humboldt rivers on the other hand, won’t likely have enough breaks in the rain to drop back into shape in the next week or so. If you’re looking to fill your steelhead fix this weekend, your best bet lies to the north.

Weather ahead
The heavier rain will begin to taper off on Thursday, but there’s a chance of showers in daily beginning on Sunday. The next big system is predicted for Wednesday, with a half inch forecasted in the Smith and Eel basins. Another quarter inch is expected on Thursday, and close to three-quarters is expected on Friday.

Commercial crab season set to open Jan. 15 south of Patrick’s Point
The Northern California Dungeness crab fishery in Mendocino and parts of Humboldt County will open at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. The opener will be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Jan. 12, 2019. No vessel may take or land crab in an area closed for a meat quality delay (i.e., Fish and Game districts 6, 7, 8 and 9) or within an area closed for a domoic acid delay. In addition, any vessel that takes, possesses onboard or lands crab from ocean waters outside of a delayed area is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery in any delayed area for 30 days following the opening of those areas. This applies to any delayed areas in Oregon and Washington as well as in California.

Dungeness Crab season delayed north of Patrick’s Point
Commercial crab season in ocean waters north of Patrick’s Point, Humboldt County, were officially delayed on Jan. 7 by the Director of the CDFW due to elevated levels of domoic acid. The delay will remain in effect until the Director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the State Public Health Officer at California Department of Public Health (CDPH), determines that domoic acid no longer poses a significant risk to public health and recommends opening the fishery in this region. This area north of Patrick’s Point remains closed for recreational take of Dungeness crab, also due to domoic acid. For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit

Red Abalone closure extended
In a press release issued on Wednesday, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to extend the closure of the recreational red abalone fishery until April 1, 2021. The vote was taken at its December 2018 meeting in Oceanside. In December 2017, the Commission closed the recreational abalone fishery season due to the declining abalone population because of starvation conditions. The commercial red abalone fishery closed in 1997. Visit for more information.

Shasta Lake Bass tournament coming Jan. 19
The Unhooked Bass Anglers are hosting the first qualifying tournament for the Unhooked Bass Anglers championship series on Saturday, Jan. 19 at Shasta Lake. The tournament is catch and release, with no live bait. There is a five fish limit and all fish must be over 13 inches. Artificial lures only, and must have a working live well. Life jackets are required. Check in is Friday night between 4:00 p.m. and 6:30p.m. at Phil’s Propeller in Redding or Saturday morning between 4:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. at Packer’s Bay. Blast off is 7:00 a.m. or at first safe light. For more information, contact Jared Gadberry at 707-502-4966 or visit

The Rivers:
Chetco River
Steelhead fishing has picked up considerably on the Chetco reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.  “There are now fish spread throughout the river, with the section from Loeb down holding the biggest numbers of steelhead,” said Martin. “Monday was the best day so far this season, with most boats catching multiple fish and the plunkers doing well at Social Security Bar. Several fish over 15 pounds have already been caught. The river will probably blow out for a couple days this week but should be prime by the weekend.”

Smith River
Despite the rain, fishing has remained tough on the Smith according to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “The little rises we’ve had hasn’t brought in many fish, there’s just not many in the river right now. Conditions were low and clear early this week, which made it tough. We really need a good blowout to get the river in shape. Hopefully we’ll see a few more fish show up following Thursday’s rise,” Coopman added.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem was fishable up until Sunday, but it’s high and off color due to the latest round of storms. It’s predicted to peak Thursday morning at roughly 35,000 cfs. It will be on the drop over the weekend, but it will need a good 10-day window to drop back into fishable shape. Prior to blowing out, the main stem fished really well, with most boats landing three to four adults per trip. There’s also a lot of half-pounders in the river.

Eureka residents Jon and Patty Stocum with a nice Eel River winter steelhead. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest/Fishing the North Coast

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork also blew out on Sunday, and looks to remain off color through the weekend. Flows are predicted to be near fishable levels on Sunday, but more rain next week will likely keep it too high. Some big steelhead were caught last week even though the river was low and clear.

Van Duzen
Like the Eel, fishing really picked up last week on the Van Duzen. Bank anglers reported multiple hookups fishing from Yager Creek down. It’s currently muddy from the rain, and is forecasted to peak at nearly 7,000 cfs early Thursday. With more rain in the forecast, it probably won’t fish next week.

Mad River
The Mad is currently running high and muddy, and will need about a week of dry weather before it turns green reports Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. He said, “Prior to the rain, the fishing was spotty. It definitely wasn’t red hot, you really had to work for your bites. Flows were down to 240 cfs over the weekend, so you had to find holes and slots that had color. The guys who were bobber fishing did well.” The Mad is predicted to peak at just over 4,300 cfs (10.3 ft.) Wednesday afternoon, and will likely hover around 2,000 cfs through the weekend.

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