Smith is it for green water

Five year-old Hazel Sloan was excited to say the least after landing this nice hatchery steelhead over the weekend on the Mad River. According to her dad Justin, pictured left, the steelhead was close to nine pounds and was 28.5 inches long. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan

Last week I wrote that the Smith River would be the best bet for steelhead-green water. Well, that was only partially correct. The rains that were forecasted didn’t pan out entirely, and left the main Eel and South Fork perfectly green through the weekend. This week though, I really mean it. As I’m writing this weeks report, the Smith is not only your best, it’s also your only option for green, fishable water. The rain finally caught up to the Eel rivers on Monday, and both are now dirty along with the rest of the coastal rivers not named Smith. So if you’re looking for steelhead water, you know where to go.

Weather outlook
Much like last week, we’re expecting multiple systems to hit the North Coast over the next few days, but nothing significant. According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, rain is in the forecast almost every day, but it looks like we’ll get breaks on Friday and Sunday. “For the seven-day period ending next Wednesday, the Smith basin could see 3 to 4 inches, the Mad 2 to 3, and 1 to 2 inches could fall in the Eel basin,” said Zontos. “Through Sunday, we’re forecasting anywhere from 1.5 inches to 3 inches, with heavier rain to the north. Another system is predicted for Monday and Tuesday, and this could potentially be a bigger system, especially in the Eel basin. As of now, it’s looking dry from next Wednesday through the weekend.”

Mad River steelhead being tagged for research
In 2020, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will again be 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. You can also return the tag to the Mad River Hatchery, 1660 Hatchery Rd, Arcata, or call the Mad River Hatchery at 707-822-0592.
  • You can also release the fish with tag still attached. Please do not remove the tag and then release fish.

ODFW Commission meeting on wild steelhead retention
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet on Friday, Jan. 17 in Salem, OR, with one of the agenda items being the retention of wild winter steelhead in the SW Zone. The Commission will consider a petition it received asking them to adopt a temporary rule (in effect for 180 days) that would prohibit the retention of wild winter steelhead in rivers throughout the SW Zone, which includes the Chetco. ODFW staff is recommending Commissioners deny this petition, as they do not have a conservation concern for wild winter steelhead on the south coast at this time. The declines in wild steelhead in other parts of the state have not been observed in the SW Zone and current regulations are already conservative.  Also, staff continues to work on a multi-species conservation plan for the Rogue and South Coast where concerns about wild steelhead are being addressed. Commissioners denied a similar petition in 2018. The meeting agenda can be found online at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/20/01_Jan/index.asp. You can also view the meeting via livestream at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/

The Rivers:
Chetco River/Elk/Lower Rogue
The Chetco has been high and blown out the past week, with flows of 5,000 to 10,000 cfs reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “It generally fishes best below 4,000 cfs,” said Martin. “Those kind of flows may be a week or more away. The plunkers have caught a few fish in the dirty water, but the river is unfishable for drift boaters.”

According to Martin, the Elk River dropped to 5 feet on Wednesday, the high point of where it is fishable. “It had reached 6.5 feet. It will be in play this week,” he said. “The bright spot has been the lower Rogue River, which is fishing well for plunkers using Spin-N-Glos and jet boaters anchoring and running MagLip plugs. The Rogue has remained fishable for the most part and will be the best bet this weekend.”

Smith River
The Smith has been teetering between fishable levels since the weekend. On Wednesday, it was right around 12 feet on the Jed gauge, and most boats chose to drift while a few fished on the anchor. Quite a few fish were reportedly caught, and the river had plenty of visibility by the afternoon. It was predicted to hit 14 feet on Thursday morning, but it remained in fishable shape due to more snow falling than rain. Conditions look good for Friday and should stay that way through Monday.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem blew out on Tuesday and it looks like it will be some time before it’s fishable again. It will likely need a solid 10 or so days before it’s green. Prior to blowing out, fishing remained tough. Boats fishing the lower end were getting a chance at a couple winter steelhead per day.

Eel River (South Fork)
Like the main stem, the South Fork finally muddied up on Tuesday. It’s predicted to go above 6,000 cfs on the Miranda gauge by Thursday night. Flows are forecasted for fishable levels by the weekend, but the color will be a wait and see. With more rain on the way early next week, it may not fish until late next week or the weekend.

Van Duzen
The Duzen has been off color since last week, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. Flows were hovering around 1,400 cfs as of Wednesday, and predicted to bounce between 3,000 and 1,500 cfs through Monday. This season, conditions have been best right around 400 cfs.

Mad River
The Mad blew out last week, and remains high and muddy. According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors, there are a few fish being caught right at the hatchery and along the willows. He said, “There aren’t many anglers trying, but there’s fish in the river. Quite a few have made their way up the ladder in the last week, so there’s fish coming.” The Mad is predicted to be high through the weekend, hovering around 10-feet on the Arcata gauge. It will need a good week of dry weather before it’s green.

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 River best option for green water

If you’re in pursuit of steelhead-green water this weekend, you’ll probably need to head north. With the Chetco on the rise and off color due to multiple slides, the Smith could be the only game in town for quite some time. It looks to be a little unstable through the weekend, but is forecasted to remain at fishable levels. Here locally, all stretches of the Eel, Van Duzen, Mad and Redwood Creek are currently blown out – or will be soon – with very little relief in sight. A chance of rain is in the forecast about every other day for the next few days before a bigger system is predicted to hit 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 is to head north.

Weather ahead
According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, we’ll see a very active weather pattern for the rest of this week and into next. “We’re looking at a series of storms rolling through, with short breaks in between,” said Zontos. “For the seven-day period ending next Tuesday, the Smith and Mad basins could see 3 to 4 inches. The Eel will see anywhere from 1 to 2 inches. These systems will be much colder as well, we should see some snowfall with each one, especially next week. We’re currently tracking a much larger system that could hit the area next Wednesday through Saturday. There’s still a lot of uncertainties around this one and where it will hit on the coast, but we could see some heavy rain that could potentially impact the Eel River,” said Zontos.

Annual salmon meeting coming in February
CDFW’s Annual Salmon Information meeting will be held February 27, at 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa. The meeting will cover the 2019 ocean and in-river salmon fishing seasons, Central Valley and Klamath Basin river returns, 2020 abundance forecasts, and serves as an opportunity for the public to provide input regarding the upcoming ocean salmon season. Agenda and meeting materials will be posted as they become available. Please contact Grace Ghrist for more info at 707-576-2375 or Grace.Ghrist@Wildlife.ca.gov.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Steelhead are now being caught throughout the Southern Oregon Coast, but none of the rivers are red hot according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The Chetco has a decent number of hatchery and wild fish on the lower end, but it has been muddying up with each rain, with slides on the South Fork, North Fork and between Loeb and Ice Box,” said Martin. “The Elk and Sixes are fair for steelhead. Plunkers and boaters anchoring and running plugs also are starting to catch steelhead on the lower Rogue. This week’s rain should bring more steelhead into each system.”

Greg Schroeder of Dayton, OR landed a nice steelhead on a recent trip down the Smith River. With storms lined up into next week, the quick-clearing Smith will likely remain the only coastal river with green water. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

Smith River
Steelhead fishing is still pretty tough on the Smith according to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “As of Wednesday, there’s not any more fish in the river than last week, but they are starting to pile up in a few places. We’re getting a chance at two or three per day covering a lot of water. It looks like we’re going to get a good shot of rain over the next few days, so we should start to see more fish in the river,” Coopman added.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem was fishable for the better part of two weeks, but that run is about to be over. It was on a slow rise as of Wednesday and predicted to peak at 5,800 cfs on Friday. The Eel is still waiting for the first real big flush of the year, and next weeks rain could do it. With storms lined up through next week, it will be some time before it’s fishable again. Prior to blowing out, boats were getting zero to a couple chances per trip. There hasn’t been many fish coming through, hopefully the next big rise will do the trick.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork was on the rise as of Wednesday and will likely blow out on Thursday or Friday. The river height should be good by late weekend, but it will likely be off color. Predicted to be right around 600 cfs by Monday morning. Fishing has reportedly been slow for the anglers trying, but a few steelhead have been caught.

Van Duzen
The Duzen was rising on Wednesday, and will likely be muddy through the weekend. With more rain in the forecast for next week, it could be a while before it drops back into shape.

Mad River
The Mad has been the most consistent steelhead producer in Humboldt, and even that has been slow. Drift boats starting below the hatchery are seeing one to four adults per trip. The bank anglers are catching a few as well, but it’s not red hot. The river has been in good shape for the past week, but predicted to blow out on Wednesday. Storms are lined up into next week, so it will be quite a while before we see any green water.

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.

Steelhead season off to a slow start

Joshua Auckland landed this nice hatchery steelhead on Saturday while fishing the Mad River. The big buck weighed in at 14 pounds. The Mad has been the best choice for winter steelhead this past week, and river conditions should remain ideal through Saturday. Photo courtesy of Joshua Auckland

It’s been somewhat of a slow start to the winter steelhead season on the North Coast. At one time or another, all of the coastal rivers have been in fishable shape, so it’s not for a lack of effort.  If anything is missing, it’s the fact that none of the rivers have had a real good blowout. When that happens, which is usually earlier in the season, that’s typically when we see the first good wave of steelhead move into the rivers. To date, we’ve had some decent rises, but no real gully washers as of yet. I’m sure there’s other factors leading to the sluggish start, but the most commonly mentioned is the absence of large storms. Even with less than ideal conditions, there’s been steelhead caught on all of the rivers. Just not in big numbers. Right now, the Mad River is probably your best bet. The main stem Eel would be the next option while the rest of the rivers are either dirty, low, or short on steelhead. As has been the case this season, another couple weak storm systems are forecasted for Wednesday and Friday. We’ll likely see some small flow increases on all the rivers, but it won’t be the big one we’ve been waitiIt’s been somewhat of a slow start to the winter steelhead season on the North Coast. At one time or another, all of the coastal rivers have been in fishable shape, so it’s not for a lack of effort.  If anything is missing, it’s the fact that none of the rivers have had a real good blowout. When that happens, which is usually earlier in the season, that’s typically when we see the first good wave of steelhead move into the rivers.

To date, we’ve had some decent rises, but no real gully washers as of yet. I’m sure there’s other factors leading to the sluggish start, but the most commonly mentioned is the absence of large storms. Even with less than ideal conditions, there’s been steelhead caught on all of the rivers. Just not in big numbers. Right now, the Mad River is probably your best bet. The main stem Eel would be the next option while the rest of the rivers are either dirty, low, or short on steelhead. As has been the case this season, another couple weak storm systems are forecasted for Wednesday and Friday. We’ll likely see some small flow increases on all the rivers, but it won’t be the big one we’ve been waiting for. But who knows, it could be enough to bring in some fresh steelhead.

Weather ahead
A couple weak fronts will move through the area beginning on Wednesday according to Josh Whisnant of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The Eel basin will see from a tenth to a quarter inch, with the heavier rain falling to the north,” said Whisnant. “The Smith basin could see a quarter to a half-inch. The next front will move in Friday night into Saturday morning. We’ll see a little more precipitation from this one, with up to a quarter falling in the Eel basin. Up in Del Norte, the Smith could see a half to an inch. Sunday is looking mostly dry, with the next chance of rain coming Tuesday afternoon.”

Mattole River opens to fishing Jan. 1
The Mattole River opened to fishing on Wednesday, January 1, but was immediately closed due to low flows. Fishing is allowed from 200 yards upstream of its mouth to the confluence with Stansberry Creek and from Stansberry Creek to confluence with Honeydew Creek. Only artificial lures may be used and barbless hooks are required. The Mattole is regulated by low flow closures, with a minimum flow of 320 cfs at the Petrolia gauging station. As of Thursday, flows were right around 260 cfs. Be sure and call the low flow hotline (707-822-3164) prior to fishing.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk
The Chetco is full of half-pounders and a few adult steelhead according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Plunkers and drift boaters are doing best on the lower end,” said Martin. “Big numbers of smolts are making it difficult to fish roe on the upper end. A few late kings also are being caught. Salmon were still being caught on the Elk River last week, but low flows made it difficult to drift this week. With more rain coming, it will be the best shot at late salmon.”

Craig Nunley of Caldwell, Idaho, holds a steelhead he caught and released Dec. 27 while fishing the Upper Chetco River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The steelhead hit a bead and roe. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing.

Smith
The Smith is low and clear, and fishing has been tough reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “There’s very few steelhead around right now. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a couple chances on a full-day drift,” said Coopman.

The Smith is just under 7 feet on the Jed Smith gauge as of Tuesday. It’s predicted to bump up to 8 feet following Wednesday’s rain, followed by a bigger rise on Saturday to nearly 9 feet.

Main stem Eel
The main stem was on a slight rise Tuesday, but remained in fishable shape. Flows should be just about perfect through the weekend, and probably a good choice if you’re looking to catch a steelhead. Fishing pressure wasn’t too heavy over the weekend, and boats were getting up to two adults and a few half-pounders.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork peaked at just 700 cfs on Tuesday morning. Predicted to drop below 400 cfs on the Miranda gauge by the weekend. Haven’t heard of any steelhead being caught as of yet.

Van Duzen
Flowing at 450 cfs on Tuesday and predicted to hit 970 cfs by Saturday. The river was dirty on Tuesday following Sunday’s rain. Steelhead fishing has been slow so far.

Mad
The Mad is in perfect shape as of Tuesday according to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. He said. “Up until Sunday, the fishing was really slow, but has since picked up. There hasn’t been one spot any better than anywhere else, you just have to look for groups of fish. I think there’s more fish in the river than we realize. We’re supposed to see a little bump in flows on Wednesday, but hopefully the river won’t get too muddy. A bigger one is forecasted for Saturday which has the river going to 8.5 feet. That will more than likely put some color in the river, but it looks like it will drop down pretty quickly. Most of the fish are coming on beads and worms, but roe is working as well.”

Mad River Steelhead Derby rules
The derby kicked-off on Jan. 1 and will run through Feb. 29. Below are the rules for those who signed up:

  • Payouts are 1st place: $500; 2nd place: $250; 3rd place: $150. One youth division winner will be awarded a $150 gift certificate to a local sporting goods store. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place payouts will be a written check from NCGASA. Winners will be determined by the fishing coordinator and a rep from NCGASA. Winners based on the longest, measured, hatchery steelhead photographed and entered correctly within the Derby event dates: Jan. 1 to Feb. 29. Upon an exact tie in length, the fishing coordinator and a rep from NCGASA will determine a new payout and prizes. Any and all disputes will be solved by NCGASA.
  • Any cheating on the derby deemed by NCGASA will be a forfeiture of all monies paid. All participants must have a valid California fishing license and steelhead report card and must follow all California Department of Fish and Wildlife rules.
  • The boundaries of the Derby are the Mad River mouth to Boundary Creek.
  • Fishing hours start on January 1, 2020 at 6 a.m. to February 29, 2020 at 6 p.m. Any entries submitted after 6 p.m. on Feb. 29 will not be included as deemed by the fishing coordinator.
  • All hatchery steelhead entered into the Derby must be measured from tip of the closed mouth to the fork of the tail with the tape on top of the fish. Photographs of this measurement showing both the tip of the mouth and the fork of the tail must be submitted with a secondary photo of you and your hatchery steelhead. Please list date, time, location of where the hatchery fish was caught or any other details when submitting. The information will be used to caption your photos on social media and on the website. All photos used will become property of NCGASA and the Derby for promotional use. You may harvest only hatchery steelhead. The adipose fin will be clipped on a hatchery steelhead. All hatchery steelhead must be caught in the mouth by rod and reel and landed legally by hand or net. Send your photos to madriversteelheadderby@gmail.com or contact the fishing coordinator (Tracy Mac) at (707) 496-2948 for other ways to submit.
  • All participants must follow all local, state and federal laws in order for your hatchery steelhead entry to be entered to win. All California Department of Fish and Wildlife rules are required and to be followed including low flow closures. Only fish caught while the river is open to fishing can be submitted. NCGASA reserves the right to disqualify any participate if the hatchery steelhead entry is suspected to be caught outside the 2020 Derby dates (Jan. 1 to Feb. 29, 2020). Participate agrees to these rules by entering this NCGASA members only hatchery steelhead derby
  • All entrants and people helping with the derby understand the risks involved with fishing on the Mad River and are required to follow all California Department of Boating and Waterways procedures and California Department of Fish and Wildlife rules.

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

Steelhead conditions look good for the weekend

From high water to low water to dirty water – we’ve endured all conditions imaginable to start off our steelhead season. But following a weekend that saw less rain fall than predicted, river conditions are finally starting to line up. The Smith dropped into fishable shape on Monday, and the drift boaters picked up a few. The Chetco blew out over the weekend, but should be in great shape by mid-week. Plunkers landed their share of bright steelhead prior to the blowout. Closer to home, the Mad was a little high and dirty on Tuesday, but should be in pristine shape by the weekend. A few steelhead have made their way back to the hatchery, and there should be plenty more behind them. The main stem Eel is also recovering from the storms, and it could fish as early as the weekend. Not many boats have been on the water, but you can bet there’s steelhead around. Both the South Fork Eel and Van Duzen will be on the low-side by the weekend, but should be holding a little color. If you’re looking to get out of the house this weekend, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a fishable river.

McKinleyville resident Tyler Collins landed this nice winter steelhead on Monday while fishing the Smith River with guide Tyler Gillespie. The winter steelhead run is just beginning on the coastal rivers, and conditions look good for the weekend. Photo courtesy of Tyler Gillespie

The weather ahead
“Not much in the way of rain for the next few days, and possibly into next week,” said Tyler Jewel of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “There’s a slight chance of a small front moving in on Sunday morning, but the models are really inconsistent and there isn’t much confidence that it will hit us,” said Jewel. “At most, we could see about a half-inch, but it will likely be around a tenth, if anything. After that, we’ll see a ridge of high pressure rebuild keeping us dry through at least the middle of next week.”

Mad River Steelhead Derby starts Jan. 1
If you’re interested in signing up for the Mad River Steelhead Derby, you’ll want to act quickly. The inaugural event, put on by the Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA.org), begins Jan. 1 and runs through Feb. 29, 2020. You must be signed up prior to Jan. 1 to be eligible. Anglers can sign up online at https://ncgasa.org/product/mad-river-steelhead-derby/ or in person at RMI Outdoors and Bucksport Sporting Goods in Eureka. Entry fees are $30 for NCGASA non-associate members and $10 for current members. All entries include a yearly NCGASA membership and an additional prize raffle ticket. The largest hatchery steelhead entry will win $500, second place $300 and third place will receive $150. There will also be a youth division winner (16 years and under), who’ll receive $150 gift certificate from one of our sponsors. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler broodstock collection program. For more info. and derby rules, visit MadRiverSteelheadDerby on Facebook and Instagram or email madriversteelheaderby@gmail.com.

Commercial crab opener set for Dec. 31
The commercial Dungeness crab season in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties is slated to open at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2019. Delays due to quality only affect the Dungeness crab fishery in this area. 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. Permitted vessels that have already participated in the Dec. 15 opener south of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line would not be able to set gear in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties until 12:01 am Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. This applies to any delayed areas in Oregon and Washington as well. For more information regarding the 2019-2020 Dungeness crab commercial season, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Invertebrates/Crabs

Rockfish season to close Dec. 31
The 2019 rockfish season in the Northern Management area, which runs from Cape Mendocino to the OR/CA border, will close for boat-based anglers on Tuesday, 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:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The Chetco had a decent bite for steelhead last week before it blew out over the weekend reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Plunkers caught fish at Loeb Park and Social Security,” said Martin. “After reaching 9,000 cfs on Saturday, the river remained muddy and blown out Monday evening. A slide on the South Fork has it colored from top to bottom. It should be in good shape by Christmas or shortly after. The Elk was high but fishable on Monday, and most boats caught multiple salmon. Expect salmon to continue to arrive through the end of the week. The Sixes is high but should fish by Christmas. It closes Dec. 31 to salmon. The Elk remains open in January.”

Smith
Following the weekend rains, the Smith dropped back into shape on Monday. Not many boats were out, but a few nice steelhead were landed. River levels are predicted to drop and it will likely be low and clear by the weekend. Forecasted to be right around 2,200 cfs (7.5 feet) by Saturday morning.

Main stem Eel
The main stem was muddy as of Tuesday, but dropping quickly. Predicted to be at 3,000 cfs on the Scotia gauge by Thursday and could be fishable by the weekend.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork was dirty on Monday, mostly due to the muddy water coming from the East Branch at Benbow. Flows on Tuesday were right around 800 cfs. By the time it clears in the next couple days, it could be tough to drift. Haven’t heard of any steelhead being caught as of yet.

Van Duzen
Flowing at 650 cfs on Tuesday and predicted to hit 500 cfs by Saturday. Reports have been hard to come by so far, but there should be some steelhead around once it clears.

Mad
The Mad has been quiet this week, likely due to the dirty water and lack of fish according to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. He said. “The fishing pressure has been light this week as there haven’t been many fish around. There’s only a handful that have made it up the ladder. With dry weather for the next few days, conditions are looking really good for the weekend. My guess is it we’ll start to see some green water by Friday, with the weekend looking ideal. Hopefully there will be some fish around.”

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

River blowouts predicted for the weekend

The transition to steelhead season is taking a bit longer than we hoped. With the storm door now busted wide-open, finding some green water in the next few days won’t be easy. The North Coast is expected to get pounded by a couple of wet storms, with the first arriving on Thursday followed by a bigger one on Saturday. Per usual, the Smith will be the first to drop into shape, and could be fishable by Sunday. The rest of the coastal streams won’t fare quite so well. With three to four inches predicted in the Mad and Eel River basins, they’ll likely be toast through the weekend and into next week. The forecast beginning on Sunday and into next week isn’t calling for much rain, which should put the rivers on a quick descent. If we’re all nice, we could be looking at fishable water by Christmas.

Tyler Vaughn of McKinleyville landed possibly the first Mad River steelhead of the season last Wednesday while fishing with Tyrone Bachus. The river will likely be blown out this weekend, with three to four inches of rain in the forecast through Sunday. Photo courtesy of Tyrone Bachus

Weather ahead
More rain is on the way, with two systems bearing down on the North Coast. “The Smith basin could see anywhere from 4 to 6 inches between now and next Tuesday,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “During the same time period, the Mad and Eel basins should see between 3 and 4 inches. The first system will arrive on Thursday, bringing an inch to an inch and a half to the Smith. Roughly the same amount is predicted for Saturday. In the Eel and Mad basins, the heaviest rain will hit on Saturday. We’ll likely see less than an inch on Thursday, but Saturday’s system could bring up to 3 inches Saturday through Monday. That’s when we’ll see the rivers really spike. Right now, light rain is forecasted for Sunday with Monday and Tuesday looking mostly dry,” said Zontos.

Mad River Steelhead Derby coming Jan. 1
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA.org) is producing an inaugural Mad River Steelhead Derby beginning Jan. 1 and running through Feb. 29, 2020. You must be signed up prior to Jan. 1, and only hatchery steelhead can be entered into this fishing contest. Anglers can sign up online at ncgasa.org or in person at RMI Outdoors and Bucksport Sporting Goods in Eureka. Entry fees are $30 for NCGASA non-associate members and $10 for current members. All entries include a yearly NCGASA membership and an additional prize raffle ticket. The largest hatchery steelhead entry will win $500, second place $300 and third place will receive $150. There will also be a youth division winner (16 years and under), who’ll receive $150 gift certificate from one of our sponsors. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler broodstock collection program. For more info. and derby rules, visit MadRiverSteelheadDerby on Facebook and Instagram or email madriversteelheaderby@gmail.com.

2020 Fishing license
A reminder that it’s the time of the year to purchase your 2020 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 $51.02. A North Coast salmon report card, which will run you $7.05, 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 $7.82 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 2020 for $8.13 (instead of $51.02) for disabled military veterans. For those 65 or older on reduced income, licenses are available for $7.73. 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 Wednesday, 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 now open
The water running down the ladder to the river was turned on Monday. The hatchery hopes to begin spawning on Tuesday, Dec. 31 and then each following Tuesday.

New Oregon recreational crab gear marking rule
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has adopted the following rules effective January 1, 2020: 1) Surface buoys used to mark recreational crab pots or rings must be marked in a visible, legible, and permanent manner with information clearly identifying the owner of the crab pots or rings. 2) The identifying information must include first and last name or business name AND at least one of the following: (a) Permanent address; (b) Phone number; (c) Angler Identification number; or (d) A vessel identification number. Mark your buoys used with pots or rings in the ocean and bays. Rule does not apply to gear from piers, jetties, or beaches. For more information, visit https://myodfw.com/sites/default/files/2019-12/Buoy%20sign_1.pdf

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“The Chetco has been slow for salmon and steelhead, as the fall-run of kings appears to be over for the season, and big numbers of steelhead have yet to arrive,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There are a few half-pounders around, and plunkers caught a few adult steelhead in the past week. Success from drift boats has been slow. This week’s big storm, with the highest flows since April’s flood expected, could jump start steelhead fishing.”

The Elk and Sixes have been decent for salmon when flows are good according to Martin. “The Elk was good over the weekend. More than 500 salmon returned to Elk River Hatchery on Friday. By Monday, the Elk was too low to float. The Sixes was crowded, but produced fair catches. Expect another shot of fish in the Elk after the water drops early next week,” added Martin.

Smith River
There aren’t many steelhead around right now, but that should change after the next rounds of storms reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “Last weekend and early this week, there were fresh salmon being caught,” said Coopman. “We’re forecasted to see a couple decent rises over the next few days, with the biggest coming late Saturday. Depending on the rain, the river could remain fishable through the weekend. I’d expect to see some adult steelhead around next week.”

Main stem Eel
The main stem was fishable on Wednesday and should remain so through Thursday. There are some nice adult steelhead in the lower river according to reports. It’s predicted to blowout late Thursday, reaching 28,000 cfs on Monday morning. It will take at least a week of dry weather before it drops back into shape.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork has been fishable the last few days, but it’s been skinny. Flows on Wednesday were right around 370 cfs. Haven’t heard of any steelhead being caught, but did hear there were some fresh kings around. Will likely get muddy following Thursday’s rain, and will really blow out on Saturday afternoon.

Van Duzen
Flowing at 400cfs on Wednesday, and the steelhead reports have been hard to come by. Like the Eel, it will likely be muddy by late Thursday and won’t fish through the weekend.

Mad
On Wednesday, the Mad was green and fishable above the 299 bridge reports Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. He said. “I haven’t heard of a lot fish being caught yet, but the river was in good shape as of Wednesday. I did hear some fish were seen moving on the lower river. There’s not much effort yet, but that will change after the river comes back down next week.” The Mad is forecasted to blow out on Thursday, followed by another big rise on Saturday where flows could reach 6,200 cfs.

Upper Trinity
The rains definitely helped the Trinity as far as steelhead fishing goes reports guide Steve Huber. “The recent rains have moved some of the steelhead that were in the upper river to the hatchery,” said Huber. “It also brought in some new fish to the upper section. More rain is needed to bring the fish that were in the lower river up, and the coming storms could do just that. Most anglers are fly fishing, with a few running plugs or tossing bait. There’s been a good group of steelhead in the Junction City area, which is seeing the most pressure. Most boats are getting one to three adults per trip and a mixed bag of half-pounders.”

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

More rain on the way – and hopefully steelhead too

Winter steelhead season has yet to really take off here on the North Coast, but changes are on the horizon. We have a pretty decent storm headed our way that will put all of the coastal rivers on the rise. This is coming on the heels of the season’s biggest storms to date, which on Monday pushed the rivers to their highest levels of the young season. And more rain is on the way next week. Steady rain and pulse flows is just what we need to entice some steelhead from the salt. If the rains come as predicted, the Smith should remain in fishable shape. It’s predicted to hit just over 11-feet on the Jed Smith gauge on Friday. The Chetco will see a bump in flows as well, but it should remain fishable through the weekend as well.

The Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Mad will all see a rise in flows, 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 another brief, or nonexistent late fall salmon season, seeing the rivers loaded with bright steelhead sure would be a welcome sight.

Weather ahead
“The North Coast can expect area-wide rain through Saturday,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “It looks like the heaviest rain will be Wednesday and Thursday. The rain will start to decrease on Friday – when the rivers will peak and begin to drop. Light rain is in the forecast for Saturday, then we’ll see the rain begin to taper off on Sunday. Monday is looking mostly dry. Another system is predicted for Tuesday, with rain in the forecast most of next week. Rainfall totals from Wednesday through next Tuesday in the Smith basin will be 3 to 4 inches. In the Mad basin, we could see 1.5 to 2.5 inches, with the potential for 3 inches in the mountains. One to 2 inches is predicted in the Eel basin,” said Zontos.

Mad River Steelhead Derby coming Jan. 1
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA.org) is producing an inaugural Mad River Steelhead Derby beginning Jan. 1 and running through Feb. 29, 2020. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered into this fishing contest. Anglers can sign up online at ncgasa.org or in person at RMI Outdoors and Bucksport Sporting Goods in Eureka. Entry fees are $30 for NCGASA non-associate members and $10 for current members. All entries include a yearly NCGASA membership and an additional prize raffle ticket. The largest hatchery steelhead entry will win $500, second place $300 and third place will receive $150. There will also be a youth division winner (16 years and under), who’ll receive $150 gift certificate from one of our sponsors. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler broodstock collection program. For more info. and derby rules, visit MadRiverSteelheadDerby on Facebook and Instagram or email madriversteelheaderby@gmail.com

Dungeness crab news

Northern Management Area
The northern California commercial Dungeness crab season has been delayed again due to poor quality. Results of the Dec. 3 quality test continue to show crab are below the minimum testing guidelines and are not yet ready for harvesting. This affects the entire northern commercial fishery in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties. The season is now scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2019. Additional testing will be scheduled to occur by Dec. 20 to determine whether the season can open on Dec. 31 or will be delayed once more until Jan. 15, 2020.

Domoic Acid Update
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) lifted a health advisory for recreational Dungeness crabs caught near Shelter Cove, Humboldt County south to Point Arena. CDPH lifted this advisory on Tuesday due to recent tests showing that the amount of domoic acid has declined to low or undetectable levels in Dungeness crabs caught in the area, indicating that they are safe to consume.

Central Management Area
On Nov. 22, the Central Management Area (Sonoma County and south) opener was delayed until Dec. 15 to avoid whale and sea turtle entanglements. At CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham’s request, the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group was convened on Dec. 4 to review new information and conduct an updated risk assessment. The Working Group provided a consensus recommendation to open the fishery as soon as possible, while providing the fishery sufficient notice prior to Dec. 15.  No minority recommendations were expressed. After considering the Working Group’s updated assessment, the Director is proceeding with the Dec. 15 opener. The Central Management Area will open at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15. This opening is preceded by an 18-hour gear setting period that will begin at 6:01 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14. For more information related to the risk assessment process or this delay, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Whale-Safe-Fisheries

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Salmon fishing has been slow on the Chetco since it opened last Saturday according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “I drifted from the South Fork on Tuesday, focusing on steelhead, and found a few half-pounders up high, said Martin. “Lots of salmon are spawning in the riffles. A few adult steelhead have been caught on the lower river, both by plunkers and drift boaters. A slide between Ice Box and Loeb will likely add lots of color to the river during the next few storms.”
According to Martin, the Elk is low, but the Sixes has been fishable, with decent catch rates for fall salmon. “Expect the Elk to rise with the latest series of storms this week. Both rivers will be the best bet for salmon this late in the season,” added Martin.

Cloverdale resident Scott Richardson landed a nice king salmon on Sunday while fishing the Smith River. The late-fall king salmon run is nearing the end on North Coast rivers, with the arrival of winter steelhead right around the corner. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

Smith
“Fishing is pretty slow right now on the Smith,” said Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “There’s still a few salmon on the lower end of the river, but I didn’t see much upriver on Wednesday. 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 Friday, and more rain on the way for next week. This should open the door for the start of the steelhead run.”

Mad
The Mad was open to fishing as of Wednesday, but it could close Thursday morning if there isn’t sufficient rain to increase flows. There’s been a handful of nice steelhead caught, but no big numbers entering the river as of yet. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 200 cfs.

Main stem Eel
Flows are good on the main stem, but it’s still on the dirty side. The flows were just above 2,300 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday afternoon, but predicted to rise starting Thursday morning. The river is forecasted to peak Friday afternoon and will likely remain blown 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 open to fishing as of Wednesday, but could close on Thursday unless flows increase. It’s predicted to rise beginning Thursday morning and will probably be dirty through the weekend. 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 should remain open until it starts to rise on Thursday morning. The river will likely be muddy through the weekend. 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

Steelhead up next for coastal rivers

With very little rain over the past two months, the end is near for the late, fall-run salmon season on our coastal rivers. The season, much like last year, has been somewhat of a disappointment to anglers. Only a couple smaller storms hit the coast and dropped enough rain to bring the Eel, Smith and Chetco up to levels where fish could pass somewhat safely. While the fishing window was very small or non-existent, 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 few years as the salmon didn’t bother to wait for us, or the strong flows to get them to their end destinations.

On the other hand — with the calendar now saying it’s December — it’s winter steelhead time on the coast. All of the rivers have seen a few adults push in, with plenty more on the way. 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, which just happens to be this weekend.

Weather ahead
Through the weekend, we can expect widespread rainfall along the North Coast according to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “This will be a much warmer system, so we can expect to see some snow melt as well, which will add to the river levels,” said Zontos “We should begin to see the rain early Friday morning, with the heaviest rain falling throughout the day. Showers are then predicted off and on through Sunday. In the Smith basin, we’re expecting two to three inches and up to four in the mountain areas. The Mad River area will see about the same. The Eel basin could see a little more rain, with three to four inches predicted through Sunday and some places could see five. Right now, Monday is looking dry, then we should see chances of rain daily through next Friday,” added Zontos.

Humboldt Bay crabbing

Sport Crabbing inside Humboldt Bay is improving according to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. He said, “I’ve heard that more crab are showing up, but they’re smaller. There’re also quite a few females around. The best spots have been between the Coast Guard station and the entrance. 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.

Re-adoption of emergency regulations to allow the take of Klamath/Trinity springers on the table
On Nov. 25, the CDFW requested that the Fish and Game Commission re-adopt the emergency regulations set to expire on December 24, 2019 that allowed the take of Klamath/Trinity river spring-run Chinook salmon. The Department and Commission staff are currently working towards a certificate of compliance rulemaking to permanently adopt the limited fishing opportunity. Upon the completion of the certificate of compliance rulemaking (anticipated June 2020), the permanent, non-emergency regulations would be effective in time for the season to open July 1, 2020. The emergency regs adopted in 2019 allowed limited fishing on both the Klamath and Trinity rivers beginning on July 1, with a bag limit reduced from two to one salmon. For more info, visit https://fgc.ca.gov/Regulations/2019-New-and-Proposed#kt_2084_2

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

Craig Nunley of Caldwell, Idaho, holds a chrome-bright king salmon caught Nov. 27 on the Smith River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The Smith has only been open to fishing a few days this fall due to low-flow closures. That should change this weekend as heavy rains are in the forecast. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

Smith
The first part of December is typically transition time for the Smith River. The majority of the salmon have moved upriver and we’re now waiting for the steelhead to show. Flowing at just under 700 cfs on Wednesday, the river has been closed to fishing since Tuesday. While it was open on Monday, some salmon were caught, but the majority were dark. The majority of the salmon have likely already entered the river on the few small rises we’ve had. It was definitely a short fishing window, with the river only open a handful of days. Now is typically when we see the steelhead start to show. We have a pretty big rise coming this weekend, so hopefully we’ll see the first wave of steelhead enter the river.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Heavy rain is expected the end of this week, which should finally get the fall salmon seasons going on the Southern Oregon coastal rivers reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “ODFW has indicated the Chetco could open by the weekend, although the river could be blown out by Saturday morning,” said Martin. “Fishing has been slow in the Chetco estuary. A few boaters are floating and dragging the Sixes between Edson Creek and the Grange and catching a few salmon. The Winchuck is open above Peavine Bridge, but there isn’t enough water to effectively fish. All the rivers are expected to have plenty of water by the weekend.”

Mad
Currently closed to fishing. Predicted to peak at nearly 2,000 cfs by Sunday morning.

Redwood Creek
Closed to fishing as of Wednesday. Predicted to hit 1,400 cfs by Sunday morning.

Eel
Main
The main Eel has been open to fishing for the past week, and reports have been hard to come by. Like most of the other rivers, the meat of the salmon run has likely entered the river and are making their way to the spawning grounds. The rain forecasted for the weekend should allow the salmon to reach some of the higher tributaries and we should see a few more spurts of fresh fish move in. The higher flows should also bring in the first big push of the winter steelhead. Predicted to peak at 17,800 cfs on Sunday afternoon.

South Fork
Running at 120 cfs as of Wednesday, it has remained closed to fishing. Should open with the weekend storms, predicted to peak at 4,800 cfs on Sunday morning.

Van Duzen
Open to fishing as of Wednesday and flowing at just under 180 cfs. It’s predicted to peak at 5,200 cfs early Sunday morning.

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

Wild steelhead harvest could end on the Chetco

A petition requesting a temporary rule change restricting harvest of wild winter steelhead in the Oregon Southwest Zone, which includes the Chetco River, was submitted on Nov. 4 by a group of Oregon fishing guides to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. If accepted, the emergency rule change would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. According to the petition, the proposed temporary regulation changes will provide angling opportunity while reducing direct harvest and increase spawning escapement of wild winter steelhead. Proposed measures are needed to protect winter steelhead fishing opportunity for future fisheries according to the petitioners. Due to low population forecasts and poor ocean conditions for the 2019-2020 season, ODFW implemented protective measures for wild fall Chinook salmon populations on the Oregon Coast that were based on actions developed through the 2015 Coastal Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plan and 2013 Rogue Fall Chinook Conservation Plan. It is expected that poor ocean conditions would similarly impact winter steelhead populations on the Oregon south coast, and fisheries closures around the region are going to result in angler effort shift to the remaining open fisheries. Other Southwest rivers that would be impacted by the restriction include the mainstem East Fork Coquille, Illinois, Elk, Pistol, Rogue, Sixes and Winchuck rivers along with Hunter and Euchre creeks.

According to Harvey Young, who’s leading the petition, amending the regulations management of steelhead fisheries will be consistent with wild steelhead angling regulations in the entire Southwest Zone as well as Oregon’s Willamette, Central, and Northeast Zones, and all but two rivers in the Northwest Zone (Salmon River and Big Elk Creek); as well as wild steelhead fishing regulations for every river in California, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia. “Since wild steelhead can be caught multiple times in the same season, or when they return in future seasons to spawn, releasing wild steelhead provides more angling opportunity by keeping wild steelhead in the system,” said Young. “Keeping wild steelhead in the river, rather than in the possession of the first angler that harvests it, will increase overall catch rates for anglers, and increase satisfaction with the fishery. In turn, this will encourage more steelhead anglers to participate in the fishery. This will also increase license sales.”

Tim Call of Eureka caught and released this native steelhead last January on the Chetco River. A petition to end the harvest of wild steelhead on some of Southern Oregon’s rivers, including the Chetco, has been submitted to the ODFW Commission. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

There’s plenty of opposition to the petition as well. Andy Martin, who runs Wild Rivers Fishing out of Brookings, will be at the commission meeting speaking about the petition. “Like many other anglers, I personally like to release wild steelhead,” said Martin. “But I am not about to say other fishermen should be forced to release them if there is no science to back it up. The ODFW opposed the previous petition to ban wild steelhead harvest because the runs in Southern Oregon are healthy. The Chetco has the highest spawning density of wild steelhead in the state. It can sustain limited wild harvest. Instead of forcing the biologists to change the rules, we should applaud them for successfully balancing harvest, spawner escapement and fishing opportunity. Habitat, ocean conditions and predation play a lot bigger role in steelhead populations than sport harvest. If the petitioners want to release wild steelhead, nobody is stopping them. If anglers want to keep a very limited number of wild fish, and the run is healthy enough to maintain itself, then they should be allowed to do so.” The current regulations for wild steelhead harvest allow for no more than one per day and three per year.

The ODFW Commission meeting will be held on Friday, December 6th 2019 in Salem beginning at 8:00 a.m. To view the agenda, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/19/12_Dec/index.asp

Weather ahead
Following Tuesday and Wednesday’s widespread rain, the next round of storms are set to arrive Friday evening according to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The next storm will focus more to the south,” said Zontos. “From Friday evening through Sunday evening, we could see one to two inches in the Eel basin and a half to one inch in the Smith basin. Another system is forecasted early next week, and again, more rain will fall in the Southern Humboldt/Mendocino areas. Through Tuesday evening, we could see anywhere from a half-inch to an inch and a quarter in the Eel basin,” added Zontos.

The Rivers:
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Smith, Redwood Creek and Mad were the only rivers open to fishing that are subjected to low flow closures. The Eel and Van Duzen remained closed. The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

Smith
After exceeded predicted flows, the Smith was the first North Coast river to open on Wednesday morning. Reportedly, there were plenty of fish being caught. As of mid-morning Wednesday, flows were right around 1,100 and starting to level off. It will likely stay open through Thursday, but may close before the weekend. More rain is on the way, and it could open back up early next week. For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=CREC1

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Most anglers have given up on the Chetco estuary for the season, as most of the salmon are now upriver, above the deadline reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “ODFW will make a decision on when the river will open after the storm is over. Right now, the biggest increase isn’t forecasted until the end of next week. ODFW did its final hatchery netting last week and found big schools of salmon at the Highway Hole to meet its broodstock collection goals. Most of the fish netted last week were released.

Heavy rain is falling near Port Orford, and could boost flows any time for the Elk and Sixes, which have been too low to float with a drift boat. Call Elk River Hatchery’s flow hotline at 541-332-0405. Flows on the Elk need to be around 3.5 feet to safely float. They were only 1.7 feet the beginning of this week.”

Mad
The Mad opened Wednesday morning as flows were right around 400 and rising. According to the low-flow hotline, it will close to fishing prior to Thursday unless increased flows warrant keeping it open. For river predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=ARCC1

Redwood Creek
Redwood Creek was hovering at 600 cfs late morning on Wednesday, and was open to fishing. Like the Mad, it is scheduled to close prior to Thursday according to the low-flow hotline. For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=ORIC1

Eel
Main
Flows were right around 300 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday morning, but it’s not likely to open. Following the weekend rain, it could open to fishing early next week. For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=SCOC1

South Fork
The Miranda area was around 140 cfs on Wednesday morning and still rising. Not predicted to open over the next couple days, but early next week could be a different story. For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=MRNC1

Van Duzen
Peaked at just under 90 cfs on Wednesday morning, and not predicted to rise again until Sunday. For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=BRGC1

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

2019/2020 low flow information for North Coast rivers

Low Flow River Closures begin Oct. 1
North Coast rivers that are regulated by low flow closures, including the Eel River, Mad River, Mattole River, Redwood Creek, Smith River and Van Duzen River will begin angling restrictions on October 1st, except for the Mad River, which went into effect September 1st. The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public by a telephone recorded message updated, as necessary, no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any stream will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at anytime. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. NOTE: The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River will be closed until January 1, 2020

Areas subject to low flow closures:

Mad River: The main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to Cowan Creek. Minimum flow: 200 cfs at the gauging station at the Highway 299 bridge.

The main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road with the Eel River to the South Fork Eel River. Minimum flow: 350 cfs at the gauging station near Scotia.

The South Fork of the Eel River downstream from Rattlesnake Creek and the Middle Fork Eel River downstream from the Bar Creek. Minimum flow: 340 cfs at the gauging station at Miranda.

Van Duzen River: The main stem Van Duzen River from its junction with the Eel River to the end of Golden Gate Drive near Bridgeville (approximately 4,000 feet upstream of Little Golden Gate Bridge. Minimum flow: 150 cfs at the gauging station near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.

Mattole River: The main stem of the Mattole River from the mouth to Honeydew Creek. Minimum flow: 320 cfs at the gauging station at Petrolia.

Redwood Creek: The main stem of Redwood Creek from the mouth to its confluence with Bond Creek. Minimum flow: 300 cfs at the gauging station near the Highway 101 bridge.

Smith River: The main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its confluence with Patrick Creek; the South Fork Smith River from the mouth upstream approximately 1000 ft to the County Road (George Tyron) bridge and Craigs Creek to its confluence with Jones Creek; and the North Fork Smith River from the mouth to its confluence with Stony Creek. Minimum flow: 600 cfs at the Jedediah Smith State Park gauging station.

Holiday rain could open rivers to fishing

Corey Allen, of McKinleyville, landed a nice late-fall king salmon last November on the Smith River. With rain in the forecast for next week, the Smith and Chetco Rivers could open to fishing over the Thanksgiving holiday. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest

If you see a family member duck out early on Thanksgiving Day, or fail to show up at all, you can bet it’s raining and the rivers are either open or on the verge. After suffering through an extremely dry November, it looks like our weather pattern is about to change. The ridge of high pressure that’s been parked off our coast is finally breaking down, and it looks like a wet weather pattern is on the horizon. According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, rain could start to fall as early as Sunday night and will stick around at least through Wednesday evening. “Right now, it looks like the heaviest rainfall amounts will be on Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Zontos. “From the period beginning Monday night and ending Wednesday evening, the Smith basin could see an inch up to an inch and three-quarters. Here locally, we can expect to see anywhere from a half-inch up to an inch and possibly more. The models for Thursday and Friday aren’t in agreement as of yet, so we could go either way on those two days,” added Zontos. Whether this rain event will be enough to open any of the rivers is anybody’s guess. The good news is the storm door looks like it’s starting to crack open, albeit slowly.

For river level predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/index.php?type=ol&product=fcstPointsFcst. For the Smith to open, the gauging station at the Jed Smith State Park will need a minimum of 600 cfs. For the Eel to open up, a minimum of 350 cfs are needed at the gauging station at Scotia. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 707-822-3164.

Commercial crab season on the North Coast delayed
In a memo released on Nov. 15, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham delayed the Northern California commercial Dungeness crab season due to poor crab meat quality test results. The delayed area in the north includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties (Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9).

The northern Dungeness crab fishery is delayed until 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 pending another round of testing tentatively scheduled on or around Dec. 1. If these results indicate good quality and there is no area under an additional domoic acid delay, the fishery will open Monday, Dec. 16, and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin 8:01 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

Crab are evaluated to compare meat weight to total crab weight to determine whether they are ready for harvest under testing guidelines established by the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Committee in conjunction with tests done in Oregon and Washington. If results indicate poor crab quality, the CDFW director may delay the fishery under authority of Fish and Game Code, section 8276.2.

If the next round of quality testing continues to show low quality crab, Director Bonham has the authority to delay the season an additional 15 days, until Dec. 31. The season can be delayed no later than Jan. 15, which is what happened in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons. The first round of quality tests showed Eureka at 21.9, Trinidad 20.2, and Crescent City at 21.4 percent meat recovery. Pots were pulled on Nov. 3.

Nov. 29 and 30 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/articles/2019-free-fishing-days-and-events for more info.

CDPH Lifts Warnings about Certain Shellfish from Humboldt County
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has lifted the shellfish safety notification related to sport-harvested mussels, whole scallops, and clams (other than razor clams) in Humboldt County. The safety notification was issued due to dangerous levels of naturally occurring domoic acid, also referred to as Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP), that can cause illness or death. Recent testing shows concentrations of domoic acid are now at safe or undetectable levels for bivalve shellfish other than razor clams.

The warnings against eating sport-harvested bivalve shellfish (including mussels, clams, and whole scallops) from Mendocino County and sport-harvested razor clams in Del Norte and Humboldt counties remain in effect, due to continued elevated levels of domoic acid. For more information, visit https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/SN19-014.aspx

The Rivers:
Smith
The Smith remains closed to fishing above Rowdy Creek, but there is enough water for fish to move into the river according to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. “The little bit of rain we had earlier in the week didn’t do much as far as opening the river, but fish are still moving in,” said Carson. “Some of the deeper holes on the lower river have quite a few salmon in them already. Once we get a good rise, those fish should be able to move into the spawning tributaries and hopefully we’ll see a bunch of fresh fish move in form the ocean.”

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“Salmon fishing has slowed in the Chetco estuary, and most of the fish have moved into the upper tidewater, which remains closed to fishing,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Heavy rain is expected next week, and ODFW could open the river above river mile 2.2 the first week of December. Seinings for the hatchery program revealed hundreds of kings have stacked up at Social Security Bar. A few salmon are being caught near the mouth of the Elk River, but fishing is slow. Expect a crowd on the Elk and Sixes after next week’s expected big rain.”

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