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Rain should put salmon on the move

Fishing the North Coast by Kenny Priest, author badge,

ou know it’s a slow week in the angling world when next week’s forecasted rain is the hot topic. After some light rain on Sunday, which could drop up to a quarter inch in the Smith basin and roughly a tenth in Humboldt, we should see our first significant storm of the season next Wednesday. From the Mad River basin north, river levels are predicted to rise slightly following Sunday’s rain. And with any luck, Wednesday’s storm will keep the flows going in the right direction. According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, early models are showing roughly three quarters of inch may fall in Humboldt while Del Norte could see up to an inch and a quarter. This should be enough to get some fish into the rivers and put the ones that are stuck in the estuaries on the move. Whether the rivers open to fishing beyond the tidewater or not, that remains to be seen. Check back next Thursday and we’ll have all the details.

Mike Zaslove, left, along with his brother Jim, posing with late-season Chinook Salmon on Klamath River, Photo courtesy of Kenny Priesnt/Fishing the North Coast Guide Service

Mike Zaslove, left, along with his brother Jim landed this nice late-season Chinook salmon last Saturday on the Klamath River. The fall salmon run is starting to wind down, but a few fresh fish are still entering the river. Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest/Fishing the North Coast Guide Service

Eel River estuary salmon regulations
There seems to be quite a bit of confusion regarding the Eel River estuary regulations for Chinook salmon. In 2015, the catch and release of Chinook salmon is legal, but keeping them is prohibited. As a reminder, anglers should do everything in their power to ensure the fish they catch are released in good condition so they can complete their long, hard journey to their spawning grounds. Not removing them from the water and using a rubber mesh net is recommended. The Eel is open year around from the mouth to Fulmor Rd. at its paved junction with the south bank of the river. Artificial lures and barbless hooks are required from April 1 through the Friday preceding the fourth Saturday in May. Only barbless hooks may be used from fourth Saturday in May through Mar. 31. For a complete list of Eel and all other North Coast river regulations, visit this webpage.

Klamath River quota update
Typical for this time of the year, the catch rate and angling effort are both on the downswing. According to Sara Borok, an Environmental Scientist on the Klamath River, only 17 adult salmon were harvested below the Hwy 96 bridge last week. The number of adults harvested to date is 4,942, which leaves 2,125 left to catch to fill the sport quota. The lower river and the estuary, except the 100 yards of the channel flowing through the spit at the mouth of the river, remain open to fishing.

Rockfish season coming to the end
The recreational rockfish season for boat-based anglers will come to a close next Saturday, Oct. 31 in the Northern Management Area, which includes the CA/OR border to the 40°10’ N. Latitude (near Cape Mendocino). Rockfish is open year-round for divers and shore-based anglers.

The Oceans:

Snotty weather has kept the sport fleet tied up since last Friday, and more is in store for this weekend as well. Friday’s forecast is for winds from the northwest 5 to 10 knots and west waves 8 feet at 13 seconds. Saturday is calling for southwest winds 5 to 10 knots and waves out of the northwest 7 feet at 13 seconds. The wind will calm a little on Sunday. Winds are expected out of the north to 5 knots and west waves to 7 feet at 13 seconds.

River Closures
All North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen remain closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth, the main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath

According to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, the fall run of salmon is starting to wind down on the Klamath. “The fishing is still decent; we were able to land six fish on Monday. There’s still some new fish coming in, and there’s definitely some older fish around as well. With the lack of rain, the river is extremely low and clear,” Coopman added.

Upper Klamath
The salmon action remains slow in the Hornbrook area as there just isn’t a lot of fish around. Boats are averaging three to six fish per trip and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better.

Smith River
The Smith remains closed above Rowdy Creek, but a few fish are being caught at the Sand Hole according to Chris Hegnes of Englund Marine. He said, “Boats trolling anchovies and Kwikfish are doing well at first light. A few fish are also being caught at the mouth using Kastmasters and Cleo’s.”


Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service reports the salmon have pretty much petered-out from the top down to Cedar Flat. He said, “There’s a few around, but not many. Your best chance is first light or towards the end of the day. The steelhead action has been better, with most boats getting between one to four fish per trip. With the flows dropping to 300 cfs, it’s really low and clear and the fish are spooky. The smolts were released from the hatchery, so fishing roe has been tough.”

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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