Storms Kick Off Coastal King Season

Storms Kick Off Coastal King Season
Eureka resident Whitney Floyd landed a king salmon while fishing the Smith River on Sunday.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Seth Waters Fishing

by Kenny Priest

The season’s first big storms hit the North Coast over the weekend and the Smith and Chetco both kicked out good numbers of kings. Both rivers have been loaded with kings in their lower sections for quite some time, and when the rivers finally rose, they were on the move. On Saturday, the Smith turned muddy, forcing anglers to wait another day. When Sunday rolled around, conditions were much improved and the fishing was wide-open. Most drift boats put up double-digit scores, though most of the fish were dark.

Conditions were similar up north on the Chetco. Saturday’s fishing was tough due to conditions but improved dramatically Sunday. Conditions were excellent on both rivers Monday and Tuesday and the fishing was good with some nice chrome fish hitting the net. With no rain in the forecast for at least the next seven days, fishing is going to get a lot tougher. The Smith is forecast to drop below the threshold of 600 cubic feet per second sometime Wednesday and will likely close to fishing Thursday. The Chetco will remain open, but fishing with a bobber remains in effect through Nov. 15 from river mile 2.2 to Nook Creek.

As of Thursday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures except the South Fork Eel and Van Duzen were open to fishing. Rivers open to fishing include the Smith, main stem Eel, Mad and Redwood Creek.

All are expected to drop this week due to dry conditions, but some could remain open to fishing. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline at (707) 822-3164 to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. California Department of Fish and Wildlife 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. . For more information, visit

Mad River
Flowing at 190 cfs as of Thursday afternoon and dropping quickly. Will likely close prior to the weekend. Minimum flows are 200 cfs at the gauging station at the State Route 299 bridge.

Main Eel
Running at 875 cfs as of Thursday. Should remain open to fishing through the weekend. Minimum flows are 350 cfs on the Scotia gauge to enact angling restrictions.

Van Duzen
Flows were down to  115 cfs on Thursday afternoon and remained closed to fishing. Minimum flows are 150 cfs at the gauging station near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park to lift angling restrictions.

South Fork Eel
Flows were at 180 cfs Thursday afternoon and dropping, remaining closed to fishing. Minimum flows are 340 cfs at Miranda to lift angling restrictions.

Fishing has been good on the Smith the last few days. Boats fishing sections from the forks all the way to the Outfitters have been boating plenty of big kings, as well as jacks. The majority of the fish are dark, but there are some fresh fish being caught. Most of the fish are coming on sardine-wrapped Kwikfish. Flows were down to 780 cfs Thursday and most angles have moved to other rivers. With some rain expected on Friday, it should remain open through the weekend. Minimum flows are 600 cfs at Jedediah Smith State Park to enact angling restrictions.

The Chetco has been fishing decent for fall kings, with bright fish spread throughout the river, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Leaves made fishing tough on Saturday, but action improved as the river dropped Sunday,” said Martin. “Muddy water from Sunday night’s rain cleared quickly Monday, giving way to a fairly good bite. Flows will drop and clear as the week goes on. The Elk fished well on Monday, while the Sixes was still high and muddy. Both rivers will be in play this week. Salmon season is over on the Rogue, with winter steelhead still more than a month away. The Coos and Umpqua also are slow.”

Sport crabbing update
The sport Dungeness crab season opened Saturday, but the weather failed to cooperate. Boats didn’t make it offshore out of Eureka due to large swells, but a few were able to get out of Trinidad and Crescent City. Reportedly, if you made it out and were able to drop your nets or rings, you were rewarded with limits of nice size crabs. Humboldt Bay, which is typically a good Plan B, was reportedly slow for the handful of boats that braved the weather. Offshore conditions will improve by Thursday, and we’ll likely see some good scores as both charters and sport boats will be able to set their gear.

Upstream of I-5 on the Klamath reopened to adult salmon harvest
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced on Tuesday that recreational fishing for adult, fall-run Chinook salmon on the Klamath River has reopened between Interstate 5 near Hornbrook and 3,500-feet below the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County.

The Iron Gate Fish Hatchery has received more than 8,000 returning, fall-run Chinook salmon this month, which triggers the reopening of recreational fishing for adult Chinook salmon within the stretch of river per CDFW’s 2022-2023 California Supplemental Sport Fishing Regulations.

Recreational anglers will be able to harvest two Chinook salmon, but no more than one adult greater than 23 inches per day in this reach. The possession limit is six Chinook salmon with no more than three adults. Reopening this stretch of the Klamath River is designed to allow anglers to catch surplus hatchery Chinook salmon now that the number of adults needed for spawning has been achieved at the hatchery.

The only other sector of the Klamath-Trinity rivers that remain open for adult Chinook salmon harvest is the lower Trinity River from the Denny Road bridge at Hawkins Bar downstream to the confluence with the Klamath River. The take of jack Chinook salmon less than or equal to 23 inches is allowed in all areas of the Klamath Basin with the exception of the mouth of the Klamath River, which is closed for the remainder of the year. The daily bag limit for jack Chinook salmon in these areas is two fish per day and no more than six in possession.

Anglers can monitor the quota status of open and closed sections of the Klamath and Trinity rivers by calling CDFW’s information hotline at (800) 564-6479.

For more information regarding Klamath River fishing regulations, please consult CDFW’s 2022-2023 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations and the 2022-2023 California Supplemental Sport Fishing Regulations available at

Razor clamming closes in Del Norte due to high domoic acid levels
In a press release issued Nov. 3, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed the recreational razor clam fishery in Del Norte County following a recommendation from state health agencies determining that consumption of razor clams in the area poses a significant threat for domoic acid exposure. Sampling of razor clams from Crescent Beach in Crescent City in late October found clams exceeding the current federal action level for domoic acid of greater than or equal to 20 parts per million.

Domoic acid poisoning in humans may occur within minutes to hours after consumption of affected seafood and can result in signs and symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to permanent loss of short-term memory (Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning), coma or death. There is no way to prepare clams for consumption that will remove the toxin – cooking and freezing have no effect.

CDFW will continue to work with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to collect, monitor and analyze razor clams to determine when the recreational clam fishery in Del Norte County can be reopened safely.

For more information on any fishery closure or health advisories, please visit: To get the latest information on current fishing season closures related to domoic acid, please call CDFW’s Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at 831-649-2883.

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 For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email

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