Spring Rains a Bonus for North Coast Rivers

Marty Woods holds a Smith River steelhead caught in early April prior to the rise in flows. The spring rains hitting the coast now will have a positive impact on the health of salmon and steelhead runs, as well as the rivers themselves. Photo courtesy of Mick Thomas.

With very little rain falling throughout our region from January to March, most of us were already preparing for summer. However, the April showers hitting the coast are providing a second winter. These rains will definitely impact the health of future salmon and steelhead runs, which will likely be stronger a few years down the road because of it.

First off, the late winter and spring rains will benefit the next run of adult fish moving upriver, mainly spring salmon and summer steelhead. It may also increase the survival rates for recently spawned adult steelhead, or kelts, as well as salmon and steelhead fry and smolts that are all making their way downstream to the estuaries and ocean. The high, muddy water allows the fish to make their way downriver with less risk of predation. The lack of fishing pressure will also help the kelts make their way back downriver successfully. Heavy spring rains should, in many cases, also result in higher flows and improved water quality later in the summer.

In most cases, the high flows also contribute to the health and complexity of the river’s estuary. A nutrient-rich estuary offers the young fish ample sources of food, allowing them to grow to an optimal size before entering the ocean. This greatly increases their chances of survival. A healthy estuary is also beneficial for the kelts, weak from their spawning journey, offering a safe haven for them prior to making their way back to the ocean.

With nature, it seems for every plus there’s also a minus. In the event of extremely high late-winter and spring flows, problems can also occur for fish. Without adequate freshwater and estuarine slack water habitat, the young fish can get washed downstream before they’re ready, putting them in harm’s way. Extremely high late-winter and early spring flows can also have a negative impact on late-spawning fish. Spawning areas known as “redds” can be scoured or the gravels within redds can be buried in fine sediment, preventing the young from emerging. After a few months of unseasonably dry weather, it’s a blessing to see the rivers running high and dirty. Hopefully our “second winter” will pay dividends in the future.

Marine forecast
Ocean conditions are looking good for the weekend, but starting out a little rough on Friday. Friday is calling for north winds 5 to 10 knots and west waves 12 feet at 15 seconds. Saturday is calling for winds out of the north 5 to 15 knots with 7-foot west swells at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking a little better with winds out of the north 5 to 10 knots with 3-foot swells at 5 seconds out of the northwest and west 8 feet at 18 seconds. These conditions can and will change. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or www.windy.com.

Pacific halibut season set
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced recently that the 2022 Pacific halibut season will run from May 1 to November 15, or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. The 2022 quota for the California sport fishery is 38,740 pounds – approximately the same as the 2021 quota. CDFW will monitor catches of Pacific halibut during the season and provide catch projection updates on the CDFW Pacific halibut webpage, www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut#31670772-in-season-tracking. The limit remains at one, with no size restrictions. No more than one line with two hooks attached can be used.

Shelter Cove crab feed coming April 22
Gyppo Ale Mill on Friday April 22 is hosting a crab feed and silent auction for the Shelter Cove Fishing Preservation nonprofit organization. The event runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and live music will be provided by the Breakers. Cost is $75 per person. For more information contact Jake Mitchell at 707-223-1600.

Brookings ocean update
“The ocean out of Brookings was wide open for lingcod and rockfish over the weekend,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Limits of lingcod for most charter boats from Twin rocks to Mack Arch. Stormy weather sidelined boats again on Monday, with rough conditions expected all week. Ocean coho season opens June 18, with kings allowed beginning June 25. Pacific halibut opens May 1.

Ruth Lake Bass tourney coming April 30
The Southern Trinity Volunteer Fire Department is hosting its 14th annual Ruth Lake Bass Tournament on Saturday, April 30. Blast off begins at 6:00 a.m. Entry fees are due April 29. Entries are $150 per team (includes Big Fish). First Place is $1,500 and second place is $1,000. Big Fish will win $100. One in five payback based on full slate of 40 boats. This is a catch and release tournament; live wells and life jackets are required. Check in is Friday at the marina at 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. or Saturday at 4:45 a.m. at the Marina parking lot. Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District is requiring that all boats be inspected for Quagga and Zebra mussels before launching. For more information, call RLCSD at 707-574-6332. For more info on the tournament, contact Doug Dinsmore at 707-499-8485.

The Rivers:
Reminder: The South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek and the Chetco rivers are all closed to fishing.

Eel (main stem)
After peaking at nearly 20,000 cubic feet per second Sunday, the main is big and brown. With more rain on the way, it’s forecast for another big rise to 23,000 on the Scotia gauge by Friday morning. Needless to say, it will be blown out for some time. The main stem Eel to the South Fork is open all year. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from April 1 through Sept. 30.

Smith River
With more rain in the forecast this week, another big rise is predicted for Thursday morning that could top 13 feet at Jed Smith. Flows will then drop and conditions are shaping up nicely for the weekend. This will likely flush the last of the spawned-out steelhead downriver and could bring in a few fresh ones. The main stem of the Smith will remain open through the end of April from its mouth to the confluence with the Middle and South Forks. The Middle Fork will also remain open through April from its mouth to Patrick’s Creek. The South Fork is open through April as well, from its mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tryon) bridge and Craig’s Creek to Jones Creek.

Lower Rogue
The best spring salmon fishing so far this season took place at the end of last week and over the weekend on the lower Rogue, reports Andy Martin of Wild River Fishing. “Guides were getting two to four springers a day, about half wild and half hatchery,” said Martin. “The river was still fishable after Monday’s rain but was still rising. Last week’s rain brought in big schools of spring kings.”

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

Generous Ocean King Season Set to Open May 1

The sport salmon season will open May 1st along the North Coast and should provide plenty of days on the water to land a salmon like the one pictured here with Garberville resident Broc Contreras. Photo courtesy of Jake Mitchell/Sea Hawk Sport Fishing

With a strong ocean abundance of Sacramento salmon and the Klamath numbers trending upward, North Coast sport salmon anglers were rewarded with a generous ocean salmon season. The season within the CA KMZ (Klamath Management Zone), which was adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council Monday, will open May 1 and run through May 31. It will reopen Aug. 1 and run through Sept. 5. June and July will be closed within the CA KMZ to mitigate impacts on the fall Klamath River kings, which continue to struggle. Fishing will be allowed seven days per week for all salmon except coho, with a limit of two fish per day and a minimum size of 20 inches total length for Chinook.

In the Fort Bragg sector, which includes Shelter Cove, the season will be open May 1 through July 4. It will reopen July 22 and run through Sept. 5 with a 20-inch minimum and a limit of two kings a day.

To the north in the Brookings area (OR KMZ), the Chinook season will open June 25 and run through Aug. 21. Fishing will be allowed seven days per week, two fish per day and a minimum size limit of 24 inches total length for Chinook.

Klamath/Trinity river quota update
Along with ocean salmon seasons up for final approval, the PFMC allocated 2,119 adult Chinook for the Klamath Basin quota. Bag and possession limits will be determined at the California Fish and Game Commission meeting April 20-21. The tribal allocation is 9,434 adult Klamath River fall salmon, split between the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes.

“Critically dry” year designation for Trinity River
According to a press release issued April 8 by the Bureau of Reclamation, the lack of precipitation and snowpack in the Trinity Mountains this winter means the flow schedule for 2022 is scaled to a “critically dry” water year. Critically dry is one of five water year types used by the Trinity River Restoration Program to determine how much reservoir water will be released in support of the program’s goals to improve habitat for anadromous fish—fish that migrate to fresh water from salt water to spawn—like salmon and steelhead. This year marks the third critically dry year in the last five years for the Trinity watershed. The planned release schedule attempts to maximize benefits to the physical and biological character of the Trinity River, given the constraints of the limited amount of water available. This year’s flow schedule will begin April 15. Key dates and flow releases are:

  • April 15-20: Increase daily average flows from 300 cubic feet per second to 6,000 cfs
  • April 23: Flows decrease to 2,800 cfs
  • April 24-May 13: Maintain flows between 1,800 to 2,000 cfs
  • May 17: Return to 450 cfs summer baseflow, which continues until Sept. 30

Visitors near or on the river can expect river levels to increase during the flow releases and should take appropriate safety precautions. Landowners are advised to clear personal items from the floodplain prior to the releases. A daily schedule of flow releases is available at the program’s website www.trrp.net/restoration/flows/current/

Marine forecast
Ocean conditions are looking good for the weekend. Friday is calling for north winds 5 to 10 knots and north waves 4 feet at 8 seconds. Saturday is calling for winds out of the north up to 10 knots with 3-foot north swells at 5 seconds. Sunday is looking favorable as well with winds out of the southwest 5 to 15 knots with 4-foot swells at 8 seconds out of the southwest. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or http://www.windy.com.

CDFW restricts the use of traps for sport crabbing
In an April 13 press release, CDFW states they will be restricting the use of crab traps for the remainder of the recreational Dungeness crab fishing season. Recreational take of Dungeness crab by other methods, including hoop nets and crab snares, is not affected by the trap restriction. The trap restriction becomes effective at 7 p.m. on April 24, 2022, at which point the use and deployment of recreational crab traps shall be prohibited. This restriction is being implemented because of the unusually large number of humpback whales that have migrated back to California waters earlier than in previous years and because of several recent humpback whale entanglements involving California commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear and gear of unknown origin. This statewide trap restriction will help minimize risk of entanglement as humpback whales continue to return to forage in California waters during the spring and summer months. The season ends on July 30, 2022 in Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties and on June 30, 2022 in all other counties. For more information ,visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/News/cdfw-restricts-the-use-of-crab-traps-for-the-recreational-crab-fishery-to-minimize-risk-of-whale-entanglements

Brookings ocean update
Fishing has been good for lingcod and rockfish out of Brookings when the ocean has been flat reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Stormy weather this week gives way to calmer conditions beginning Friday. Lingcod are still in shallow water spawning. Whole herring or large scampi’s fished near Bird Island and Twin Rocks have been producing lingcod to 15 pounds, with an occasional fish to 20 pounds. Sport halibut opens May 1. Salmon season won’t start until late June out of Brookings.

The Rivers:
Reminder: The South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek and the Chetco rivers are all closed to fishing.

Eel (main stem)
The main stem Eel is forecast for a very winter-like rise starting Thursday morning. Steady rain from Wednesday through Saturday is predicted to push flows to above 16,000 cfs at Scotia by Sunday morning. This will do wonders for the river, including getting the newly-hatched fry safely downstream. It will also provide ample water for the spawners to make their way to the ocean and will likely bring in quite a few fresh steelhead. The main stem Eel to the South Fork is open all year. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from April 1 through Sept. 30.

Smith River
With steady rain predicted for the week and into the weekend, the Smith is forecast to reach some of the highest flows since early January. It’s predicted to peak at just over 10.7 feet (7,580 cfs) at Jed Smith on Saturday afternoon. This will likely flush the last of the spawned-out steelhead downriver and could bring in a few fresh ones. The main stem of the Smith will remain open through the end of April from its mouth to the confluence with the Middle and South Forks. The Middle Fork will also remain open through April from its mouth to Patrick’s Creek. The South Fork is open through April as well, from its mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tryon) bridge and Craig’s Creek to Jones Creek.

Lower Rogue
Spring salmon fishing remains slow on the lower Rogue River, but this week’s rain should trigger fish to move in from the ocean reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “April is prime time for springers, and the first big rain of the month usually starts the peak season for hatchery springers,” said Martin. “Anchoring close to shore with anchovies and spinner blades is the go-to method for spring salmon.”

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

Ocean Salmon Seasons to Be Set This Week

North Coast ocean sport salmon anglers are looking at a generous season this summer, which should provide plenty of opportunity to land a salmon like the one pictured here with Grass Valley resident Larry Elis. The season is likely to start May 1 in the CA-KMZ. Photo courtesy of Curt Wilson/Wind Rose Charters

Back in mid-March when the recreational salmon season alternatives were released to the public, it was a pleasant surprise to see some fairly generous season options on the table. And one of these options will be selected at the Pacific Fishery Management Council Meetings being held this week in Seattle. Currently, the three alternatives within the California KMZ, which runs from the Oregon-California border to latitude 40°10’ N and includes Humboldt County, are:

Alternative 1: May 1-31; Aug. 1-Sept. 5

Alternative 2: May 1-31; July 1-4; Aug. 1–31

Alternative 3: July 1–24

The recreational allocations, or quotas for the Klamath/Trinity are also tied to the three alternatives. For Alternative 1, the quota is expected to be 2,152, Alt 2 will be 2,125, and Alt 3 will be 2,546. The PFMC meetings will run from April 7-13 and will be live streamed starting April 8. To access the meetings, visit www.pcouncil.org/council_meeting/april-6-13-2022-council-meeting/.

Fish and Game Commission meeting coming April 20-21
The California Fish and Game Commission meeting will be held at Monterey County Fair & Event Center, Seaside Room 2004 Fairground Road in Monterey. You can also view the meeting at the Trinidad Rancheria, Administrative Office Conference Room 1 Cher-Ae Lane. The meeting will also be live streamed for viewing and listening purposes only. The meeting will start at 8:30 a.m. to adopt and discuss changes to the upcoming sport fishing seasons.

On the agenda, the commission will consider whether to make the emergency low-flow regulations, which were adopted in December, permanent as part of the upcoming sportfishing rulemaking. This includes implementing a low-flow angling restriction on the section of the Eel River from the mouth to Fulmor Road, at its paved junction with the south bank of the Eel River, Sept. 1 through April 30. During this time period, the section will be closed to hook and line fishing until flows reach 350 cubic feet per second at the gauging station near Scotia.

Proposed changes to the Klamath River Basin sport fishing will also be discussed. For a complete agenda and comment submission, and viewing information, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=199047&inline

Marine forecast
Ocean conditions don’t look promising for the weekend if you plan on fishing off the beach or jetties. Friday is calling for north winds 15 to 25 knots and north waves 9 feet at nine seconds and west 5 feet at 12 seconds. Winds are forecast to increase on Saturday, coming from the north 20 to 25 knots. Waves will be north 12 feet at 10 seconds. Sunday’s forecast is calling for north winds 10 to 20 knots with north waves 9 feet at nine seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or www.windy.com. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Brookings ocean update
Rough ocean conditions have kept the Brookings fleet at the docks for the most part this past week reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Limits of rockfish are common on calm weather days, and lingcod are biting best when swells are below four feet,” Martin said. “Sport crabbing has been slow out of Brookings. Ocean salmon seasons will be finalized next week, with a June coho opener likely out of Brookings, and the bulk of the king season taking place in July.”

The Rivers:
Reminder: The South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek and the Chetco rivers are all closed to fishing.

Eel River (main stem)
As of Thursday, flows were right around 800 cfs at Scotia. There are a few fish around, the majority of which are downers. Fishing pressure is light, but anglers are getting a couple chances per trip. The main stem Eel, from its mouth to the South Fork is open to fishing all year. From April 1 through Sept. 30, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used.

Smith River
The Smith went well overflow predictions, hitting 5,400 cfs Tuesday. Fishing reports are hard to come by as the pressure has been light. This big rise should have flushed the majority of spawners down and brought in the last of the fresh steelhead. The main stem of the Smith will remain open through the end of April from its mouth to the confluence with the Middle and South Forks. The Middle Fork will also remain open through April from its mouth to Patrick’s Creek. The South Fork is open through April as well, from its mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tryon) bridge and Craig’s Creek to Jones Creek.

Lower Rogue
According to Martin, a few spring salmon are being caught on the Rogue River but overall fishing has been slow. “A slight bump in flows early this week could draw more springers in from the ocean, where bottom fish anglers are encountering salmon fairly frequently between Brookings and Gold Beach. Water temperatures are an ideal 52 degrees on the lower Rogue, so salmon moving through should bite well. Steelhead fishing is slow on the lower Rogue and fair to good on the middle Rogue below Grants Pass.”

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

Steelhead Season Comes to a Quiet Close

Brad Cain, of San Francisco, landed a nice winter steelhead earlier this season on the Eel River. Other than on the main stem Eel and Smith rivers, steelhead season will close after March 31. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest/Fishing the North Coast Guide Service

Winter steelhead anglers just can’t catch a break. Thursday, March 31, will mark the end of another abnormal steelhead season here on the coast. While the fishing was excellent, the real story was the lack of rain. But if you’ve been fishing the North Coast rivers the last few years, you know there’s very little normal to our steelhead seasons anymore. Going back a few years, the 2019 season ended on a very wet note, which could have spurned this year’s solid return. During the peak of the 2020 steelhead season, we were at the height of a pandemic and were told to keep our distance from other anglers. And last year the steelhead didn’t bother to show up. This year, the fish arrived in good numbers but the water spigot went dry after mid-January. Honestly, I’m a little scared to see what next year’s season brings.

Now, as the calendar nears April, it’s time to switch gears and look toward the next angling opportunities. The rockfish and Pacific halibut openers are a month away, and there’s a good possibility ocean salmon will begin on May 1 as well. It’s also time to start thinking about spring salmon on the Klamath and the lower Rogue rivers. There are redtails to be had from all the local beaches and the lagoons are full of trout.

The Beach/Jetties
When the ocean’s been calm, the redtail perch action has been decent along the beaches. There are some spots that are typically better than others but you can catch them just about anywhere this time of the year. Conditions don’t look fishable for the weekend, with big swells and heavy winds in the forecast. Anglers are catching black rockfish and the occasional lingcod on the North Jetty. Fishing has been slower on the south side. Five to 6-inch Gulp jerk shads are a popular bait as well as smaller swimbaits. Egg sinkers or banana weights rigged with a herring also work well.

HASA Picnic coming April 9
The public is invited to the Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers’ Picnic and Gear Swap/Sell. The fundraising barbecue will be held April 9 at Pierson Park in McKinleyville from 2 to 6 p.m. The cost is $10 per person or $20 for a family up to four. HASA will provide burgers, hot dogs and non-alcoholic drinks, and it will be pot luck on side dishes. Lunch will start at 3:30 p.m. HASA will provide tables but please bring your own chairs. There will be a few silent auction items and a door prize, and attendees are welcome to bring a table of spare fishing gear to sell or swap. Please RSVP to clderidder@hotmail.com by April 2 so organizers can determine food quantity. Please include your contact information so you can be notified of any changes.

The Rivers:
As a reminder, the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek, and the Chetco will all close to fishing after March 31.

Eel River (main stem)
The Eel at Scotia went up to 1,400 cubic feet per second last Friday but has been steadily dropping since. As of Wednesday, it was down to 1,110 cfs. There are a few fish around, the majority of which will likely be downers. Fishing pressure is light, but anglers are getting a couple chances per day. The main stem Eel, from its mouth to the South Fork is open to fishing all year. From April 1 through Sept. 30, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used.

The Smith
The Smith was flowing just above 1,000 cfs at Jed Smith as of Wednesday. The water is extremely clear and low. Not much in the way of fishing pressure, but a few fish are being caught. The main stem of the Smith will remain open through the end of April from its mouth to the confluence with the Middle and South Forks. The Middle Fork will also remain open through April from its mouth to Patrick’s Creek. The South Fork is open through April as well, from its mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tryon) bridge and Craig’s Creek to Jones Creek.

Chetco/Rogue
“Steelhead season has come to an end on the Chetco River,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Fishing closes March 31, and reopens in late May. Overall, steelhead fishing was above-average this year, with plenty of fish, despite low water for much of the season. The large number of downrunners in recent weeks is a good indication of how successful this season’s spawner escapement was. The Elk and Sixes also close March 31.” Spring salmon fishing is still slow on the Rogue according to Martin. “A major rain is needed to jumpstart the action. During low-flow years, which this is turning out to be, springer fishing often is best in June, with early trolling action in the bay.

Brookings ocean report
According to Martin, fishing for lingcod and rockfish has been good out of Brookings, with limits of rockfish and limits or near limits of lingcod. “Calm weather over the weekend resulted in some of the best catch rates so far this year. Nearly every reef has fish on it right now. After windy weather much of this week, calmer conditions are expected for the weekend. Sport crabbing has been slow to fair.”

Rebecca Ebbs and Cody Allison of Salem, Ore., holds limits of lingcod caught March 25 while fishing aboard the Miss Brooke of Brookings Fishing Charters.

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

Tough Conditions for Late Season Steelhead Anglers

Scott Spangler of Bishop holds a small wild adult steelhead he caught March 21 on the Chetco River while fishing with guide Sam Stover of Brookings Fishing Charters. Photo courtesy of Sam Stover

As we move toward the last weekend of winter steelhead season on the coast, river conditions continue to be less than ideal. Not only for the anglers but for the adult steelhead and their soon-to-be offspring. As of Tuesday, only a few rivers remain open to fishing. The Smith and main stem Eel have been open all season, and will likely remain that way. The Mad has opened and closed a couple times lately along with the Van Duzen. The culprit has been and continues to be the lack of substantial rainfall. The season started out promising as the rain fell hard in early January. And the fishing was just as promising with all of the rivers full of steelhead. But since, it’s been two and a half months of mostly dry weather. Despite the low-water conditions, the fishing wasn’t half bad. I don’t have any numbers to back it up but it sure seemed like the number of steelhead returning this year was better than average. And how many more would have returned with additional water? It sure would’ve been nice to find out.

The weather ahead
Dry conditions are in the forecast through Saturday. Beginning Sunday into Monday. there is a chance for light rainfall amounts but nothing that would increase river flows or open rivers back up to fishing. The next chance for rain is Tuesday, but amounts are uncertain.

Bass Tourney coming to Ruth Lake April 2
The Alderpoint Volunteer Fire Department is hosting the 1st annual Roger Coleman Sr. Memorial Bass Tournament on Saturday April 2nd at Ruth Lake. Check in is Friday night between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. or Saturday morning between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. This is a catch and release tournament with a 13-inch minimum length. Blast off is 7 a.m. or at first safe light. For more information, call Thomas Bruce at 707-223-6258 or Roger Coleman Jr. at 707-223-3858.

HASA Picnic coming April 9
The public is invited to the Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers’ Picnic and Gear Swap/Sell. The fundraising barbeque will be held April 9 at Pierson Park, McKinleyville from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The cost is $10 per person or $20 for a family up to four. HASA will provide burgers, hot dogs and non-alcoholic drinks and it will be pot luck on side dishes. Lunch will start at 3:30 p.m. HASA will provide tables but please bring your own chairs. There will be a few silent auction items, a door prize, and attendees are welcome to bring a table of spare fishing gear to sell or swap. Please RSVP to clderidder@hotmail.com by at least April 2 so food quantity can be determined. Please include your contact information so you can be notified of any changes.

Shelter Cove crab feed coming April 22
Gyppo Ale Mill on Friday April 22 is hosting a crab feed and silent auction for the Shelter Cove Fishing Preservation nonprofit organization. The event runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and live music will be provided by the Breakers. Cost is $75 per person. For more information contact Jake Mitchell at 707-223-1600.

CPH looking for surfperch anglers/seiners
The Cal Poly Humboldt Department. of Fisheries Biology is looking to hire three students to help hook and line sample for surfperch at four Humboldt beaches from May to August, four days a month, four hours per day. Applicants need to have their own gear. The fisheries department is also looking to hire students to help seine Northern California beaches from June to early August. To apply for either of these jobs, send CV and cover letter to jose.MarinJarrin@Humboldt.edu by April 1. Or for more information, visit www.facebook.com/HumboldtFishBio.

River Closures
The South Fork Eel, Middle Fork Eel and Mattole all remain closed to fishing. On Tuesday, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen were added to the closed list.

The Rivers:
Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, the fishing pressure has been light over the past week. “Some downers are being caught,” Kelly said. “There are also a few fresh fish still coming in.” As of Wednesday, flows were just above 200 cfs and it could close prior to the weekend.

Eel River (main stem)
After reaching nearly 2,000 cfs last Thursday, the main Eel has been steadily dropping. As of Wednesday, it was down to 1,180 cfs at Scotia. There hasn’t been much fishing pressure as the water is low and clear, and spots with current are getting fewer. There should be a few fish around, the majority of which will likely be downers.

Smith River
The Smith was flowing at just under 1,400 cfs at Jed Smith as of Wednesday. The water is extremely clear and low. Not much in the way of fishing pressure, but a few fish are being caught.

Southern Oregon rivers
There appear to be plenty of steelhead around on the Chetco to make a late-season drift worthwhile, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “Guides are getting two to six steelhead a day, with a mix of small adults fresh from the ocean, and downrunners headed back to the saltwater. The river is getting low and clear but is still driftable. The season closes March 31. Fish are spread throughout the river. Overall, the Chetco season has been above average, despite low water for much of February. The Elk and Sixes also close March 31, but low water will make fishing tough this week. Spring salmon fishing remains slow on the Rogue, but big tides this week could bring in bigger numbers of fish. So far, only a couple of springers have been reported. Steelhead fishing is slow on the lower Rogue, but improving near Grants Pass.”

Craig Newman of Arcata holds a lingcod he caught in early March while fishing aboard the Miss Brooke of Brookings Fishing Charters near Mack Arch. Photo courtesy of Brookings Fishing Charters

Brookings ocean report
According to Martin, lingcod fishing has been good out of Brookings when weather conditions cooperate. “Big swells early this week are keeping most boats closer to the harbor, but calmer weather is expected by the weekend. Herring fishing was wide open at the Port of Brookings last week, but is now slow. Surf smelt remain in the harbor,” said Martin.

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

Good Options Ahead for Ocean Sport Salmon Anglers

If the Pacific Fishery Management Council is right, we should see more salmon like the one pictured here with Terry Johnson, from Sacramento, this fall. The recreational ocean salmon season is tentatively scheduled to open either May 1 or July 1. The final decision will come from the PFMC meetings in April. Photo courtesy of Tim Klassen/Reel Steel Sport Fishing

Even though ocean abundance forecasts have increased over the prior year for both the Sacramento River and Klamath River Fall Chinook, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) is taking a precautionary approach to the 2022 ocean salmon seasons.

When the PFMC released its ocean sport salmon season options March 14, there was a mix of good and not so good news. If you fish in the Bay Area and Monterey regions, the news was good. Those zones will open up to fishing April 2 and will provide ample opportunity. The news for anglers to the north, especially off our coast within the CA Klamath Management Zone (KMZ), wasn’t quite as good due to the low abundance of Klamath River Fall Chinook. But we’ll get some decent time on the water, it’s just not during the peak month of June when the harvest rates of 4-year-old Klamath Chinook are historically the highest.

For the California KMZ, which runs from the Oregon-California border to latitude 40°10’ N and includes Humboldt County, the three alternatives currently on the table are:

Alternative 1: May 1-31; Aug. 1-Sept. 5

Alternative 2: May 1-31; July 1-4; Aug. 1–31

Alternative 3: July 1–24.

Open seven days per week. All salmon except coho, two salmon per day. Chinook minimum size limit of 20 inches total length. Size limit of 24 inches in alternative 3.

From latitude 40°10’ N to Point Arena, which includes Shelter Cove and Fort Bragg, the three alternatives are:

Alternative 1: May 1-31; July 1-Nov. 13

Alternative 2: May 1-July 4; July 22-Oct. 31

Alternative 3: May 1-Sept. 30

Open seven days per week. All salmon except coho, two salmon per day. Chinook minimum size limit of 20 inches total length. Size limit of 24 inches in alternative 3.

To view all of the salmon management alternatives, visit www.pcouncil.org/annual-salmon-management-process/#2022-2023.

A public hearing is scheduled for March 22, where the public is invited to comment on the PFMC’s proposals. Final season dates will be decided at the April 6-13 meeting in Seattle, Washington. Details on how to attend the public hearing and PFMC meeting, as well as instructions to provide public comment, can be found at www.pcouncil.org

Klamath/Trinity fall salmon allocations
With ocean abundance on the rise, river anglers will have a few more Klamath/Trinity River fall Chinook to harvest this year. The recreational allocations, or quotas, as proposed by the PFMC will range from 2,125 to 2,546 adult fall Chinook in 2022 across the three alternatives. Last year’s basin-wide quota was 1,221 adults. If, for example, Alternative One was chosen, the quota for the Klamath and Trinity basins would be 2,152 adults. Of those, 1,076 would be allowed for sport harvest from Hwy. 96 bridge to the mouth of the Klamath. From the 96 bridge to Iron Gate, 366 could be harvested. The Trinity would receive 710 adults for harvest. The Spit Area (within 100 yards of the channel through the sand spit formed at the Klamath River mouth) would close when 323 adult kings were taken downstream of the Highway 101 bridge. The three quota alternatives are not final, but will be decided during the April 6-13 PFMC meetings. Once the quota is agreed upon, 50 percent will go to the lower Klamath basin, 17 percent to the upper basin, and 33 percent will be allocated for the Trinity River. When adopted, these quotas will go into effect August 15, 2022.

The weather ahead
Following Tuesday’s rain, we can expect mostly dry weather on Wednesday and Thursday. The next chance of substantial rainfall is Friday evening through Sunday. Coastwide, we can expect between 1 to 1.5 inches. The first part of next week is looking like a return to dry weather.

River Closures
As of Tuesday, the South Fork Eel, Middle Fork Eel, Mattole, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen are currently closed to fishing due to low flows.

The Rivers:
Mad River
The Mad opened back up to fishing Tuesday morning and was on the rise through most of the day. It’s forecast to rise again on Saturday afternoon, reaching 1,580 cubic feet per second. The color was good as of Wednesday and there should be fish on the move.

Eel River (main stem)
As of Wednesday, flows were 1,300 cfs at Scotia and rising slightly. It’s predicted to reach 1,900 cfs by Thursday morning. Not much of a rise, but probably enough to get some fish moving both directions.

Smith River
The Smith basin received well over an inch of rain Monday putting the river on a steep rise. As of Wednesday, flows were down to 4,000 cfs and dropping. Dry conditions for the next couple days will bring the levels down quickly. Another smaller rise is forecast for Saturday. There should be some fresh fish making their way in and plenty of spawners headed down.

Southern Oregon rivers
“The Chetco fished surprisingly well last week and over the weekend, with a mix of fresh steelhead and downrunners,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Some guides are getting double-digit hookups. The rain this week should bring in a few more steelhead, while leaving plenty of flows for the remainder of the season, which ends March 31. Steelhead are spread throughout the river. The Elk and Sixes will be back in play with this week’s rain. Both rivers fished well early last week. There is a mix of fresh and spent steelhead in both rivers. The Rogue has been slow for steelhead, but should see the first schools of spring king salmon with this week’s rains.”

Brookings ocean report
Lingcod and rockfish action was good out of Brookings before the weekend storms according to Martin. “Limits of lingcod are being caught close to the harbor. Rockfish are thick on all of the inshore reefs. Sport crabbing is slow. Wednesday and Thursday look fishable before south wind returns Friday.”

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

Ocean Kings More Abundant in 2022

Chris Contreras, of Garberville, landed a nice Chinook salmon while fishing out of Shelter Cove last season. Ocean salmon anglers could face a more restricted season due to low Klamath numbers. Photo courtesy of Jake Mitchell/Sea Hawk Sport Fishing

The number of adult fall-run Chinook salmon forecast to be swimming off the coast of California seems to be trending upward from last year. That was the good news delivered at last Wednesday’s annual Ocean Salmon Information meeting hosted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The number of Sacramento River fall-run Chinook salmon predicted in the ocean this season is 396,458 compared to 271,000 last year, a 45-percent increase. This year’s ocean abundance for the Klamath River also came in above the 2021 forecast, with 200,100 adult fall Chinook salmon predicted to be in the ocean. Although an improvement, it’s still well below the stock’s historical levels.

Even with an increase in ocean abundance, both commercial and recreational anglers will likely face tougher restrictions this year to protect the Klamath stocks. One of the main reasons behind the restrictions is the harvest rate of 4-year-old Klamath fall Chinook. The harvest rate is currently set at a maximum of 16 percent. In 2021, the harvest rate shot up to 27 percent, mainly due to the Klamath salmon intermixing with the Sacramento fall run in the San Francisco Bay region, where the baitfish were plentiful. This concentration of both stocks also made them vulnerable to sport and commercial anglers.

The Klamath, where the fall-run Chinook were declared overfished in 2018, is also lagging in adults and jacks returning to the river. In 2021, 64,591 adults returned, which is just 54 percent of the historical average. And the 2 year olds, or jacks, were also well short of long-term averages. Last year 10,384 returned, 60 percent of average. These low returns have led to years of missed natural escapement numbers. In 2021, the natural escapement objective was 31,574 but just 30,196 were counted. The geometric mean of adult natural escapement for the past three years is 25,111, which is well short of the minimum floor escapement of 40,700. A whopping 85,251 natural area spawners are necessary in 2022 for the stock to be considered rebuilt.

What the PFMC chooses to do with these numbers will be determined in the next couple of months. Up next, the PFMC will meet March 8 through March 14 in San Jose to determine whether any in-season actions are required for fisheries scheduled to open prior to May 16. They will also craft three regulatory alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries in effect on or after May 16. Final adoption of alternatives for public review is tentatively scheduled for March 14. To view the salmon preseason process, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Salmon/preseason.

The weather ahead
According to Jonathan Garner of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, the weather pattern looks more favorable for rain starting Saturday. “We’ll likely see slightly less than a half inch of rain between Saturday afternoon and Sunday,” Garner said. “There is the potential for heavier rainfall on Monday. Right now, there’s a 40 to 60 percent chance of an inch or greater falling. There is some rain forecast for Tuesday, but after that it looks like we’ll be dry through the rest of the week.”

Bass Tourney coming to Ruth Lake April 2
The Alderpoint Volunteer Fire Department is hosting the 1st annual Roger Coleman Sr. Memorial Bass Tournament on Saturday April 2nd at Ruth Lake. Check in is Friday night between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. or Saturday morning between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. This is a catch and release tournament with a 13-inch minimum length. Blast off is 7 a.m. or at first safe light. For more information, call Thomas Bruce at 707-223-6258 or Roger Coleman Jr. at 707-223-3858.

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.

Eel River (main stem)
As of Wednesday, flows were right around 1,180 cubic feet per second at Scotia. The water is low and clear, and the fishing remains up and down. The few boats still fishing are getting a chance at a few fish per trip. There are still plenty of fresh fish moving in.

Smith River
The Smith is back under 900 cfs as of Wednesday. There are fish in the river, including fresh ones, but the conditions are tough. The water is extremely clear and you’ll need to be stealthy to get bit consistently.

Southern Oregon Rivers
“After dropping below 400 cfs, the Chetco got a much-needed boost in flows last week, reaching 3,000 cfs while giving steelhead anglers their best action since early January,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Big numbers of steelhead were caught Thursday, Friday and Saturday before the action stalled somewhat on Sunday. The river will be low and clear again by the end of this week before another storm arrives next week. Steelhead are spread throughout the river, with a mix of wild and hatchery fish, with about half of the catch downrunners. Steelhead fishing has remained slow on the lower Rogue, but has improved near Grants Pass. The Elk and Sixes both fished well over the weekend, but could be too low to drift again by this weekend. Plenty of fresh steelhead were caught on both rivers after last week’s big rain.”

Brookings ocean report
Calm ocean conditions are expected Thursday and Friday out of Brookings according to Martin. “The sport fleet was sidelined by wind and stormy seas last week. Monday was fishable, but still choppy. Limits of rockfish have been quick. Lingcod are biting on calmer weather days.”

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 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.