Steelhead Season Awaiting Take Off

Arcata resident Elijah Goode landed a nice hatchery steelhead on Sunday while fishing the Mad River. Photo courtesy of Elijah Goode

The transition to steelhead season is taking a bit longer than we had hoped. To date, steelhead fishing has yet to really take off on popular rivers like the Smith and Chetco. The lower Eel has yet to see big numbers of steelhead as well. The lone bright spot has been the Mad River. It’s probably a safe bet that more steelhead have been caught on the Mad than all of the other local rivers combined. There’s been a good mix of wild and hatchery adults, and the river is full of half-pounders. With another round of rain predicted for Friday, all of the coastal rivers should get another good rise. And with each rise comes the possibility of more ocean-bright steelhead. And that’s all we can ask for.

Weather ahead
Between now and Tuesday, we could see anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain from Del Norte to Humboldt, according to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The bulk of the rain will fall on Friday, when we could see 1 to 1.5 inches,” said Zontos. “Another half could fall in the Smith basin on Saturday morning and Humboldt could see up to a quarter inch. The next chance of rain will be Sunday into Monday but this one is uncertain. Right now, the models are showing a half-inch falling in Southern Humboldt and a quarter in the Smith basin.”

Mad River Steelhead Derby to start Jan. 1
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA) is hosting its second annual Mad River Steelhead Derby from Jan. 1 through March 31. Anglers must be signed up prior to Jan. 1 to be eligible to win cash and prizes. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered. The largest steelhead wins $500, second place $300 and third place  $150. A youth division winner (16  and under) wins a $150 tackle gift card. In addition, anglers who submit a winning video of their catch in action get a $100 gift card to Bucksport Sporting Goods. Anglers can sign up online at www.ncgasa.org or in person at RMI Outdoors and Bucksport. Part of the proceeds benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler’s broodstock collection program that works in concert with the  California Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information, visit www.madriversteelheaderby.com

2021 Fishing license
A reminder that it’s the time of the year to purchase your 2021 sport fishing license, which is required for residents 16 years of age or older to take fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, amphibians or reptile in inland or ocean waters. The cost of a new resident sport fishing license is $52.66. A North Coast salmon report card, which will run you $7.30, is required for all anglers taking salmon in the Smith River System or Klamath-Trinity River System. If you plan to fish for steelhead, you’ll need to purchase a steelhead report card, which will cost $8.13 this year. The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife does not accept cash for fishing licenses. For more info, visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing

Reduced-Fee sport fishing licenses available
Reduced-cost fishing licenses are available in 2021 for $8.38 at CDFW offices (instead of $52.66) for disabled military veterans and recovering service members. For those 65 or older on reduced income, licenses are available for $7.98. For more information on all CA fishing licenses, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing#44521417-free–reduced-fee

Rockfish season to close Dec. 31
The 2020 rockfish season in the Northern Management area, which runs from Cape Mendocino to the OR/CA border, will close for boat-based anglers on Thursday, Dec. 31. Rockfish is open year-round for divers and shore-based anglers. For more information about recreational groundfish regulations, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Groundfish-Summary#north

Mattole River opens to fishing Jan. 1
The Mattole River will open to fishing on Friday, Jan. 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 cubic feet per second at the Petrolia gauging station.

The Rivers:
Other than the South Fork Eel and Van Duzen, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Smith, main Eel, Mad, and Redwood Creek were open to fishing as of Thursday. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline, 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. CDFW will make information public by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be open or closed to fishing. Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once the minimum flows are reached.

Smith River
There aren’t many adult steelhead around right now, reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “The river is full of half-pounders, it seems like all the tailouts are loaded,” said Coopman. We had a lot of rain on Monday night and the river came up quite a bit. Hopefully we’ll start to see the adults show up soon.”

Mad River
There are a few adult steelhead around but not a ton, according to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. He said, “There’s fish scattered from the hatchery down, but the lower river seems to be producing better. Right now, there’s about an even mix of hatchery and wild. There’s also a large number of half-pounders in the river now. I can’t remember seeing this many.” Flows are predicted to reach 2,600 cfs on Saturday morning and will likely be muddy through the weekend.

Main stem Eel
The main stem has been fishable since earlier in the week. There are some adult steelhead in the lower river, but fishing has been slow. Following the rain on Friday, the river is predicted to peak at 4,500 cfs on Sunday afternoon.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork has been closed all week due to low flows. Predicted to peak at 2,000 cfs on Saturday night following Friday’s storm.

Van Duzen
The Duzen closed on Thursday, but that should be short-lived. Following Friday’s rain, it’s predicted to reach 2,400 cfs on Saturday morning. Will take a few days to clear, but could fish by mid-week.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The Chetco has been in prime shape for steelhead but fishing has been slow the past week, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “Since the river came back into shape at the end of last week, only a handful of adult steelhead and a couple late-fall salmon have been caught. Catches rates could jump any day, but it may be closer to New Year’s Day before fishing gets decent,” Martin added.

According to Martin, the Elk and Sixes both blew out with Monday’s rain. “The further up the Oregon Coast anglers go, the higher the rivers are. Late salmon were caught on both rivers over the weekend but overall action has been slow. A few guides are now anchoring and running plugs for steelhead on the lower Rogue, but are still awaiting the winter run to begin arriving,” 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.

Storms should keep the steelhead coming

Charlie Holthaus, of Weaverville, landed a nice steelhead while fishing the Trinity River Friday, Dec. 11. With more storms in the forecast, the Trinity, as well as the coastal rivers, should see a good push of fresh steelhead. Photo courtesy of Charlie Holthaus

Following a weekend that saw slightly less rain than predicted, conditions on our steelhead rivers are starting to improve. Storms impacting our coast one after the other are what’s really needed to kick off the winter steelhead run, and that looks to be the case through the weekend. A good soaking is forecasted for Wednesday with another coming late Saturday and into Sunday. The Smith and the Chetco will see significant flow increases, but should remain fishable. Closer to home, Wednesday’s storm will likely turn the Mad, Eel and Van Duzen rivers muddy. But it’s possible they’ll bounce back by Saturday before the flows head back up. A few steelhead have made their way to the hatchery on the Mad and there should be plenty more behind them. The Eel and Van Duzen haven’t seen many boats or anglers yet, but you can bet there are steelhead around. If you’re looking to get out of the house this weekend, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a fishable river.

Weather ahead
Widespread rain is in the forecast for Wednesday, according to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Rain is going to be heavy at times and we could see 1 to 2 inches,” said Zontos. “We’ll start to dry out on Thursday but there is a chance for some light rain, up to a tenth of an inch. The next system will move in sometime late Saturday night but the timing of this one is a little uncertain. The majority of the rain looks like it will fall on Sunday and linger into Monday. This system has the potential to drop 2 to 4 inches of rain over the three days, with the Smith basin seeing the higher totals. For the seven-day forecast ending next Tuesday, the Smith basin could see anywhere from 3 to 5 inches. The Mad and lower Eel could see 1 to 2 inches. Above normal precipitation is predicted in the Smith basin from Sunday through next Thursday.”

Oregon increases rockfish bag limit for 2021
Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, Oregon ocean anglers will be able to keep 6 rockfish instead of 5 according to a press release issued last Friday by the ODFW. Oregon anglers can keep any combination of black, blue, canary, yellowtail and vermilion rockfish as part of that limit, and have a sub-bag-limit of one China, copper or quillback rockfish. Anglers also can have one cabezon as part of the rockfish limit beginning July 1. The daily bag limit for lingcod remains at two, with a size limit of 22 inches. For more information, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2020/12_Dec/121120.asp

Mad River Hatchery ladder now open
The water running down the ladder to the river was turned on last Saturday. The hatchery hopes to begin spawning on Tuesday, Jan. 5 and then each following Tuesday.

The Rivers:
All North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Smith, main Eel, South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen were open to fishing as of Thursday. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline, 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. CDFW will make information public by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be open or closed to fishing. Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once the minimum flows are reached.

Smith River
The Smith was in fishable shape on Monday but was dropping quickly. There were a few boats on the river, with some side-drifting for steelhead and others targeting salmon. Reportedly, there were a few dark salmon caught on the lower river. The steelhead report wasn’t very good either. I heard of one adult steelhead along with some half-pounders being landed. Following Wednesdays, rain, flows peaked at 28,500 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge early Thursday morning. Conditions should be good for the weekend.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
“The Chetco hit 5,000 [cubic feet per second] and blew out Sunday evening, but was fishable again Monday as flows dropped back below 3,500 cfs,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Fishing was slow for the plunkers, in part because of treacherous conditions at the Chetco River bar, which prevented new fish from moving in. More rain is expected this week; could fish Friday and Saturday if the storms are not too severe. Next week the Chetco may reach 14,000 cfs or higher, according to long-range forecasts.”

The Elk was fishable Monday at 3.6 feet but was clear and fished slow, according to Martin. “A few late kings were caught. It will be a good option after this week’s rain. The Sixes was turning green and dropped to 2 feet Monday evening, but by Wednesday could blow out for several days,” added Martin.

Mad
The Mad is forecasted for a steep rise on Thursday as flows are predicted to reach 1,400 cfs early in the morning. Will likely be off-color through the weekend. Visit the Mad River Steelhead Derby website to view the current leaderboard.

Main stem Eel
The main stem was fishable on Wednesday and might remain so through early Thursday. It’s predicted to rise all day Thursday, reaching 4,800 cfs on Friday morning. It will likely take a few days of dry weather before it clears.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork opened on Thursday. Predicted to peak at 2,400 cfs Thursday evening, but will drop quickly.

Van Duzen
Flowing at 175 cfs on Wednesday, the Duzen still had some color. After Wednesday’s storm, the Duzen peaked at 1,680 cfs on Thursday. It will likely be muddy through the weekend.

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

Rain and Steelhead Both on the Horizon

Winter steelhead season has yet to take off on the North Coast but that could soon change. A pretty sizeable storm is headed our way this weekend that should put all of the coastal rivers on the rise, and hopefully open them up to fishing. And more rain is on the way next week according to the National Weather Service. Steady rain and pulse flows are just what we need to entice some steelhead from the salt. If the rains come as predicted, the Smith and Chetco should be in prime shape sometime next week.

The Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen and Mad will all see flows begin to rise over the weekend. The Mad should open by the weekend, and the southern rivers should be right behind it. Once all of the rivers crest and begin to recede to fishable levels, we should see the first wave of winter steelhead. After another tough late-fall salmon season, seeing the rivers loaded with bright steelhead sure would be a welcome sight.

Weather ahead

The seven-day forecast is looking good for steelhead anglers. An atmospheric river is predicted for the weekend, which will put all of the coastal rivers on the rise. “Lighter rain is possible on Thursday and Friday, with the heavier rainfall totals coming over the weekend,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Sunday and into Monday should produce light rain, with a potential small break on Tuesday. The next chance of wet weather is next Wednesday through Friday. The seven-day forecast ending next Tuesday is calling for 3 to 5 inches in the Smith Basin. Here locally, the Mad and lower Eel could see 1 to 2 inches. Further up the South Fork Eel, a half to an inch of rain is possible. From Dec.13-21, the probability of above normal precipitation is predicted.”

Richard Burrow with the winning hatchery steelhead from last years Mad River Steelhead Derby. Submitted

Mad River Steelhead Derby to start Jan. 1
The Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA) is hosting its second annual Mad River Steelhead Derby from Jan. 1 through March 31. Anglers must be signed up prior to Jan. 1 to be eligible to win cash and prizes. Only hatchery steelhead can be entered. The largest steelhead wins $500, second place $300 and third place  $150. A youth division winner (16  and under) wins a $150 tackle gift card. In addition, anglers who submit a winning video of their catch in action get a $100 gift card to Bucksport Sporting Goods. Anglers can sign up online at www.ncgasa.org or in person at RMI Outdoors and Bucksport. Part of the proceeds benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler’s broodstock collection program that works in concert with the  California Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information, visit www.madriversteelheaderby.com #madriversteelheadderby

Brookings update
Big swells have kept anglers at the docks in Brookings, and likely will through the weekend reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Last week, sport crabbers did well in shallow water, with large crabs that were full of meat. Rough weather has made bottom fishing tough. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will adopt the 2021 bottom fishing regulations on Friday.”

The Rivers:
Other than the Smith, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the main and South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, and Van Duzen were closed to fishing as of Thursday. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2021. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline, 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. CDFW will make information public by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as to whether any river will be open or closed to fishing. Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once the minimum flows are reached.

Smith

The Smith opened back up to fishing  Sunday morning and remained open as of Thursday. Another closure is possible before the weekend as flows drop. A big storm is expected by Saturday, however. Flows are predicted to peak at 9,300 cubic feet per second on Sunday night on the Jed Smith gauge. Boat pressure has been light but some kings were caught on the lower river last week. Riffles between the Outhouse and the Outfitters were holding quite a few half-pounders along with an occasional adult steelhead. The storm coming this weekend should push the rest of the kings upriver and bring in the first big wave of steelhead.”

Mad

The Mad is forecasted to reach 2,100 cfs Saturday afternoon. Could open to fishing on Saturday morning. Minimum flows to open the river to fishing are 200 cfs. For flow predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=ARCC1

Main stem Eel
The main Eel is predicted to rise starting Saturday night, and could open to fishing on Sunday or Monday. Will likely be muddy for some time. Minimum flows to open the river to fishing are 350 cfs on the Scotia gauge. For flow predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=SCOC1

South Fork Eel
The South Fork is predicted to rise beginning early Saturday morning and peak at 1,500 cfs on Monday morning. Will likely be muddy for the weekend, but the higher reaches could be fishable by mid next week. If flow predictions are correct, could open to fishing on Sunday or Monday. Minimum flows to open the river to fishing are 340 cfs. For flow predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=MRNC1

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen is forecasted to rise starting Saturday and predicted to peak at roughly 1,400 cfs early Monday morning. The river will likely be muddy through the weekend. Minimum flows to open the river to fishing are 150 cfs. For flow predictions, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=BRGC1

Michael McGahan, a guide with Wild Rivers Fishing and Brookings Fishing Charters, holds his first steelhead of the season from the Chetco River. He caught the hatchery fish Dec. 6 drifting roe. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
Steelhead are showing up in good early season numbers on the Chetco, with adult fish now spread throughout the system, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The best fishing has been at Social Security Bar, where at least half a dozen adult steelhead were caught on Sunday, but steelhead can be seen below spawning salmon all the way to the upper river,” said Martin. “A few bright kings are still around, with lots of salmon still spawning. Drift boaters are seeing steelhead in the tailouts from Ice Box to the head of tide. The river likely will blow out this weekend but should be in great shape next week.” According to Martin, shore anglers have been catching salmon near the Sixes Grange, while drift boaters were back on the Sixes after the weekend rains. “The big storm this weekend should lead to a big rise on both the Elk and Sixes, bringing in another batch of fall kings and the first winter steelhead of the year,” added Martin.

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

Winter Steelhead Up Next for Coastal Rivers

With no rain in the forecast for at least the next 10 days, the end is in plain view for the late, fall-run salmon season on the North Coast. The Chetco saw a few good days of fishing but the Smith was somewhat of a disappointment. The rains, along with the runs of salmon, were short-lived, forcing most of the anglers to throw in the towel by mid-November. With the calendar now saying it’s December, it’s transition time. The majority of the salmon have reached their destination and we now wait for the winter steelhead to make their way into all of the coastal rivers.
The Chetco has seen a few adults make their way in along with a bunch of half-pounders, and the Smith steelhead should be right behind them. But don’t give up entirely on salmon just yet. The Smith, Eel, Mad and Chetco should each see another spurt or two of fresh kings move in when and if the rivers rise.

Weather ahead
According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the first couple weeks of December are looking dry. “There’s some light rain in the forecast for Monday night but it won’t be enough to impact river flows,” said Zontos. “The high pressure that’s set up off the coast looks like it will holdover for the next few weeks. The trend is for below normal precipitation predicted through Dec. 14.”

Sport crab fishing update
Sport crabbing out of Eureka remains slow. Boats fishing on either side of the entrance are averaging around four keepers per pot on an overnight soak. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sportfishing was on the water over the weekend and reports the crabbing isn’t improving. “Our trip on Sunday was tough,” said Klassen. “We ended up with limits, but we averaged around three and a half crabs per trap.”

Mad River Steelhead Derby coming Jan. 1
Join your fellow North Coast anglers for the second annual Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association’s (NCGASA) 2021 Mad River Steelhead Derby. The fishing contest starts on Jan. 1 and will run until March 31. Anglers will be fishing for hatchery steelhead only during the winter steelhead run on the Mad River. The three longest measured, photographed and entered fish will win cash and prizes from our sponsors and community partners. There will also be a youth prize for anglers 16 years old and under. Part of the proceeds from this derby will benefit the Mad River Steelhead Stewards volunteer angler’s broodstock program that works in concert with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. For more information, visit the Mad River Steelhead Derby on Facebook or Instagram. Register online at ncgasa.org, RMI Outdoors, or Bucksport Sporting Goods.

The Rivers:
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to the Smith’s mouth. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2021. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline, 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. CDFW will make information public by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be open or closed to fishing. Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once the minimum flows are reached.

Haley Hensel, of Crescent City, holds a 35-pound king salmon she caught and released Nov. 29 while fishing with guide Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips. Photo courtesy of Lunker Fish Trips

Smith
With no rain for a couple weeks, the Smith is very low and clear and will close to fishing above Rowdy Creek starting on Thursday, Dec. 3. Boat pressure has been light as most guides have canceled their salmon trips due to the conditions and lack of fish. Winter steelhead should start to trickle in even during the low-water conditions. As of Wednesday, flows were right around 720 cubic feet per second on the Jed Smith gauge.

Chetco River
Low water has slowed an already slow salmon season on the Chetco reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “Flows are now below 900 cfs and no major rain is in sight. A few dark jacks and an occasional bright adult salmon are being caught by the handful of boats still fishing. Half-pounders have shown up, along with the first adult steelhead of the season. Four adult steelhead were reported last week at local tackle shops.”

Elk/Sixes
Salmon fishing was good on the Elk and Sixes before Thanksgiving, but both are now low and clear and difficult to float with drift boats according to Martin. “They should have another batch of salmon after the next major rain,” he added.

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

Kings Tough to Come by on Smith, Chetco

Minda Lawrence and Grant Vallier, of Lakeview, Oregon, hold one of the two kings they caught to limit out Saturday on the Chetco River while fishing with guide Michael McGahan of Wild Rivers Fishing. Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

After being open for just over a week, salmon fishing on both the Smith and Chetco has proven to be challenging. By the sound of things, the end is likely near for the run of late-fall kings on the coast. Only a couple small storms hit the coast and dropped enough rain to open the two rivers to fishing. While the fishing window was very small, that doesn’t necessarily mean the number of returning salmon was small. Even during the low water conditions, salmon were seen making their way upriver on all of our coastal streams. Typically, the season’s first big rains come in October, leaving us a good four to five-week window to fish. That hasn’t been the case the last few years as the salmon didn’t bother to wait for us or the strong flows to get them to their end destinations.

On the other hand, as we inch closer to December, it’s time to start thinking about winter steelhead. There are some half-pounders around, and the adults typically start showing in December. But don’t give up entirely on salmon just yet. The Smith, Chetco and even the Eel could each see another spurt or two of fresh kings move in on the next substantial river rise.

Weather ahead
According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, we’re looking pretty dry as we head into December. “There is a chance for some rain late in the weekend, but it doesn’t look like it will impact river flows,” said Zontos. “Below normal precipitation is predicted through Dec. 7.”

Sport crab fishing update
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sportfishing reports the crabbing is a little on the slow side out of Eureka. “We’re still getting limits but it’s getting a little tougher,” said Klassen. “We’ve only had one trip where we didn’t get full limits. On an overnight soak, we’re averaging between four to six keepers per pot. Longer soaks are definitely producing better results. There are a lot of small crabs that are chewing up the bait pretty quickly. Fresh bait, like tuna scraps or rockfish carcasses, will improve the number of keepers as well. The crabs are in great shape, but we aren’t seeing very many jumbos,” added Klassen. Big swells are in the forecast Tuesday night through Thursday morning. Seas could reach up to 20 feet on Wednesday.

Nov. 27 and 28 free fish days in Oregon
ODFW is waiving all fishing licensing requirements on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to experience fishing during the long holiday weekend. All fishing, crabbing and clamming in Oregon will be free for both Oregon residents and non-residents. No licenses, tags or endorsements are needed on those days, but all other fishing regulations apply. Visit www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2020/11_Nov/112020b.asp for more info.

Lower Trinity River adult Chinook salmon quota met
In a press release issued on Friday, the CDFW projected recreational anglers will have met the Lower Trinity River adult fall Chinook salmon quota below the Denny Road Bridge at Hawkins Bar for the 2020 season as of 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20. This triggers the closure of the adult Chinook salmon fishery on the Trinity River from the Denny Road Bridge at Hawkins Bar to the confluence with the Klamath River. This reach will remain open for harvest of jack (two-year-old) Chinook salmon (less than or equal to 23 inches). All adult Chinook salmon caught must be immediately released and reported on the angler’s report card. Adult Chinook salmon harvest is now closed in all sectors of the Klamath River basin. For more info, visit cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2020/11/20/lower-trinity-river-adult-chinook-salmon-quota-met/

The Rivers:
Other than the Smith and main stem Eel, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, and Van Duzen are closed to fishing. The main stem Eel is scheduled to close as of Thursday, Nov. 26. Be sure and call the low flow closure hotline, 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. CDFW will make information public by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as to whether any river will be open or closed to fishing. Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once the minimum flows are reached.

Smith
Since it opened to fishing on Nov. 14, salmon fishing has steadily gotten tougher. There are some fish around but most of the boats are having a hard time getting one per trip. Flows were hovering around 1,000 cfs on Wednesday and the river is low and clear. Roe under a float or back-bouncing the deeper holes are your best bet until we get some significant rainfall.

Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The Chetco opened to salmon fishing last Tuesday but quickly blew out reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “After cresting at 12,000 cfs, flows dropped below 5,000 cfs on Friday and were down to 2,200 cfs on Sunday. Overall, fishing has been slow, but a few nice kings are being caught. The best action is on the lower end. The Elk is now low and clear, while the Sixes is low but fishable. The Sixes has been fishing the best of the Southern Oregon rivers.”

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

North Coast Rivers Getting Some Much-Needed Rain

Ken Bergen of Sunny Brae landed a nice king salmon on Monday while drifting the Smith River. With more rain in the forecast, the Smith should be in fishable shape through the weekend. Submitted

Trying to follow along with last week’s rain predictions was similar to buying stocks on the day of the crash. What a rollercoaster ride! But when it was all said and done, the rain finally fell and filled the rivers to our north with some much-needed rain. The Humboldt rivers, including the Mad, Eel and Van Duzen, are all getting a good soaking this week as well.

Both the Smith and Chetco saw sizable rises Friday evening, and the Smith was opened to fishing first thing Saturday morning. The boats that took a chance did very well, with anglers landing lots of both bright and dark fish. A much bigger storm arrived on Saturday evening, putting the Smith on a vertical rise for most of Sunday. The river was high Monday morning but quickly dropped into fishable shape. Over on the Chetco, the storms pushed flows to over 8,000 cubic feet per second on Sunday afternoon. This is what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was hoping for as it waited on high, consistent flows prior to opening the river to fishing. With more rain in the forecast this week, ODFW finally lifted the low-flow closures beginning Tuesday morning.

Looking toward the weekend, the Smith is predicted to peak on Wednesday afternoon at 11 feet on the Jed Smith gauge. It will be on the drop Thursday and through the weekend, but should remain open to fishing. The Chetco will likely draw a crowd this week and into the weekend as the flows settle into the 2,000 cfs range. For current Smith River conditions, visit www.cdec.water.ca.gov/river/smithStages.html. For the Chetco, visit www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/river/station/flowplot/flowplot.cgi?lid=CHTO3.

Weather ahead
According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, we can expect to see more storms headed our way. “Following a pretty good system on Wednesday; we will dry out for a few days,” said Zontos. “Right now, Thursday through Sunday afternoon look dry but more rain could move in on Sunday night. More persistent rainfall is on tap next Monday through Wednesday. We may see some lighter rain on Thanksgiving, before additional storms begin on Friday and into the weekend. For the seven-day period ending next Tuesday, it’s possible the Smith basin could see 3 to 5 inches. On the lower Eel and Humboldt, we could see up to 3 inches while further up the Eel could see an inch or less. Above normal precipitation is possible from the 22nd through the end of the month.”

Weekend Marine Forecast
Northerly winds will return this weekend, but the ocean looks to be fishable for the sport crabbers. Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 5 to 10 knots with north waves 5 feet at 5 seconds and northwestern 4 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking better, with winds out of the north up to 5 knots and northwestern waves 5 feet at 15 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Sport crab fishing update
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing reports the crabbing is decent out of Eureka. “Due to the weather, we haven’t put a whole lot of time in yet,” said Klassen. “We fished a few days last week, and we averaged around 10 keepers per trap out near 100 feet of water. The crabs are in great shape, with nice hard shells. We’re not seeing very many jumbos, maybe one or two per trap. From what I’m hearing, both sides outside of the entrance are fishing about the same. The weather looks fishable Thursday through the weekend,” Klassen added. Crabbing inside Humboldt Bay has been spotty according to Klassen. “The quality has been good, but guys are only getting a couple per trip.”

The Rivers:
Other than the Smith, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen, were closed as of Tuesday. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline, 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. CDFW will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once minimum flows are reached.

Mad River
Predicted to peak at 490 cfs early Thursday morning before dropping through the weekend. Minimum flows are 200 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

Main Eel
Forecasted to reach 685 cfs early Thursday evening. Minimum flows are 350 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

Van Duzen
Predicted to peak at 420 cfs on Thursday morning. Minimum flows are 150 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

South Fork Eel
Flows are predicted to peak at 490 cfs early Thursday morning Minimum flows for 340 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

Smith River
The Smith peaked at over 11,500 cfs Sunday afternoon on the Jed Smith gauge, but was fishable by Monday. Quite a few boats were on the water, spread out from the forks to the outfitters. Fishing was reportedly decent, with most boats getting a chance at least one adult. Quite a few jacks, along with some darker fish, were supposedly caught. Flows hit nearly 12,000 cfs on Wednesday afternoon, but will then be on the drop through Sunday.

Chetco River
The Chetco opened on Tuesday, but stormy, windy weather and high flows resulted in poor fishing reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “The river was blown out by 10 a.m. on the opener. Before it opened, the Chetco was full of salmon. ODFW easily met its goal for broodstock collection for the hatchery. Better conditions are expected this weekend.”

Elk/Sixes
According to Martin, the Elk and Sixes have been high but mostly fishable. “Lots of salmon have returned to Elk River Hatchery. After Wednesday’s rain, both rivers should be in prime shape just before the weekend,” added Martin.

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

Storms downgraded – Smith and Chetco openers in doubt

What was once a promising looking week of rain has taken a dramatic turn towards dry. Both the Smith and Chetco were expected to receive substantial rises on Saturday, which would have potentially opened both to fishing. As of Thursday morning, those predictions did an about face. Storms that had their sights set on the North Coast are now trending further north, leaving us with some glancing blows.  

As of Thursday morning, the Smith is predicted to peak at just over 680 cfs on Saturday on the Jed Smith gauge. Prior predictions had flows reaching 3,000 cfs on Saturday afternoon. Minimum flows required to open the river to fishing are 600 cfs. Whether there’s enough flows to warrant opening will be a game-time decision made by the CDFW. To check on river openings and closures, call the low-flow hotline at 822-3164. To monitor the Smith River forecasts, visit https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=CREC1.

Big, late-fall kings could be making their way into the coastal rivers this weekend. The Smith and Chetco should see flows increase, but it may not be enough to open them to fishing. Pictured is Jeremy Baker of Santa Cruz with a nice king taken on the Chetco in 2018. Photo courtesy of Mike Stratman/Redwood Coast Fishing

The Chetco is in the same boat as the Smith. Flows are predicted to be in the 600 to 700 cfs range for the weekend, and opening the river to fishing is up in the air. Looking at the long-range prediction, there is a decent rise predicted to start next Tuesday. The way things are going, I wouldn’t bet any money on it. For Chetco River forecasts, visit https://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/river/station/flowplot/flowplot.cgi?lid=CHTO3.

According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the North Coast will see pulses of rain Thursday through Sunday. “The rain will arrive late Thursday night and Friday morning, with showers tapering off on Friday night,” said Zontos. “The first half of next week looks to be wet as well before letting up late next week.”

The Mad, Eel and Van Duzen rivers are all expected to rise slightly this weekend, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough to open them to fishing. Call the low-flow hotline (822-3164) before you head out to determine if your favorite river is open or closed to fishing.

Weekend Marine Forecast
After a few decent days, rough seas are predicted by Friday. Winds will turn southerly Thursday, and will continue to pick up Friday. Hazardous sea conditions will also develop later Friday and Saturday with the arrival of a larger northwest swell. Saturday’s forecast is calling for south winds 5 to 10 knots with northwestern waves 13 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking better, with winds out of the south 10 to 15 knots and northwestern waves 9 feet at 13 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Sport Dungeness crab update
Conditions made for some tough crabbing over the weekend. Boats weren’t able to head offshore until Monday to set their gear due to extremely rough seas. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing was pulling pots on Tuesday morning for clients and reported a solid 10-keeper per pot average. Inside Humboldt Bay and some of the local estuaries reported some decent fishing with a few keepers per trap along with plenty of small ones. The keeper crabs are full and clean.

The Rivers:
Smith
Fishing at the mouth and the Sand Hole was dead over the weekend, according to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. “Up river, every hole is full of salmon but they are mostly dark,” said Carson. “Once the rain hits this weekend, those fish will be moving quickly to the spawning grounds. The hope is that there’s lots of new ones in the ocean that will come in with the increased flows.”

Chetco
“The Chetco is full of salmon, with fish spread throughout the river, and should fish well if it opens this weekend,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing in Brookings. “It could blow out by Sunday if the forecast is correct. Anything above 4,000 cfs this time of year will be muddy. Chetco kings will still bite in high flows on the softer edges of the long flats, like the Willow Run below Loeb Park and Moffett Rock. ODFW will make a decision to open based on the arrival of the storm, probably on Thursday or Friday.”

New Zealand Mud Snails found in the Mad River
In mid-October, a large density of New Zealand Mud Snails was discovered near the Annie Mary Bridge by the Blue Lake Tribes Environmental Dept. The tiny aquatic snails can reach, on average, up to 4-6 mm long in the western United States. Upon reaching maturity at 3 mm, females can produce 230 new females per year; estimates indicate that one snail and its offspring can result in over 2.7 billion snails within 4 years according to CDFW. They may consume up to half of the food resources in a stream or river and have been linked to reduced populations of aquatic insects, including mayflies, caddisflies, chironomids, and other insects important to trout and salmon.

They are found on a wide variety of substrates and vegetation in fresh and brackish lakes, rivers, streams, and estuaries. Dense populations become the dominant macroinvertebrate through displacing and outcompeting native species; some North American streams have reached densities over ¾ million individuals/m2.

Once in the river, getting rid of them is impossible, but there are ways to minimize the spread. This is extremely important as we approach winter steelhead season with anglers moving from river to river. Many AIS (aquatic invasive species) are difficult, if not impossible, to see in the environment and can be unknowingly transported to new locations on equipment. Therefore, decontamination is necessary to prevent the spread of AIS between different waterbody locations. To achieve this, equipment should be decontaminated following the protocols outlined in this document. All equipment that comes into contact with water during field activities and watercraft should be decontaminated using one or more of the protocols listed below.

General procedures to prevent the spread of AIS:
• If decontamination is not done on site, transport contaminated equipment in sealed plastic bags and keep separate from clean gear.
• Gear may be dedicated for a specific field site but should be left on site and be cleaned when moved off site.
• Sets of field gear may be rotated in and out of field per cleaning cycle.
• When practical, begin work upstream and work downstream. This avoids transporting AIS to non-infested upstream areas.

Equipment Decontamination/Disinfection Methods
Option 1: Standard Decontamination Freeze + Saltwater Immersion + Dry. This option consists of three parts, as freezing alone may not kill some organisms
• Scrub gear before leaving field with a stiff-bristled brush to remove all debris. Thoroughly brush small crevices such as boot laces, seams, net corners, etc.
• Bag gear for transport from field to office.
• Place gear and bag in a freezer below 32°F for a minimum of eight hours.
• Thaw gear and bag.
• Immerse gear and bag in 5-10% saltwater solution for 10 minutes.
• Rinse gear.
• Hang gear to dry.
For more information, visit
https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/Species/NZmudsnail

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

Rough Seas Predicted for Saturday’s Sport Crab Opener

Randy Barthman of Westhaven holds up a tasty Dungeness Crab from 2019 while aboard the Reel Steel out of Eureka. The 2020 sport Dungeness crab opener is slated for this Sat., Nov. 7. Photo courtesy of MackGraphics Humboldt

The always-popular recreational Dungeness crab season is expected to open statewide this Saturday, Nov. 7. The season’s first traps can legally be deployed at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning. Anglers, weather permitting, will get their first peek into the number of crabs on the sea floor as the quality and domoic acid testing has already begun. The early round of quality testing took place Oct. 27, showing the crabs are at a 25 percent meat recovery. Typically, the meat content will be around 20 percent this time of year. So it looks like the crabs are in great shape but the volume could be low. The domoic acid levels for this year shouldn’t be an issue either. Tests conducted in Eureka, Trinidad and Crescent City have all come back clean.

The season runs from Saturday, Nov. 7 through July 30, 2021. The minimum size is 5 ¾ inches measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines). The limit is 10 and a valid California sport fishing license is required. For a complete list of recreational Dungeness crab fishing regulations, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=150181&inline As of this writing, CDFW had not issued any information to the public regarding delay of the upcoming sport season.

Weekend Marine Forecast
Ocean conditions don’t look good for Saturday’s crab opener. As of Wednesday, gale force northerlies and steep, hazardous seas will be possible for the weekend. Saturday’s forecast is calling for northern winds of 10 to 15 knots with northwestern waves 13 feet at 12 seconds. Sunday is looking slightly worse, with winds out of the northwest 10 to 20 knots and northwestern waves 13 feet at 12 seconds and northwest 3 feet at 18 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Weather ahead
The North Coast is finally going to see some rain this week, and it looks like the storm door may be opening.  According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the first system will hit on Thursday. “The first system will move in Thursday and stick around into Friday,” said Zontos. “The next chance will be Sunday, but it looks like that system won’t be as wet. Combined systems could dump as much as 1 and 1/2 inches in the Smith basin. The Mad may see a 1/2 to 1 inch, and the Eel may get up to a 1/2 inch. Next week looks to be wet as well, with opportunities for rain every few days. Above normal rainfall is predicted for the week of Nov. 10 through the 16th.”

Weekend Tides – Humboldt Bay
• Sat., Nov. 7: high: 5:14 a.m. and 3:20 p.m.; low: 9:43 a.m. and 10:50 p.m.
• Sun., Nov. 8: high: 6:13 a.m. and 4:40 p.m.; low: 11:09 a.m. and 11:51 p.m.

Top crabbing locations
If you’re planning on heading offshore out of Eureka and leaving pots overnight, your best bet is to start setting gear in 100 to 150 feet of water. Historically, crabs tend to be in deeper water at the beginning of the season and move in toward the beach later in the year. If you’re soaking for just a few hours and don’t have the equipment to go deep, dropping pots just outside the entrance in 50 feet is a good option.

If you don’t have means to head offshore, you can still find plenty of crab. One of the top spots to soak a few rings is Crab Park, located at the end of Cannibal Island Road in Loleta. There’s access to launch a kayak or canoe in the estuary of the Eel River. You can also launch your boat at Pedrazzini Park at the end of Cock Robin Island Road and make your way up the estuary towards the mouth of the Eel.

Humboldt Bay also has a few good locations to catch some crab. Out in front of the PG&E plant is a good spot as well as the flat off of the South Jetty parking lot. Another top location is either side of the channel leading into the South Bay. Up north, inside Trinidad Harbor is another popular spot among the locals. You can launch your small boat, kayak or canoe right off the beach and head out to Prisoner Rock, where the bottom is sandy and 40 to 50-ft deep. Launching here requires a relatively calm ocean, which doesn’t look to be the case for the weekend.

The Oceans:
Eureka
Calmer seas late last week allowed the boats to head offshore for the opener of the all-depths fishery. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing made a few trips to the deeper water and reported some good fishing. He said, “We found some really nice quality lings and some variety we typically don’t catch in shallower water.” The all-depth fishery opened Nov. 1 and will run through the end of the year north of Point Arena. Bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply. According to Klassen, the weekend forecast doesn’t look good for the sport crab opener. “We may have to wait until next week to set our gear,” said Klassen.

Riley Schneider, center, along with brother Parker and dad Travis were all smiles after Riley landed his first-ever lingcod on his own while fishing near Cape Mendocino last Thursday. Photo courtesy of Tim Petrusha

Brookings
Lingcod and rockfish action has been good out of Brookings reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Lings have moved into shallow water to spawn. Big schools of rockfish also are close to shore. Pacific halibut season closed Oct. 31. Rough weather will sideline boaters this week. Swells could reach 16 feet.”

The Rivers:
River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to the Smith’s mouth. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2021. The 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 river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 822-3164.

Smith
The rain coming towards the end of this week probably won’t open the river to fishing, but it should bring some fish in reports Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. “With the increased flows, the mouth and the Sand Hole should be good,” said Carson. The river is currently closed to fishing above the mouth of Rowdy Creek due to low flows.

Chetco
Salmon have spread throughout the Chetco River and ODFW face a dilemma of when to open the river according to Martin. “Unlike most low-water years, when salmon stack up at Social Security Bar, this year they have already headed upriver,” said Martin. “Biologists said back-to-back storms this week and next could lead to an opener, but they want to avoid opening up and having fish stuck in the deeper holes. Fishing is fair in the estuary as schools of salmon continue to move into the river. A couple of salmon close to 45 pounds were netted Monday as ODFW collected broodstock for the hatchery. 

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.

California Halibut Still Biting

Tyler Gillespie, left, along with Russell Boham scored limits of California halibut last week while fishing in Humboldt Bay. Photo courtesy of Tyler Gillespie

The lack of rain isn’t doing the run of late-fall kings any favors but it is keeping the California halibut fishery alive. Without an influx of freshwater from the rains and with enough food to keep them happy, there’s no reason for the halibut to leave. Though the effort has dwindled, there are still enough halibut in the bay to make for a great day. The few boats still targeting the halibut are finding success using artificial baits, with swimbaits being the top producer. Most of the live bait left the bay toward the end of September but enough halibut have hung around to make it worth your while. And the smaller tide swings we’ve had lately also plays a role, as the halibut seem to bite better when there’s less water moving in and out. If you haven’t had your fill of halibut, there are still plenty left to catch. The north channel above the bridge, near the Coast Guard station and South Bay have been some of the best spots. The recreational fishery for California halibut is open year-round. The daily bag and possession limit is three fish, with a minimum size limit of 22 inches total length.

More dry weather ahead
We’re looking at dry weather through this week, as the high pressure is staying put, according to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “There are some weak systems in the forecast for next Tuesday and Thursday, but they don’t look like they’ll do much for the river levels,” Zontos added.

The Oceans:
Eureka
After suffering through some rough seas for nearly two weeks, boats should be back on the water beginning on Thursday. Thursday’s forecast is calling for 5 knots of wind and 2-foot seas, so I’d expect quite a few boats will be headed south to Cape Mendocino. Offshore conditions look good through at least Monday. The all-depth fishery is slated to open Nov. 1 and run through the end of the year north of Point Arena. There are no special gear requirements, though unless otherwise specified, regulations require anglers to use not more than two hooks and one line to target groundfish. All other season dates, bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply.

Brookings
Fishing has been good for rockfish and lingcod along the near-shore reefs reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Lots of bait has rockfish feeding near the surface. Pacific halibut season remains open through Oct. 31, with 800 pounds of quota remaining. Anglers will have a chance to get offshore Thursday and Friday.”

The Rivers:
River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to the Smith’s mouth. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2021. The 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 river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 822-3164.

Willow Creek weir counts

For the trapping week of Oct 15 through Oct. 21, 4 jacks were trapped at the weir. To date, 42 jacks have been trapped compared to 738 for the entire 2019 trapping season. This past week, 17 adult Chinook were trapped, bringing the season total to 83. In 2019, 1,009 total adult Chinook were trapped. Fourteen adult Coho were trapped last week, bringing the season total to 29. In 2019, 139 adult Coho were trapped. The steelhead numbers remained steady compared to the previous week. A total of 49 adult steelhead were trapped. The previous week 58 were trapped. For the season, 184 have been counted compared to 703 for the entire 2019 season.

Lower Klamath
Very few salmon, if any, are entering the mouth of the Klamath. Most are in the upper reaches or are in the Trinity. There are a few adult steelhead along with some half-pounders making their way through the lower river.

Trinity
“I’m starting to hear of salmon in the Douglas City area, so it sounds like there’s fish spread throughout the river,” reports Junction City Store owner Frank Chapman. “We’re not seeing a whole lot of steelhead right now. One boat drifted the upper end on Monday and only got a couple small ones. We really need some rain to put both salmon and steelhead on the move.”

Smith
According to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, there are a few salmon being caught at the mouth. “Guys tossing Cleos are catching a few each day,” said Carson. “There are quite a few jacks being caught and I’ve seen adults up to 30 pounds landed. Upriver, most of the deeper holes are full of salmon. We just need some rain in order to open the river to fishing,” added Carson. The river is currently closed to fishing above the mouth of Rowdy Creek due to low flows.

Chetco
After a couple of weeks of good fishing, the Chetco estuary has slowed according to Martin. “Very few salmon are now being caught, as the fish staging near the mouth have moved upriver,” said Martin. “Most of the deeper holes on the Chetco are full of salmon, but fishing is closed above the estuary until significant falls rains.”

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.

Salmon and Anglers Waiting on Rain

McKinleyville resident Alyssa Cardoza landed this nice king salmon last weekend while trolling the Chetco River estuary. With very little rain forecasted for the rest of the month, the Chetco estuary is the best bet for fresh kings. Photo courtesy of Curt Wilson

In an all too familiar pattern, October is again looking like it will be void of substantial rainfall. Aside from a few weak systems, it seems we won’t see enough rain to put a rise into any of our North Coast rivers or open them up to fishing anytime soon. This is nothing short of torture for coastal salmon anglers chomping at the bit to drift the Smith, Chetco or Eel rivers. What makes it even more painful are the memories that keep popping up on social media showing big green rivers, very large salmon and even bigger smiles.

Humboldt and Del Norte counties have been dry since the weekend of Oct. 11, when just enough rain fell to put the Smith and Chetco on a very slight rise. That got some fish out of the estuary and into the lower sections of the river, but it wasn’t enough to open the rivers to fishing.

There hasn’t been any rain to speak of since then. And there isn’t much on the horizon. “There is a weak front moving into the area on Friday night and into Saturday morning,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “It won’t do much to our river levels. We’re looking at maybe 1/10 of an inch in the Smith basin and less in Humboldt. Another weak system is forecasted for the 27th, but that is looking light as well. A ridge of high pressure has been either blocking or weakening systems that are trying to move onshore and forcing storms to track far to our north, keeping them from sagging into the Northern end of the state. The models are showing below normal rainfall at least through the end of the month.”

Weekend marine forecast
Northerly winds and steep, hazardous seas are expected through Thursday as strong high pressure builds offshore. Gale force winds will be likely through Thursday. As of Wednesday afternoon, Friday’s forecast is calling for winds out of the N 10 to 20 knots with NW waves 9 feet at 9 seconds. Saturday, winds will be out of the N 5 to 15 knots with N waves 8 feet at 9 seconds. Sunday the winds will be lighter, coming from the N 5 to 10 knots with N waves 5 feet at 8 seconds and NW 4 feet at 15 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. 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.

Dungeness crab testing continues
The domoic acid testing in Dungeness crab is nearing completion on the California coast. Only Avilla Beach in Morrow Bay and Manchester Beach in Fort Bragg are awaiting results. The only test to date which exceeded action levels was in Duxbury Reef, and the two tests following have both come up clean. All other ports, including Eureka, Crescent City, and Trinidad have all tested clean. Crab quality testing is scheduled for the end of the month. For test results, visit https://rb.gy/b0xydv.

The Oceans:
Eureka
The rough weather has kept the boats tied up all week, and it doesn’t look like this weekend will be much better. The all-depth fishery is slated to open Nov. 1 and run through the end of the year north of Point Arena. There are no special gear requirements, though unless otherwise specified, regulations require anglers to use not more than two hooks and one line to target groundfish. All other season dates, bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply.

Shelter Cove
The rockfish season is still plugging along out of the Cove according to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. “We spent a couple days of Bear Harbor and one day at the Old Man this week,” said Mitchell. “The bite was pretty good, we had limits every day in just a few hours effort. The lingcod grade wasn’t great, but the rockfish grade was excellent.”

Brookings
Lingcod and rockfish are biting well at the inshore reefs, but rough water from strong northwest winds have kept anglers from going offshore for Pacific halibut reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Crabbing has closed for the season off the Oregon Coast. The marine forecast improves over the weekend, but strong winds are expected through Friday.”

River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth, and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2021.The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

Upper Trinity quota update
According to CDFW, the Upper Trinity quota for adult king salmon will be met as of 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25. This triggers the closure of the adult Chinook salmon fishery downstream of the Old Lewiston Bridge to the State Route 299 West bridge at Cedar Flat. No closure date has been provided for the Lower Trinity. The Upper Klamath, which closed to the retention of adult kings on Oct. 18, and Upper Trinity will remain open for harvest of jack (2-year-old) Chinook salmon (less than or equal to 23 inches). All adult Chinook salmon caught must be immediately released and reported on an angler’s North Coast Salmon Report Card.

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath
Fishing has been tough on the lower Klamath, as not many fall kings are making their way through the lower river. There are some steelhead around, and the occasional Coho. The late-run kings should be making their way into the river soon, especially if we see some rain. Boat pressure has been light. The daily bag limit is two jack Chinook 23-inches or less and two hatchery steelhead.

Trinity
We started to see some fresh salmon move into the Junction City area last week, reports Junction City Store owner Frank Chapman. “Right now, there’s a mix of older fall fish and some really bright ones,” said Chapman. “Quite a few steelhead showed up as well, so the fishing has really picked up in our area. Roe under a bobber has been really good for salmon and will also catch steelhead.”

Chetco
Salmon fishing has been fair on the Chetco estuary, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.  “One or two big fish are being caught a day, along with a decent number of jacks, but boat traffic has increased and overall catch rates are a fish for every fifth or sixth rod,” said Martin. “The outgoing tide has been best. Lots of salmon moved upriver with the rain in early October, while salmon also are being caught and released by anglers finding for rockfish in the ocean.

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