Rivers on the rise – steelhead fishing on hold

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Devin Peterson, right, holds a nice hatchery steelhead landed earlier this week while fishing the Smith River with guide Sam Stover, pictured left. Photo courtesy of Carl Peterson

The fierce round of storms pounding the North Coast has brought a sudden stop to the winter steelhead season. From the Chetco south to the top of the Eel River system, you’ll be hard pressed to find any water that resembles anything close to green. And the dirty water conditions may be with us for a quite a few days as rain is in the forecast all the way through the weekend. There’s a real good possibility that neither the Smith nor the Chetco will drop back down to fishable levels until the middle of next week. For the other coastal rivers that aren’t so quick to clear – it could be a week or more before they resemble anything close to green.

Weather outlook
The biggest storm of the winter season is upon us, and is forecasted to dump up to seven inches of rain in some of the higher elevations beginning Wednesday and lasting through Sunday. The heaviest precipitation is predicted to fall on Wednesday and Thursday, with two and a half inches forecasted to fall in the Eureka area. More is expected in the mountain areas. The Eel River at Fernbridge is expected to surpass monitor stage by Thursday afternoon. In the coastal areas of Crescent City, two and a half inches is expected through Thursday, with another inch and a half on Friday. Rain is also predicted throughout the weekend, with nearly 3 inches predicted through Sunday. The Smith is forecasted to stay well within its banks, but will reach nearly 32,000 cfs on Sunday afternoon. The North Coast will begin to dry out on Monday, and the rest of the week is looking dry.

Humboldt Steelhead Days Kick Off this Saturday
HSD’s annual hatchery steelhead fishing contest, that runs from Jan. 19 to Feb. 23, will begin with a pint for nonprofits event at Mad River Brewing Co., on Saturday, Jan., 19 starting at 5 p.m. Event organizers will be on hand to talk about other events that will be held during the contest window. At the Kick Off event, anglers can sign up for the contest and CDFW warden John Fraley will be in attendance to review the fishing regulations. There will also be a fundraising silent auction and raffles to fund future restoration projects on the Mad River watershed. For more info., visit humboldtsteelheaddays.com or their Facebook and Instagram pages. 

King tides this weekend
Some of the biggest high and low tides of the year are forecasted over the coming holiday weekend. On Sunday in Eureka, a high tide of 9.1 feet at 10:47 a.m. will be followed by a low tide of minus-1.6 feet at 5:38 p.m. Monday’s high tide of 9.1 feet at 11:38 a.m. will be followed by a low tide of minus-1.9 feet at 6:23 p.m.

Crab domoic acid levels on the decline
Domoic acid levels are finally beginning to decline north of Patrick’s Point and in Crescent City, providing hope that both sport and commercial crab seasons will open soon. The California Dept. of Public Health released lab results on January 11 from samples taken from Jan 5th and 6th.

In Crescent City, six samples were taken with an average domoic acid level of 16.5 ppm, with no crabs tested above the federal action level of 30ppm. In the north area of Trinidad, six crabs were tested with an average domoic acid level of 6.7ppm. No crab tested above the 30ppm action level. These are the first clean tests for both areas. Another round of clean tests and they could both open to recreational and commercial crabbing. The next round of testing was scheduled Jan. 12. For the latest test results, visit https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DFDCS/Pages/FDBPrograms/FoodSafetyProgram/DomoicAcid.aspx

The Rivers:
Chetco River/Lower Rogue
“Steelhead fishing was good last week between storms, but slowed over the weekend and early this week,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There seems to be decent numbers of hatchery fish, but the overall number of fish appears to be a little low. There also are a ton of smolts throughout the river, which can make drifting bait less productive. Hopefully this week’s storms bring in bigger numbers of fish.” The Chetco is predicted to reach nearly 28,000 cfs late Sunday night, and won’t fish until mid-next week at the earliest.
The lower Rogue River has been fishing well, especially for jet boaters anchoring and running MagLip plugs reports Martin. “Between the head of tide and Lobster Creek has been best. This week’s rain will give shore fishing a boost for the plunkers,” said Martin

Smith River
Similar to the Chetco, the Smith fished well late last week and the weekend according to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “The river dropped into shape on Friday, and the fishing was really good. It fished good on Saturday as well, but then got a little tougher on Sunday and Monday. There were fish caught however, just not very many. This Friday looks like it will be plunkable in the morning and maybe side-drifting in the afternoon. The rest of the weekend it looks like it may be blown out. Hopefully this big rise will bring in some more fish,” Coopman added.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem was just starting to turn green around Rio Dell prior to Wednesday’s storm, now we’re back to square one. The Eel near Scotia is predicted to peak Thursday evening at just under 97,000 cfs. We’re looking at a couple weeks of dry weather before it’s fishable. Good news is it was full of bright steelhead, hopefully this big rise will keep them coming.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork dropped into fishable shape on Monday, and the fishing reports from the last few days were good. It’s on the rise as of Wednesday afternoon and predicted to peak at Miranda at nearly 23,000 cfs Thursday afternoon. It should be on the drop beginning Monday. With no rain in the forecast next week, it could fish late in the week or by the weekend.

Van Duzen
The Duzen was in great shape the last two days, but was on a steep rise as of Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t hear any fishing reports, but prior to the latest storms there were quite a few caught. It’s forecasted to peak at nearly 19,800 cfs early Thursday morning. With rain in the forecast through the weekend, it will likely need a solid week to turn green.

Mad River
The Mad was still fishing as of Wednesday afternoon, and there were fish being caught according to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. He said, “The fishing is still spotty, definitely not red hot. I heard there were fish caught right below the hatchery and a few below the bridge. A few were caught by the boats on Tuesday as well. Overall, I’d say it’s kinda slow, and the fish are scattered throughout the river.”  The Mad is predicted to peak at just over 11,200 cfs (13.1 ft.) Sunday evening, and will likely need a good solid week of dry weather to clear.

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

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 www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab

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 https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/california-fish-and-game-commission-meets-in-oceanside/ 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 https://www.facebook.com/Unhookedbassanglers/

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.

 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.

Slow start to the steelhead season

It’s been somewhat of a sluggish start to the winter steelhead season on the North Coast, and it’s hard to put a finger on exactly why. All of the coastal rivers saw a good rise on Christmas Day, but that influx of water didn’t bring much in the way of steelhead numbers. Granted, a handful of steelhead have been caught on all of the rivers, but not nearly as many as there should be considering the conditions of the rivers. Could this be the year we really feel the effects of the most-recent drought? Or has there been enough years between the drought and now that it’s no longer a threat? There’s certainly no shortage of theories floating around, but no one knows for sure. The good news is we have storms lined up that will trigger some very large river rises, let’s hope the steelhead are riding those waves into our coastal rivers.

Weather ahead
Rain is back in the forecast along the North Coast beginning on Saturday, with the possibility of an atmospheric river rainfall event arriving as early as Sunday. The Smith basin is forecasted to receive over an inch of rain on both Saturday and Sunday, with nearly an inch falling on Monday and Tuesday. Locally, the Eel and Mad basins could see up to two inches over the weekend. More rain is forecasted for Monday and Tuesday, where we could see up to an inch and a half. Light rain is forecasted for Wednesday, with Thursday and Friday both looking dry.

Humboldt Steelhead Days starts on Jan. 19
Year #6 of the HSD hatchery steelhead fishing contest runs from Jan. 19 to Feb. 23 on the Mad and Trinity rivers. Licensed anglers can sign up and register for just $10 online at www.humboldtsteelheaddays.com or in person at RMI Outdoors, Mad River Tackle, and Mad River Brewing Co. The three biggest fish measured, photographed and submitted to humboldtsteelheaddays@gmail.com are eligible to win all kinds of donated prizes. Even if you don’t catch the biggest steelhead during the contest, registered anglers can still submit a “steelhead fishing” photo to be entered into a side photo contest. The two photo categories are: Any generic steelhead fishing photo and take your kids fishing photo. All the upcoming HSD events are listed on the website and their social media pages. 

Mad River steelhead tag

Mad River steelhead being tagged for research
In 2019, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is applying spaghetti tags to some hatchery steelhead returning to Mad River Hatchery for research purposes. The purpose of tagging hatchery steelhead is to see how many of the tagged fish return next year (multiple year spawning). The tags look similar to reward tags used for studies with fish in the Trinity River, but there is no reward for returning the Mad River tags. If you catch a hatchery steelhead with the green tag, you may:

  • Keep the hatchery steelhead and return the tag to CDFW, 50 Ericson Court, Arcata, CA 95521. You can also call Fisheries Biologist Michael Sparkman (707-496-5692) and provide him the tag number along with info on where the fish was caught.
  • You can also release the fish with tag still attached. Please do not remove the tag and then release fish.

CDFW will also be radio tagging both wild and hatchery steelhead similar to last year. The radio tag will be attached to a green spaghetti tag, and there is no reward for this tag either. Wild steelhead may not be retained and must be released immediately with the radio tag attached. If you catch a hatchery steelhead with a radio tag attached, you can harvest the fish and return the tag to CDFW, 50 Ericson Court, Arcata, CA 95521. CDFW prefers you release radio tagged hatchery steelhead, because these fish will help CDFW determine how many steelhead successfully spawned, migrated to the ocean, and returned to the Mad River to spawn again.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“The Chetco has been fairly slow so far this steelhead season,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Fishing was decent a few days last week during the high water, but was slow over the weekend as the Chetco dropped. A few fish are being caught daily close to Social Security Bar. This week’s rain should draw some more fish in before the river blows out next week.”
According to Martin, the bright spot on the Southern Oregon Coast has been the lower Rogue River. He said, “The lower Rogue in Gold Beach turned on this week. More anglers were fishing Jan. 1 with the annual regulation change that allows the harvest of wild fish. The guides on the water on New Year’s Day reported good fishing while on anchor and running plugs.”

Smith River
Flows dipped under 7 feet, and the river is low and clear. Most of the boats have moved to other rivers, and reports have been hard to come by. Hopefully the next big rise, which will hit on Saturday, will bring in a good push of fish.

Eel River
Main Stem
The main stem dropped into shape over the weekend, and is probably your best bet for the next couple days. The rains forecasted for Saturday will blow it out beginning on Sunday, with flows predicted to reach nearly 16,000 cfs. Boats have been averaging a handful of hookups per trip this week.

South Fork
The South Fork was below 600 cfs on Wednesday and starting to clear. Scores were best above Garberville earlier in the week. Boats fishing the lower end were getting a chance at one to two fish per day.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was down to 250 cfs as of Wednesday, and low and clear. The fishing has reportedly been slow, but a few bank anglers are still giving it a go. Predicted for a big rise late Saturday, which should bring in some fresh steelhead.

Mad River
River conditions are ideal for fishing, but there isn’t a ton of fish round right now. A few fresh steelhead are being caught by the bankies and boats, but there’s plenty of zeros mixed in. As of Wednesday, flows were right around 340 cfs and the river had good color. All this will change by the weekend when the next round of rain is expected to arrive. You should be able to get Saturday in, but the river will blow out on Saturday night. Flows are expected to hit 3,500 by early Sunday morning.

The upper Trinity could use another shot of rain, but the steelhead continue to move up reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. He said, “The mornings have been really cold, but we’re finding between two and four fish per trip. Your best bet is to cover a lot of water to find a group of fish moving. It’s been a mixture of hatchery and adults, with all methods working. With another good storm coming in this weekend, we’ll start to see the first of the winter steelhead coming in.”

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

Winter steelhead season set to take off

Ruben Rios Jr., of McKinleyville landed an early-season winter steelhead while fishing the Mad River on Saturday. The coastal winter steelhead season should be in full swing following the latest round of storms. Photo courtesy of Sage Romberg

For North Coast river anglers, the past couple weeks were spent waiting on the rain – as well as the arrival of the winter steelhead. Well, we now have both. The latest storms delivered a much more powerful punch than predicted, especially to the Smith and Chetco. Both rivers peaked at well over 20,000 cfs, and got the flushing they badly needed. Here in Humboldt, all of the rivers rose to their highest levels of the winter. And plenty more is on the way. The storms predicted for Sunday and Monday are looking like good ones. While not a ton of angling activity has taken place this past week, there are some good signs. A few adult steelhead were landed on the Mad over the weekend before it blew out. A few also showed up at the hatchery. There’s been a handful of steelhead caught on the main stem Eel, so there’s surely fish making their way up the Duzen and the South Fork Eel by now. Quite a few fresh steelies also made their way to the Rowdy Creek hatchery on the Smith. All signs point towards a good start to the winter steelhead season, all it will take is a few rainless days and we’ll know for sure.

Weather ahead
“More rain is on the way, with a couple pretty good systems bearing down on the North Coast,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The first system will arrive early Thursday evening and is forecasted to leave some decent rainfall totals in it’s wake. The Smith basin should see from three-quarters up to an inch and a quarter. The hills could see up to an inch and a half. Locally, the Eel and Mad basins could see a half-inch up to an inch and a quarter. Friday and Saturday are looking mostly dry, with the next system forecasted to arrive on Sunday afternoon. This storm, which could linger through Tuesday, will pack a pretty good punch. The Smith basin could see three to four inches, and the Eel, Mad basins could see up to two inches,” said Zontos. More rain is forecasted for Wednesday and Thursday, but the amounts are uncertain according to Zontos.

Humboldt Bay Entrance Safety Zone established
In a recent press release, the Coast Guard established a safety zone in the navigable waters of the Humboldt Bay Entrance Channel to promote the navigational safety of all vessels near Humboldt Bay, when extreme environmental conditions are present. The safety zone will run through March 31, 2019. The safety zone prohibits vessels from transiting the Humboldt Bay Entrance Channel as a result of extreme environmental conditions.

During times of extreme environmental conditions, the temporary safety zone applies to the navigable waters of the Humboldt Bay Bar Channel and the Humboldt Bay Entrance Channel, of Humboldt Bay. This safety zone is effective from the time of promulgation through March 31, 2019; this safety zone will be enforced when on-scene conditions reach 20 feet breaking seas or as the Captain of the Port determines that the on scene environmental conditions are hazardous and unsafe for vessel transits, as announced via Broadcast Notice to Mariners. During times of enforcement, all vessels are prohibited from transiting through or remaining in the safety zone.

Any vessel requesting permission to transit the safety zone during times of enforcement shall contact Station Humboldt Bay on VHF-FM channel 16 or at 707- 443-2213 between 6:30 a.m. and 10 p.m., or to Sector Humboldt Bay on VHF-FM channel 16 or at 707-839-6113 between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
For more information on boating safety and required and recommended safety equipment, please visit www.uscgboating.org. For more information on weather conditions, please visit www.weather.gov.

2019 Fishing license
A reminder that it’s the time of the year to purchase your 2019 sport fishing license, which is required for residents 16 years of age or older to take fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, amphibians or reptile in inland or ocean waters. The cost of a new resident sport fishing license is $49.94. A North Coast salmon report card, which will run you $6.74, is required for all anglers taking salmon in the Smith River System or Klamath-Trinity River System. If you plan to fish for steelhead, you’ll need to purchase a steelhead report card, which will cost $7.56 this year. The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife does not accept cash for fishing licenses. For more info, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing

Reduced-Fee sport fishing licenses available
Reduced-cost fishing licenses are available in 2019 for $7.47 (instead of $49.94) for those 65 or older on reduced income or disabled military veterans. For more information on all CA fishing licenses, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing#44521417-free–reduced-fee

Mattole River opens to fishing Jan. 1
The Mattole River will open to fishing on Tuesday, January 1 from 200 yards upstream of its mouth to the confluence with Stansberry Creek. Only artificial lures may be used and barbless hooks are required. The Mattole is also regulated by low flow closures, with a minimum flow of 320 cfs at the Petrolia gauging station.

Mad River Hatchery ladder open
The water running down the ladder to the river was turned on Sunday and a few fish had already made their way up as of Wednesday. The hatchery hopes to begin spawning on Wednesday, Jan. 2 and then each following Tuesday.

The Rivers:
For the first time this season, the Chetco reached the top of its banks and completely blew out on Tuesday, hitting 20,000 cfs at the Ice Box gauge reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “A steady stream of logs and trees flowed into the ocean. The forecast shows there is an outside chance the river will fish for drift boaters by Saturday. It could be fishable for plunkers as early as Thursday or Friday. To side-drift, it needs to drop below 5,000 cfs. There should be some steelhead in the river when it comes into shape,” added Martin.

The Elk and Sixes also blew out big time according to Martin. He said, “The Elk reached 8.9 feet Tuesday afternoon, up from 4 feet the day before. The Sixes went completely over its banks. The Elk will be fishable by the weekend. The Sixes may be out for the rest of the salmon season, which runs through December. The Elk will remain open to salmon fishing in January.”

Smith River
The Smith exceeded monitor stage on Tuesday, but was quickly dropping as of  Wednesday. According to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, the color looked good, but it was big. He said, “This is the blowout we needed, the river should have really cleaned up. There haven’t been many boats out due to the weather and flows, but I did hear some fresh steelhead made it to the hatchery. Once the flows drop to fishable levels, I expect there to be plenty of fish in the river.” Flows are looking good for the weekend, but another rise is predicted for late Sunday.

Main stem Eel
Flows peaked at nearly 15,000 cfs on Monday night and looks to be blown out for some time. There were a few adults around as well as half-pounders. This latest rise should have brought the first big batch of adult winter steelhead into the system.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork topped out at 6,500 cfs on Wednesday morning. Another smaller rise is predicted for Friday, with flows dropping down to fishable levels by the weekend. There’s a couple of active slides that will likely keep it too muddy to fish. Another rise is predicted for late Sunday.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen peaked at 3,330 cfs on Tuesday night, but is predicted to rise again on Friday and Monday. The river will need a few days of dry weather before it turns green, especially on the lower end. Will likely be end of next week at least before it’s fishable.

Like all of the coastal rivers, the Mad blew out on Tuesday and won’t be green any time soon reports Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. He said. “We’ll need about a week of dry weather for the river to come around. Prior to the rain, a few adult steelhead were caught below the bridge in Blue Lake. A few fish have made it back to the hatchery as well, so the river definitely has some fresh fish in it.” The Mad is forecasted to rise on Friday to nearly 10 feet and another decent rise is predicted for Monday.

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

Rain – and hopefully steelhead – on the way

Winter steelhead season has yet to kick into gear on the North Coast, but changes are a brewing. We have a couple decent storm fronts headed our way that will put all of the coastal rivers on the rise. If the rain comes as predicted, the rivers will see their highest flows this winter, except for the Smith. The Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Mad will all get a good flushing, and will likely be muddy next week. Once they recede to fishable levels, we should see the first wave of winter steelhead make their way into our coastal rivers. After a very short and sub-par late fall salmon season, seeing the rivers loaded with bright steelhead sure would be a welcome sight.

Weather ahead
“A couple of fronts are headed our way and we should begin to see a pattern change by Friday,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The first system will arrive on Friday afternoon and could drop up to three-quarters of an inch in the Smith basin and up to an inch in the Eel and Mad basins. Saturday is looking dry, with a more robust storm arriving on Sunday afternoon. Rainfall totals will be a little better for this one, with the Smith seeing one to two inches and the Eel seeing up to two and a half inches. Another system is forecasted for Monday and Tuesday, but there’s some uncertainty as to where it will land. Right now, the models are showing three-quarters of an inch in the Smith basin and up to a half-inch locally, but that could go up or down. Wednesday is looking dry, with the next system predicted for Thursday and Friday,” said Zontos.

Commercial Dungeness season delayed again
Poor quality has again delayed the commercial Dungeness crab season on the North Coast. The additional 15-day delay will push the new opener date to Dec. 31. Results from the latest round of quality tests continue to show the crab are not ready for harvesting. Delays due to quality only affect the northern commercial fishery in California Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties). The season in these districts is now scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2018, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2018. The next round of quality testing is scheduled for Dec. 21. If the meat weight to crab weight remains low, the season could be delayed until Jan. 15, 2019. For more information, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=162630&inline.

For the latest quality test results, visit http://www.psmfc.org/crab/2018-2019%20Files/Tri-State%20PreseasonCoastwideResults_2018.pdf

Razor clam fishery remains closed
In a recent blog post, the CDFW is reminding clammers that the razor clam fishery in Humboldt and Del Norte counties is still closed. The sport razor clam fishery closed more than two years ago due to harmful levels domoic acid. Domoic acid levels have not fallen low enough to reopen the sport season according to the state Department of Public Health (CDPH). Levels were recently found to be skyrocketing. Clams tested were found to contain 130-300 parts per million of domoic acid – up to 15 times the 20 parts per million consumption alert level.

“We are concerned about the extremely high domoic acid test results that came in a couple of weeks ago for razor clam,” said Christy Juhasz, an environmental scientist with the CDFW. “We’re taking this opportunity to remind clammers that the razor clam fishery has been closed since April 2016 to protect the public from consuming potentially lethal razor clams.”

The fishery closure prohibits the recreational take and possession of razor clams from Humboldt and Del Norte county beaches. It effectively removed access to one of the tastiest food clams in California with no season reopening in sight, as testing continues to confirm dangerous levels of domoic acid in razor clam populations in the affected counties.

For the latest information about fishing season closures, you can call the CDFW’s Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at 831-649-2883. Fishing season closures are also listed on the CDFW website. For the latest consumption warnings, call the CDPH Biotoxin Information line at 510-412-4643 or toll-free at 800-553-4133.

The Rivers:

Very few salmon are being caught on the Chetco, but steelhead fishing has begun to pick up reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There are a bunch of half-pounders, many of them hatchery fish, spread throughout the river. There also are more adult steelhead being caught. The upper river has dark salmon still spawning,” said Martin. Following Friday’s rain, flows are predicted to be between 2,000 and 2,500 cfs for the weekend on the Chetco.

Anglers willing to drag their boats downriver did fairly well on the Elk over the weekend according to Martin. He said, “Bank anglers also got into fish in the deep hole next to the hatchery. Big flows are expected after this weekend’s big storm, which could bring fresh kings into both the Elk and Sixes.”

Fishing the NC 12_13 photo

Houston Texas resident Nathan Vajdos landed a late fall-run king salmon on Wednesday while fishing the Smith River. With rain in the forecast, the last of the king salmon will be making their way upriver to spawn while the winter steelhead should begin to make their way into the coastal rivers. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

“The river came up overnight on Tuesday and was little on the dirty side Wednesday,” said Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “There’s still a few kings in the river, but most are dark. There hasn’t been much in the way of steelhead yet, but hopefully that will change with the next round of storms on the way. We’re predicted to get a decent rise for Saturday, and then another bigger one for early next week. This should open the door for the start of the steelhead run.”

The Mad opened back up to fishing on Wednesday morning, but it could be a short window. Flows are predicted to drop through Friday morning, with the next rise coming Friday afternoon. There should be some steelhead around, as well as a few late kings. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 200 cfs.

Main stem Eel
The main stem is low, but holding decent color. The river is full of half-pounders from the forks down, along with a few adults. Most of the fish are in the deeper holes, anywhere there’s broken water. The flows were just above 1,200 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday afternoon and predicted to hold there until Friday evening. The river is forecasted to rise late Friday and will likely blow out for the weekend and into next week. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 350 cfs on the Scotia gauge.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork was closed to fishing as of Wednesday, and it likely won’t open prior to the next storm. It’s predicted to rise beginning Friday night and will probably be blown out through the weekend and into next week. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 340 cfs.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was open to fishing as of Wednesday, and could remain open until it starts to rise on Friday morning. The river will likely be muddy on Saturday before it blows out on Sunday. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 150 cfs.

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

Coastal rivers await steelhead

Mike Phillips of New Jersey holds a 35-pound king he caught Nov. 30 on the Chetco River while fishing with his son, guide Rye Phillips. The salmon hit a 5.0 MagLip. Photo courtesy of Rye Phillips

With very little rain over the past week and the rivers on the drop, the end is likely in sight for the late, fall-run salmon season on the North Coast. The season has been somewhat of a disappointment to fishermen as only a couple major storms hit the coast and dropped enough rain to bring the Smith and Chetco up to ideal levels. While the fishing window was very small, that doesn’t necessarily mean the number of returning salmon was small. Even during the low water conditions, salmon were seen making their way upriver on all of our coastal streams. Typically, the season’s first big rains come in October, leaving us a good four to five-week window to fish. That hasn’t been the case the last couple of years as the salmon didn’t bother to wait for us, or the strong flows to get them to their end destinations.

On the flip side — with the calendar now saying it’s December — expect the winter steelhead to start showing in numbers in the rivers. The Chetco has seen quite a few adults make their way in and the Smith steelhead should be right behind them. But don’t give up entirely on salmon just yet. The Smith, Chetco and the Eel should each see another spurt or two of fresh kings move in on the next substantial river rise.

Weather ahead
The next round of storms should arrive by mid-day Sunday according to Matthew Kidwell of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The bulk of the system should move into the area on Sunday afternoon and will linger into Monday. We could see up to an inch and a half in the Smith basin and up to an inch here locally. We’ll have a break beginning on Monday afternoon, with the next system forecasted to arrive Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. There’s quite a bit of uncertainty with this one, but we could potentially see one to two inches. We’ll get another short break on Thursday, with the next system predicted for later in the week or by the weekend,” said Kidwell.

Humboldt Bay crabbing
Sport Crabbing inside Humboldt Bay has improved according to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. He said, “I’ve been hearing that the fishing has improved.The best spots have been between the Coast Guard station and the entrance. The medium-sized crabs are in really good shape, while the jumbos are still a little light, but improving. Squid and chicken seem to be the bait of choice,”Kelly added. Typically crabbing is best an hour and a half on both sides of the slack tide.

Commercial Dungeness crab season to open in Sonoma County
The commercial Dungeness crab fishery from Bodega Head, Sonoma County north to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line will open this Saturday according to a press release issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The area from the southern boundary of Bodega Head State Marine Reserve, Sonoma County (38° 18′ N.latitude) north to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line (38° 46.125′ N. latitude)was closed due to elevated levels of domoic acid. The fishery will open at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, to be preceded by an 18-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 6:01 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 7. No vessel may take crab within a delayed area during the closure period. In addition, any vessel that has landed crab from ocean waters outside of this delayed area is prohibited from taking, possessing on board, or landing Dungeness crab in this area until Jan. 7, 2019 pursuant to Section 8279.1 of the Fish and Game Code.

The northern California commercial Dungeness crab fishery in Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties) remains closed until 12:01 a.m. December 16, due to poor crab meat quality tests. If the next round of test results indicate good quality, the fishery will open and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period. For more information, visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2018/12/03/commercial-dungeness-crab-season-to-open-in-sonoma-county/

River closures
The South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mad and Redwood Creek will all be closed to fishing beginning Thursday morning, Dec. 6 due to low flows. Be sure and call the low flow closure hotline, 707 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing.

“Salmon fishing has been slow on the Chetco the past week, although there seems to be one boat that gets hot each day and gets a couple of fish,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The water is higher than the gauge indicates, and that has played somewhat of a role in the success. The river is still high. More steelhead have been caught the past week, both from drift boats and the bank anglers plunking Spin-N-Glos. Expect to see more steelhead after this week’s rain. Salmon are currently spawning in the upper river.”

The Elk and Sixes have been hit or miss, with a few nice fish being caught early this week reports Martin. “Overall, fishing has been slow this fall on the two rivers, following a similar pattern for all the north-migrating rivers. The Elk is the southernmost river where the salmon migrate to Alaska, and all of the north-migrating rivers have had fairly poor returns this fall,” added Martin.

“It’s transition time for the Smith River as the majority of the salmon have moved upriver and we’re now waiting for the steelhead to show,” said Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “The river has been low this week, and the fishing pressure has been light. From what I’m hearing, there aren’t many salmon around, especially bright ones. It looks like the majority of the fish came through on the rise that we had around Thanksgiving. I heard good reports of fish making it to some of the creeks, and I’ve also seen quite a few main stem spawners. It was definitely a short fishing window, but that not a reflection on the potential run size.Now is typically when we see the steelhead start to show, and I’ve heard there’s some small ones around. We have a decent rise coming late this weekend,so hopefully the first wave of steelhead will begin to show.”

Main stem Eel
The main stem is turning green and was fishable on Wednesday reports Paul Grundmans of Grundmans Sporting Goods in Rio Dell. He said, “We may see a few fresh salmon coming in,but the majority likely moved upriver during the higher flows. We’ve got some pretty big tides happening, so we should see the first of the winter steelhead start to make their way in,” Grundman added.  The flows were just below 1,900 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday afternoon and predicted to be around 1,000 cfs by Saturday.

Upper Trinity
It has been an up-and-down week on the upper Trinity reports guide Steve Huber. He said, “Deadwood Creek, which was heavily affected by the Carr Fire, has pushed quite a bit of mud into the river. Most of the creeks have all started to flow due to the recent rainfall.  We’ve finally started to see some new fish pushing into the upper river, which should be the start of the winter steelhead run. The Junction City area is clearing quicker due to the clean water coming from the creeks, and that’s where most of the fishing pressure has been. All methods seem to be working, both bait and fly fisherman are seeing good results. Most of these fish from here on out will be wild fish. More storms and weather coming in this week, so I’d expect to see good fishing.” 

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

Telling weekend ahead for late fall king run

Fishing the NC 11_29 photo

Don Williams of Brookings holds a king salmon he caught Nov. 26 while fishing the Chetco River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.

The season for late fall kings finally got going last week following the first significant storms of the year. For the Smith and Chetco, I’d say the fishing was fair. While there were some big, bright fish caught on both rivers, the overall scores were pretty underwhelming. Now granted, conditions weren’t exactly perfect, but we were all hoping to see a few more fish around. Especially bright ones. The one nice surprise was the number of jacks, or two-year old kings on the Smith. Their numbers far outweighed the adults, which is always a good sign for our future runs, but they don’t provide the smiles like a chrome bright king. Looking forward, off and on rain is in the forecast through Saturday, which should keep the Smith and Chetco at prime levels. The Humboldt rivers should also stabilize. The Mad, SF Eel, and the Van Duzen could all drop into fishable shape by Monday if the rainfall predictions are correct. With excellent river conditions on the horizon, we’ll have a real good idea by the end of the weekend if the heart of the run has already made their way upriver. If so, bring on the steelhead.

Weather ahead
“We don’t expect any huge rain events for the next week, but we do expect to see a few decent systems move through the area,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The next system will arrive Wednesday night and will linger through Thursday, with the majority of the rainfall hitting the Eel basin. Rainfall totals will be from a half to an inch in the Eel basin and a half to three-quarters in the Smith area. Light showers are predicted for Friday, with the next system hitting overnight Friday and into Saturday. Up to an inch and half could fall in the Smith basin and up to an inch in the Eel basin. Sunday and Monday are looking like they’ll be dry. Another system is forecasted for Tuesday and Wednesday, but there’s some uncertainty around this one. If the system is right over us, we could see one to two inches. If it clips us, we may see a half-inch. We’ll have to wait and see. The weather pattern does look active at least through the second week of December as of now,” said Zontos.

Anti-snagging regs lifted on the Chetco
Anti-snagging fishing gear restrictions were lifted on Tuesday after significant rains reduced snagging risks, according to a news release issued by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. These restrictions, in place to allow angling for Chetco River fall chinook salmon, are meant to curb illegal snagging.

Fall chinook anglers on the Chetco and Winchuck have been relegated to fly-fishing or fishing with a bobber while using artificial lures or bait, with leaders no longer than 3 feet. On the Chetco, the rule applied to the top of tidewater at River Mile 2.2 to the mouth of Nook Creek.

That rule typically is lifted after Nov. 4, when rains typically raise the river levels and allow the fish to move upstream. The rains did not arrive by then, so the ODFW extended the bobber rule through Dec. 31 or when rainfall allowed chinook to move upstream. The chinook bag limit on the Chetco is one per day and no more than five per year through December. For more information, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2018/11_november/112718.asp

Humboldt Steelhead Days announce fishing contest dates for 2019
The founders of Humboldt Steelhead Days, Mad River Alliance — in their 6th year of producing this annual wintertime event — announced this year’s fishing contest will occur on the Mad and Trinity Rivers and will again be limited to hatchery fish only. The three biggest hatchery fish on both rivers, caught and measured, from Jan. 19 to Feb. 23, 2019 will be eligible to win prizes and bragging rights. Anglers must register with a $10 donation in order to be entered into the contest. For more info and a complete list of events, visit http://www.humboldtsteelheaddays.com/

The Rivers:
Salmon fishing took off on the Smith Thanksgiving Day following a decent storm that opened up the river to fishing. There were a few caught on Thursday, but Friday was tougher as the river was on the rise. Saturday, the conditions were excellent and the fishing was good for most of the boats. Some nice fish were caught, along with quite a few jacks. By Sunday, the river was low and clear and the scores dropped. Tuesday night’s rain brought in some bright fish to the tidewater according to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “With more rain in the forecast, the river should be in excellent condition through the weekend. Hopefully we’ll see a bunch of fish come in,” added Coopman.

“The Chetco dropped into prime shape over the weekend, but salmon fishing was fair at best, and slow for many anglers,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Lots of dark fish are being caught, with a few bright kings. The river blew out on Tuesday, but could fish just for a few days before it rises again this weekend. A few steelhead have been caught. The bobber-only regulation has been lifted, so back-bouncing and side-drifting are now allowed.”

The Elk and Sixes both blew out on Tuesday but will be dropping into prime shape this week according to Martin. “Rain could blow the Sixes out again before the weekend. The bulk of the Elk River salmon run is expected in the coming days, but the river likely will be crowded. ODFW is radio-tagging several dozen kings for a study this fall. Any of the fish with radio tags, indicated by a hole punched onto their gillplate, must be released,” said Martin.

Forecasted to be hovering right at 7 feet by early Monday morning. If the predictions are correct, if could be fishable by Monday or Tuesday.

Flows are predicted to peak at just over 8,000 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Friday afternoon, but it’s predicted to drop to 5,000 cfs by early Monday morning. A long shot to be fishable before the next storm hits.

South Fork
The Miranda area is forecasted to peak at 3,300 cfs Thursday evening. Flows should be back down to 1,100 cfs by early Monday morning. Should be worth a look.

Van Duzen
Forecasted to hit 1,330 cfs on Saturday, but should be on the drop the rest of the day and Sunday. Flows are predicted to be under 500 cfs by Monday morning. There’s a chance it could fish above Yager Creek.

Upper Trinity
With more rain in the forecast, we should see a good week of fresh steelhead moving into the upper Trinity,” said Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “Warmer conditions should help improve the bite, and all methods should be effective. The river was back on the drop Tuesday night. It looks like we may have some snow next week, so I expect conditions will be a little tougher, but we should have some more fish to work with,” added Huber.

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

Rain will kick-off late run of fall kings

Fishing the NC 11_22
Ryan Rintala, of Truckee, landed a nice late-fall king salmon last November on the Smith River. With rain in the forecast and the rivers on the rise, the Smith and Chetco Rivers will be good bets for the weekend. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest/Fishing the North Coast

The season’s first sizeable storms are finally filling our local rivers with fresh rainwater. And that means hard-charging, fresh from the salt king salmon – big and bright – will be making their way up all of our coastal rivers starting now. So, if you see a family member duck out early on Thanksgiving Day, or fail to show up, now you’ll know why. A steady stream of drift boats heading north on hwy.101 is also a pretty good indicator. The Smith and Chetco should be fishable on Friday, but both will be on a pretty steady rise. Both rivers should be chocked full of bright kings, and expect plenty of debris and leaves as well. As of Wednesday, the Smith is predicted to peak at just over 7,100 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge on Friday evening. With very little rain predicted for the weekend, the river will drop quickly. It’s forecasted to be back down to 700 cfs by Monday morning. The Chetco will top out at just under 3,000 cfs on Friday night. And like the Smith, expect to battle plenty of fresh kings as well as leaves.

The Mad, Eel, and Van Duzen are all expected to rise substantially and well above the low-flow levels. They’ll likely open to fishing, but don’t expect green water. Before you head out, you’ll want to call the low-flow hotline (707-822-3164) to determine if your favorite river is open or closed to fishing. With rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future, this weekend should be just the first of many opportunities to battle the prized late-fall kings.

Weather ahead

“We can expect consistent rainfall through Friday, leading to some pretty impressive rainfall totals,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “In the Smith and Humboldt basins, we’re looking at four to five inches and six to seven in the hills through Saturday evening. Right now, Saturday and Sunday are looking mostly dry. A weak front is expected on Tuesday, with a more robust system hitting the area late Wednesday and sticking around through Friday. Looking further out, the wet pattern will be with us for at least the first couple weeks into December.”

Commercial crab season on the North Coast delayed

On Tuesday, the CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham issued a memo delaying the Northern California commercial Dungeness crab season due to poor crab meat quality test results. The delay includes Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties). Crabs tested in Eureka revealed a 17.8 percent meat recovery while Trinidad came in at 17.7 percent. Both tests were done in early November.

The northern Dungeness crab fishery is delayed until 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Dec.16, 2018 pending another round of test results tentatively scheduled for Dec. 1. If these results indicate good quality, the fishery will open and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.

The southern Dungeness crab fishery opened on Nov. 15, except for the area from the southern boundary of Bodega Head State Marine Reserve, Sonoma County north to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line, which was delayed due to domoic acid. Visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2018/11/20/commercial-dungeness-crab-season-delayed-in-northern-california/ for more info.

Nov. 23 and 24 free fish days in Oregon

ODFW is waiving all fishing licensing requirements on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to experience fishing with friends and family during the long holiday weekend. All fishing, crabbing and clamming in Oregon will be free for both Oregon residents and non-residents. No licenses, tags or endorsements are needed on those days, but all other fishing regulations apply. Visit https://myodfw.com/workshops-and-events/free-fishing-days-nov-23-24 for more info.

Radio-tagged Elk River kings must be returned

On Tuesday, the ODFW issued a press release reminding Elk River anglers to release unharmed any radio-tagged fall chinook salmon caught. ODFW is conducting a research project tagging up to 100 hatchery and wild fall chinook below Elk River Hatchery.

Radio tags can often be mistaken for leaders as only the antenna is visible protruding from the fish’s mouth. ODFW encourages anglers to check carefully as it is illegal to harvest these fish.

This telemetry study will help determine the spawning migration pattern of returning Elk River fall chinook. Researchers want to establish whether hatchery origin fish return to the hatchery and fall back before spawning or spawn selectively below the hatchery. Staff installed fixed-station receivers to track the fish weekly and will conduct spawning ground surveys to recover tags. For more information, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2018/11_november/112018.asp

Upper Trinity reopens for retention of adult kings

In a press release issued on Nov. 16, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Trinity River Hatchery has determined the hatchery will have taken in more than 4,800 fall Chinook Salmon by the end of this week. According to California 2018-19 supplemental sport fishing regulations, the take of 4,800 fall Chinook Salmon at the hatchery triggers the reopening of the recreational Chinook Salmon fishery on the Upper Trinity River between the mouth of Indian Creek, near Weaverville, and Old Lewiston Bridge, at 12 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 19.

Recreational anglers will be able to harvest two Chinook salmon, with no more than one adult greater than 22 inches, per day in this reach. The possession limit is six Chinook salmon, and no more than three adults. For more information, visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2018/11/16/trinity-river-upstream-of-indian-creek-reopens-for-adult-chinook-salmon-harvest-on-monday-nov-19/

The Rivers:


The Smith should open no later than Friday morning, but could potentially open on Thursday. It’s predicted to peak at 7,100 cfs on Friday evening, but this will likely change. The river should be full of bright kings, along with some darker fish that have been holding in the lower river for a while. With the first big rise of the season, you can expect lots of leaves and debris coming down river. Cleaning your gear will be a must. Also expect a crowd, local salmon anglers have been jonesing for this day for weeks.  The daily bag and possession limit is one (1) Chinook salmon and no more than five (5) wild Chinook salmon over 22 inches per year. To see if the river is open to fishing, call the hotline at 707-822-3164. Visit http://cdec.water.ca.gov/river/smithStages.html for current river levels.


This week’s rain should produce the best salmon fishing of the season on the Chetco according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There are still plenty of salmon in the ocean waiting for the rain,” said Martin. “This week we released three large kings during our ocean charters off of Brookings. Anytime you catch salmon on shrimp flies there are likely a lot of kings around. Leaves will be an issue when the Chetco comes into shape.” Reminder: The anti-snagging, bobber-only regulations will continue at least through the weekend. ODFW has indicated they will wait until next week to make a decision on the lifting the regulation.  The anti-snagging gear restrictions are described on page 18 of Oregon’s 2018 Sport Fishing Regulation Book.

“The Elk and Sixes will both be full of salmon this weekend but also will be very crowded,” said Martin. “With many Oregon rivers closed to salmon fishing this fall, the two Port Orford-area rivers are the closest options for anglers from most areas of the state. The Elk usually fished well for anglers running plugs the first couple of days after the first big rain of fall and then quickly clears and turns to a back-bouncing show,” added Martin.

Upper Trinity

“The much-needed rain will definitely change the game on the upper Trinity after the weekend,” said guide Steve Huber. “The salmon season reopened above Indian Creek, which is good news. The steelhead fishing was tough this week with colder conditions.  Boats are still seeing between one to four steelhead per trip. There’s lots of wild fish around, I didn’t catch any hatchery fish this week. I expect to see some better numbers and some more fish after the weekend. With the holiday, the river will likely be crowded for the next few days.”

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

Coastal anglers – and salmon – waiting on rain

The arduous wait for rainfall continues to drag on. For coastal salmon anglers waiting to drift the Smith, Chetco or Eel, it seems like a lifetime ago when the rivers last had enough flow for salmon to maneuver upriver. Hardly a drop has hit the ground since late October, when enough rain fell in the Smith Basin to put the Smith on the rise. Though the parched ground soaked up most of the moisture, the Smith did rise above 700 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge for a brief period of time. Since then, we’ve had very little, if any, rain to speak of. And Humboldt has been dry as a bone.

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 more north, keeping them from sagging into the Northern end of the state.

But changes to our weather patterns may finally be taking shape. Following another dry weekend, we may have some rain in the forecast by the middle of next week. “The models are going back and forth, but it’s looking like we’ll have a chance of rain on Wednesday and Friday of next week,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Right now, the models show more confidence for Friday. These fronts could be the beginning of a switch in the weather pattern as the last week of November is looking like we could potentially see above normal precipitation.” If this truly is the beginning of our rainy weather, it’s going be one heck of a Thanksgiving.

Marine forecast
The weekend marine forecast is looking pretty good for offshore crabbing. The forecast is calling for winds up to 5 knots out of the SW on Saturday, with waves W 6 feet at 12 seconds. On Sunday, the wind will be coming out of the N up to 5 knots with waves W 6 feet at 11 seconds. The forecast will likely change, so before you head out, check the marine forecast at www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka and click on the marine tab. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit: www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan

Sport crab fishing going strong
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sportfishing is reporting excellent crabbing out of Eureka. On a couple day soak, he’s been averaging anywhere from 12 to 15 keeper crabs per pot and limits are coming easy for the customers. Klassen and Gary Blasi of Full Throttle Sport Fishing are both booking crab trips out of Woodley Island. Trips will generally last two hours. Departure times will depend on the tides, but most often they’ll leave sometime in the morning. To book a trip with Reel Steel Sport Fishing, call 707-499-4925. Full Throttle can be reached at 707 498-7473. The weekend trips fill up quick, so you’ll want to call early to reserve your spot.

Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka reports the sport crabbing has been really good so far this season for anglers fishing out of Trinidad. “Overall, crabbing has been just as good as last year, and the crabs are in a little better shape. Crabbing in Humboldt Bay has been decent, with the south side of the jetty producing more keepers. South Bay has been pretty good too, but you’ll want to keep a close eye on your pots as a few have been raided. Squid chicken drumsticks, and turkey necks have been a good choice for bait,” Kelly said.

Chetco River bridge repair
Repair work on the Chetco River Bridge at mile post 1.0 of Forest Service Road 1376 that was scheduled to begin on November 14th, will now begin on November 16th. The project is located on the Gold Beach Ranger District, approximately nine miles northeast of Brookings. The closures on the bridge will be in place November 16th through November 18th, after which work will be put on hold until after January 1, 2019. Expected delays will be variable, with closures lasting 30 minutes to 8 hours at a time. This work is weather dependent and may be rescheduled if needed. For more information, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/rogue-siskiyou/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD602021

The Rivers:
Chetco River
Low flows continue to keep the Chetco above tidewater too low to fish from a drift boat reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “The low flows, now down to 80 cfs, also are preventing salmon from moving above the head of tide. A few fish a day are being caught in the estuary, with up to a dozen a few days last week. Most of the salmon caught in the estuary are being hook right at the tips of the jetties.”

Smith River
According to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, fishing has been slow on the lower river. “There’s been very few boats, if any, the last few days. There isn’t a ton of fish around, and the fish that are making their way through the mouth are being chased by seals. We’ve got some pretty good tides coming up, so hopefully we’ll see some fish start to move in,” Coopman said.

Truckee resident Darren Davis landed a nice hatchery steelhead on a recent float down the upper Trinity River. Photo courtesy of Steve Huber’s Guide Service

Upper Trinity
The steelhead action on the Trinity has been up and down reports guide Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “Cold mornings in the upper teens is making it tough, and we could definitely use some rain. Steelhead are coming on all methods from fly fishing, pulling plugs and side-drifting roe. Right now, we’re seeing one to four fish per day, and there are still a few salmon moving around. Even with the low water, you’re able to fish from the Lewiston Bridge down into Willow Creek,” Huber said.

 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

Banner North Coast opener for Dungeness crab


The sport Dungeness crab season kicked off this past Saturday, and those who ventured offshore reported the crabs were plentiful and good-sized, and much meatier than last year at this time. Captain Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing set gear south of the entrance this week in 90 to 120 feet of water and reported 18 to 25 keepers per pot following an overnight soak. “The reports were similar for boats fishing south of the entrance as well as those who dropped pots right outside the jetties in 60 to 70 feet of water. Reports coming from the bay were mixed. I heard some boats did well, and some got skunked. It sounded like they weren’t everywhere, but if you fished in the right spot you could do well,” added Klassen. Opening day reports from Trinidad were about the same as Eureka – plenty of crabs and a little better grade than last year. There were no shortage of kayaks and small boats which is usually the case on opening weekend. Limits were the norm for just about everyone on a three-hour soak. Reminder: State waters from Patrick’s Point, Humboldt County (41° 8.00’ N. Latitude) north to the California/Oregon state line remains closed due to unhealthy levels of domoic acid. Testing for domoic acid is continuing, to view the results, visit https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DFDCS/Pages/FDBPrograms/FoodSafetyProgram/DomoicAcid.aspx

Weekend weather and forecast

“Not much in the way of rain on the horizon,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “We may see a couple week fronts pass through next week that could drop a few hundredths in the Smith basin, but it doesn’t look like we’ll see anything in Humboldt. As of now, it’s looking dry through next week and possibly longer.”

The weekend marine forecast doesn’t look to bad for offshore crabbing, and Sunday is looking really nice. The forecast is calling for winds 10 to 15 knots out of the N on Saturday, with waves N 6 feet at 7 seconds and NW 3 feet at 11 seconds. The wind will lay down on Sunday, coming out of the NW up to 5 knots with waves N 3 feet at 7 seconds and NW 4 feet at 11 seconds. The forecast will likely change, so before you head out, check the marine forecast at www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka and click on the marine tab. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit: www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan

Friends of the Eel file petition to list summer steelhead

On Sept. 28, the Friends of the Eel River, a local non-profit organization based in Eureka, filed a petition with the California Fish and Game Commission to list Northern California summer steelhead under the California Endangered Species Act, as an endangered species. The organization stated that the California summer steelhead are a native subspecies of fish in serious danger of becoming extinct throughout all of its range due to causes including loss of habitat and change in habitat. The Summer steelhead are stream-maturing ecotype fish that enter freshwater with undeveloped gonads, and then mature over several months in freshwater. These steelhead spend the summer in typically deep, bedrock holding pools and remote canyon reaches of streams with some overhead cover and subsurface flow to keep cool until higher flows arrive in winter.

How will this listing effect the current situation with the Potter Valley Project, which PG&E has recently put up for auction? “There are currently two scenarios right now in which the PVP could be transferred to an owner other than PG&E, said Scott Greacen, Conservation Director of Friends of the Eel. “In the first, PG&E’s current efforts to “sell” work out, and the new owners get the whole setup as it now exists. In the second scenario, the auction fails, and PG&E winds up negotiating a deal to remove at least Scott Dam. In that case, it’s likely that a new entity would be created to take ownership of the PVP while dam removal happens – and, most likely, to manage what remains of the PVP as a winter-only water transfer project. What listing will do is make more explicit what’s at stake in the question whether to remove Scott Dam, and/or to relicense it, as FERC is currently in the middle of doing,” said Greacen.

“The summer steelhead that ran up the mainstem above Scott Dam were the longest (distance from the Pacific) run of steelhead in the region. If the upper mainstem run could be restored, the regional population would benefit enormously by gaining another robust population, adding to the Middle Eel and the Van Duzen populations that are now our best hope to keep these fish from blinking out.” It would be easy to believe that the FOER filed this petition to secure more water as the summer run is migrating. But that’s not the case according to Greacen. “There’s a common misunderstanding that the key issue for fisheries in the Eel is summer flows. It’s not. Summer flows are higher now than they would be without the dam (because NMFS requires basically a natural flow equivalent, plus a smallish buffer). What Scott Dam removal would give the fish, especially steelhead, is another 200 plus miles of high-quality spawning and rearing habitat above the “Lake” Pillsbury reservoir, as well as what looks like some great habitat now under the reservoir.

Currently all steelhead in the Eel are federally listed as Threatened. Under the federal ESA, the 4(d) rule allows a certain amount of harm to the threatened species, which is why anglers are allowed to catch and release North Coast steelhead. “If listed, we could see a ban on fishing for summer steelhead, which I’m not eager to see,” said Greacen. “But it seems impossible to justify any unnecessary impacts to summer steelhead at this point.”

The Fish and Game Commission will receive the petition at its December 12-13, 2018 meeting in Oceanside. It is anticipated that the Department’s evaluation and recommendation relating to the petition will be received by the Commission at its February 6-7, 2019 meeting in Redding. Interested parties may contact Kevin Shaffer at Shaffer@wildlife.ca.gov. To read the entire summer steelhead petition, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=161715&inline

Willow Creek weir counts

For the trapping week of Oct 29 through Nov. 4, 9 jack Chinook were trapped at the weir. To date, 291 jacks have been trapped compared to 865 for the entire 2017 trapping season. This past week, 28 adult Chinook were trapped, bringing the season total to 1,234. In 2017, 1,030 total adult Chinook were trapped. There were 5 adult Coho trapped last week, the season total is now at 20. In 2017, 30 adult Coho were trapped. The steelhead numbers picked up this week compared to the previous week. A total of 54 adult steelhead were trapped during the week of Oct. 29 through Nov. 4 The previous week 7 were trapped. For the season, 527 have been counted compared to 689 for the entire 2017 season.

The Rivers:

Smith River

According to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, fishing on the lower end of the Smith has slowed down the last few days. “We have some pretty big tides right now, so I think the fish are able to move through the Sand Hole pretty easily,” said Coopman. “There hasn’t been much angling pressure, but there’s a lot of seals around. I think they’re working the fish over pretty good below the hole, and the fish are just blowing through. The rain we had last week moved a lot of the fish out from the lower river, and I don’t think as many moved in,” added Coopman.

Fishing the NC 11_8 photo
Tom Fritz of Brookings, right landed this 45-pound king salmon on a recent trip to the Chetco River estuary. Pictured left is guide Kenton Bansemer of Gold River Lodge. Photo courtesy of Gold River Lodge

Chetco River

The Chetco is low and clear and currently too low to get a drift boat down reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “We had one successful day bobber fishing last week and then got skunked the next day,” said Martin. “There are some kings in the tidewater area, but not a lot of room for drift boats there. Flows are down to 108 cfs with no rain in sight. Friday through Monday were good on the Chetco estuary, with most boats getting fish. We were getting two to five adult kings a day on my boat until the bite shut off Tuesday with only a few salmon for a couple dozen boats. There have been quite a few hatchery kings. The tide has now shifted to an afternoon bite period.”

 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