Late season rain a blessing and a curse

The late-season storms barreling their way towards the North Coast are a huge benefit to all of our rivers and the fish that travel through them. But they can also be quite the burden to steelhead anglers. Chetco and Smith river fishermen will reap the rewards of the March rains, while anglers looking for additional opportunities on the Eel, Van Duzen, and Mad rivers will be forced back to the sidelines. A couple inches of rain is predicted over the next several days, which will likely signal the end of green water for most of the Humboldt rivers. The Chetco and Smith are both on the clear side and could use a good shot of water. On both rivers, you can expect to see a good number of spawned-out steelhead making their way down and the last of the fresh fish moving in. And both should remain fishable through the rain, unlike the rivers to their south.

While these late-season rains may not bring much joy to the anglers, they’re a godsend for the fish. The extra water will go a long way in helping the steelhead reach their spawning grounds and also provide a helping hand for the juvenile salmonids as they begin their journey down to the saltwater.

The weather ahead
“Following a mostly dry Thursday, rain will be back in the forecast for Friday,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Widespread rain should begin sometime mid-morning on Friday and will stick around through Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, most of the rain will fall in Humboldt and to the north. Daytime on Sunday looks to be dry, but rain will return in the evening. This will be a colder system where we could see snow in the higher elevations and heavier rain. The rest of next week is looking like off and on showers, with small breaks in the rain.” said Zontos.

Bucksport Surf Perch contest
Bucksport Sporting Goods will be holding its first annual Surf Perch Contest beginning on April 1. The contest will run through September and you can enter up to 10 fish per month. A point will be given for each ounce and for each quarter inch. All fish must be measured and weighed at Bucksport. The top three fish at the end of the contest will win a prize. Entry is free, but limited to in-store registration only. Bucksport is located at 3650 Broadway St, in Eureka.

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. 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

Brookings ocean report
Lingcod fishing is fair and rockfish action is good out of Brookings reports Andy Martin with Brookings Fishing Charters. “The last part of the incoming tide is fishing, while the big outgoing tides are making fishing tough after the tide change. The rockfish are in shallow close to the kelp and wash rocks right now because of the strong tidal currents.”

The Rivers:
Steelhead fishing has slowed on the Chetco but a few bright fish are still around according to Martin. “Boats drifting from the upper end clear down to Social Security Bar are picking up a fish or two a day. There are some blue backs in the river now. Rain this week may bring a handful of fresh fish in,” added Martin.

Hatchery steelhead and a few hatchery springers are being caught on the lower Rogue according to Martin. “Some guides are catching a couple steelhead and a springer or two a day. Expect more salmon with this week’s rain.”

Smith River
Not much happening on the Smith as most of the anglers have put away their steelhead gear for the winter. The few boats still out are getting a chance at one to two fish per day. That could change by the weekend however as flows are predicted to jump to 10.5 feet on the Jed Smith gauge. That should kickstart the spawned-out fish to begin moving downriver, and will likely bring in a few more fresh steelhead.

Eel River (main stem)
The main Eel was getting oh so close to fishable, but the rain that’s predicted for the next few days will put us back at square one. It was under 9,500 cfs on Wednesday, but it predicted to rise to nearly 22,500 cfs by Saturday night. It will likely need another 10 days of dry weather to drop into fishable shape.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork was definitely the place to be since late last week. The river is full of steelhead, the majority of which have been downers. There are also a few fresh ones mixed in. Boats fishing from Leggett all the way down were reporting really good scores, with most hooking double-digits. Flows were starting to rise slowly on Wednesday, but should be fishable on Thursday. On Friday it will be on a sharp rise, going over 4,000 cfs by Saturday. With more rain on the way next week, it may not be fishable again before it closes on March 31.

Chico resident Michael Padula holds a healthy winter steelhead landed on a recent trip down the South Fork of the Eel River. This past week the steelhead fishing was as good as it’s been all year on the South Fork. Rains will return on Friday, which could blow out the river until it closes on March 31. Photo courtesy Kenny Priest

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen has been at a good height this past week, but was holding a little more color due to the snow melt. With a couple inches of rain forecasted to hit the watershed, it’s forecasted to blow out early Thursday morning. Another inch and a half is in store for Friday, which may deliver the knockout punch. Hopefully it drops back into shape prior to closing on March 31.

Mad River
The Mad is still a little high and off color, but there’s still fresh fish to be had. The liners did really well late last week and on the weekend fishing near the hatchery. It’s forecasted to really blow out after Wednesday, and should peak around 11 feet on Saturday morning. The chances of green water prior to the March 31 closure are slim at best.

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