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Green water on the horizon

Fishing the North Coast by Kenny Priest, author badge,

here is light at the end of the rainy tunnel! The large storms that have pounded the North Coast for the past week are finally starting to taper off. Rain is in the forecast up until Monday, but it doesn’t look like enough moisture will fall to put the rivers back on the rise. Come Tuesday, we should enter into a dry pattern that should last until next weekend.

With the rivers on the drop now, and another five days of dry weather, we’re looking at quite a few rivers rounding into prime shape by late next week. Other than the Smith, most of the other coastal rivers have been largely untouched. That will change soon, and I for one am looking forward to it.

 Mary Bigger landed her first-ever steelhead, photo by Allan's Guide Service
Blocksburg resident Mary Bigger landed her first-ever steelhead while drifting the Smith River last Wednesday. With dry weather forecasted for next week, coastal rivers should drop back into fishable shape. Photo courtesy of Alan's Guide Service

Weather Outlook
It appears we’re done with the mega-storms, at least for a while. According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, a cold system will move into the area beginningWednesday night and will linger through Friday morning. “Snow levels will be low, from 1,500 to 2,000 feet. We could see from a half to three-quarter inches of rain through Friday. Friday night through Saturday are looking dry, with the next system arrivingSunday. Sunday’s system should bring another half to three-quarter inches and will stick around until Monday morning. Snow is predicted above 3,000 feet. High pressure will build after Monday, pushing storms to our North. Right now we’re looking at dry weather Tuesday through Saturday before the next system arrivesSunday,” Kennedy added.

Third Annual Humboldt Steelhead Days – Jan. 22 to Feb. 6
The 3rd Annual Humboldt Steelhead Days fishing contest — as well as a multitude of angling related events -- will span two weeks with three weekends for a total of sixteen days of steelhead angling on three North Coast rivers: Trinity, Mad and Eel.

HSD starts on Jan. 22 with kick off parties on all three rivers and ends on Feb. 6 with an awards dinner and steelhead presentations at the new Sequoia Conference Center in Eureka. Visit the HSD webpage to see a list of all the other events.

HSD encourages anglers of all types to explore these three watersheds and to fish for a steelhead during the peak of the winter run. If you’re lucky enough to land a steelhead, take a photo and then post it to the HSD Facebook page and hashtag them with #humboldtsteelheaddays.

All anglers are encouraged to donate a $35 contest registration fee via the HSD website. Your donation will register you into the fishing contest, plus you’ll get a FREE Tri-Tip dinner ticket for the awards ceremony on Feb. 6. Your $35 will go toward future river restoration projects.

All the anglers who registered and submitted a photo of their steelhead during the contest dates will be eligible to win prizes. More than $3,500 worth of fishing and outdoor gear donated by the HSD sponsors is up for grabs.

Among the unique angling opportunities will be drift boat access to the middle Mad River "Steelhead Alley," courtesy of Green Diamond Resource Company. 4-wheel drive is required. Your donation of $100 per boat will go toward local conservation, education, and restoration relating to steelhead and the health of the Mad River.

All the proceeds from Humboldt Steelhead Days will support river restoration, water education, and enhancement programs done by Mad River Alliance, California Trout’s Eel River Forum and projects of Mountain Community and Culture group in Willow Creek. Special hotel room rates have been arranged for out-of-the-area anglers by the Humboldt Lodging Alliance. To receive special rates, please ask for the Humboldt Steelhead Days rates over the phone when booking. Visit HSD Lodging page on the website for more info.

For sponsorship information, contact Dave Feral at or 707-382-6162. Sponsorship information is also available 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 below 10,000 cfs on Wednesday morning and the forecast is for the river to continue its downward trend. “It looks like it will fish towards the weekend, and the first of next week we’ll have some really good conditions,” said Val Early of Early Fishing Guide Service. “We’re still getting some rain up here, with some really good downpours. Plunkers are hitting the banks already but I haven’t heard a great report as the river is still a bit high,” Early added.

Smith River
Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service reports the Smith should be high but fishable by Friday, with conditions looking good for the weekend. “It will be high on Friday, roughly 12 feet on the Jed Smith gauge, but it should be plenty fishable. The weekend is shaping up nicely and the first of next week looks about perfect if we don’t get any more big rains. I’m sure a good shot of fish went through on the high water, but we’re just at the front edge of the season. I’m expecting to see plenty of fish around when we get back out there,” Coopman added.

Eel and Van Duzen rivers
According to Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods, the main stem Eel is likely done until after the first of the year. As of Wednesday, it was flowing at 60,000 cfs on the Scotia gauge, but dropping. The south fork is also dropping, and according to Grundman, will be iffy at best to fish before the first of the year. The Van Duzen may fish sometime late next week, depending on how much rain falls in the next few days and what shape Yager Creek is in. “The Mattole, which opens to fishing onJanuary 1, may be a good option,” Grundman added.

Mad River
The Mad dipped below monitor stage on Tuesday and is dropping slowly. With Ruth Lake running over the spillway, the Mad may be the last of the coastal rivers to turn green. “It may take two weeks of no rain before its green enough to fish bait,” said Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors in Eureka. “With all the rain and snow, and now the extra water coming down, it will be slow to clear. I’m sure there’s fish around, and I’d expect we’ll see plenty of angling effort as the water recedes,” Kelly added.

Upper Trinity
With over 700 steelhead making their way back to the hatchery last week alone, that’s probably the end of the fall steelhead run on the Trinity reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. He said, “Prior to the river blowing out on Sunday, fishing was good in the Junction City area. We landed quite a few on Thursday, with most in the four to seven pound range. The fish were real clean and I believe they were the first of the winter fish. Earlier in the week conditions weren’t ideal. The creeks were dirty, leaving the top end from Lewiston to Rush Creek as your best bet. Currently, the snow is melting pretty quick, which will keep the flows up.”

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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