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Steelheading on hold; rivers swollen

Fishing the North Coast by Kenny Priest, author badge,

t looks as though my gully-washer plea has finally come to fruition. We went from parched rivers to some rivers potentially reaching monitor stage in a blink of any eye. Seeing these rivers full of water – and open to fishing­­ – is a beautiful site. And it looks as though there’s plenty more of the wet stuff on the horizon. Finding a fishable river this coming week, however, may be the tricky part. The Smith will be the first to turn green, but that may be awhile. It’s predicted to peak at 58,000 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge sometime Sunday afternoon. With more rain in the forecast for early next week, it’s uncertain right now when it will drop down to a safe level. The Chetco should be right behind it, but it was hovering at 20,000 as of Wednesday.

 Ron Huett of Redding landed this trophy king salmon last weekend on the Smith River. The late fall-run salmon have made it to their spawning grounds with the help of the recent rains. Next up is the winter steelhead, which have begun to make their way into the coastal rivers. Photo courtesy of John Klar/John's Guide Service

Ron Huett of Redding landed this trophy king salmon last weekend on the Smith River. The late fall-run salmon have made it to their spawning grounds with the help of the recent rains. Next up is the winter steelhead, which have begun to make their way into the coastal rivers. Photo courtesy of John Klar/John's Guide Service

The Humboldt rivers are all flowing nothing but brown water and won’t fish anytime soon. Did I mention that all the North Coast rivers are open to fishing?

Weekend forecast
According to Troy Nicolini of Eureka’s National Weather Service, we’ll like see the heaviest rainfall starting Wednesday evening. “We’re looking at one to two inches of rain from Del Norte to Humboldt, along with heavy winds. The upper elevations could see three inches. Steady showers will linger through Thursday and we could see another one to two inches. After a break on Friday, another system will arrive on Saturday and we may see up to two inches of rain over the weekend. Monday is looking dry, but we’ll see more systems move in early next week,” Nicolini added.

Humboldt Steelhead Days – Jan. 22 to Feb. 6
The 3rd Annual Humboldt Steelhead Days will run from Jan. 22 to Feb. 6 in 2016. The expanding event will now include three weekends, which will give participants 16 days of fishing. The Trinity River has also been added this year, giving anglers a better chance at catching the prized winter steelhead. The primary focus of the event is to promote steelhead angling opportunities on the Trinity, Mad and Eel Rivers, with fishing, educational events, expos, and food tastings happening throughout Humboldt County. For locals and out-of-town visitors alike, Humboldt Steelhead Day’s will include fishing contests, seminars, theatrical performances and films. This year’s event is being sponsored by Mad River Alliance, California Trout, Mountain Community and Culture, and Humboldt Lodging Alliance.

On Friday January 22, kick-off events will be held in three different locations.

Mad River Alliance will host a party at the Mad River Tap Room in Blue Lake from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; An opening reception will be held at the Coho Cottages, 76 Willow Road, Willow Creek, co-hosted by the Willow Creek Chamber of Commerce from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The Eel River kick-off event hosted by California Trout will be held at a location yet to be determined. For a complete list of events and registration information, visit

Updated shellfish warnings/advisories
The California Department of Public Health on Wednesday updated the warning regarding certain seafood caught in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. All bivalve shellfish except razor clams have been removed from the current health advisories. Recent samples have shown that the levels of domoic acid have declined and are non-detectable in mussels from this region. Advisories continue to be in place for Dungeness and rock crabs caught in waters between the Oregon border and the southern Santa Barbara County line. Consumers should also avoid eating razor clams. Razor clams can retain domoic acid for a long period of time and remain at dangerous levels for this toxin. For additional information, visit this webpage.

The Rivers:
Chetco River

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Chetco was flowing at 20,000 cfs and still rising. It’s predicted to peak early Thursday morning at roughly 26,000 cfs, and likely won’t fish until sometime next week. Once the river drops to a fishable level, we should start to see plenty of steelhead around.

Smith River
It doesn’t look like the Smith will be fishable at least through the weekend reports guide Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “If the rain falls as predicted, it will be sometime next week before we’re back on the water. There were quite a few salmon around before this big rise, and there may be a few around after, but it should mostly be a steelhead show from this point on,” Coopman added.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors, the Mad was fishable on Sunday, but has since blown out. He said, “There were a few steelhead caught last weekend, both wild and hatchery. I didn’t see or hear of any big ones caught, most were in the four to five pound range. Once the river drops and is fishable again, it should be game on for steelhead.”

Main Stem Eel, South Fork Eel and Van Duzen
All three of these systems were on the rise as of Wednesday and muddy. When they drop back into fishable shape will depend on the strength of the storms that are forecasted for next week. It’s possible the top of the South Fork Eel and Van Duzen could fish sometime next week. For river level predictions, visit this webpage.

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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