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Late-season rain benefits steelhead/anglers

Kenny Priest, Fishing the North Coast, author badge,

he heavy rain that fell early this week was certainly a nice little bonus for our rivers, and in more ways than one. First, the extra flows will help pave the way for the spawned out steelhead as they make their way back to the ocean. Most of the coastal rivers have been extremely low and clear for some time, and this added bit of water is just what they’ve been waiting for to begin their migration back to the salt. It will also give anglers who haven’t had their fill of winter steelhead fishing another real good opportunity to wet a line. The northern most rivers like the Chetco and Smith received the bulk of the rain, and the flows soared to heights we haven’t seen since January. The Smith blew out on Tuesday, but was rounding back into shape on Wednesday. The Chetco, which peaked at over 12,000 cfs, was dropping quickly and should be fishing by Thursday. Here in Humboldt, all of the rivers, except for the north-south running Eel, saw some decent flow increases and may fish by the weekend. This could well be your last chance for winter steelhead this season. I’d suggest you take full advantage, I know I will.

As a reminder, the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek, and Chetco will all close to fishing next Tuesday, March 31. River regulations can be found here.

 Laurie Jensen holds her 28.5 inch lb rainbow she caught at Freshwater Lagoon. Photo courtesy of Laurie Jensen.
Eureka resident Laurie Jensen landed one of the biggest trout you'll ever see come out of Freshwater Lagoon last Thursday. The 10-lb rainbow, which measured 28.5 inches, took 45-minutes to land and was caught using pink PowerBait. Photo courtesy of Laurie Jensen

Weekend weather
Other than a couple weak systems to our north, we’ll be dry through the end of the month says Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. He said, “The first system will come through on Friday night and might drop a tenth of an inch in the Smith basin. Another weak storm north of Klamath is forecasted for Monday night into Tuesday and could bring another tenth of an inch. Neither of these storms is going to bring much precipitation.”

Freshwater Lagoon trout plants
According to the CDFW website, the first trout plants of the season took place last Sunday, March 22 at Freshwater Lagoon. The next plants are scheduled for March 29 and April 5. For more information, visit this website or call (530) 225-2146.

Abalone season opens April 1
Abalone season will open on Wednesday, April 1 along the North Coast from the San Francisco Bay north. New regulations effective in 2014 closed parts of Fort Ross State Historical Park to the take of abalone. For a map of the closed area, visit this website.

2015 regulations for breath-hold divers
Season and times: The season runs from April 1st through November, excluding the month of July. Diving is legal from 8 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset.

What you’ll need:

1) Fishing license (not required for 15 years old and younger)

2) Abalone report card, which costs $22.42. (Card must be in your possession while diving. A card is also required for those 15 years or younger.)

3) Fixed caliper measuring device

Limit and size restrictions: Three per day, three in possession and no more than 18 per year. Only 9 may be taken from Sonoma and Marin counties. Must be seven inches or larger. You must keep any legal abalone you pull from a rock and if it is not legal, you must stick it back on the same rock from where it came. Only your hand or a legal abalone iron can be used to pry them from the rocks.

General regulations: As soon as you get out of the water or step foot in a boat, you must tag your abalone. The tag needs to go through the siphon holes and held together with some type of string or zip tie. The shell cannot be removed until preparation begins for cooking or eating. For more information, visit this website.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
The Chetco saw a steep rise on Tuesday, topping out at over 12,000 cfs. As quickly as it rose, it was back on the drop. It was flowing at 4,600 cfs on Wednesday afternoon and is predicted to be back down below 2,000 cfs by Friday. The high water should have put the downers on the move as well as brought in some of the last fresh fish.

Smith River
After nearly a 10-foot rise on Tuesday, the Smith was dropping back into fishable shape on Wednesday. Flows were just under 10.5-feet as of Wednesday evening and conditions should be excellent through the weekend. A good number of downers mixed in with some fresh ones could make for a great weekend of fishing. The main stem Smith from the mouth to the forks will remain open to fishing through April 30.

Eel River (main stem)
The rain added some color to the main stem, and it really looks good reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. “It was a little dirty in the Rio Dell area on Wednesday, but it should clear up quickly. The color up river looks perfect. It could be a real great weekend,” said Grundman.

Eel River (South Fork)
Flows on the South Fork didn’t change a whole lot with the rain, going from roughly 500 cfs to 750 cfs at Miranda. It likely put some fish on the move, but there aren’t many, if any, people still fishing. Reports have been hard to come by.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen went from under 100 cfs to over 1,300 cfs on Tuesday, turning the river brown. It was back down to 700 cfs on Wednesday and dropping quickly, but it may not clear by the weekend. It will depend on some of the larger creeks upriver and how fast they clear.

Mad River
The Mad jumped from 6 to nearly 10-feet from this week’s storm and might be done for the year reports Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. He said, “The river is muddy and dropping slowly due to the water spilling over from Ruth dam. My guess is it won’t clear enough before the season ends next week.”

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to

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