by Kenny Priest
Fishing the North Coast
Our coastal rivers are finally getting the flushing and scouring they desperately need. The latest round of storms has brought the rivers to their highest levels of the season, providing ample water for steelhead to make it back to the streams and creeks where they were conceived. The extra flows will also trigger the fish that are still swimming in the salt to begin their migration upriver. Following a very wet few days, the last decent shot of rain in this series of storms is predicted for Saturday. After that, is looks like dry weather all next week. Starting on Sunday, all of the rivers are predicted to drop quickly, and we could be headed for a green water convergence. If the stars align and the forecasters are correct, all north coast rivers could be green by the end of next week, giving steelhead anglers options O’ plenty.
The weather ahead
The North Coast can expect continued wet conditions off and on through Saturday according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Thursday’s front should drop about an inch of rain in Del Norte, with snow falling as low as 2,000 feet. In Eureka, we could see a half-inch of rain at the coast and an inch in the mountains. Lingering showers are expected for Friday, with a quarter-inch in Del Norte and roughly a tenth here locally. Saturday should be the last decent day of rain, with the bulk of the rain falling to our north. Del Norte could see a couple inches in the mountains, and an inch at the lower elevations. Eureka may see up to a third of an inch. The next system will come in Monday night and into Tuesday, but it won’t be enough to see any increase in river flows. After Tuesday, it’s looking dry the rest of the week and into the weekend,” Aylward said.
Upcoming Humboldt Steelhead Days events
Humboldt Steelhead Days will be holding a Pints for Non-Profits event and fishing contest check-in on Thursday, Jan. 25 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the new Lost Coast Brewing Co., facility on Sunset in Eureka. For every pint sold, $1 will be donated to HSD and its programs. One lucky guest will win a Steelhead Days prize package. For more information, visit lostcoast.com/events/pints-non-profits-humboldt-steelhead-days.
The Northcoast Regional Land Trust and Mad River Alliance will be taking a tour through the Wood Creek restoration project on Saturday, January 27th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Freshwater Farms Reserve. Humboldt Steelhead Days participants will learn about Coho salmon life history, the significance of estuarine habitat, large wood structures, fish monitoring technology, contextual historical regional land uses and project successes and challenges. Email Projects and Stewardship Director Kerry McNamee at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. For more information about the tour, visit humboldtsteelheaddays.com/event/humboldt-steelhead-days-restoration-field-tour/ Freshwater Farms Reserve is located at 5851 Myrtle Ave, Eureka.
Dislodged Bell Buoy
Due to the latest series of storms, it was reported that Humboldt Bay Red Bell Buoy 2 (#8135) was off station and possibly aground according to Suzie V. Howser, Chair Harbor Safety Committee of the Humboldt Bay Area. The Buoy has been located approximately one-eighth mile north of the North Jetty just outside the surf zone. It is unknown when the buoy will be recovered and replaced. All mariners are to use extreme caution when transiting near the entrance to Humboldt Bay. Contact USCG Sector Humboldt Bay at 707-839-6113 for more information.
Low flow fishing closures set to end
Special low flow regulations that went into effect on Oct. 1 for the Eel River, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Smith, Van Duzen, and Sept. 1 on the Mad, will end on January 31. Until then, low flow restrictions remain in effect. Currently, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures are open.
“The Chetco fished surprisingly well over the weekend,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “For the first time this season, it had good color at 5,000 cfs instead of still being muddy. A lot of new fish came in last week. The plunkers did well on the lower end. We landed five steelhead on my boat Saturday. Most likely, the Chetco will be blown out for a week or more with the latest storm. The Rogue is finally fishing well upstream from Gold Beach. Guide John Anderson landed four steelhead on Sunday running MagLip plugs while anchored from his jet boat. The Elk and Sixes were slow over the weekend, despite good conditions on the Elk.”
Despite the unstable water conditions, the fishing has been pretty good on the Smith, reports guide Mike Coopman. He said, “There’s definitely a few fish around. Boats are getting up to three per trip – somedays more and somedays less. The next few days the water is going up and down quite a bit. It’s looking like we’ll be doing a little plunking and hopefully some side-drifting. Boat pressure has been light, but with all the other rivers blown out, we’ll probably see a few more next week.”
Main stem Eel
Forecasted to peak at 39,500 cfs on Thursday and predicted to drop quickly. With no rain in the forecast after Saturday, there’s a chance it could come around by next weekend. How quickly it drops and turns green will be depend on the amount of snow that’s falling in the hills.
South Fork Eel
Peaking at 10,600 cfs on the Miranda gauge on Thursday morning, it should drop back into fishable shape by mid-week, depending on snowmelt.
Flowing at just over 3,500 cfs on Wednesday afternoon and on a steep rise, it’s predicted to peak at just over 8,000 cfs Wednesday evening. With sparse rain predicted for next week, it may be fishable late next week or by the weekend. There’s quite a bit of snow in the hills, which if it melts, the river will remain off color. Your best bet will be above Yager Creek.
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, fishing on the Mad has been slow. “The fish aren’t bunching up below the hatchery like years past. The river has definitely changed and the fish are more spread out. A few are being caught every day in the dirty water, but not a ton. With next week looking dry, we should be back to bait-fishing conditions by the end of next week.” Kelly added.
The upper Trinity is in great shape as we’re getting more snow than rain, reports Tim Brady of Trinity Outdoors in Weaverville. He said, “The fishing has been decent between Lewiston and Junction City. The winter fish are here, I’m guessing we’re right in the middle of the run. Guys I’m talking to are getting a fish here and there. The one thing I’m hearing is the fish are running a little smaller this year, but there are some nice ones around.”