Ocean salmon numbers on the upswing

Spring rains, and lots of it, can do wonders for our salmon and steelhead populations. Following a wet spring in 2017, the benefits are starting to roll in. At Wednesday’s annual Ocean salmon Information meeting in Santa Rosa, CDFW suggested 274,222 Klamath River fall Chinook adults are swimming in the ocean. Not a huge number, but still right around the previous five-year average. The CDFW also predicted 87,893 natural area spawners to return to the Klamath this fall. That’s a pretty good increase from last years actual returns of 53,624. This number doesn’t include the hatchery returns or the harvest forecasts. At first glance it looks like we’ll have a comparable run size to what we saw in 2018. And just like in 2018, hopefully we’ll see another good ocean season along with a similar fall sport quota in the Klamath basin.

Over on the Sacramento, the numbers are on the upswing. The 2019 preseason ocean abundance is forecasted to be 379,632, up from 229,400 at this time last year. On paper, it appears we’re headed towards a season where the salmon will be plentiful. One of the reasons for the bump in forecasted salmon numbers is the Central Valley river conditions during the very wet spring of 2017. Increased natural runoff from the Central Valley rivers will always boost salmon survival, as measured two years later when the fish return to spawn as adults. The one bit of not so good news on the Sac is the adult escapement. They fell short of reaching the minimum escapement target of 122,000. This is the fourth year in a row the escapement goal has not been met, and the National Marine Fisheries Service could again up the target to 151,000 like they did in 2018. This could result in a shortened season or some areas being closed. 

What the PFMC chooses to do with these forecasts will be determined in the next couple of months. Up next, the PFMC is meeting March 6 through 12 in Vancouver, WA. The Council will determine if any in-season action for fisheries scheduled to open in April is needed. They will also adopt three regulatory alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries in effect on or after May 1. Final alternatives for public review will be decided on March 12. For information on the meeting, visit, https://www.pcouncil.org. To view the salmon preseason process, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon/Preseason

The weather ahead
“After drying out on Wednesday evening, we’ve got a couple weak systems coming in the next few days,” said Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service “Light rain is in the forecast beginning Thursday night and into Friday morning. This won’t likely be enough to raise any of the rivers. Another weak system is predicted for Saturday, but again, not enough to affect any of the rivers. The next bigger storm should arrive on Tuesday and stick around until Wednesday. This system should fall more towards Mendocino and could be enough to stop the rivers from receding,” said Aylward.

Perch’n on the Peninsula coming April 6
The Samoa Peninsula Fire District will be hosting their 10th Annual Perch’n on the Peninsula Surfperch Fishing Tournament and Fish Fry Fundraiser on Saturday, April 6, 2019. The fish fry fundraiser is open to the public and admission is only $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for juniors. Children 6 and under get in free. Adult fishing tournament entry is $20.00 and junior entry (under 16) is $10.00. Tournament day registration is available at the Peninsula Elementary School in Samoa beginning at 6 a.m. or your entries can be purchased at Mad River Tackle in Arcata, Pacific Outfitters, Englund Marine, Shafer’s Ace Hardware in Eureka, or LIVE2DIVE in Fairhaven. For more information, call (707) 443-9042 or visit www.samoafire.org.

HASA fundraiser coming in April
HASA will be holding their annual fundraiser and social event at the Arcata Community Center on April 27, 2019. In 2019, they’re focusing on creating a social event, with less emphasis on some of the fundraising activities. There will still be lots of great door prizes and silent auction items, but the simpler format will allow more time for socializing and telling fish stories. The food will once again be provided by Ramones Bakery and Catering. Tickets will be distributed to local vendors soon. For more info, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/2753296234711122/.

Fresno resident Gavin O’Leary holds a nice steelhead caught on a recent float down the Chetco River. Despite all the rain, the Chetco should be back in fishable shape by the weekend. Photo courtesy Alan Borges/Alan’s Guide Service

The Rivers:
“The Chetco blew out big time Sunday, reaching 38,000 cfs,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The river is predicted to be fishable again by Thursday at the earliest or by Friday. During the derby, 70 steelhead were caught on the Chetco during a two-day period. Many were fresh fish. We should still have a couple weeks of decent fishing.”

According to Martin, the lower Rogue was fishing very well last week but now will be high through the week, although plunkers will be back on the water by the weekend. “The Rogue continues to have the strongest steelhead run so far this winter on the Oregon Coast. Flows hit 70,000 cfs at Agness and close to 100,000 cfs at Gold Beach. Expect the first spring salmon of the season soon with the high water,” added Martin.

Smith River
The Smith was a little stingy on Friday and Saturday where anglers fishing in the Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery Derby caught a total of 20 steelhead over the course of the two days. The river blew out on Sunday, and hasn’t been fishable since. Wednesday’s rain put the river back up to nearly 19-feet on the Jed Smith gauge. It’s predicted to drop Thursday and Friday and should be high, but fishable, for the weekend.

Eel River (main stem and South Fork)
The main stem Eel peaked at flood stage (50 ft.) on Wednesday afternoon and is headed back down. It’s forecasted to be under 20 feet by early next week, but we’re a couple dry weeks away from fishable water. The South Fork surpassed monitor stage on Wednesday morning and is on the drop. It’s predicted to be back down near 4,500 cfs by early next week. With a full week of dry weather, it’s not out of the question that the upper reaches could be fishable by next weekend.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen peaked at nearly 26,000 cfs early Tuesday morning and is now on the drop. Forecasted to be back under 1,700 cfs by Monday. If next week remains dry, the upper reaches could be fishable by next weekend.

Mad River
The Mad leveled off at 24-feet, which is a couple feet above flood stage. It’s predicted to drop through the weekend, but slower than the other rivers due to water spilling out of Ruth Lake. I could be a couple weeks before it’s close to green again.

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