Late fall kings – and anglers – waiting on rain

The wait for rainfall has been nothing short of grueling for coastal salmon anglers chomping at the bit to drift the Smith, Chetco or Eel. Humboldt and Del Norte Counties have been bone dry since mid-October, when enough rain fell to put all the local rivers on the rise. Though the parched ground soaked up a lot of the moisture, the rivers came up enough to push the salmon out of the estuaries and into the lower sections of the rivers. Since then, we’ve had very little, if any, rain to speak of. 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 far to our north, keeping them from sagging into the Northern end of the state as well as Southern Oregon.

Alfredo Mendoza of Hillsboro, Ore., holds a salmon caught Nov. 5 in the Chetco River estuary with guide Shane Brooks of Wild Rivers Fishing. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

But changes to our weather patterns may be afoot. Rain is in the forecast for Thursday and Friday, but it will be really light. “The next chance of rain will be Monday and Tuesday,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “This system won’t add up to much either, certainly not enough to raise any of the local river levels. We’re really keeping an eye on next weekend. The models are showing it could be wet, but there isn’t a lot of confidence there yet. It looks like as we get closer to the end of the month the ridge of high pressure will start breaking down, but we’re still looking at below normal rainfall for the next few weeks,” added Zontos.

Marine forecast
The weekend marine forecast looks a little rough for offshore crabbing. The forecast is calling for winds up to 10 knots out of the N on Saturday, with waves W 9 feet at 12 seconds. On Sunday, the wind will be coming out of the N 5 to 10 knots with waves N 4 feet at 6 seconds and W 7 feet at 15 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Sport crab fishing going strong
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sportfishing is reporting the crabbing has improved out of Eureka. On a one-day soak, he’s been averaging anywhere from 15 to 20 keeper crabs per pot, up from 5 to 10 last week. “We’ve been fishing the south side, and from what I hear it’s been slightly better on the north side,” said Klassen. “We’ve been dropping our gear right around 100 feet, with most of the gear in between 60 and 120 feet.” The quality of crab is good and getting better. Reportedly the crab out of Eureka tested between 21 and 22 percent meat yield last week. Crabs need to be at 25 percent prior to commercial harvest.

Oregon commercial Dungeness crab season delayed
The opening of the commercial Dungeness crab season will be delayed from Dec. 1 until at least Dec. 16 along the entire Oregon coast as testing shows crabs are too low in meat yield according to press release issued on Wednesday by the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. The target opening of the ocean commercial Dungeness crab season in Oregon is Dec. 1, but can be delayed to ensure a high-quality product to consumers and avoid wastage of the resource. Crab quality testing in early November showed that none of the test areas met the meat yield criteria for a Dec. 1 opening. The delayed opening will allow crabs to fill with more meat. 

A second round of crab quality testing will occur in late November or early December, and the results will be used to determine if the season should open Dec. 16, be further delayed, or be split into areas with different opening dates.

Recreational harvest of Dungeness crab in the ocean off Oregon will open Dec. 1 as scheduled in all areas. Recreational crab harvesting is currently open coastwide in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties. For more information, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2019/11_Nov/111319.asp

Brookings
“Lingcod fishing busted wide-open out of Brookings last week and continues to be solid,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Many of the lings are being caught while targeting rockfish with shrimp flies and Farallon Feathers. They have moved into shallow water to stage before spawning. Big swells are expected this weekend.”

The Rivers:
River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth, the main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth.

The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

Klamath River creel season comes to a close
According to Dan Troxel, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River Project, just two-thirds of the lower river quota was reached, and just a little less for the sub-area quota below the 101 bridge. “As nearly all of the fish have moved out of the lower river, and spawning grounds surveys have begun, we are seeing a similar trend in the tributary rivers and creeks further up in the basin,” said Troxel “The fish are there, but seemingly only in middling numbers. The size of the fish has been a constant inquiry to us, a lot of “micro jacks” and presumably small adult fish. But we’ll have to wait until late January before we have the aging analysis done.”

Final quota numbers for the season from the Highway 96 bridge to the mouth: 2,494 adults harvested towards the quota of 3,819 (65.32 percent). The spit fishery harvested 736 adult kings below the 101 bridge towards the quota of 1,145. (64.26 percent)

Smith
Not much has changed on the Smith since last week, the river remains closed to fishing above Rowdy Creek due to low flows. According to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, there are a few being caught at the mouth and a few at the Sand Hole as well.

Chetco
With no rain in weeks, the Chetco estuary remains the best bet for salmon on the Southern Oregon Coast reports Martin. “Fishing is fair, with half a dozen to a dozen kings a day being caught by 10 to 15 boats. A few salmon also are being caught from shore at the mouth of the Elk River,” added Martin.

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

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