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Steelhead make a showing on the Smith

Kenny Priest Fishing the North Coast,

ast week’s deluge put a little bit of a damper on the start of our coastal winter steelhead season. All of the North Coast rivers blew out, and some, like the Smith, even surpassed flood stage. But the quick-clearing Smith rebounded nicely, and by Tuesday it had receded enough to provide some decent action for those plunking by shore and boat. There were reportedly quite a few fish taken, mostly on the lower river. On Wednesday it had dropped just below 11 feet on the Jed Smith gauge, which is a good level for side-drifting. A handful of boats were out, and most of them caught a few adult steelhead. But now it looks like more wet weather is ahead, which will keep boats off the water until sometime next week. At least we know the fish are there, and that’s the most important part.

 Josh Rubio of Brookings landed a nice early-season winter steelhead Wednesday on the Smith River. After exceeding flood stage on Sunday, the Smith receded back to a beautiful emerald green color on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman's Guide Service

Josh Rubio of Brookings landed a nice early-season winter steelhead Wednesday on the Smith River. After exceeding flood stage on Sunday, the Smith receded back to a beautiful emerald green color on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman's Guide Service

Weekend Forecast -- More rain on the wayAccording to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, rain will be in the forecast every day from Thursday until mid-next week. “The first big storm will arrive Thursday night and go through Friday. Del Norte could see anywhere from three to five inches and Humboldt may see two to four inches. Saturday should bring showers, with snow hitting elevations above 3,000 feet. After a break on Saturday night, another big wave of precipitation will begin on Sunday and stick around through Tuesday. The rainfall totals are still moving around, but Del Norte could see from five to seven inches, four to six inches could hit Humboldt, and the Eel basin may see up to five inches. More showers are on tap for Wednesday, and looking out longer shows a continued wet pattern,” Kennedy added.

2016 Fishing license
A reminder that it’s the time of the year to purchase your 2016 license, which is required for residents 16 years of age or older to take fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, amphibians or reptile in inland or ocean waters. The cost of a new resident sport fishing license is $47.01. A North Coast salmon report card, which will run you $6.22, is required for all anglers taking salmon in the Smith River System or Klamath-Trinity River System. If you plan to fish for steelhead, you’ll need to purchase a steelhead report card, which will cost $7.05 again this year. Fishing licenses and reports cards are available to purchase online. For more information, visit this CA DFW website.

Holiday gift ideas for outdoor enthusiasts
If you’re looking for a great holiday gift for the outdoor enthusiasts in your life, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has a couple options according to their website. The 2016 Warden Stamp, a decal that can be displayed on vehicles and other items to show your support for California's wildlife officers, is available online for a donation of just $5. Also, CDFW's award-winning publication Outdoor California has a special offer. For just $12 for six issues, a 20-percent discount for the holidays, you can celebrate the state’s natural habitat and wildlife through in-depth features and outstanding photography. If there's an angler on your list, consider purchasing a fishing license gift voucher for $47.01. All items are available for purchase online.

Mattole River set to open Jan 1
The Mattole River is scheduled to open to fishing on January 1, 2016 from 200 yards upstream of its mouth to the confluence with Stansberry Creek. Barbless hooks are required. The Mattole is also regulated by low flow closures, with a minimum flow of 320 cfs at the Petrolia gauging station.

The Rivers:
Chetco River

Flows were back down under 6,000 cfs late Wednesday, but it was a brief reprieve. With more rain on the way, it’s predicted to peak at roughly 26,000 cfs on Friday morning. According to Val Early of Early Fishing Guide Service, after the next rise, it looks like it will be on the drop through next week. “I’m guessing we’ll be back on the water somewhere toward the beginning of the week. Plunking will be good when the river gets down below 12,000 cfs, although people will be out there before that time too. It looks like we’re done with major rain for a little bit anyway,” Early added.

Smith River
The Smith was a beautiful emerald green on Wednesday reports guide Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, but unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the color will stick around. He said, “The good news is there seems to be quite a few fish around. The bad news is we were only able to get a couple days on the water before it blows out again. The river fished really well on Tuesday and Wednesday, everyone I saw was catching fish. There were also a few hatchery fish landed too. It looks like the flows will be unstable into next week, I’m hoping we get a few days of plunking in.”

Eel, South Fork Eel and Van Duzen rivers
Both the upper South Fork Eel and Van Duzen dropped to a fishable level by Wednesday, but remained off-color. Both are predicted to blowout again with the next round of storms. The main stem Eel dropped to 7,000 cfs, but wasn’t close to fishable. Like the rest of the rivers, it too will blowout, peaking at over 33,000 cfs sometime Saturday afternoon.

Mad River
Receded to just about eight feet on Wednesday evening, but was still off-color. With more rain on the way, it doesn’t look like it will be green anytime soon. Projected to hit 12-feet on Friday afternoon and hang around 10-feet through Monday.

Upper Trinity
Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service reports the Trinity colored up slightly following last week’s rain, but it’s back to mostly clear. He said, “The water is a little bigger, but it’s nice and clear. All the creeks are running clear and cold. It’s been real cold in the morning, which has thinned the crowds slightly. With the larger flows, a lot of fish are on their spawning beds and quite a few late fall steelhead moved into the upper river. We haven’t seen any winter fish show up yet, but they should be making their way through the Klamath and the lower Trinity now.”

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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