Green rivers headed our way

Chico resident Jason Ferguson holds a nice hatchery steelhead landed on the Smith River on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of John Klar’s Salmon & Steelhead Sportfishing

Our coastal rivers finally received the flushing and scouring they desperately needed. Last week’s storms brought the rivers to their highest levels of the season, providing ample water for steelhead to make it back to the streams and creeks where they originated. The extra flows will also trigger the fish that are still swimming in the salt to begin their migration upriver. With dry weather forecasted for at least the next week to 10 days, all of the rivers are now dropping towards fishable levels. One by one, our rivers will begin to turn steelhead green. It started with the Smith on Tuesday, and the Chetco is looking good for Thursday. Next week sometime the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Mad should fish. And in 10 days or so, we’ll see the main Eel go from brown to green. If the stars align and the forecasters are correct, we could have a convergence of green water on the distant horizon.

The weather ahead
Expect another seven or eight days of dry weather along the coast. The next chance for rain is forecasted for Friday, Feb. 1. This extended dry period should be enough for all of the coastal rivers to drop back into fishable shape.

Upper Klamath-Trinity River spring Chinook salmon listing
At the Feb. 6 California Fish and Game Commission meeting, the commission will be taking public comments to determine whether listing Upper Klamath-Trinity river spring Chinook salmon as an endangered or threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) may be warranted. This potential listing could have far reaching financial impacts within our community. Repercussions could range from no fishing on the Klamath from Jan. 1 through Aug. 14 to catch and release during this time period, essentially shutting down our winter and summer steelhead fishing as well as the estuary fishery. The fishing community is encouraging anglers to attend the meeting in Sacrament on Feb. 6.  If you can’t attend in person, you can send public comments on this agenda item via email to You can also mail your comments to California Fish and Game Commission, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090. The Written Comment Deadline for this meeting is 5:00 p.m. on January 24, 2019. Written comments received at the Commission office by this deadline will be made available to Commissioners prior to the meeting. The Late Comment Deadline for this meeting is noon on February 1, 2019. Comments received by this deadline will be marked “late” and made available to Commissioners at the meeting. For more information, visit The meeting will be live streamed; visit the day of the meeting

HSD trout pond coming to Blue Lake
CDFW and RMI Outdoors, in conjunction with the annual Humboldt Steelhead Days Fishing Contest, will be donating a trout pond and live hatchery-raised fish where anglers of all ages can learn how to catch a trout on Sunday Jan. 27. The fishing event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Blue Lake at Prasch Hall Community Center at Perigot Park. There will roughly be 200 fish to catch, so first come first serve. There will be six stations at the trout pond, and each kid that catches a trout can take it home. This will be an indoor/outdoor event, rain or shine. Visit for more information.

Low flow fishing closures set to end
Special low flow regulations that went into effect on Oct. 1 for the Eel River, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Smith, Van Duzen, and Sept. 1 on the Mad, will end on January 31. Until then, low flow restrictions remain in effect. Currently, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures are open.

The Rivers
“The Chetco was still too high for side-drifters on Tuesday, but should be in prime shape from Thursday on” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “It has been slow to come into shape after nearly 10 inches of rain Friday through Monday. The 30,000 cfs is the highest in more than two years. Plunkers caught a few on Tuesday at Social Security Bar and at Loeb. There seems to be good numbers of fish after the big rise in flows.”

The Elk, according to Martin, was down to 5 feet on Tuesday and was crowded, with nearly 20 boats, as it was the only river on the Oregon Coast that was fishable early this week. “Guides averaged two to three fish a boat, a good sign for the rest of the week along the coast. The Sixes will fish by Thursday, maybe earlier. Rogue River reached close to 100,000 cfs at Gold Beach and likely will be blown out for the rest of the week,” added Martin.

Smith River
The Smith fished really well on Wednesday according to guide Mike Coopman. He said, “There were fish from the top to the bottom, and it seemed like everyone was catching a few. The boat pressure was high, but it didn’t seem to deter the fish from biting. The river was still a little high, running right around 11-feet when we started. With no rain in the forecast, the river will begin to drop and clear and the fishing will start to get a little tougher, but it should be good for at least the next few days.” Flows are predicted to be right around 9-feet on the Jed Smith gauge this weekend.

Eel River (main stem)
As of Wednesday afternoon, the main Eel was running at 24,500 cfs. It will need 10 days to a couple weeks of dry weather before it turns green.

Eel River (South Fork)The South Fork was down to 5,500 cfs on Wednesday and should be fishable at the top by early next week. Flows are predicted to be down around 2,300 cfs on the Miranda gauge by Monday morning.

Van Duzen
Flowing at just over 2,150 cfs on Wednesday afternoon and on the drop. It’s predicted to be down to 1,200 cfs by Monday, but will need about a week to come around.

The Mad is currently high and off color, sitting at 10.5 feet as of Wednesday. The river is dropping slower than usual due to Ruth Lake spilling over, and is predicted to remain just above 9-feet through the weekend. It should be bait-fishable sometime mid to late next week.

Upper Trinity
The upper Trinity is in great shape after all of the rain has moved on reports Tim Brady of Trinity Outdoors in Weaverville.  He said, “I haven’t heard too many reports, but I did hear that there are more fish around now. The catch-rate for the boats went up quite a bit from what I understand. I don’t think the winter fish are here yet, but that last rain should have put them on the move. It’s been really quiet up here as far as fishing pressure. There’s a few boats on the water, but there aren’t many bank anglers.”

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