Parched Rivers Set to Receive a Little Rain

Grant Newnom and Elise Aileen, of the Santa Rosa area, landed a nice Eel River steelhead on a recent trip. The main stem Eel River is one of the few coastal rivers open to fishing. Photo courtesy of Blake Manning/Redwood Fishing Adventures

As we wait patiently for our “Miracle March,” there is at least some rain in the immediate forecast. While it’s not much, anything at this point is beneficial. Currently we have way more rivers closed to fishing than open. As for the upcoming rain, the Humboldt area could see up to a half inch, which could open back up the Mad and Van Duzen rivers temporarily. Further north, where most of the rain has and will fall, the Chetco saw a pretty good rise Monday but has since turned green. By Thursday, it could be the most popular river on the coast. The Smith rose slightly Monday and gained about 230 cubic feet per second. Additional rain is predicted for the next few days, which will surely help the fishing. The Eel River system, unfortunately, was not in this storm’s path, and remains low and clear. With a month left in the winter steelhead season, the outlook for a wet finish isn’t looking good. I hope I’m wrong.

The weather ahead
Rain is in the forecast starting Wednesday evening and lingering into Friday, according to Zahaira Velez of Eureka’s National Weather Service office. “From Wednesday through Friday, the Smith basin could see up to 1.5 inches,” Velez said. “Here in Humboldt, we may see up to a half inch. There could be some sprinkles on Saturday, then we’re looking dry until at least Tuesday.”

River Closures
As of Wednesday, the South Fork Eel, Middle Fork Eel, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Van Duzen and Mad are currently closed to fishing due to low flows. The South Fork Eel is closed from its mouth to Rattlesnake Creek. The Middle Fork Eel is closed from its mouth to Bar Creek. The Mattole is closed to fishing from the mouth to Honeydew Creek. Redwood Creek is closed from its mouth to the confluence with Bond Creek. The Van Duzen is closed 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. The Mad is closed from the Hammond Trial Railroad Trestle to Cowan Creek. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will make the information available to the public 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 any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 822-3164.

The Rivers:
Mad
Closed to fishing as of Tuesday morning. It’s predicted to rise early Friday morning and should be open to fishing prior to the weekend if the rain comes as planned. Minimum flow is 200 cfs at the State Route 299 bridge.

Eel River (main stem)
As of Tuesday, flows were right around 1,320 cfs at Scotia. The water is low and clear and the fishing remains up and down. The boats still fishing are getting a chance at a few fish per trip. Most of the fish being caught are still bright.

Van Duzen
The east-to-west running Van Duzen is projected to see enough rain the next couple of days to warrant opening back up to fishing. Flows are projected to hit 670 cfs by Friday morning. Depending on when the rain hits, it could open Friday. Minimum flow is 150 cfs at Grizzly Creek.

Smith River
The Smith rose slightly the past couple days and was running at 1,140 cfs on Wednesday and rising. The river will likely remain clear, but the extra flows should bring in some fresh fish as well as put the downers on the move. Even with low and clear conditions, there are fish being caught by the few boats still drifting.

Southern Oregon rivers
The Chetco reached its highest flows since Jan. 15 on Monday, after the biggest rain since the first week of January, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Although only 2,100 cfs, the river is brown and muddy,” said Martin. “With more rain expected through the middle of the week, the river may not be in shape for drift boaters until Friday. Typically, steelhead fishing is good after a prolonged dry spell. Fishing has been slow the past week because of low flows and the difficult time anglers had getting boats down the river. The rain also is expected to boost fishing on the Elk, Sixes and lower Rogue rivers. Early March generally is good on all three systems if there are good flows. Expect a few early spring salmon to show up in the catch on the Rogue this week.”

Brookings ocean report
“Lingcod and rockfish action continues to be good out of Brookings on calm weather days,” said Martin. “Limits of both are being caught. With the higher flows on the Chetco, anglers will have to fish a little further to the north to avoid freshwater. Crabbing has been slow. Surfperch are biting at Crissy Field and from both jetties. Smelt remain thick inside the Brookings boat basin.

Kenny Priest (he/him) 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.

King Count Remains Low on the Klamath

Vicente Roach from Eureka holds a Klamath River Chinook salmon from last fall. Fishing opportunities in 2022 for fall-run salmon on the Klamath will likely be similar to last year. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

The Pacific Fishery Management Council released its “Review of 2021 Ocean Salmon Fisheries” report last week and the news wasn’t great for salmon anglers, though the numbers are trending upward. In 2021, 53,954 adult Klamath River fall Chinook (KRFC) were estimated to have returned from the ocean compared to the preseason prediction of 62,121. Jack returns to the Klamath basin were 10,334 fish. In 2020, 45,409 adults returned along with 9,077 jacks.

Returns to the Iron Gate and Trinity hatcheries increased in 2021, as well. A total of 12,850 adults returned to the two hatcheries this fall, while in 2020 only 8,331 returned. Spawning escapement to the upper Klamath River tributaries (Salmon, Scott and Shasta rivers), where spawning was only minimally affected by hatchery strays, totaled 9,169 compared to 5,559 in 2020. The escapement in 2021 to the Shasta River was 5,972 adults. Escapement to the Salmon and Scott rivers was 1,890 and 1,307 adults, respectively.

According to the report, an estimated 2,265 fall Chinook adults were harvested in the Klamath Basin recreational fishery, which was well over the 1,221 quota.

“The age composition of this year’s in-river run (adults and jacks) will be used to estimate current ocean abundance and will determine the number of fish available for harvest in 2022,” said Wade Sinnen, senior environmental scientist on the Klamath and Trinity rivers. “There are a variety of factors that determine available harvest, including current ESA constraints in ocean and in-river fisheries. However, based on this year’s age composition, I suspect that fishing opportunity on adult fall Chinook salmon of Klamath origin will be similar to last year. Klamath fall Chinook stocks remain in ‘overfished’ status per federal guidelines.”

Next up is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual Salmon Information Meeting on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The meeting, which will be held via Zoom Webinar, will provide the latest information on California salmon stocks and the outlook for ocean salmon fisheries for the upcoming 2022 season. The public is encouraged to provide comments on potential fishing alternatives for California ocean salmon fisheries in 2022. A panel comprised of fishery managers, scientists and industry representatives will be assembled to address questions and collect public input that will be used in developing a range of season alternatives for California salmon fisheries at the March 8 through March 14 Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting. Final season regulations will be adopted at the April 6 through April 13 PFMC meeting. 

Additional meeting links, agendas and other materials will be posted at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon/preseason as they become available. Contact Katherine Osborn at OceanSalmon@wildlife.ca.gov if you have any questions regarding the meeting.

The weather ahead
According to Doug Boushey of Eureka’s National Weather Service, following the system that moved through Tuesday, the rest of the week looks dry. “The next chance of rain is in the latter part of the weekend,” Boushey said. “There’s a slight chance on Saturday, mostly in Del Norte, with rain likely Sunday. The next chance for significant rain will be Tuesday.”

River Closures
The South Fork Eel, Middle Fork Eel, Mattole, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen (closed starting Thursday) are currently closed to fishing due to low flows. The South Fork Eel is closed from its mouth to Rattlesnake Creek. The Middle Fork Eel is closed from its mouth to Bar Creek. The Mattole is closed to fishing from the mouth to Honeydew Creek. Redwood Creek is closed from its mouth to the confluence with Bond Creek. The Van Duzen will be closed 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).

The Rivers:

Mad
Plenty of steelhead are still being caught on the Mad despite the low water. The fish are holding in the holes and slots, which still have decent color. As of Wednesday, flows were 228 cubic feet per second. Minimum flow is 200 cubic feet per second at State Route 299 bridge.

Main stem Eel
As of Wednesday, flows were right around 1,650 cfs after rising slightly Monday night.  The water is low and clear and the fishing continues to be inconsistent. The few boats still fishing are getting anywhere from zero to three fish per day. Most of the fish being caught are bright. Minimum flow is 350 cfs at Scotia.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen opened back up to fishing following Monday’s rain, but will close again beginning Thursday. Flows as of Wednesday were 151 cfs and dropping. Minimum flow is 150 cfs at Grizzly Creek.

Smith River
The Smith is forecast to fall below 1,000 cfs by the weekend. There was a slight bump in flows Monday night following the small storm. The river is extremely low and clear, but new fish are still arriving. Minimum flow is 600 cfs at Jed Smith Park.

Southern Oregon rivers
Rain falling Monday has steelhead anglers hoping the Chetco will rise enough for drift boaters to once again enjoy decent catch rates, but the flow forecast suggests that is unlikely, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.

“Flows are down to 500 cfs, requiring anglers to drag their boats over shallow riffles,” said Martin. “A few schools of steelhead can be seen in the lower river, but overall action has been slow. Steelhead fishing also remains slow on the Elk, Sixes and Rogue rivers. The Elk and Sixes are too low to drift, while clear water has led to slow catch rates on the lower Rogue.”

Brookings ocean update
Relatively calm ocean conditions over the weekend allowed boaters to get nice limits of lingcod and rockfish out of Brookings, reports Martin. “Stormy weather returned on Monday. The next good forecast day is Friday. Plenty of fish are being caught within a short distance of the harbor. Surf smelt are entertaining anglers fishing in the boat basin, but herring are a no-show so far. Surfperch are biting along both jetties of the Chetco River.”

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

CDFW Seeks Input on 2022 Pacific Halibut Season

Scotia resident Patrick McCormack landed this nice Pacific halibut out of Eureka last summer. CDFW is currently seeking input for the 2022 sport halibut season. Photo courtesy of Gary Blasi/Full Throttle Sport Fishing

If you’d like a say in the upcoming Pacific halibut season, now’s the time to speak up as California anglers are invited to participate in an online survey to help inform the CDFW about angler preferences for open fishing dates during the upcoming 2022 season. Results of the survey, which is open until Feb. 18, will be used to develop recommended season dates that will be provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Pacific halibut fishery takes place off Northern California and the 2022 quota will be 39,000 net pounds, the same as in 2021 and 2020.The online survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/RNDCG2S. For more information on the Pacific halibut fishery in California, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Pacific-Halibut.

The weather ahead
According to Jeff Tonkin of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, there’s a 30 to 40 percent chance of light rain Sunday into Monday. “Up in Del Norte, we could see up to a quarter inch while we’ll probably see less in Humboldt,” said Tonkin. “After Monday, we’re back to dry conditions with the ridge of high pressure pushing everything way to the north.”

2022 Salmon information meeting coming March 2
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Annual Salmon Information Meeting will be held via Zoom Webinar on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The meeting will provide the latest information on California salmon stocks and the outlook for ocean salmon fisheries for the upcoming 2022 season. The public is encouraged to provide comments on potential fishing alternatives for California ocean salmon fisheries in 2022. A panel comprised of fishery managers, scientists and industry representatives will be assembled to address questions and collect public input that will be used in developing a range of season alternatives for California salmon fisheries at the March 8-14 Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting. Final season regulations will be adopted at the April 6-13 PFMC meeting.  Additional meeting links, agendas and other materials will be posted at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon/preseason as they become available. Contact Katherine Osborn at OceanSalmon@wildlife.ca.gov if you have any questions regarding the meeting.

Free fishing days this weekend in Oregon
It’s free to fish, crab or clam on the Saturday and Sunday of President’s Day Weekend, Feb. 19-20. During these two days, no fishing licenses or tags (including a Combined Angling Tag and a Columbia River Basin Endorsement) are required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon. Although no licenses or tags are required, all other regulations apply including closures, bag limits and size restrictions. For more information, visit www.myodfw.com/articles/2022-free-fishing-days-and-events

River Closures
The South Fork Eel, Mattole and Redwood Creek were closed to fishing as of Feb. 15 due to low flows. The South Fork Eel is closed from its mouth to Rattlesnake Creek. The Mattole is closed to fishing from the mouth to Honeydew Creek. Redwood Creek is closed from its mouth to the confluence with Bond Creek.

The Rivers:
Mad
According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors, the river is super low right now. “There’s still a little color in the deeper holes and slots,” said Kelly. “There are quite a few fish around but it’s been tough getting them to bite.” Flows were down to 260 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday. Minimum flow is 200 cfs at State Route 299 bridge.

Main stem Eel
As of Wednesday, it was running at 2,200 cfs and dropping. Flows went up about 400 cfs to 2,500 cfs over the weekend due to snowmelt from last week’s warm temperatures. The fishing has been inconsistent with boats getting anywhere from zero to three fish per day. Most of the fish being caught are bright. Minimum flow is 350 cfs at Scotia.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork is closed to fishing as of last week. On Wednesday, flows were 275 cfs at Miranda. Minimum flow is 340 cfs at Miranda.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen bumped up slightly due to snowmelt in the hills. As of Wednesday, flows were hovering just above 190 cfs. The river is extremely clear and low. Bank fishing effort has been light due to conditions. If the river forecast holds, it should close to angling later in the week. Minimum flow is 150 cfs at Grizzly Creek.

Smith River
Last week’s warm weather triggered snowmelt pushing flows to 1,600 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge last Friday. It has since dropped back to 1,250 cfs as of Wednesday. There was a slight bump in flows Monday night following the small storm. This could have brought in some fresh fish but flows will remain extremely low. Minimum flow is 600 cfs at Jed Smith Park.

Southern Oregon rivers
The Chetco is approaching summertime levels, with flows below 600 cfs, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Steelhead fishing is slow because of the low, clear water, although a few fish are trickling in. Effort is light. Expect catch rates to jump after the next major rain. Low water also has brought the action to a standstill on the Elk and Sixes, while fishing also is slow on the lower Rogue. A few steelhead are being caught near Agness, and action has been good in the canyon for anglers taking advantage of the low water. Expect the first spring salmon of the season after the next major rain.”

John Van Zant of Brookings, Ore., holds a hefty lingcod he caught Feb. 12 while fishing aboard the Miss Brooke of Brookings Fishing Charters. The lingcod hitchhiked to the surface on a kelp greenling. Photo courtesy of Brookings Fishing Charters

Brookings ocean update
According to Martin, calm ocean conditions out of Brookings have resulted in very good lingcod and rockfish action. “Anglers don’t have to travel far for bottom fish, as the reefs close to the harbor have been productive. More calm weather is expected this weekend, after a few days of windy weather. Crabbing is fair.”

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.

Most Coastal Rivers Remain Open — for Now

McKinleyville resident Scott McBain holds a nice steelhead he landed over the weekend while fishing the Eel River. Photo courtesy of Gabe Rossi.

Another week of beautiful rain-free weather on the North Coast, which is exactly what we don’t need. Two of our coastal rivers have succumbed to low flows and are now closed to angling. With the forecast calling for more dry weather, a few other rivers will likely close soon. To date, the Mattole and Redwood Creek have both fallen below the low-flow threshold. The South Fork Eel and the Van Duzen are getting closer by the day. And there isn’t much good news on the horizon. Rain is nowhere to be found in the immediate forecast. Looking long range, it’s a coin toss as to whether we’ll see any storms before the first week of March. If you’re looking to catch a steelhead, you best act quickly. The number of open rivers will soon be few and far between.

The weather ahead
According to Josh Whisnant of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, there’s an outside chance of some light precipitation late this weekend or early next week. “The high pressure ridge looks like it’s staying put, so chances of any rain don’t look good, including next week,” said Whisnant. “Through March 4 there’s equal chances of below or above normal precipitation.”

Mad River Hatchery parking lot to reopen
The parking lot at the Mad River Hatchery will be opened starting Saturday, Feb. 12.  The public will have access to one specific route to reach the river/trails. The facility (raceways, spawning building, hatchery building, etc.) will remain closed. It is vitally important that the public follows the directions and signs, and stays out of closed areas of the hatchery. If the public does not comply, the hatchery could be forced to close the gate again. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will not be sending out a press release.

River Closures
Both the Mattole and Redwood Creek were closed to fishing as of Feb. 8. The Mattole is closed to fishing from the mouth to Honeydew Creek. Redwood Creek is closed from its mouth to the confluence with Bond Creek. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 707-822-3164.

The Rivers:
Mad
According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors, fishing has slowed way down on the Mad. “The river is super low but still has some color,” said Kelly. “There are fish spread throughout the river but the majority are up near the hatchery.” Flows were down to 330 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday. Minimum flow is 200 cfs at State Route 299 bridge.

Main stem Eel
The main stem still has plenty of green water but it’s starting to get really clear. As of Wednesday, it was running at 2,100 cfs. The fishing has been tough for most but boats are getting a few chances per trip. Minimum flow is 350 cfs at Scotia.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork is running at 350 cfs as of Wednesday. There are fish to be had, but places where you’ll find them are quickly dwindling. If the river projections hold, it will likely close later in the week. Minimum flow is 340 cfs at Miranda.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was down to 190 cfs Wednesday and is clear. Bank fishing effort has been light due to low water. If the river forecast holds, it could remain open to angling all week. Minimum flow is 150 cfs at Grizzly Creek.

Smith River
Flows were less than 1,300 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge Wednesday. Very few boats are still drifting as the river is extremely low. There are some fish around but a stealthy approach is required in the clear water. Minimum flow is 600 cfs at Jed Smith Park.

Chetco/Rogue
Low, clear water has slowed steelhead fishing on the Chetco and Rogue, and brought the action to a halt on the Elk and Sixes, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “A few boats are still fishing the Chetco, but catch rates are poor,” said Martin. “Fishing above Ice Box Bridge requires dragging boats over shallow riffles.”

Brookings Ocean update
Ocean fishing has been good out of Brookings on calm weather days, with limit of rockfish and limits or near limits of lingcod according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “The best fishing is around Bird Island. The fish are shallow. Herring are schooled up near the jetties, and several salmon were caught and released over the weekend by anglers bottom fishing. The kings are likely feeder fish headed to the Sacramento and Klamath rivers. Ocean conditions look very good 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.

Parched January Could Lead to River Closures

North Coast river levels have fallen from their December glory after an extremely dry January. And February, at least through the first couple weeks, isn’t looking much better. This extended dry period could lead to fishing closures on several North Coast rivers. Back in December, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to extend low-flow closures through April 30 from the previous closure date of Jan. 31. Rivers that are regulated by low flow closures include the Eel, Mad, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen rivers. Of these, the South Fork Eel, Mattole, Redwood Creek, and the Van Duzen could close in the next week or so. With most forecasts now leaning towards a dry end to this wet season, our winter steelhead season, at least on some of the smaller coastal rivers, could come to a sudden end. For more information on low-flow river closures, visit www.fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/

The weather ahead
According to Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we’re looking at dry conditions at least through Feb. 10. The six- to 10-day precipitation outlook is showing below normal rainfall through that period.

CDFW seeks input on 2022 sport Pacific Halibut season dates
California anglers who are interested in the recreational Pacific halibut fishery are invited to participate in an online survey to help inform the CDFW about angler preferences for open fishing dates during the upcoming 2022 season. Results of the survey, which is open until Feb. 18, will be used to develop recommended season dates that will be provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Pacific halibut fishery takes place off Northern California. The 2022 quota will be 39,000 net pounds, the same as in 2021 and 2020.The online survey can be found at http://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RNDCG2S. For more information on the Pacific halibut fishery in California, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Pacific-Halibut.

Anastacia Gonzalez, left, and Francesco Latini, of San Anselmo, hold an Eel River steelhead landed on a recent trip. Photo courtesy of Fishing the North Coast

The Rivers:
Mad
The Mad still provides your best opportunity to land a steelhead. Fish are spread throughout the river, as anglers are catching a mixture of hatchery and wild fish. Flows were down to 395 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday but it’s still holding some color. Minimum flow is 200 cfs at State Route 299 bridge.

Main stem Eel
The main stem is in good shape, with plenty of green water. As of Wednesday, it was running at 2,800 cfs and starting to clear in the tail outs. The fishing isn’t red hot, but most boats are getting a few chances per trip. Minimum flow is 350 cfs at Scotia.

South Fork Eel

The South Fork is running at 425 cfs as of Wednesday. At this flow, the spots that hold fish are few and far between. However, there are still quite a few fish around, including some fresh ones. Minimum flow is 340 cfs at Miranda.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was down to 250 cfs by Wednesday and is clear. Fishing pressure has been light due to conditions. It could fall under 200 cfs by next week. Minimum flow is 150 cfs at Grizzly Creek.

Smith River
Flows were less than 1,600 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge Wednesday. Not many anglers are still trying as the river is low, clear and snaggy. There are some fish around but it’s tough getting them to bite in the clear water. Minimum flow is 600 cfs at Jed Smith Park.

Chetco/Rogue
Steelhead fishing has slowed on the Chetco, as water levels reached their lowest of the season early this week, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “With flows of around 830 cfs, it’s difficult to drift the river, and the fish holding up in the lower river are spooky and reluctant to bite,” said Martin. “Most guides have shifted gears to other waters. Expect good action after the next rain, although there is none in the forecast. The Rogue has been slow because of low water. A few adult winter steelhead and half-pounders are being caught near Agness.”

Kenny Priest (he/him) 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 in Need of Rain

Jim Rawson right, and Fisher Baxter joined forces to catch and release this beautiful wild steelhead on a recent outing to the Smith River. Photo courtesy of Mike Baxter

It’s been nearly three weeks since we’ve had any measurable precipitation and most of the coastal rivers are now feeling the effects. Other than the main stem Eel and the Mad, which are both in pristine shape, all the rivers are now low, clear and in need of a good blowout. The Smith and Chetco clear the quickest, and have the biggest need for rain. The South Fork Eel and Van Duzen remain fishable, but could use rain. It should be noted that all our rivers are currently holding a good number of winter steelhead. But a few inches of rain will do wonders. Not only will the increased flows allow steelhead to make their way upriver to their spawning tributaries, it will also bring in the fresh fish from the ocean.

Weather outlook
According to Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we’re looking at dry conditions the rest of the week. There is a chance for light rain Sunday but it doesn’t look like it will affect the river levels. There was a pattern change forecast for later next week that showed a very promising return of rain, but that has since changed for the worse. The ridge of high pressure will return next week, and so will the sunshine.

The Rivers
Mad
The Mad is in great shape and loaded with steelhead. Excellent conditions drew plenty of bank anglers and boats this week and the fishing was good. The river will be in great shape the rest of the week, with steelhead spread out from top to bottom. As of Thursday, it was right at 7.5 feet on the Arcata gauge and holding good color. If you’re looking to catch a steelhead, it’s probably your best option.

Main stem Eel
The main stem dropped into shape late last week and is nice and green. It was running at 3,625 cubic feet per second at Scotia as of Thursday and should be in great shape through the weekend. There are some steelhead around but the bite isn’t wide open.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork is running at 575 cfs at Miranda as of Thursday and getting clearer. At this flow, the spots that hold fish are dwindling. The good news is there are plenty of fish around. You’ll need to be stealthy to be successful. Forecast to be around 500 cfs on the Miranda gauge by Saturday.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was down to 370 cfs at Bridgeville by Thursday and is in great shape. Catch reports are hard to come by but there are plenty of bank anglers out trying. It will be down to 300 cfs by the weekend.

Smith River
Flows were less than 2,100 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge Thursday. Fishing has been tough as the river is low, clear and snaggy. Fishing pressure has been very light as a lot of anglers have moved to other rivers. There are some fish around but again, you’ll need stealth.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The Chetco is now low and clear, but steelhead are still being caught by the handful of local guides still focusing on the river, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Rain expected next week should give fishing a boost,” says Martin. “A few fish a day are coming in on the afternoon tides, with drift boaters getting a fish or two a day. Flows are down to 1,200 cfs and will drop below 1,000 cfs this weekend. Fishing also has slowed on the Elk, Sixes and 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

Weekend Looks Excellent for Winter Steelhead

Castro Valley resident Corey Kramer landed a nice winter steelhead on a recent float down the South Fork Eel River. Photo courtesy of Fishing the North Coast

If you’re looking to hit one of our local rivers in search of winter steelhead, this is your weekend. The lack of recent rainfall, both a blessing and a curse, has allowed the rivers to drop and turn the shade of emerald green steelhead anglers dream about. From the Chetco to the South Fork Eel, all the coastal rivers will be fishable, though some could use a little of the wet stuff. The Smith, always the first to fish and first to clear, is running clear but still producing. Here in Humboldt the Mad should be about perfect by the weekend for bank anglers and boats. The main stem Eel is also finally rounding into shape and has turned green. It’s still running high but will be fishable by late this week or the weekend. The South Fork Eel is also in pristine shape and giving up a few bright winter steelhead. If it’s steelhead you’re after, you’ll want to take advantage of the river conditions this weekend.

Weather outlook
According to James White of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we’ll remain dry through the rest of the week and through the weekend. “The 8–14-day outlook is no longer showing below normal precipitation,” said White. “There’s a chance that late next week we could finally see a change in the weather pattern.”

Low flow fishing closures extended
As a reminder, low flow regulations that went into effect on Oct. 1 for the Eel River, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Smith, Van Duzen, and Sept. 1 on the Mad, will be extended to April 30 in 2022. The California Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved the extension from Jan. 31 to April 30  back in December due to drought conditions. Low flow regulations will begin Sept.1, 2022 on all rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures.

The Rivers
Mad
The Mad is still a little pushy and flowing at 1,575 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday and turning green. The conditions drew some boats and plenty of bank anglers over the weekend, and the fishing was pretty good. The river will be in great shape the rest of the week and prime by the weekend. If you’re looking to catch a steelhead, it’s probably your best option.

Main stem Eel
The main stem was running at 5,350 cfs as of Wednesday and is dropping into shape. The water color is good, but the volume of water is still a little high. Should be in good shape by the weekend.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork was in great shape over the weekend and drew quite the crowd. The fishing wasn’t red hot. Most boats got the opportunity at a few fish but there were plenty of skunks. It’s predicted to under 800 cfs by the weekend.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen was under 600 cfs as of Wednesday and is very fishable. There were a few bank anglers taking advantage over the weekend but reports were hard to come by. Will be in excellent condition all week.

Smith River
Flows were down to 3,400 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge Wednesday. Conditions are low and clear and the fishing pressure is light as a lot of anglers have moved to the Chetco. There are fish in the river, but you’ll need to be stealthy to be successful. There’s reportedly quite a few seals and sea lions making the fishing even tougher.

Chetco/Rogue
Steelhead fishing remains good on the Chetco, with most guides getting two to four fish a day reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Big crowds on Saturday and Sunday cut into the impressive catch rates from a few days earlier, but fishing was still decent,” said Martin. “The boat pressure eased on Monday and catch rates improved to limits or near limits again. A mix of wild and hatchery steelhead are spread throughout the river. Plunkers have switched over to drift fishing gear and are getting a few steelhead from shore. The lower Rogue is fishing well for steelhead as the winter run appears to be above average. Anchoring and finding 3.5 MagLips has been the best bet. Shore anglers are using Spin-N-Glos at Lobster Creek and Huntley Park.”

Brookings ocean update
Calm ocean conditions resulted in good lingcod and rockfish out of Brookings on Monday reports Martin. “The ocean was rough but fishable on Sunday. Large numbers of rockfish are schooling in shallow water near Bird Island and Twin Rocks. Sport crabbing has been slow. Good ocean conditions continue Wednesday and Thursday.”

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

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