2019 CA Recreational Ocean Salmon Regulations

OR/CA Border to Horse Mountain (KMZ)

May 25 – September 2

  • Open seven days per week
  • Minimum size limit: 20 inches total length
  • Klamath Control Zone* (KCZ) closed in August
  • Additional closures around mouth of Klamath, Smith & Eel rivers

Horse Mountain to Point Arena (Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg)

April 13 – 30 and May 18 – Oct 31

  • Open seven days per week
  • Minimum size limit: 20 inches total length

Point Arena to Pigeon Point (San Francisco)

April 13 – 30 and May 18 – Oct 31

  • Open seven days per week
  • Minimum size limit: 24 inches total length through April 30
  • 20 inches thereafter

Pigeon Point to U.S./Mexico Border (Monterey and South)

April 6 – August 28

  • Open seven days per week
  • Minimum size limit: 24 inches total length

General Sport Regulations

  • Daily bag limit: 2 salmon of any species except Coho.
  • Possession limit: No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit.
  • 2019 Sport Ocean Salmon Season Flyer (PDF)

*Klamath Control Zone: The ocean area at the Klamath River mouth bounded on the north by 41°38’48” N. lat. (approximately 6 nautical miles north of the Klamath River mouth); on the west, by 124°23’00” W. long. (approximately 12 nautical miles off shore); and on the south, by 41°26’48” N. lat. (approximately 6 nautical miles south of the Klamath River mouth).

The wait is over — salmon season opens Saturday

The North Coast sport salmon season opens on Saturday, and it looks to be littered with unknowns. First and foremost, will boats be able to get out? The marine forecast is getting worse by the day. Saturday’s forecast is calling for 10 to 20 knot winds and waves 9 feet at 9 seconds. That’s big-boat weather for sure. For the boats that do make it out, where do you start? Conditions have been horrible for over a week now, so there’s no insight on where the feed is.  Typically, commercial crabbers or shrimpers would be coming back to port with information on where they’ve seen some good water, rafts of birds, and screens loaded with bait. Or even where they’ve seen salmon on the surface. Doesn’t look like we’ll have that luxury for the opener. The upside is the season will be long one, and there will be plenty of fishable days on the horizon. There should be plenty of salmon too. According to the PFMC, 274,222 Klamath adult salmon are swimming in the ocean along with another 379,632 Sacramento fall Chinook.

General sport salmon regulations:
Our 2019 ocean sport salmon season runs from May 25 through September 2 and is open from the OR/CA border south to Horse Mountain, (Klamath Management Zone). Fishing is allowed seven days per week for all salmon except Coho, two fish per day and a minimum size limit of 20 inches total length for Chinook. The possession is no more than two daily bag limits in possession while on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. No salmon punch card is required for ocean salmon fishing. For complete ocean salmon regulations, please visit the Ocean Salmon webpage at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline (707) 576-3429.

Weekend Marine Forecast
The marine forecast has been jumping all over the place. As of Wednesday, conditions for Saturday’s salmon opener look a little bumpy. Winds will be out of the NW on Saturday blowing 10 to 20 knots and waves NW 9 feet at 9 seconds. The wind will start to come down on Sunday, coming out of the W at 5 knots with NW waves 6 feet at 8 seconds and SW 2 feet at 16 seconds. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Big Salmon Contest
Eureka’s Englund Marine will be holding its BIG FISH Salmon Contest again this year. The annual event runs from May 25 to September 2. There is no entry fee and you can enter as many fish as you’d like. Salmon need to be gutted and gilled. Prizes will be awarded to the top three fish. A complete list of rules and regulations are available at Englund Marine, 2 Commercial St., Eureka, 707-444-9266.

Klamath/Trinity Rivers 2019 salmon season set
With an above average return of fall-run kings to the Klamath and Trinity rivers, anglers are looking at a generous quota that could last well into September. During their meeting last Thursday, the California Fish and Game Commission adopted bag and possession limits for the Klamath Basin based on a quota of 7,637 fall-run adults. On the Klamath, the fall season begins on Aug. 15 and closes Dec. 31. The fall season begins on the Trinity Sept. 1 and closes Dec. 31.

The daily bag limit will be two Chinook salmon, no more than one of which may be greater than 22 inches, and a possession limit of six, of which only three may be greater than 22 inches. On the Lower Klamath, from the Highway 96 bridge at Weitchpec to the mouth, 3,818 adults will be allowed for sport harvest. The section above the 96 bridge at Weitchpec to 3,500 feet downstream of the Iron Gate Dam will get 1,298 adults.

The Spit Area (within 100 yards of the channel through the sand spit formed at the Klamath River mouth) will close when 15 percent of the total Klamath River Basin quota is taken downstream of the Highway 101 bridge. In 2019, 1,145 adults can be harvested below the 101 bridge before the closure at the mouth is implemented. The rest of the area below Highway 101 (estuary) will remain open to recreational fishing.

Important Reminder: Spring-run Chinook salmon fishing regulations will run from July 1 through Aug. 14 with a bag limit reduced to one salmon per day, with two in possession. The take of salmon is prohibited on the Klamath River from Iron Gate Dam downstream to Weitchpec from Jan. 1 through Aug. 14.

On the Trinity side, which will be open to fall-run Chinook salmon fishing Sept. 1 and run through Dec. 31, the quota is set at 2,520 adults. The quota will be split evenly; 1,260 adults for the main stem Trinity downstream of the Old Lewiston Bridge to the Highway 299 West bridge at Cedar Flat and 1,260 adults for the main stem Trinity downstream of the Denny Road bridge at Hawkins Bar to the confluence with the Klamath. The main stem downstream of the Highway 299 Bridge at Cedar Flat to the Denny Road Bridge in Hawkins Bar is closed to all fishing September 1 through December 31. The main stem downstream of the Highway 299 Bridge at Cedar Flat to the Denny Road Bridge in Hawkins Bar is closed to all fishing September 1 through December 31. The Trinity will be open to spring-run Chinook salmon fishing from July 1 through Aug. 31 and the bag limit will be reduced to one salmon per day, with two in possession. The take of salmon is prohibited from the confluence of the South Fork Trinity River downstream to the confluence of the Klamath River from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31.

Once these quotas have been met, no Chinook salmon greater than 22 inches in length may be retained (anglers may still retain a limit of Chinook salmon under 22 inches in length). The 2019-2020 sport seasons, dates, locations, bag limits and gear restrictions will be published in the 2019-2020 Sport Fishing Regulations Supplement, which will be posted on the CDFW website in May. Additional season information can be found on CDFW’s ocean salmon webpage or by calling CDFW’s ocean salmon hotline at (707) 576-3429 or the Klamath-Trinity River hotline at (800) 564-6479. All anglers on the Trinity and Klamath rivers must have Salmon Harvest Cards in their possession when fishing for salmon.

The Oceans:
Eureka
“The Eureka fleet hasn’t been offshore since last Tuesday,” said Skipper Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. “Prior to the wind, there was some good signs straight out in 240 to 300 feet of water. Some really good edges, lots of birds and bait. That’s where we’ll likely start looking on Saturday. The wind is predicted to lay down on Sunday and Monday, so we should get a few days on the water to locate the fish.” said Klassen.

Trinidad
The last time we were offshore the current was ripping, so we don’t really have a starting point for salmon reports Curt Wilson of Wind Rose Charters out of Trinidad. He said, “What we’ll probably do is head to deeper water above Patrick’s Point and tack back and see what we can find,” added Wilson.
The Trinidad launch will be running this weekend from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Weather depending, they will be open through the season every day except Mondays. They are planning on being open on Memorial Day, May 27. They can be reached at 677-3625.

Shelter Cove
Like the rest of the North Coast, there hasn’t been much offshore activity out of the Cove due to rough seas. Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing ran a salmon charter on Monday, and was unable to locate any kings. “We landed five silvers before switching over to rockfish,” said Mitchell. “Jared Morris was fishing for salmon as well and had a couple shakers. I haven’t heard of any legal kings being caught since it opened back up. The weather doesn’t look good the rest of the week, but we should be back on the water by the weekend.”

Crescent City
The ocean has been too rough to get out this week reports Chris Hegnes of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. He said, “Like everywhere else, the wind has been howling here. I haven’t seen many boats going out. And if they went out, it wasn’t for long. The best report we have this week is the crabbing is going really good right on the beach.”

Brookings
The ocean has been too rough the past week to fish out of Brookings, but is expected to settle down for the weekend according to Andy Martin, of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Salmon season opens Saturday, but the expected 8-foot swell will probably limit success. The best salmon season early in the season typically takes place three to eight miles offshore, fishing 100 feet down over 300 feet of water. Muddy water coming out of the Chetco will make a run to at least Bird Island necessary for productive bottom fishing this week.”

River openings
Sections of the main Eel (South Fork to Cape Horn Dam), South Fork Eel (South Fork Eel River from mouth to Rattlesnake Creek) Van Duzen, Mad, Little River, Mattole and Smith will re-open on Saturday, May 25th. On most rivers, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. For a complete list of river openings and regulations visit http://www.eregulations.com/california/fishing/freshwater/

John and Sheila Breslin of Sacramento landed a nice pair of hatchery spring-run kings while fishing the lower Rogue River on Monday. Salmon fishing has been slow on the Rogue, but the rain and higher flows should bring in some new fish.
Photo courtesy of Steve Huber’s Guide Service

The Rivers:
Lower Rogue
“Springer fishing has been slow on the lower Rogue, although this week’s rain should pull in some late fish,” said Martin. “Fishing pressure has been light, but typically gets busy on Memorial Day Weekend. The water is too high for effective bay trolling.” 

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

Storms slow solid steelhead action on Smith, Chetco

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Jeff Griffith of Ferndale landed this nice steelhead last Sunday on the Chetco River while fishing with friend Nick Angeli. Steelhead fishing was excellent over the weekend, but both the Smith and Chetco Rivers are blown out due to the storms that are hitting the area. Both should be back in fishable shape early next week. Photo courtesy of Nick Ange

North Coast steelhead anglers breathed a collective sigh of relief this week as the first real push of winter steelhead entered the Smith and Chetco rivers. The unusually slow start had anglers a little nervous. Were we finally seeing the effects of the drought? Were the steelhead waiting out the huge river flows? Could be a little of both, but for now, it was sure nice to see rivers full of bright steelhead again. Hopefully once the rivers begin to recede down to fishable levels, the fishing will pick up where it left off. While the spotlight is shining on the only two coastal rivers that are green, there’s good news on the horizon for the rest of our rivers. An extended dry period is in the forecast beginning next Tuesday, and it’s possible we’ll see up to two weeks with no rain. This should be more than enough time for all of the coastal rivers to turn green and maybe even enough time for the main stem Eel to come into play for the first time this winter.

The weather ahead
The North Coast can expect more of the wet stuff to stick around through next Monday according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The wettest system will have moved through on Wednesday. The next system will hit us Thursday night and stick around through the day on Friday. This will be followed by another one hitting land on Saturday night and lasting through Sunday. In between the two systems, we’ll see some showery weather along with some lulls. Rainfall totals for the next five days will be between two and a half and five inches for both Del Norte and Humboldt Counties. On Tuesday, we’ll see a dry pattern settling in which will last at least through next weekend, and possibly longer,” Kennedy said.

Humboldt Steelhead Days weekend happenings
As part of Humboldt Steelhead Days, the Mad River Brewing Co. Tap Room will be hosting the Mad River Kickoff Party on Friday, January 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There will be live music from Cadillac Ranch, games, prizes and auction. This is also a pints for non-profit event, so $1 from every pint sold will go toward future river restoration.

Weekend festivities will include Little River and Mad River Basin Tours on Saturday, January 21 starting at 9 a.m. at Wildberries Marketplace. This special tour by Mad River Alliance will allow participants a front row seat on the spawning and rearing grounds that are the vital to the success of our wild salmonid populations.

Also on Saturday, the Steelhead Expo will be held from 11 a.m. to 3:30.p.m. at the Mad River Brewing Company Tap Room and Mad River Business Park with presentations, casting workshop and seminars on getting rigged for steelhead. Games and activities will be provided for the kids. For more information, visit http://www.humboldtsteelheaddays.com

Fishing Report Cards Due Soon
CDFW wants to remind anglers and divers that the due date for turning in steelhead, sturgeon, abalone and North Coast salmon report card data is Jan. 31, 2017.
Anglers and divers must report even if the report card was lost, they did not fish or they did not catch any fish. Cards should be reviewed carefully for accuracy prior to submitting. Harvest reporting can be submitted online at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing#758846-harvest-reporting or by mailing the cards to the address listed on the report card. For more information and a complete list of mail addresses, visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/fishing-report-cards-due-soon

The Rivers
Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“The Chetco fished the best it has so far this season over the weekend and early this week, although it is expected to blow out again for several days,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The plunkers did very well on Thursday and Friday, and the drift boaters did well last weekend. There are fish spread throughout the river, including a lot of hatchery fish. The best bite has been after 10 a.m. on the lower river, while the upper section has fished well right off the bat. Most guides reported two to three fish a day the last several days.
According to Martin, the Elk and Sixes were both in good shape early this week, with the Sixes fishing better than the Elk. “There are still some old salmon in each, but they are dark. With the new storms, the Elk will be one of the first options in Southern Oregon. The Rogue stayed high, hitting 90,000 cfs last week and dropping to 12,000 cfs on Tuesday just as it started raining again.”

 Smith River
“The fishing was really good all week,” said guide Mike Coopman. “The river was in absolutely perfect shape, and there were lots of fish around. We had a couple days of double-digit hookups. The river was on its way out on Wednesday morning, so we’ll have to see what happens when it comes back down. If the rain falls as forecasted, it looks like we may be plunking this weekend with the river coming back down enough on Monday to side-drift,” Coopman added.

Eel and Van Duzen rivers
The main stem Eel was a long way from fishable, but at least it was headed in the right direction. That all changed with Wednesday’s storm as its back on the rise and predicted to hit monitor stage early Thursday morning. The South Fork was a few days away from fishing, but it too is on a steep rise. The Van Duzen dipped below 1,000 cfs on Wednesday, but was reportedly still muddy below Yager Creek. It’s predicted to surpass monitor stage early Thursday morning, but should recede quickly.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, fishing remains slow on the Mad. “Fishing in dirty conditions, the liners didn’t fair very well this past week. It doesn’t seem like there’s many fish in the river right now, and there isn’t a ton of effort either. Hopefully once the water drops back down, we’ll see a good push of fish come in.” Kelly added.

Trinity
Conditions on the upper Trinity have improved dramatically over the past couple days reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. He said, “We fished the Junction City area this week, and the water was about perfect. There’s still a little color to it, making it perfect for pulling plugs. The winter steelhead have definitely made it into the system, with most of the fish being wild. With more rain on the way this week, the action will be above Indian Creek.”

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

Record rains blow out North Coast rivers

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Novato resident Adam Chelini landed this nice steelhead last Sunday on the Smith River right before the rains came and the river blew out. The Smith, and probably the Chetco too, will be in fishable shape this weekend following a few days of heavy rain. Photo courtesy of John Klar/John’s Guide Service

The parade of storms that pounded the North Coast earlier this week pushed some of our coastal rivers above flood stage, and the ones that didn’t flood, were right on the verge. We haven’t seen this much water flowing in our rivers since the floods of 97’, at least that’s what I’ve been hearing. Needless to say, our steelhead season is now in a bit of a holding pattern for all rivers not named Smith. Speaking of the quick-clearing Smith, it should be in plunkable shape by Thursday and in excellent condition for side-drifting by the weekend. If you do plan to be there this weekend, you may see a few of your close friends as it could be the only game in town. The Chetco was still big on Wednesday, but dropping quickly and it could fish by the weekend as well. For all of the Humboldt County rivers, from Redwood Creek to the South Fork Eel, they are likely done for the foreseeable future. The next round of storms is forecasted for next Tuesday, which likely won’t give the rivers enough time to clear. Hey, whatever happened to the term “low flow?”

Weather ahead
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, some dry weather is finally on the horizon. “After some light showers on Thursday, a high pressure system will move in keeping us dry beginning Friday and lasting through Monday. The next rain system will arrive on Tuesday and will stick around through Friday. We could see two to four inches combined for Tuesday and Wednesday and another two to four for Thursday and Friday,” Kennedy added.

Crabs good to go statewide
On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health lifted the last remaining health advisory for Dungeness crab caught along the California coast. CDPH lifted this advisory today due to recent tests showing that traces of domoic acid have declined to low or undetectable levels in Dungeness crabs caught in the area, indicating they are safe to consume.
The final health advisory lifted was for Dungeness crabs caught in state waters in areas north of 39° 33.3′ N lat. (near Ten Mile River) and south of 40° 01′ N lat.(near Shelter Cove). For more information, visit www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/NR17-002.aspx

Major changes ahead for ab divers
Due to concerns about the declining population of California’s popular red abalone sport fishery, some drastic regulation changes are coming in 2017.
The upcoming season will be shortened by two months, starting a month later and closing a month earlier. The traditional opening date of April 1 will now be delayed until May 1. The fishery will also close a month earlier than usual, on Oct. 31.

The annual bag limit is reduced from 18 abalone to 12. No more than nine abalone may be taken south of the boundary between Sonoma and Mendocino counties, which stays in place from years past.

The reason behind the red abalone catch reduction is because surveys conducted by the CDFW found that red abalone populations in deeper waters are on the decline due to unfavorable environmental conditions. Over the past three years, growth of kelp — a major food source for abalone – has declined significantly. Dramatic increases in purple sea urchin populations have further reduced the food available for abalone.

Fishing for abalone will be allowed from 8 a.m. to one half-hour after sunset in waters north of San Francisco Bay. People may travel to fishing locations before 8 a.m. but may not actively search for or take any abalone before that time. The daily bag and possession limit remains at three. Parts of Fort Ross State Historical Park remain closed to the take of abalone

The changes to the abalone regulations were approved by the Fish and Game Commission at their Dec. 7 meeting, under emergency rulemaking provisions that allow fast-tracking of the approval process when there is an urgent need for regulatory change. For more information, visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/north-coast-abalone-season-dates-regulations-change/

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“All of the Southern Oregon rivers blew out this week, and may take several days to drop”, said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers. “We are hopeful we will be able to get back on the Chetco this weekend, otherwise we will fish the Smith. The Chetco was still slow last week, before the big, storm, with only a few fish reported for several boats. The people living between Tide Rock and Morris Hole said they could see pretty good numbers of steelhead holding in the upper tidewater section last week. With water temperatures down to 38 degrees, they probably didn’t want to leave the slightly warmer tidewater. We also saw some pretty good-size schools below the South Fork, near Little Redwood and near Loeb and Moffit Rock, but they were hold in such shallow water you couldn’t get a drift without spooking them.”
According to Martin, the Elk was fishable over the weekend, but hit 6.9 feet on Tuesday. The Rogue, has been fishing the best of any of the rivers for steelhead, is expected to hit minor flood stage this week.

 Smith River
“The Smith was still blown out as of Wednesday, but should be driftable by the weekend,” said guide Mike Coopman. “The river blew out last Sunday, but we did start to see some signs of life. A few guys were plunking on Sunday as the river was rising and they hooked a few. The boats I was fishing around also hooked a few, so I think we’re starting to see some more fish move in. The river should be plunkable by Thursday, and the weekend should be in good shape to side-drift.”

Mad River
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Mad was at 18 feet, which is still three feet above monitor stage. It was dropping fairly quickly, but won’t be bait fishable anytime soon. It typically starts to fish between eight and seven feet

Eel and Van Duzen rivers
As of Wednesday, the main stem Eel at Fernbridge remained above flood stage. It’s going to take weeks of dry weather before the main Eel drops back into fishable shape. The South Fork dipped back under monitor stage early Wednesday, and is forecasted to be less than 4,000 cfs by Monday. It should start to fish at around 2,500 cfs on the Miranda gauge.

The Van Duzen is on a pretty steep drop and was back under 8,500 cfs on Wednesday afternoon after peaking at nearly 22,000 cfs on Tuesday evening. With a dry weekend ahead, it’s forecasted to be back down to 1,200 cfs by Monday morning. Once it gets below 1,000 cfs, it should start to look fishy.

Trinity
The Upper Trinity might have a chance to fish over the weekend with water levels starting to come down reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. He said, “Looking at the river in the Douglas City area on Tuesday evening, it was starting to get muddy again, probably from the snowmelt. The only real option for the weekend will be above the Indian Creek area, and that’s looking iffy. From all the increased flows, we should see another push of fish from the Klamath making their way up.”

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

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Jared Morris of Shelter Cove landed this “steelhead of a lifetime” while fishing the South Fork Eel River last Friday with guide Grant Wick. The steelhead season has started off slowly, but with large storms on the horizon, hopefully we’ll see the first wave of fish enter all of the coastal rivers soon. Photo courtesy of Grant Wick

As the North Coast is once again on the verge of being pounded by more wet winter storms, there’s a collective questioning happening amongst anglers. Where are the steelhead? Just about every river has dropped into fishable shape at some point within the last couple weeks, but the fish have yet to show in any of the rivers in good numbers. The calendar now reads January, so we’ll cross that off the list of reasons why the fishing has yet to kick into gear. Could this be the year that we finally begin to see the effects of the drought? There’s certainly no shortage of theories floating around. As more days come of the calendar with no big pushes of fish, the concern will dive a little deeper. The good news is we have storms lined up that will trigger some very large river rises, let’s hope the steelhead are riding those waves into our coastal rivers.

The weather ahead
“After a couple of nice days, which should allow the rivers to recede, more rain is on the way beginning Friday evening,” said Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The next storm is forecasted to arrive late Friday evening or early Saturday morning. The bulk of this rain will fall to the south, where the Eel basin could see up to two and a half inches. A couple inches is likely to fall in the Smith basin as well. Another system will arrive right on top of Saturday’s, which will be much wetter. On Sunday, we can expect from one and a half to three inches in the Smith basin. To the south along the Eel, up to two and a half inches is possible. Showery weather is in the forecast for Monday, bringing another inch to Del Norte as well as Humboldt. After a short break, a big bigger system will roll in Tuesday night and stick around through Thursday. Rainfall totals for the three days could be from three to five inches in Del Norte and Humboldt counties,” Kennedy added.

Steelhead report cards due
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds anglers that they are required to return their 2016 Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Cards between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2017. Anglers are requested to review their cards carefully and complete the information as accurately as possible. Information collected from report cards provides CDFW with data necessary to monitor and manage California’s steelhead fisheries.

Anglers are encouraged to submit steelhead report card data online at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Inland-Fisheries/Steelhead-Report-Card, but report cards can still be submitted by mail. Information must be submitted regardless of whether or not the angler fished for steelhead. Additional information can be found on CDFW’s Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Card Program webpage listed above.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“The Chetco has been slow for the past several days,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of fish in the river right now. I fished up high on Saturday, at a private launch above the South Fork, and we only hooked one fish there. On the lower river on Sunday, with light boat pressure, I was able to run plugs at several holes that normally hold fish, and we didn’t encounter many fish. Hopefully the next big storm, expected this weekend, will bring in better numbers of steelhead, while also warming the water up a bit.

According to Martin, the bright spot on the Southern Oregon Coast has been the lower Rogue River. He said, “People anchoring in jet boats and running MagLip 3.5 plugs are catching steelhead between Clay Banks and Lobster Creek. Some boats are hooking four or more a day. Right now conditions are very good on the lower Rogue. That may change with the next storm.”

Smith River
The steelhead bite has been a little tough on the Smith this past week, with scores ranging from zero to a couple fish per trip. The river has been on the clear side, and there’s not a lot of fish around at the moment. Hopefully the next big rise will bring in a good push of fish.

Eel River
Main Stem
The main stem Eel was just dropping down to a fishable level and the color was turning green on Tuesday, but that has all changed now due to the rain. It is expected to reach and exceed monitor stage on Sunday, so we’re back to square one. It will need a couple weeks of dry weather to fish, and that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

South Fork
Like the rest of the southern rivers, the South Fork blew out on Wednesday, jumping from 1,800 to 11,000 cfs. Fishing had been tough, with most boats reporting zero to two fish per trip.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen blew out on Tuesday, and was flowing at 5,000 cfs as of Wednesday. It may drop to a fishable level by Friday, but river color will be an issue. Predicted for a big rise late Friday. The fishing had been slow, with boats finding up to a couple fish per outing.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, fishing remains slow on the Mad. He said, “The river is blown out now, but prior to that the fishing was still slow, even for the liners. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of fish in the river, just a few small schools here and there. Returns to the hatchery are slow as well. We have some pretty big rises coming in the next week, hopefully that will bring in some fish.”

Trinity
The Trinity conditions have stayed relatively good with a mixture of rain and snow,” said Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “The wild fish have moved into the system, but a few hatchery fish are still being caught. Water conditions are really cold so you need to slow down your presentation. All methods — flies, eggs and plugs — have been working well. The pressure was a little heavy with the good weather during the New Year’s break. The snow is starting to melt and Weaver Creek has started to push some mud, making the conditions good above Indian Creek. Junction City should start to fish in a couple days.”

*** Don’t forget to register for Humboldt Steelhead Days fishing contest that runs until March 31, 2017. Special Mad River Access Permits courtesy of Green Diamond Resource Co. Visit the SIGN UP page for more info.

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

Plenty of green water for steelhead anglers

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Tim Call of Eureka landed a nice early-season steelhead on Tuesday while fishing the South Fork of the Eel River. Most of the coastal rivers should be fishable over the upcoming holiday weekend. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

If you’re looking to get on the water this weekend and chase some winter steelhead, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a fishable river. Just about every coastal river will be some shade of green and likely fishable come Saturday morning. This many green river options doesn’t happen often, and I’m having a hard time thinking of any excuse not to be on the water. Every creek and river, except for the main stem Eel, from the Chetco down to the South Fork of the Eel should be fishable and likely full of steelhead. The Smith and Chetco are starting to clear a bit and the Van Duzen and Mad are just rounding into shape, leaving anglers with plenty of green water options.

The weather ahead
Not much in the way of precipitation for the next week, but the snow levels will be very low according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “There’s a 20 percent chance of showers on Friday, but less than a quarter inch is predicted to fall. Another slight chance of rain on Saturday night, but most of it will fall as snow in the mountains. A really cold system will hit the area on Monday night and stick around into Tuesday, where snow levels could drop to 500 feet. As of now, Wednesday and Thursday are looking fairly dry,” Aylward added.

Razor Clamming remains closed
A reminder for clam diggers, the recreational take and possession of razor clams is still prohibited on Humboldt and Del Norte county beaches due to dangerous levels of domoic acid. For more information, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/health-advisories. Or you can call the Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at 831-649-2883.

Free fishing this weekend in Oregon
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is offering a free-fishing weekend on Saturday, Dec. 31 and Sunday, Jan. 1. On these two days, you won’t need a license, tag or endorsement to fish anywhere in Oregon.

Mattole River opens to fishing Jan. 1
The Mattole River will open to fishing on Sunday, 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. As of Wednesday, it’s flowing at just under 1,300 cfs.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“The Chetco blew out last Friday, but has since been in prime shape,” said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There are decent numbers of steelhead, but the cold water has slowed the bite. We have been getting two or three fish on most days, but you have to make several passes at them and get the bait right in front of them. The plunkers have had a couple good days. I have been seeing one hatchery fish for every two wild fish.”

Elk/Sixes
There are some old salmon, as well as a very few fresh ones, in the Elk and Sixes according to Martin. “This week, there have been more salmon caught than steelhead. Salmon fishing closes Dec. 31 on the Sixes, but kings can still be kept in January on the Elk.”

Smith River
The bite has been pretty tough on the Smith this week,” said guide Mike Coopman. “The water is pretty clear, and it’s really cold. I think there’s more fish in the river than are showing on the end of the rod, but it’s been a tough to get them to bite.”

Eel River
Main Stem
The color on the main stem is starting to turn green, but there’s still a lot of water reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. He said, “We’re probably about week away if we don’t get more rain and there isn’t much snow melt.”

South Fork
Running at 2,500 cfs on the Miranda gauge as of Wednesday. The Redway area started fishing on Wednesday, and it should fish all the way to the forks by Friday. According to reports, a few fish have been caught in the Garberville/Sylvandale area.

Van Duzen
Flowing at just above 1,000 cfs on Wednesday, the Van Duzen should be plenty fishable above Yager Creek according to Grundman. “Below Yager was still slightly off color, but the flows are good. It should be in great shape by the weekend.”

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, steelhead fishing has been somewhat slow this week on the Mad. He said, “It had about a foot of visibility as of Wednesday, and conditions should be just about perfect this weekend. There just hasn’t been a lot of fish in the river so far, but that could change any day.”

Trinity
“A lot of new fish are moving into he Trinity now,” said Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “Our steelhead counts went way up this week with the high water, with lots of fish making their way back to the hatchery. Most of the fish we’ll see for the rest of the season will be wild. The fish are going to hold up for a little bit with the water dropping and the creeks slowing down. The temperatures remain cold up here, remember to slow down and fish the holes thoroughly. Flies, roe and plugs will all work well.”

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

Changes await 2017 saltwater anglers

The California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife is proposing new saltwater regulatory changes to the Northern Management Area, which runs from Cape Mendocino to the Oregon border for 2017. These changes were established to bring state law into conformance with federal law for groundfish and other federally managed species. The changes — some good, some not so good — will allow more time on the water and open up more territory, but two of the main targeted species will see tighter limits.

The season for boat-based anglers will now run from May 1 through Oct. 31 within 180 feet and Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 with no depth restrictions. In 2016, the season ran from May 15 through Oct.31, with fishing off limits in water deeper than 120 feet. (20 fathoms)

The toughest pill for saltwater anglers to swallow will be the reduction of the sub limit for black rockfish from five to three per day. The daily limit for lingcod will also be reduced, going from three per day to two. Anglers can still keep up to 10 rockfish per day, which includes a combination of rockfish, bocaccio, three cabezon and greenling. New for 2017, anglers will be allowed one canary rockfish per day, as federal fishery managers have declared canaries “recovered” from depleted levels just a decade ago. Petrale Sole and Starry Flounder will also be allowed year round and at all depths.

“I’m really excited about the changes, the good really outweighs the negative here, especially out of the Eureka” said Tim Klassen, who runs Reel Steel Sport Fishing out of Woodley Island. “Cape Mendocino has such a variety of rockfish, and it will open up a lot of new ground down there that hasn’t been fished in over 10 years. Being able to fish for Petrale all year with no depth restrictions is huge, that opens up a whole new fishery. The one thing we need to be cognizant of is catching more Yelloweye rockfish. With more depth added, there’s a greater chance more will be caught, and the mortality rate could climb. Fish and Game will be keeping a close eye on them.”

More commercial crab openings
On Dec. 26 at 12:01 a.m., the commercial Dungeness crab season will open from the Sonoma/Mendocino County line north near Point Arena and from near Shelter Cove to the north jetty of the Humboldt Bay entrance. The opener in this area will be preceded by a 64-hour pre-soak period starting at 8 a.m. on Dec. 23.

For more information on all the upcoming openers, visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/more-of-commercial-dungeness-crab-fishery-to-open-one-area-will-remain-closed/

The weather ahead
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the next storm is forecasted to arrive on Thursday late in the day and will likely stick around through Friday. This will be a colder system, with the snow levels dropping to 3,000 feet. We’ll likely see one to two inches of rain in Del Norte and Humboldt counties and up to three inches in the higher elevations. The showers should taper off by Saturday morning, and we’ll likely be dry through Monday. A weak system is forecasted for Tuesday, but it probably won’t do much to the rivers. The light rain could accumulate to a quarter or a half-inch. Dry weather is back on tap Wednesday and should stick around through Saturday,” Kennedy added.

Humboldt Steelhead Days returns
In it’s fourth year, this annual fishing contest is held on three watersheds during the “Peak of the Run,” from January 1 to March 31. Anglers who register for the contest plus catch and photograph a steelhead on the Mad, Trinity, and Eel Rivers will have a chance to win cash and prizes from several local outdoor stores. This year, HSD will offer special bank access near the Mad River hatchery courtesy of Green Diamond Resource Co. Access is limited and permits are required.

HSD has grown from a two-week event into a three-month-long celebration of all things steelhead with not only fishing, but also many events and angling activities organized throughout Humboldt. These events are designed to create awareness and further promote restoration and recovery of Humboldt’s winter Steelhead populations and their spawning habitat.

Some of the family-friendly events include spawning and restoration tours, steelhead themed expos, rigging and casting classes and the International Fly Film Festival (IF4). This year, organizers are heavily promoting several lodging discounts throughout Humboldt if anglers ask for the Humboldt Steelhead Days rate when booking.

To register for the contest, you can sign up for $10 at these outlets: Pacific Outfitters, RMI Outdoors, Mr. Fish Seafood in Eureka; Mad River Tackle and Wildberries in Arcata and Sport & Cycle in Fortuna. You may also register online at humboldtsteelheaddays.com or email them at Humboldtsteelheaddays@gmail.com.

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

Mad River Hatchery ladder open
The water running down the ladder to the river was turned on Monday and a few fish had already made their way up as of Tuesday. The hatchery hopes to begin spawning on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk River
“The Chetco has been in good shape this week, between 4,000 and 3,000 cfs, but is projected to blow out this weekend,” said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The best fishing seems to be on the far upper end near the South Fork and the last two miles before Social Security Bar. There are some hatchery fish in the lower end. A plunker caught a 17-pounder Tuesday at the top of the Social Security gravel bar. I heard of a guy staying at the RV park next to Morris Hole catching a couple of salmon this week. The Elk has had some late kings and it fished well over the weekend. A few steelhead also were caught just above the Ironhead takeout.”

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Michael Brohn from San Jose with a nice Smith River steelhead. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

Smith River
Steelhead season has started slow on the Smith, with a few being landed by bank anglers plunking last Saturday. The drift boats caught a few fish on Sunday, but it’s been slow since. You can expect the steelhead fishing to pick up as January is traditionally a really good month for the Smith. River levels are predicted to rise a couple feet on Friday, but should be fishable by Saturday.

Main Stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Mad
All were headed down towards fishable level, but Friday’s rain will set them back a few days. With very little rain in the forecast after Friday, these rivers could drop back into fishable shape by midweek. The main stem Eel will likely take a few days longer and could fish next weekend. For river level predictions, visit http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov

 Trinity
“The Upper Trinity has come back into shape and some winter steelhead have definitely shown up,” said Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “Most of the fish in the system now are wild winter fish, but there will be a few hatchery fish still around. The mornings have been extremely cold, so you’ll want to take your time as the fish are moving a little lethargically. I like back trolling plugs during this time as it allows the bait to stay in front of their faces to trigger them to bite. Don’t forget some scent on those plugs. The best conditions are from Lewiston down to Cedar Flats.”

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

Latest storms should kick-off steelhead season

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Shaun McNaughton of Garberville landed a nice steelhead on Tuesday while drifting the Chetco River. The winter steelhead run should kick in to gear once the rivers begin to recede following the latest round of storms that have pushed many rivers to monitor stage levels. Photo courtesy of Alan Borges/Alan’s Guide Service

Metalheads, hardheads, steelhead — or whatever you want to call them. This beautiful, chrome, sleek, silver bullet sure has a mind of it’s own. All of this bountiful water flowing through our pristine coastal rivers and streams, and yet, you’re nowhere to be found? I guess that’s what makes these sea-run rainbow trout so special. You never know what they’re thinking. Or when they’ll make an appearance. Or maybe we’re all just a little too excited; given the fact we’re coming off one heck of a coastal salmon season? So as we collectively take a deep breath and enjoy the holidays, let’s all remember the winter steelhead season really gets going after Christmas and is in full swing by the time the New Year rolls around. As the rivers begin to recede to fishable levels in the coming days, I’m willing to bet we’ll see the first wave of winter steelhead make their way into our North Coast rivers. At least that’s our plan.

Weekend Forecast
After a couple of extremely wet systems on Wednesday and Thursday, several North Coast rivers are forecasted to reach or exceed monitor stage. The Smith, Klamath, Mad, and Van Duzen rivers are all expected to reach monitor stage on Thursday, while the main stem Eel at Fernbridge is forecasted to rise above flood stage sometime Thursday evening. According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the rivers will all be on drop by Friday morning, with only scattered showers remaining in the Smith basin. “The Eel and Mad basins look dry all the way through the day on Tuesday. The next chance of rain will be Tuesday evening, where we could see a quarter to three-quarters of an inch in both Humboldt and Del Norte. As of now, Wednesday and Thursday both look dry with another weak system moving in on Friday,” Kennedy added.

2017 Fishing license
A reminder that it’s the time of the year to purchase your 2017 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 $47.01. A North Coast salmon report card, which will run you $6.22, 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 $7.05 again this year. The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife will no longer accept cash for fishing licenses starting Jan. 1.

Reduced-Fee sport fishing licenses now available
Reduced-cost fishing licenses are available in 2017 for $6.95 (instead of $47.01) for those 65 or older on reduced income or disabled military veterans. For more information on all CA fishing licenses, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk Rivers
The window to fish the Chetco was short this week according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “It dropped below 4,000 cfs on Tuesday, and we did a long drift from the South Fork to Social Security. We hooked and lost an adult steelhead and landed a few half-pounders while side-drifting. We also found a school of salmon and caught a few fish with plugs, but they were dark and we released them all. The river is expected to blow out beginning Wednesday through the weekend because of another big storm. The plunkers got into some steelhead on Monday at Social Security Bar and the Gate Hole near Tide Rock,” added Martin

The Elk started fishing on Monday reports Martin, but was high. He said, “It was in a lot better shape on Tuesday at 4.6 feet. It will probably be blown out for at least a few days. A drift boat went down on Monday near the hatchery, but it’s not known if it was because of the high water, or if the boater was inexperienced. Everyone made it out OK, but it’s another reason to always wear a life jacket.”

Smith River
The Smith fished on Monday and Tuesday, but only a handful of adult steelhead were reportedly caught. It was back on the rise early Wednesday morning and is forecasted to peak just above monitor stage early Thursday morning. If the forecast holds, it should be driftable by Saturday and in prime shape by early next week. Expect to see a few more adult steelhead begin to show up next week.

Main Stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Mad
All were on the rise as of Wednesday, but should begin to drop sometime on Thursday. With very little rain in the forecast for at least the next seven days, these rivers could be back to fishable levels late next week, expect for the main Eel. Very few winter steelhead were caught on any of the rivers, but that should change when they drop back down and turn green. For river level predictions, visit http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov

Upper Trinity
Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service reports the Upper Trinity blew out last Friday due to the heavy rain and snowmelt. “The last few days the river from Lewiston to Junction City has come back into shape and has cleared nicely. We should start to see some new winter fish in the system any time. I’m not sure how long the river will hold up with this next storm, we’ll have to wait and see. If you’re headed this way, keep in mind the rockslide in French Gulch has closed Hwy. 299 in both directions for the rest of the week,” Huber said.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

Steelhead season on hold due to rising rivers

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Lou Hart of Virginia holds a 9-pound steelhead caught Dec. 1 at Pepperwood on the Chetco River while side-drifting roe with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.

While most guides and sport anglers are taking a well-deserved break before the winter steelhead season kicks into high gear, several storms are once again bearing down on the North Coast. Rain is in the forecast for at least the next seven days, which just might keep the rivers at unfishable levels well into next week. The Smith and Chetco will be the first to drop and clear, and the plunkers should arrive in force. The Humboldt rivers, including the Mad, Eel, and Van Duzen will need a little more time in between storms before they’re fishable. While very few winter steelhead have made their way into the rivers as of yet, you can almost bet we’ll see the first wave arrive when the rivers finally recede.

Weekend weather/marine forecast
The forecast for the next seven days is looking very wet according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The rain will begin to fall Wednesday evening and will likely be with us through Friday. Rainfall totals for Thursday and Friday in the Smith basin could be up to three inches, with up to two inches falling in the Eel and Mad basins. Showers will taper off on Friday evening and Saturday is looking somewhat dry. The rain will return on Sunday, with another half to one inch predicted for the Smith and up to one and a half inches in Humboldt. More rain is forecasted for Monday, and showers are expected on Tuesday and Wednesday as well. It’s a little far out there, but the models are showing a pretty wet system moving in next Thursday,” Kennedy added.

The weekend forecast for offshore crabbing doesn’t look great. Friday’s forecast is calling for W winds 5 to15 knots, with waves W 12 feet at 14 seconds. Saturday is looking slightly better, with winds out of the E 5 to 10 knots with NW waves 10 feet at 12 seconds. Sunday is looking better, with SE winds 5 to 10 knots and NW waves 8 feet at 11 seconds. The forecast will likely change, so before you head out, check the marine forecast at www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka and click on the marine tab. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit: www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan

Cash not an option for fishing license purchase
Beginning January 1, 2017 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will no longer accept cash at CDFW’s License and Revenue Branch and regional license counters. Individuals who want to make payments at CDFW’s License and Revenue Branch or a regional license counter can use checks, money orders, or any debit/credit card with the Visa or Mastercard logo.
The “no-cash policy” will hopefully improve customer and employee safety, department efficiency, customer service and provide cost savings.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing reports the Chetco is full of half-pounders at the moment. He said, “Last Thursday we landed a half a dozen while side-drifting. The salmon fishing was surprisingly good on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a fish per rod reported. There were some nice bright kings on the lower end, near the North Fork, as well as near Ice Box. Fishing slowed on Sunday. We caught a few salmon last week on the steelhead gear while side-drifting, and others running plugs in the typical salmon spots. The river is expected to blow out from Friday through the weekend.”

Smith River
Not many signs of steelhead this past week on the Smith reports guide Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “I was on the water last weekend and the only thing we really saw was half-pounders. We’re definitely in a transition phase, which is fairly typical this time of year. We don’t normally see the first real big push of steelhead arrive until right around Christmas time. We’ve got a few pretty decent storms coming in the next few days and it looks like Sunday might be the only day where side-drifting will be possible,” Coopman added.

Main Stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Mad
All were fishable as of Wednesday, but that will likely change with the rain coming on Thursday. All are forecasted to see fairly large flow increases starting Thursday morning. With rain in the forecast for at least the next seven days, it could be a while before these rivers drop back down to fishable levels. Very few winter steelhead were caught on any of the rivers, but that should change when they drop back down and turn green. For river level predictions, visit http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov

Upper Trinity
The weather has really turned cold this week reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. He said, “A few mornings were in the upper 20s. The fishing remains about the same, we’re seeing one to three adults a day with a few half pounders mixed in working from Lewiston down to Cedar Flat. The majority of the boats are working the Junction City area where the pressure has been pretty heavy with the clear conditions. We could really use a good amount of rain to mix things up. Fishing was better on the plugs this week with the colder water and clear conditions.”

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 set to explode on coastal rivers

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Steve Malatesta of Watsonville landed a nice hatchery steelhead on a recent trip to the upper Trinity River. Winter steelhead have started to make their way into the lower Trinity River, with the run typically lasting well into March. Photo courtesy of Steve Huber’s Guide Service

North Coast rivers are likely seeing the last of the late fall-run salmon push in this week as all of the rivers are back on the drop following last weekend’s storms. The majority of these late-season kings have already made their way up rivers like the Chetco, Smith, Mad, Van Duzen and Eel, but you can bet a few more spurts of fresh fish will push in between now and the new year. The season was a good one, especially on the quick-clearing Smith, which had more fishable days than all of the other rivers combined. A lot of the success can be attributed to the well above normal rainfall that’s fallen since October.

One of the best parts of living on the North Coast and being surrounded by coastal rivers — no sooner does one season come to a close, another one’s right behind it. So it’s out with the kings and in with the widely-popular winter steelhead. With the rivers dropping and turning green, the first wave of steelhead should begin to make an appearance. Most of the rivers have already seen a few, but I expect they’ll start to show up in bigger numbers in the coming days.

Weekend forecast
The dry weather will stick around through Saturday, with the next system arriving on Sunday according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “We can expect periods of light rain on Sunday turning into widespread showers in the evening. These will linger into Monday. This will be a colder system, with snow levels dropping to 2,500 to 3,000 feet. Del Norte could see up to two inches of rain with this system and Humboldt could see a half to one and a half inches. Tuesday will be a transition day with scattered showers not amounting to much. Tuesday night and into the day Wednesday will be dry, with rain returning on Wednesday evening. There’s a really good chance we’ll see heavier rain on Thursday with higher rainfall totals possible,” Kennedy added.

Eel River salmon returns
As of Nov. 28, a total of 390 Chinook salmon have entered the Van Arsdale fish count station according to Scott L Harris, an associate Biologist with the Northern Region. Making up that total is 167 males, 171 Females, and 52 jacks. A total of 138 were counted this past week. For more information, visit http://eelriver.org/interactiveresources/fish-count/

The Rivers:
Chetco River
The Chetco was down to 4,610 cfs on Tuesday night after cresting at 16,000 cfs on Friday reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “It should start fishing on Wednesday, with prime conditions Friday and Saturday. There may be a few salmon still around, but fishing will probably be slow until the middle part of December. I will be side-drifting, looking for early steelhead, along with running salmon plugs in some of the more likely salmon holes. Salmon fishing was slow before the big rains last week.”

Smith River
It’s transition time on the Smith, with the majority of the salmon having made their way to the spawning grounds. A few were caught this week, but overall, it was pretty slow. There are a few half-pounders around, which is typical for this time of the year. A few winter steelhead are starting to show, so it’s probably time to get out the side-drifting gear.

Mad
The Mad is still big and brown and probably won’t fish until sometime next week reports Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. “With Ruth Lake full, it won’t drop as quickly. Looking at the predictions, it probably won’t turn green until late next week at the earliest. And that’s if we don’t see any more rain. It’s currently at running at just under 9.5 feet, ideal conditions are right around 7.5 feet,” Kelly added.

Eel
Main
The main stem is still big and dirty, but dropping quickly according to Paul Grundman of Grundmans Sporting Goods in Rio Dell. He said, “It should drop back into fishable shape in a week or so if we have some dry weather. There’s been some steelhead caught already, and we typically see them start to show up in bigger numbers by mid-December. Once the river turns green, we should see some really good fishing for both late kings and steelhead.”

South Fork
The Leggett area should be fishable late this week, and the Miranda area should drop back in by the weekend. There should be a few kings around and some early steelhead in the mix as well.

Van Duzen
Still running at nearly 1,800 cfs, the Van Duzen still has a way to go before it comes back into shape. According to Grundman, it could fish by Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Upper Trinity
It must be steelhead season as cold weather and rain have hit the Trinity reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “This past week, we were getting one to four fish per trip. Most of our action is coming on plugs, with the Maglip 3.0’s really working well. We are starting to see the beginning of the winter run, but there aren’t a lot of fish in the system right now. The fish we are catching are a nice size for the Trinity. Snow on the Alps and more rain will only help,” Huber added.

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