With Break in the Rain, Other Coastal Rivers Could Come into Play

With Break in the Rain, Other Coastal Rivers Could Come into Play
Scott Martin of Hollister holds a nice winter steelhead caught this week on the Chetco River.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

by Kenny Priest

It’s looking like we’re finally getting a break in the rain – for at least a week. But will it be enough to bring other rivers other than the Smith and Chetco into play? That is the million-dollar question. As of Thursday, all of the coastal rivers are beginning to drop and are forecast to continue the downward trend through at least mid-next week. There is a chance of another storm hitting the coast on Friday, which would be bad for anglers looking to fish some of the smaller coastal rivers. As it looks now, by Wednesday of next week the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen and Mad could all come into play. They may still be on the high side, but the color should be coming around. If the forecast is correct, it will likely be a very short window.

The weather ahead
After a seemingly never-ending stream of storms, the North Coast will finally begin to see some dryer weather. According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, a high-pressure system will begin to build on the West Coast that should keep us mostly dry through the weekend and into next week. “The only real chance of rain will be up north in the Smith basin, where up to a quarter inch could fall Sunday into Monday,” said Zontos. “It shouldn’t be enough to raise any river levels, however. After that we’re looking mostly dry through at least Thursday, with next chance of rain possibly Friday.”

CDFW looks for input on distribution of low-flow information
In a press release issued in early Jan., CDFW is inviting anglers to provide input on the proposed fishing regulation change that would affect how CDFW distributes low-flow information. CDFW is seeking to simplify and streamline access to low-flow information by transitioning the three low-flow phone lines to a CDFW webpage. This regulation will not impact where or when low-flow closures occur. The questionnaire will take approximately 3 to 5 minutes to complete. Questionnaire results will be used to 1) evaluate support and opposition to the regulation change, and 2) identify potential resources that may benefit constituents. The questionnaire is available until February 18 at 11:59 p.m. The questionnaire can be found at https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Inland/Low-flow-Restrictions

The Rivers:
As of Thursday morning, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures were open to fishing. This includes the main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mad, Redwood Creek and Smith rivers. The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public by a telephone recorded message updated, as necessary, 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 at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 707-822-3164. More information can be found here.

The Mad peaked at 13 feet (8,300 cfs) Monday morning and is dropping quickly. As of Thursday, it was under 11 feet. It’s predicted to drop through the weekend and could be down near 8 feet by mid-next week. There could be a short window late next week for some green water. The river fishes best between 7 and 8 feet.

Main stem Eel
The main stem is dropping, but is still big and muddy flowing at 30,000 cfs Thursday. With no rain in the immediate forecast, it will continue to drop through next week but it doesn’t look like it will be down to a fishable level before the next storm. It will start to fish once it gets below 5,000 cfs.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork dipped under 7,000 cfs at Miranda Thursday, and will continue to drop for the next week. It’s looking like it may be fishable by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week as flows are predicted to be down to 2,200 cfs by Tuesday. The window of opportunity may be short as rain is predicted beginning Friday.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen fell below 2,000 cfs Thursday after reaching 7,000 cfs Monday. It’s forecast to drop through the weekend and into next week. Flows are predicted to be under 1,000 cfs early Tuesday and there may be a window on Wednesday and Thursday. Rain is once again in the forecast for Friday.

Smith River
As of Thursday, the Smith remained at over 10 feet on the Jed Smith gauge and was in great shape. As it continues to drop through the weekend and into next week, fishing will get tougher with the clearing water. Fishing was slow last weekend and earlier this week, but there has been some fish caught. Boat pressure has decreased as a lot of guides have moved over to the Chetco.

Southern Oregon rivers
“Steelhead fishing has improved slightly on the Chetco with dropping flows, but was still in the slow side the first half of this week,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Conditions are nearing prime levels, which should lead to better catch rates by the weekend. Further north, steelhead fishing has busted wide-open on the Umpqua, and is decent on the smaller rivers in Coos and Curry counties. Plunkers also reported good catches on the lower Rogue early this week.”

Brookings ocean update
Ocean conditions are expected to be calm Friday and Saturday, allowing boaters to get out of Brookings to catch lingcod and rockfish according to Martin. “Crabbing has been slow. Expect good lingcod fishing in shallow water this time of year. The limit remains five rockfish and two lingcod on the Oregon Coast.”

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.

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