Rivers Dropping, Green Water Headed Our Way

Sac area resident Casey Eklund landed a monster hatchery steelhead Monday while fishing the Smith River. Photo courtesy of Redwood Coast Fishing with Mike Stratman

Following last week’s deluge, all the coastal rivers other than the Smith are now on the verge of turning green. After reaching nearly 39,000 cubic feet per second on the Jed Smith gauge Jan. 4, the quick-clearing Smith rebounded quickly and was driftable Sunday. Plunkers were out in force Monday on the Chetco and boats were drifting by Tuesday. Locally, all of the rivers are on the cusp of green water. The South Fork Eel will be fishable later this week with Redwood Creek, the Van Duzen and the Mad right behind it. The main stem Eel should come around sometime next week. With the North Coast gripped by an extended dry pattern that could last a couple more weeks, steelhead anglers will have no problem finding fishable water. And from the reports I’m hearing, there are plenty of steelhead to be had.

Weather ahead
For at least the next seven days, it’s looking like we’ll remain dry with no significant rainfall. According to James White of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we could see light rainfall Wednesday evening, but it won’t affect river levels. “We’re looking at less than a tenth of an inch,” White said. “After that, we’re looking dry through the weekend and into early next week.”

The Rivers:
Mad
The Mad is still high and brown, but there are plenty of fish in the river. Most of the fish are holding right below the hatchery and people are getting quite a few hookups a day. It was right around 10 feet Tuesday and is predicted to be down to 9 feet by Saturday morning. It will likely start to turn green early next week.

Main stem Eel
The Eel is dropping slowly but dipped under 10,000 cfs Wednesday and has started to turn greenish. It’s predicted to be around 6,500 cfs by the end of the weekend and should start to fish sometime next week.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork is dropping into shape and should be fishable by the end of the week down to the confluence. Above Benbow and around Garberville is green and fishing. Flows are predicted right around 1,600 cfs on the Miranda gauge Friday morning.

Van Duzen
The Duzen is still on the big side, flowing at 1,075 cfs as of Wednesday, but is starting to turn green. Will be fishable by the weekend as its forecast to be under 800 cfs by Saturday morning.

Smith

During Saturday’s highwater, plunkers did well, with some getting multiple hookups. The river dropped into driftable shape Sunday and the handful of boats drifting the Forks to Ruby did well, averaging two to three fresh steelhead. Monday the bite slowed slightly, with boats getting anywhere from zero to four opportunities. The river is clearing and dropping quickly, but should be in good shape the rest of the week.

Chetco
“Plunkers did very well over the weekend and on Monday on the Chetco, which dropped back into shape after hitting 20,000 cfs a week ago,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Big numbers of hatchery fish were caught at Loeb Park. Flows were below 4,000 cfs Tuesday morning, the stage where side-drifting starts to improve. Boaters fishing plugs in the slower water did well on Monday, and success for those drifting bait or beads is expected to dramatically improve this week with lower flows. Steelhead fishing has been better than the last several years so for this season.”

Rogue/Elk/Sixes

The lower Rogue fished well for steelhead before last week’s blowout and should fish even better as it drops into shape the next few days, reports Martin. “Flows at Agness peaked at 30,000 cfs last week and were down to 7,700 on Tuesday. Around 5,000 cfs is ideal for running MagLip plugs on anchor. The Elk River also is in good shape and the Sixes will fish before the weekend.”

Brookings ocean update
Boaters at the Port of Brookings had the first calm day of the year Sunday according to Martin. “Limits of rockfish were quick near Bird Island and Twin Rocks. Lingcod fishing was slow to fair, with a few nice keepers in 40 to 60 feet of water. Lots of water coming out of the Chetco made crabbing slow close to the harbor, but a few keepers are showing up in pots in 80 to 95 feet of water. Fishing for red tail surf perch has been good near the south jetty and at Chrissy Field.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

Storms Put Steelhead Fishing on Hold

Just as most of the coastal rivers were dropping into fishable shape, another fierce round of storms took aim at the North Coast. For now, the winter steelhead season has come to a screeching halt. 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 throughout the week. The Smith should be in good shape by the end of the weekend and the Chetco shouldn’t be too far behind it. 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
Rain is in the forecast for the rest of the week, but it looks like the heavier amounts are behind us. According to Ed Swafford of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, the Smith basin could see 1.5 to 2 inches through the end of the day Wednesday. “The Eel basin will see ¾ to 1 inch, with higher amounts falling in the mountains,” said Swafford. “Light rain is forecast for Thursday, but not enough to keep the river levels going up. The next system will arrive overnight Thursday and stick around through early Saturday morning. The Smith basin could see up to 1.5 inches and the Eel could see up to ¾. After this system, it looks like we’ll be dry through at least next Tuesday.”

Recreational Bag Limits Reduced For Some Rockfish Species In 2022
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announces multiple changes to recreational rockfish sub-bag limits which are expected to take effect Jan. 6, 2022. The emergency regulations were adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission in mid-December to align with federal regulations for these species. Changes to the sub-bag limits within the 10-fish daily Rockfish, Cabezon, Greenling (RCG) complex bag and possession limit include:

  • A decrease to the statewide sub-bag limit for vermilion rockfish (Sebastes miniatus) from five fish to four fish
  • A new statewide sub-bag limit for quillback rockfish (S. maliger) of one fish
  • A new statewide sub-bag limit for copper rockfish (S. caurinus) of one fish

The RCG complex has a daily 10-fish bag and possession aggregate limit, meaning that each angler’s catch can be composed of any combination of rockfish, cabezon or greenling, as long as total catch remains at or below 10 fish. Sub-bag limits within the RCG bag limit are implemented when harvest guidelines cannot accommodate the 10-fish bag limit being composed of a single species.

“New stock assessments conducted in 2021 for quillback and copper rockfish suggest severe population declines for these two species. Also, unsustainably high catches of vermilion rockfish have occurred each year since 2015,” said CDFW Environmental Program Manager Marci Yaremko. “For these reasons, new federal regulations were needed to implement reduced sport bag limits for these three species in 2022.”

Despite these changes, there are still numerous opportunities to catch other groundfish species with healthy populations in 2022 when seasons are open.

Arcata resident Kaleena Hiller landed a nice hatchery steelhead on Sunday, Jan.2 while fishing the Mad River. Photo courtesy of Kaleena Hiller

The Rivers:
Mad
Running at 8,250 cubic feet per second as of Thursday afternoon. Predicted for additional bump in flows Friday before it begins to drop Saturday. Will need at least a week to turn green.

Main stem Eel
After peaking at 43,270 cfs on Tuesday, the main stem was down to 27,350 cfs on the Scotia gauge Thursday. Predicted to drop until Friday when the next round of water pushes through the lower end. Will need a solid 10 days of dry weather before it’s fishable. Will start to fish well at 3,500 cfs.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork peaked at 12,200 cfs Tuesday and will be on the drop through Thursday. After a small rise on Friday, will be dropping through the weekend. Could be fishable mid next week if the weather remains dry.

Van Duzen
The Duzen peaked at 8,600 cfs Tuesday morning and will be dropping through Friday morning. Another small rise is predicted for Friday and will then drop through the weekend. Could fish late next week depending on snowmelt.

Smith River
The Smith blew out Monday and, with more rain in the forecast, it won’t be down to a safe, driftable height until Sunday. Plunkers were back on the water by Thursday, but flows will continue to fluctuate through Saturday. River conditions should be excellent by Monday. Prior to blowing out, boat pressure was light and a few steelhead were being caught daily.

Chetco River
The Chetco dropped into perfect shape for plunkers last Monday and was in good shape for drift boats by Wednesday reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “From Thursday through the weekend, guides were averaging three to six steelhead a day, with a good mix of hatchery fish on the lower river. Steelhead were spread out from the South Fork to Social Security Bar. Flows dropped to 2,000 cfs Sunday evening, but blew out big time on Monday and likely will be too high all week.”

Mark Parrish holds a steelhead he caught and released Dec. 30 while fishing the Chetco River with his daughter, actress Janel Parrish, and guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. They landed five steelhead side-drifting roe and Corkies. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

Rogue/Elk/Sixes
The Lower Rogue winter steelhead season busted open last week, with a handful of guides anchoring and running MagLip plugs getting half a dozen or more fish a day, according to Martin. “All of the fish have been wild so far, but native steelhead can be kept on the Rogue effective Jan. 1. Hatchery steelhead will begin arriving in good numbers in January. The Rogue is now blown out, but could drop back into shape as water is held back at Applegate and Lost Creek dams. Steelhead fishing was slow overall on the Elk and Sixes. Fishing has been good on the South Umpqua and the Coos and Millicoma systems.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email  kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

Smith, Chetco Best Bets for Green Water

Fortuna resident Nick Carnahan landed a nice hatchery steelhead Wednesday while fishing the Chetco River. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

If your weekend plans involve the pursuit of winter steelhead, you’ll need to point your vehicle north. The quick-clearing Smith and Chetco rivers are currently the only real options for the green water steelheaders crave. All Humboldt rivers are currently high and muddy, and that will likely continue through the weekend. There is a chance the upper reaches of the Van Duzen and South Fork Eel could come around by late in the weekend, but that will depend on snowmelt. If those rivers do come in, it will be short-lived, as the next storm is forecast to arrive Sunday and will put the rivers back on the rise.

Weather ahead
The forecast for the remainder of the work week is looking dry. The next round of storms is predicted to arrive sometime late Sunday and looks to be a prolonged rainfall event. Over the course of three to four days, we could see 3-plus inches of rain at sea level and higher amounts in the mountains.

Perigean spring tides coming this weekend

Some of the highest tides of the year are expected this weekend due to the perigean spring tide. Perigean tides, the results of either a new or full moon, will be in effect beginning Dec. 30 through Jan 4. The north spit tide gauge prediction is for a high tide of 8.68 feet at 9:39 a.m. Saturday morning and 8.81 feet at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Significant coastal flooding is possible. For more information on the perigean spring tides visit: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/perigean-spring-tide.html

2022 fishing license
A reminder that it’s the time of the year to purchase your 2022 sport fishing license, which is required for residents 16 years of age or older to take fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, amphibians or reptiles in inland or ocean waters. The cost of a new resident sport fishing license is $54. A North Coast salmon report card, which will run you $7.56, 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 $8.38 this year. The Department of Fish and Wildlife does not accept cash for fishing licenses. For more info, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing.

Reduced-fee sport fishing licenses available

Reduced-cost fishing licenses are available in 2021 for $8.24 at CDFW offices (instead of $54) for disabled military veterans and recovering service members. For those 65 or older on reduced income, licenses are available for $8.24. For more information on all CA fishing licenses, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Fishing#44521415-items–fees

New sport rockfish regulations coming in 2022
In a press release issued Dec. 17, the CDFW announced multiple changes to the sport rockfish regulations starting in Jan. 1. Changes that pertain to the Northern Management area, which runs from the California-Oregon border south to Cape Mendocino include:

  • Reducing the vermillion rockfish bag limit within the daily 10-fish RCG bag and possession limit from five to four.
  • Adding a new sub-bag limit for quillback rockfish of one fish within the daily 10-fish RCG bag and possession limit.
  • Adding a new sub-bag limit for copper rockfish of one fish within the daily 10-fish RCG bag and possession limit.

For the complete list of regulation changes, visit www.bit.ly/3z5tC5e.

Rockfish season to close Dec. 31
The 2021 rockfish season in the Northern Management area, which runs from 0°10′ N. latitude (near Cape Mendocino) to the OR/CA border, will close for boat-based anglers on Friday, Dec. 31. Rockfish is open year-round for divers and shore-based anglers. For more information about recreational groundfish regulations, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Groundfish-Summary#north

The Rivers:
All North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are open. 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 low-flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 822-3164. NOTE: Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once the minimum flows are reached. The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam, the Mattole River and the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream will open Jan. 1, 2022.

Mad
The Mad is high and muddy as of Thursday. With more rain in the forecast next week, it won’t be green any time soon. Forecast to be 8.7 feet early Monday morning before going back on the rise.

Main stem Eel
The main Eel remains big and brown and won’t be fishable any time soon. Predicted to drop to 9,100 cubic feet per second on the Scotia gauge Monday morning, but next week’s rain will put it back on the rise.

South Fork Eel

The South Fork could be fishable on Sunday and into Monday morning as its forecast to drop to 2,100 cfs on the Miranda gauge. Snowmelt could slow the rivers decent.

Van Duzen
Like the South Fork, it could be fishable by Sunday or Monday depending on snowmelt. Forecast to be 640 cfs by Monday morning before going on a steep rise later in the evening.

Smith
The Smith dropped into fishable shape Sunday and conditions are now ideal. On Tuesday evening, it bumped up to 10 feet on the Jed Smith gauge but it’s back on the drop. The snowmelt should keep the color pristine all week. The fishing has been decent, with a handful of steelhead being caught daily. The fishing pressure has been light, but that will change after the weekend.

Chetco
The Chetco is expected to come into shape this week after being blown out for nearly a week, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “Plunkers did well over the weekend and on Monday, while drift boaters struggled to catch fish in high water. That will change as flows drop. The river crested at 11,000 cfs late last week but will be in the prime range of 2,500 cfs by the end of this week. Plunkers have been getting a nice mix of wild and hatchery steelhead.”

Elk/Sixes/Rogue
According to Martin, salmon fishing has slowed on the Elk and Sixes as the attention turns to steelhead. “The Elk is in good shape, while the Sixes is still high. Winter steelhead also are being caught on the lower Rogue River, primarily by plunkers using Spin-N-Glos at Lobster Creek and Huntley Park.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Extensions Coming for Low-flow River Closures

At its December meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission acted on several issues affecting California’s natural resources. One of the items of interest was to extend the locations and expand low-flow closure periods for rivers along the north and central coast. The changes will prohibit fishing in specific rivers due to drought conditions, to protect native fish populations through April 30, when flows fall below a certain level. Currently low-flow inland sport fishing regulations require the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine whether flows at any of the designated gauging stations are lower than the minimum flows specified for particular stream reaches; if CDFW determines the flows are below the minimum specifications, the regulation closes the stream reach to fishing for a specified period. Items unanimously approved and slated to go into effect Jan. 31, 2022, are:

  • Extending the low-flow closure period to eight months for a different stretch of the Eel River as well as the Mad, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen (currently Oct. 1 through Jan. 31, four months) to Sept. 1 through April 30.
  • Adding a low-flow gear restriction from the mouth of the Eel River to Fulmor Road at its paved junction with the south bank of the Eel River. When a low-flow closure occurs in this section of the Eel, it will be closed to hook-and-line fishing; other legal fishing methods are allowed during this timeframe.
  • Implementing a low-flow angling restriction on the section of the Eel River from the mouth to Fulmor Road at its paved junction with the south bank of the Eel River, Sept. 1 through April 30. The stream flow will be monitored as follows: Minimum Flow is 350 cubic feet per second at the gauging station near Scotia.
  • Extending the low-flow closure period to eight months (currently Oct. 1 through March 31, six months) for the Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin counties coastal streams to Sept. 1 through April 30.

The major benefit under the proposed emergency action is additional protection for fish species (particularly steelhead and salmon) if drought conditions persist. CDFW also determined that low river flows will concentrate adult wild salmon and steelhead into shrinking pools of cold water making them easy prey for poachers, illegal angling methods such as snagging, increased hooking mortality due to legal catch and release angling targeting hatchery steelhead, as well as other human-related disturbances within their spawning streams

The low-flow restrictions give the department an option during drought conditions to close waters to angling to reduce the loss of adult fish. For more information, visit www.bit.ly/3EvoEQx.

Weather ahead
Following Tuesday’s showers, the next round of storms is forecast for Wednesday afternoon through most of the day Thursday. According to Alex Dodd of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, rainfall totals in the Smith basin will be 1 to 2 inches. In the Eel basin, we could see ¾ to 1.25 inches. “The next system will arrive on Friday and stick around through the day,” he said. “Snow levels will be much lower, and we’re looking at another 1 to 1.5 inches of rain near the Smith and a ½ to ¾ locally. Saturday through Monday will bring periods of heavy rain. The Smith will likely see 2 to 4 inches over the three-day period and the Eel will see 1.5 to 2 inches.”

Razor Clam fishery closes in Del Norte
In a press release issued on Dec. 16, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has closed the recreational razor clam fishery in Del Norte County following a recommendation from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which, in consultation with the California Department of Public Health, determined that the consumption of razor clams taken from Del Norte County poses a significant threat for domoic acid exposure. The fishery in this area reopened on April 29, 2021 following a five-year closure. Early December sampling of razor clams from Crescent Beach in Crescent City found clams exceeding the current federal action level for domoic acid of greater than or equal to 20 parts per million. Health agencies will continue to monitor domoic acid in razor clams in Del Norte County. The closure will remain in place until I am notified by the public health agencies named above, that a health hazard regarding razor clams no longer exists.

Mattole River opens to fishing Jan. 1
The Mattole River will open to fishing Saturday, Jan. 1 from 200 yards upstream of its mouth to the confluence with Stanberry 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.

The Rivers:

All North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are open. 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 low-flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 822-3164. NOTE: Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once the minimum flows are reached. The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam, the Mattole River and the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream are closed until Jan. 1, 2022.

Mad
Tuesday’s rain showers put the Mad back on the rise and off color. It was fishable prior and a few steelhead were caught. Predicted to reach 11.3 feet on Thursday morning. Will likely remain dirty through the weekend.

Main stem Eel
Prior to Wednesday, the main stem was still big but the color was starting to turn somewhat green. It’s now back on the rise and forecast to reach 35,000 cfs early Friday.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork was fishable through Tuesday but it didn’t sound like many, if any, fish were caught. It’s still early for steelhead in numbers to be that high in the system. Predicted to blowout again on Thursday and won’t be in fishable shape through the weekend if the rain predictions come through.

Van Duzen
Like the South Fork, was in fishable shape through Tuesday but reports were hard to come by. Will be back on the rise Wednesday evening and forecast to reach 9,000 cfs on Thursday. If the rain comes as predicted, will be high and dirty through the weekend.

Crescent City resident Andy Amos of Crescent City landed a nice winter steelhead on a recent trip to the Smith River. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

Smith
There are a few adult steelhead around right now, reports guide Mike Coopman. “There were quite a few half-pounders around last week but now we’re seeing mostly adults,” he said. “The river is supposed see a pretty significant rise later this week, so hopefully that will bring in some more fish.”

Chetco
Steelhead anglers should finally have good flows for drift boat fishing on the Chetco a couple days after Christmas, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “With recent high water, plunkers have been catching adult steelhead from Social Security Bar to Loeb Park,” he said. “A few steelhead also have been caught by drift boaters anchoring and running plugs. Flows reached 10,000 cfs last week and will approach 16,000 cfs the middle of this week but could be down to 4,000 cfs by Monday.

Elk/Sixes/Rogue According to Martin, salmon were caught over the weekend on the Elk and Sixes rivers. “The Sixes is blown out again, but the Elk could be in play by the weekend. Expect fresh kings through the end of the month. Plunkers using large Spin-N-Glos also have been catching some early adult winter steelhead on the lower Rogue.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Coastal Rivers Primed for Steelhead

Jeff Dillard of Brookings, Oregon, with a chrome Chetco steelhead caught last week while fishing with Mick Thomas. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

After a very wet weekend that saw all our coastal rivers receive a good soaking, fishable rivers should begin to come into play this week — at least a few of them. Both the Smith and Chetco rivers were high and off-color Tuesday, but that will soon change. They should come down to high-but-fishable levels in the next few days. In the Humboldt area, the South Fork Eel is probably the best bet for green water. After a bump in flows behind Wednesday’s rain, it’s forecast to be at a fishable height by the weekend. Water color could be an issue, however. Same holds true for the Van Duzen. The Mad River is currently high and muddy, and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future. A few steelhead have already been caught on the Mad, which is encouraging. The SF Eel and Van Duzen haven’t seen many boats or anglers yet, but you can bet there are steelhead around. If you’re looking to get out of the house this weekend, you should be able to find a fishable river.

Weather ahead
The next storm system is slated to begin Wednesday and will stick around through the day Thursday. “Light showers are predicted for early Wednesday, with the bulk of the rain falling overnight,” said Josh Wood of Eureka’s National Weather Service office. “The rain will be widespread, with 1 to 2 inches possible from the Smith to the Eel basins. The next storm will arrive on Friday, with showers arriving in the Smith basin in the afternoon. Locally, most of the rain from this system will fall Saturday. The Smith basin could see ¾ to an inch in the higher elevations. In Humboldt, we’re likely to see a quarter to a half. More rain, with the potential for another inch, is forecast for Sunday into Monday.

Mad River Steelhead Derby Starts Dec. 18
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA) is hosting its third annual Mad River Steelhead Derby from Dec. 18 through Feb. 28, 2022. Anglers must be signed up prior to Dec. 18 to be eligible to win cash and prizes. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered. The largest steelhead wins $500, second place $300 and third place $150. First place in the youth division (16 and under) will win a $175 RMI Outdoors gift card; second and third place finishers will win prizes to be announced. Anglers can sign up online at www.ncgasa.org or in person at RMI Outdoors. Part of the proceeds benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler’s broodstock collection program that works in concert with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information, visit www.madriversteelheadderby.com.

The Rivers:
As of Wednesday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are open. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1 2022. The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River will be closed until January 1, 2022. 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 low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. NOTE: Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once the minimum flows are reached. The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam, the Mattole River and the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream are closed until Jan. 1, 2022.

Mad
The Mad is big and brown and sitting at eight feet and rising as of Wednesday. Predicted to hit 10.5 feet Thursday morning. With a couple more storm systems predicted for this week, it will be off color for the near future. It will need at least five to seven days of dry weather for it to turn green.

Main stem Eel
The main stem was sitting at 12,500 cubic feet per second Wednesday and beginning to rise. Predicted to peak at just over 25,000 cfs Thursday but will be on the drop through the weekend. Will need a solid week of dry weather to drop into fishable shape.

South Fork Eel

Was back on the rise Wednesday afternoon and predicted to reach 9,500 cfs on the Miranda gauge Thursday. It’s predicted to be down to a fishable height by Saturday, but the East Branch at Benbow could keep it off color. Conditions look to be much improved by Sunday.

Van Duzen
Flows were down to 850 cfs on Wednesday, but steady rain had it back on the rise. Forecast to reach 1,800 cfs on Thursday morning and then drop through mid-day Sunday. Will be at fishable flows by the weekend, but the water could off color.

Smith River

The Smith was under 10 feet on the Jed Smith gauge by mid-day Wednesday, A few boats were on the water battling windy conditions. The next rise is predicted for Thursday with the river on the drop Friday and Saturday. There should be some steelhead around as well as some late kings who will quickly make their way upriver.

Chetco
The Chetco River rose 8 feet between Saturday night and Sunday morning, giving a boost in flows that steelhead anglers have been waiting for. Flows jumped from 600 cfs to just under 10,000 cfs. As they drop this week, the river should be in prime shape for steelhead fishing. “Anything under 5,000 cfs is fishable for side-drifting, and 3,500 to 2,500 cfs are ideal,” said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “If the early forecast is correct, we should have good fishing sometime this week. Steelhead were already in the river before the storm but low, clear water made fishing tough. It was difficult to get a good drift without spooking the steelhead holding in the shallow tailouts,” Martin said.

Elk/Sixes

The Elk River is expected to drop into fishable shape the middle of this week, while the Sixes is still high and muddy reports Martin. “After being too low to drift for more than three weeks, the Elk hit 5.7 feet on Sunday and was 5.2 feet Monday morning. Strong winds kept most anglers away on Monday, but the Elk will fish at 5 feet and is prime at 4 feet. Expect late fall kings on both river from now through Christmas.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Rain and Steelhead Both Headed Our Way

Shelby Meyer, of Eureka, landed a nice winter steelhead earlier this year on the Chetco River. With plenty of rain in the forecast, steelhead season should finally take off. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

Winter steelhead season hasn’t yet taken off on the North Coast but that will soon change. Numerous storm systems headed our way beginning this weekend should put all of the coastal rivers on the rise. According to the National Weather Service, more rain is in store for us most of next week, which will likely open up the rivers that had been closed to fishing due to low flows. Steady rain and pulse flows are just what we need to entice some steelhead from the salt. If the rains come as predicted, the Smith and Chetco should be in prime shape sometime next week.

The Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen and Mad will all see flows begin to rise either late in the weekend or early next week. The Mad opened back up on Wednesday and the southern rivers should open by early next week. Once all the rivers crest and begin to recede to fishable levels, we should see the first wave of winter steelhead. After a tough late-fall salmon season, seeing the rivers loaded with bright steelhead sure would be a welcome sight.

Weather ahead

Not much rain is in the forecast through Friday, with up to a couple tenths hitting the ground. But starting this weekend, we’ll begin to see a significant pattern change that should put a smile on steelhead angler faces. “It’s finally shaping up to what December should look like,” said Doug Boushey of Eureka’s National Weather Service office. “Saturday and into Sunday we could see up to an inch of rain. The forecast looks similar for Monday, with another inch possible. More systems are in the queue beginning Tuesday, but timing is a little more difficult. Through next Friday, we’re looking at possibly 5 to 6 inches of rain.”

Brookings update
Calm ocean conditions over the weekend and start of this week allowed boaters to get out of the Port of Brookings and get limits of rockfish with plenty of lingcod mixed in reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Fishing has been wide-open at the Point St. George Reef, with limits of lingcod and a nice grade of rockfish. The stormy weather that will give steelhead fishing a boost in the rivers next week will also sideline ocean anglers.”

Mad River Steelhead Derby Starts Dec. 18

The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA) is hosting its third annual Mad River Steelhead Derby from Dec. 18 through Feb. 28. Anglers must be signed up prior to Dec. 18 to be eligible to win cash and prizes. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered. The largest steelhead wins $500, second place $300 and third place $150. First place in the youth division (16 and under) will win a $175 RMI Outdoors gift card, second and third place finishers will win prizes to be announced. Anglers can sign up online at www.ncgasa.org or in person at RMI Outdoors. Part of the proceeds benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler’s broodstock collection program that works in concert with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information, visit www.madriversteelheaderby.com.

The Rivers:
Other than the Mad, Smith and main stem Eel, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the South Fork Eel, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen, were closed to fishing as of Wednesday. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline at 822-3164 to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone-recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. NOTE: Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once the minimum flows are reached. The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam, the Mattole River and the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream are closed until Jan. 1, 2022.

Mad

Opened back up on Wednesday, but flows are still low. Forecast to reach 9.4 feet following the rain this weekend. Will likely be off color next week.

Main stem Eel
Flows were under 900 cfs Thursday and it’s getting clear. Conditions will change Sunday with rain on the way. There have been a few adult steelhead already caught and we should see a few late kings arrive.

South Fork Eel

Closed to fishing as of Thursday but should open back up early next week, possibly Monday. Don’t expect green water until it comes down under 2,000 cfs

Van Duzen
Closed to fishing as of Thursday but will likely open back up on Monday following the weekend storms. Will be off color next week.

Smith
The Smith is low and clear, but remains open to fishing. Big changes are coming this weekend as the river is forecast to rise starting Saturday night. The Smith will likely be the hot spot next week, as it will be the first river to fish. Expect to see some late kings as well as the first wave of winter steelhead. As of Wednesday, flows were right around 860 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Rain is needed to kickstart steelhead season on the Chetco River, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “A few adult steelhead were caught last week by anglers side-drifting the lower river, but low flows are making fishing difficult,” he said. “Flows are below 700 cfs. Generally, anything below 1,500 cfs results in tough fishing, while ideal flows are 2,000 to 3,000 cfs. Rain this weekend could lead to perfect conditions next week. Expect a few late salmon, but the best bet will be early steelhead.”

According to Martin, the Elk and Sixes rivers are the best option for late-fall king salmon. “Fishing has been slow the past three weeks because of low flows. If this weekend’s rain materializes, expect decent salmon fishing early next week on both rivers. The Elk and Sixes are known to have the latest fall salmon runs on the Oregon Coast,” added Martin.

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

From Salmon to Steelhead: Transition Time for Coastal Rivers

Tyler Blevin of McKinleyville landed a early winter-run steelhead over the weekend while fishing the Mad River. The coastal winter steelhead run should kick into high gear over the next couple weeks as we see more storms move into the region. Photo courtesy of Ross Lane

With very little rain over the past couple weeks and the rivers on the drop, the end is 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 storms hit the coast and dropped enough rain to keep the Smith and Chetco up to ideal fishing levels. While the fishing window was short, 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 our coastal streams.

On the other hand — as we flip the calendar one last time in 2021 to December — it’s transition time here on the coast. The majority of the salmon have reached their end destination and we now wait for the winter steelhead to make their way into the coastal rivers. All the rivers have seen a few adults push in, hopefully with plenty more right behind ’em. 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.

Weekend marine forecast
The weekend marine forecast is looking good for offshore crabbing and possibly rockfish. As of Thursday, Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 5 to 10 knots with northwest waves 7 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking similar, with winds coming out of the north 5 to 10 knots with northwest waves 6 feet at 11 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or 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 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Perigean spring tides coming this weekend
Perigean spring tides, the results of either a new or full moon, will be in effect beginning Dec. 3 through Dec. 6. The north spit tide gauge prediction is for a high tide of 8.5 feet at 10:05 a.m. Saturday morning and 8.7 feet at 10:48 a.m. Sunday. Minor coastal flooding is possible.

Weather ahead
According to Matthew Kidwell of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, this rest of this week is looking dry. “The next chance of rain is for Monday and Tuesday,” said Kidwell. “The Smith basin could see up to an inch of rain while Humboldt could see a half to three-quarters. Beginning Dec. 5, the forecast models are trending toward above normal precipitation.”

Humboldt Bay crabbing
Sport Crabbing inside Humboldt Bay is still really good according to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. He said, “The best spots have been the south bay towards the jetty as well as King Salmon. Guys running rings are doing well and getting easy limits. Squid and chicken seem to be the bait of choice,” Kelly added.

Mad River Steelhead Derby Starts Dec. 18
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA) is hosting its third annual Mad River Steelhead Derby from Dec. 18 through Feb. 28. Anglers must be signed up prior to Dec. 18 to be eligible to win cash and prizes. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered. The largest steelhead wins $500, second place $300 and third place $150. First place in the youth division (16 and under) will win a $175 RMI Outdoors gift card, second and third place finishers will win prizes to be announced. Anglers can sign up online at www.ncgasa.org or in person at RMI Outdoors. Part of the proceeds benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler’s broodstock collection program that works in concert with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information, visit www.madriversteelheaderby.com.

The Rivers:
As of Thursday, the Mad, Van Duzen, Redwood Creek and the South Fork Eel were closed to fishing. All other North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Smith and main stem Eel, were open to angling. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline at 822-3164 to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone-recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. NOTE: The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam, the Mattole River and the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream are closed until Jan. 1, 2022.

Mad
Closed to fishing as of Thursday, Dec. 2.

Main stem Eel
Flows were down to 1,015 cubic feet per second Thursday and it’s getting clear. There are some coho around, but not many kings. The last push of kings should arrive after the next significant rainfall, as well as the first of the steelhead

South Fork Eel
Closed to fishing

Van Duzen
Closed to fishing as of Thursday, Dec. 2.

Redwood Creek
Closed to fishing

Lower Trinity
River conditions are excellent on the lower Trinity, and the river is loaded with half-pounders. The winter adult steelhead should start to show with the next rise in flows. The Lower Trinity closed to adult salmon retention as of Nov. 1. Downstream of the Highway 299 Bridge at Cedar Flat to the Denny Road Bridge in Hawkins Bar is closed to fishing September 1 through December 31. As of Thursday, flows were nearing 1,125 cfs on the Hoopa gauge.

Guide Rye Phillips of Brookings Fishing Charters holds a 45-pound king salmon caught and released Nov. 25 on the Smith River by Jeff Bounsall of Santa Rosa. They were side-drifting for steelhead when they caught the salmon on roe and a Puff Ball.

Smith
With no rain for a couple weeks, the Smith is low and clear, but remains open to fishing. Boat pressure has been light, as most guides have canceled their salmon trips due to the conditions and lack of fish. Winter steelhead should start to trickle in even during the low-water conditions. As of Wednesday, flows were right around 1,075 cubic feet per second on the Jed Smith gauge.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Low water has slowed salmon fishing on the Chetco, Elk and Sixes rivers, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “The Chetco is still driftable but very few fresh salmon are still in the system. Expect a few new kings and some early steelhead after next week’s expected rain. An early December rain typically produces good fishing on the Elk and Sixes, especially after a few weeks of low water.”

Kenny Priest  operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

Steller Season for Sport Dungeness Crabbers

Eureka resident Joey Sullivan holds a nice Dungeness crab caught aboard the Reel Steel on Sunday. Photo courtesy of MackGraphics Humboldt

North Coast recreational Dungeness crabbers from Shelter Cove to Crescent City are enjoying one of the best seasons in recent memory. Since opening day, the crabs have been abundant and the meat content has been excellent. So good, in fact, that the commercial season has a solid chance of opening on time Dec. 1, barring any last-minute price disputes. Sport boats fishing out of Eureka are dropping pots anywhere between 80 to 130 feet on either side of the entrance, and are pulling easy limits, according to Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. “Both sides have been fishing well but the north might be slightly better,” he said. “We’ve been averaging about 13 keepers per pot and that’s with a lot of gear nearby. Bait jars stuffed with squid along with rockfish carcasses in the chew bags has been working well.” Not only is the offshore crabbing going strong, plenty of limits are coming out of Humboldt Bay. The best bite has been south near King Salmon away from the heavy currents coming from north bay. If you haven’t gotten your fill of the tasty crustaceans yet, you’ll want to do so before the commercial fleet hits the water next week.

Weekend Weather and Marine Forecast
According to Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we are looking dry through the weekend and into early next week. The next chance of rain is Dec. 1 but rainfall amounts are uncertain.

The weekend marine forecast is looking good for offshore crabbing and possibly rockfish. As of Wednesday, Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds up to 5 knots with west waves 7 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking similar, with winds coming out of the north up to 5 knots with northwest waves 6 feet at 12 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or 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 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

CDFW releasing juvenile salmon saved from drought conditions
In a press release issued on Nov. 19, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has begun releasing juvenile fall-run Chinook salmon into the Klamath River now that river conditions have improved with cooler temperatures and increased flows that give the young salmon their best chance at survival and reaching the Pacific Ocean.

More than 2 million baby Chinook salmon that were hatched in early 2021 at CDFW’s Iron Gate Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County were held over the summer at three different CDFW facilities, including 1 million fish trucked to the Trinity River Hatchery through Redding in triple-digit heat. All three groups of fish did exceptionally well over the summer and thrived despite challenging circumstances.

Drought conditions impacting the Klamath River – including a disease outbreak – would have killed about 90 percent of the young fish according to scientific projections, had those fish been released this past spring as is the standard practice. CDFW so far has released into the Klamath River the 1.1 million juvenile Chinook salmon held over the summer at the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery and at a nearby satellite facility at Fall Creek. Those releases provide room and sufficient water quality for the 1 million fish relocated to the Trinity River Hatchery to return to Iron Gate. This group has spent several weeks at Iron Gate to reacclimate to the Klamath River and will be released later this month. For more information, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/News/cdfw-saves-more-than-2-million-chinook-salmon-from-drought-begins-releasing-fish-into-klamath-river-as-conditions-improve

Eel River salmon returns
As of Nov. 14, a total of 364 Chinook salmon have entered the Van Arsdale fish count station, according to Andrew Anderson, an Aquatic Biologist with PG&E. Making up that total are 132 males, 146 females and 69 jacks. A total of 65 Chinook ascended the fish ladder in 2020. No steelhead yet but this is typical for Van Arsdale, located high in the Eel River Watershed. For more information, visit www.eelriver.org/the-eel-river/fish-count.

Nov. 26 and 27 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 www.myodfw.com/articles/2021-free-fishing-days-and-events for more info.

The Oceans
Shelter Cove

According to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing, rock fishing is still going strong, with limits coming fairly easily. “Ling cod is a little tougher but if you can find them, they’re usually piled up together,” said Mitchell. “We’ve been bouncing around from the Old Man to Rogers; it’s pretty much the same everywhere. The crabbing is still good; we’re getting limits daily of quality crab.” The launch will be closed Tuesday through Thursday this week.

Katie Rogers from Rio Dell with a nice Vermilion rockfish. Photo courtesy of Jake Mitchell, Sea Hawk Sport Fishing

Crescent City
Ocean conditions were good on Monday, and there was quite a bit of effort on the rockfish according to Chis Hegnes of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. “South Reef produced some really good ling fishing,” he said. “The crabbing is still really good. Boats have been doing well south in 40 feet of water and also above Battery Point Lighthouse in 120 to 140 feet of water.”

Brookings
Ocean fishing turned on over the weekend out of Brookings, and lingcod are now in shallow water, preparing to spawn reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Limits of rockfish have been quick, and anglers targeting lingcod with while herring or large jigs are doing well near Bird Island and House Rock,” he said. “The best fishing is in 40 to 60 feet of water. After unusually calm conditions for late November on Sunday and Monday, a bigger swell is expected the rest of the week. Conditions look decent for the weekend.”

The Rivers:
As of Thursday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Smith, Eel, South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen are open to angling. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline at 822-3164 to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. NOTE: The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam, the Mattole River and the Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream are closed until Jan. 1, 2022

Mad
The Mad is green and fishable, but still a little early for steelhead in big numbers. A few have reportedly been caught. There are some older salmon around. Expect the steelhead numbers to improve on the next significant rise.

Main stem Eel
Flows were down to 1,650 cubic feet per second on Wednesday and it’s getting clear. The king run is pretty much over for the year but there are some coho making their way through the lower river. More salmon should arrive after the next significant rainfall, as well as the first of the steelhead.

Van Duzen
Was down to 230 cubic feet per second on Wednesday. Will be low and clear until the next rain.

South Fork Eel
Low and clear conditions will persist until the next big rain. There are some coho making their way upstream and the steelhead should begin to trickle in mid-December.

Smith
The late-fall run of salmon is just about over on the Smith. Rain is needed to bring in the last of the salmon and to kickstart the steelhead run. Flows were down to 1,560 cfs on Wednesday and the river is low and clear. Roe under a float or back-bouncing the deeper holes are your best bet until we get some significant rainfall.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“Anglers on the Chetco are experiencing the in-between time for salmon and steelhead, as the fall salmon run is nearly over, and winter steelhead are still a few weeks away from catchable numbers,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “A few salmon are still being caught, but the overall action is slow. More fish could arrive after the next big rain, but steelhead catches will soon out-number salmon, and the best steelhead fishing won’t arrive until January.”

The Elk and Sixes are low, clear and slow according to Martin. “Don’t expect much action until a major rain,” he said. “Salmon fishing usually continues well through mid-December, but anglers need a boost in flows for a decent chance from the drift boats.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Coastal King Season Winding Down

John Curry of Reno holds a king salmon he caught Nov. 9 on the Sixes River while fishing with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He was back-bouncing roe. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

The surge in flows brought by the atmospheric river in late October was a blessing in so many ways. It put an end to another horrible fire season, began to fill our parched reservoirs, and created perfect river conditions for the late-run fall king salmon to make their way from the Pacific to their spawning grounds. On the flipside, it washed away hopes of a prolonged salmon season for us anglers. The Smith, Chetco, and Eel are all on the tail end of the runs that would typically still be going strong. Me personally, I’ll take an atmospheric river event any day if it means three to four years down the road our rivers will once again see healthy returns of salmon. So, as the salmon are taking care of business in their home tributaries, we’ll sit back and wait for signs of the impending winter steelhead run and know our salmon future looks a little brighter.

Weekend weather and marine forecast
According to Alex Dodd of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we do have some rain in the forecast, but nothing significant. “We should see a small system move in Thursday evening, with showers lingering into Friday,” said Dodd. “Rainfall totals will be from a quarter to a half inch. After that, we’re looking dry through the weekend and into early next week. There’s a chance we’ll see a weak system arrive next Wednesday or Thursday.”

The weekend marine forecast is looking decent for offshore crabbing and possibly rockfish. As of Wednesday, Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 5 to 15 knots with northwest waves 8 feet at 10 seconds. Sunday is looking similar, with winds coming out of the northeast up to 5 knots with northwest waves 5 feet at 10 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or 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 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

The Oceans
Eureka
The Pacific halibut season came to a close Monday, and the fishing was good right up to the end. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing spent a few hours on the halibut grounds getting limits for his crew. “The fish were all in the 15 to 18- pound range,” said Klassen. “It was a good way to end the season. The all-depths rockfish season has offered some good fishing too. We’ve been out a few days and had limits of mostly canaries and yellowtail, but the lingcod have been hard to come by. The crabbing has been very good. The crabs are a nice size, and they’re pretty full. On an overnight soak, pots are averaging 13 to 15 keepers in 80 to 120 feet of water.”

Shelter Cove
According to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing, limits of rockfish, lingcod and crabs were fairly easy to come by this week. “The crabs aren’t huge, but they’re nice and full,” he said. “We fished a couple days up at Rodgers break and the rest down off Bear Harbor. Both locations produced really easy rockfish limits, but we had to work a little harder to get our lingcod.”

Brookings
“Nice weather over the weekend allowed Brookings boaters to venture across the bar for the first time in nearly a month,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Lingcod fishing was fair, but rockfish action was wide open in the Twin Rocks and House Rock area. Rougher weather returned on Monday and is expected through the week. Sport crabbing opens in the ocean off of Oregon on Dec. 1. Surfperch fishing has been slow.”

Mad River Steelhead Derby Starts Dec. 18
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA) is hosting its third annual Mad River Steelhead Derby from Dec. 18 through Feb. 28. Anglers must be signed up prior to Dec. 18 to be eligible to win cash and prizes. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered. The largest steelhead wins $500, second place $300 and third place $150. First place in the youth division (16 and under) will win a $175 RMI Outdoors gift card, second and third place finishers will win prizes TBA. Anglers can sign up online at www.ncgasa.org or in person at RMI Outdoors. Part of the proceeds benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler’s broodstock collection program that works in concert with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information, visit www.madriversteelheaderby.com 

The Rivers:
As of Friday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Smith, Eel, South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen are open to angling. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline at 822-3164 to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Mad
The Mad saw a slight bump in flows following Monday’s rain. Will be dropping the rest of the week and should be at a fishable level by the weekend.

Main Eel
The river is in perfect shape, but there aren’t many fish around. The bulk of the run has made its way upriver, but a few kings should trickle in. Conditions look good through the weekend.

Van Duzen
Was down to 327 cubic feet per second on Friday. Will be low and clear until the next rain.

South Fork Eel
Was in perfect shape last weekend, but only a handful of kings were caught. Some coho have started to show. Will also be low and clear through the weekend.

Samantha Stidston with a late-fall king salmon taken on the Smith River. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

Smith
The Smith has been running low and clear, but did receive a bump in flows following Monday’s rain. Another slight increase is forecast for Friday, but the river will likely remain clear. The fishing has been very tough, with not many fish moving into the system, but the fish that are being caught have been nice ones. Fishing pressure has been very light.

Chetco
Salmon season is already tapering off on the Chetco, as the prolonged high water allowed much of this year’s run to shoot upstream to spawn reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “Fishing has been fair at best since the river dropped back into shape the end of last week,” he said. “Salmon will continue to trickle in each day, but with higher flows, those fish may not spend much time in the lower river. Some nice kings have been caught, with a few topping 50 pounds reported last week.”

Elk/Sixes
According to Martin, the Elk and Sixes fished well early last week while the Chetco was blown out. “Decent numbers of hatchery fish moved into the Elk, where wild kings must be released,” he said. “The Sixes has been a good bet as well. Both rivers can be tough to fish during lower flows, as expected this week. Salmon season is finished on the Rogue, while steelhead have yet to arrive. Except for a few half-pounders in the Agness area, the Rogue is slow. Expect winter steelhead to arrive by mid-December.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

Plenty and Full

An excellent start to sport crab season

Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing with a nice pot full of Dungeness crab taken Saturday on the sport opener. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest

In a typical year, the sport crab season can go one of two ways. If the crabs are plentiful, the meat content is usually on the lighter side. If there are fewer crabs around, they are typically fuller and in better shape. This is all due to their food source — more crabs means smaller shares of food, while fewer crabs usually means plenty of food to go around. Five days into the season, it’s looking like we may have both quality and abundance. Last Saturday’s opener produced limits of big, healthy crabs both offshore and inshore.

Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing fished the opener and reports the crabs are in good shape, and there seem to be quite a few of them. “After an overnight soak on Saturday, we averaged about 12 to 22 keepers per pot Sunday,” said Klassen. Though not official, the quality testing shows the crabs out of Eureka at 22.7 percent. A typical year will find the meat content at around 20 percent, with the theory being that crabs will add one percent of meat a week and reach the 25 percent mark for the commercial opener of Dec. 1.

According to Klassen, both the north and south sides outside of Humboldt Bay fished well. “Pots dropped in 80 to 130 feet did well,” he added.

Crabbing in Humboldt Bay was also excellent, with plenty of limits reported. Up in Trinidad, the kayaks and small boats reported quick limits of crabs on very short soaks.

Reminder: CDFW strongly encourages anglers to follow the Best Fishing Practices Guide developed by the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. Voluntary actions anglers can employ include keeping the line between the pot and main buoy taught and vertical, reducing the amount of vertical line at the surface, avoiding setting gear in the vicinity of whales and turtles, and marking gear consistent with regulations. Best Fishing Practices Guide can be found here: www.nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=195428&inline

Weekend weather and forecast
According to Scott Carroll of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we’re looking at a fairly dry week. “Very light rain is in the forecast for Wednesday and it doesn’t look like it will affect any river levels,” he said. “After that, we’re looking mostly dry the rest of the week and through the weekend. The next chance of rain will be Monday.”

The weekend marine forecast is looking good for offshore crabbing, rockfish and halibut, with very little wind in the forecast. As of Tuesday, Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds up to 5 knots with west waves 6 feet at 11 seconds. Sunday is looking similar, with winds coming out of the northwest up to 5 knots with west waves 5 feet at 13 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or 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 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Pacific halibut closing Nov. 15

The Pacific halibut season is scheduled to close Nov, 15. As of Oct. 31, the quota stands at 30,602 pounds against the 39,260 quota. The season reopened Sept. 3 and was slated to close until the quota was reached or until Nov. 3, whichever is earlier. For more info, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut#31670772-in-season-tracking

The Rivers:

As of Wednesday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Smith, Eel, South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen are open to angling. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline at 822-3164 to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Mad River
The Mad was off color all week after peaking at 2,900 cfs Tuesday and will remain that way through the weekend. Predicted to be on the drop through the weekend.

Main Eel
The river blew out on Tuesday, but is dropping quickly. Predicted to be around 4,900 cfs by Saturday and will probably be off color.

Van Duzen
Hit 3,850 cfs on Tuesday, but was already under 1,500 cfs by Wednesday afternoon. Should be at a fishable level by the weekend, but may be off color.

South Fork Eel
Reached 5,300 cfs on Tuesday evening, but predicted to drop quickly. Should be fishable by the weekend, especially the upper sections.

Smith River
The Smith blew out Tuesday but was back into fishable shape Wednesday. Scores over the weekend weren’t great, with just a handful of fish caught each day. Boats are spread from the forks to the outfitters. Hopefully the latest rise will bring in some new fish. A few coho have been caught, which typically means the king run is getting close to the end.

Chetco River
The Chetco River fished well last week before blowing out with the latest series of storms, according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “After being high and muddy all weekend, the river is expected to be back in shape the second half of this week. A nice mix of wild and hatchery kings have been spread throughout the river. Now that low-flow regulations have been lifted, anglers can back-bounce or run plugs with treble hooks.”

Elk/Sixes Rivers
With the high water over the weekend, the Elk and Sixes were in good shape for salmon, reports Martin. “Action has been fair, with good numbers of hatchery kings on both rivers. All wild adult kings must be released on the Elk. Flows reached 8.5 feet on the Elk Thursday, and were down to 5.7 feet Friday. Saturday and Sunday were prime. The Sixes has been fishing since Sunday. Both could be very low and clear by this weekend.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.