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Green rivers on the horizon

Fishing the North Coast by Kenny Priest, author badge,

t finally looks like steelhead-green rivers will be found somewhere other than the Smith and Chetco. After a very wet January, we’ll see a break from the rain beginning this weekend that may stick around for up to a week. If the forecast holds and the rain stays away, all of the coastal rivers should be green by sometime next week, including the main stem Eel. Both the Smith and Chetco have been chocked full of steelhead for the past couple weeks, and the hope is the Eel, Mad, Van Duzen and Redwood Creek are as well. Looks like we’ll get to find out very soon.

Weekend Weather
After an extremely rainy January, we’re finally going to get a break beginning this weekend. According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, Thursday will be dry, but another weak front will clip Northern California on Friday. Rainfall totals could reach a half inch in the most northern part of the state, while Humboldt may see a quarter inch. A high pressure ridge will move in on Saturday, which will keep us dry through at least next Thursday,” Kennedy added.

Haleigh Skillman with steelhead caught on Smith river, Photo courtesy of John Klar's guide Service
Chico resident Haleigh Skillman, shows off a dandy steelhead caught Monday on the Smith River. The Smith, along with the Chetco, are both full of ocean-fresh winter steelhead and conditions should be excellent through the weekend. Photo courtesy of John Klar’s Guide Service

Humboldt Steelhead Days awards dinner on Feb. 6
The two-week long steelhead celebration will come to a close this Saturday with an awards dinner catered by Blackberry Bramble BBQ. The dinner will be held at the Sequoia Conference Center in Eureka from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. for participants with their HSD ticket. Anglers who sent in their steelhead photos will be entered into a $4,000 prize pool of donated outdoor gear and fishing equipment. Tickets will be available at the door with cash or check. For more information, visit

Upcoming meetings
California Fish and Game Commission meeting will be held Feb 10-11 at the Resources Building Auditorium, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento at 10 a.m. To view the meeting agenda, visit here. Topics include recommendations concerning the fishing closures at the mouth of Blue Creek and any other issues regarding the Klamath River Basin sport fishing.

CDFW’s Annual Salmon Information meeting will be held March 2, at 9:30 a.m. to 3:30p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa. The public is invited to attend CDFW’s annual meeting on the status of California salmon populations and the outlook for 2016 ocean salmon fisheries. For more information, please contact Kandice Morgenstern at (707) 576-2879 or

Halibut Commission announces 2016 catch limits and seasons
The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) completed its Ninety-second annual meeting in Juneau, AK on January 29, 2016. More than 280 halibut industry stakeholders attended the meeting, with over 80 more participating in web broadcasts of the public sessions. The Commission is recommending to the governments of Canada and the United States catch limits for 2016 totaling 29.89 million pounds. The California sport harvest will be 29,640 pounds, up from 25,220 pounds in 2015.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
The river is in absolutely beautiful shape, the best I’ve seen in years reports guide Alan Borges of Alan’s Guide Service. He said, “There’s lots of fish in the river right now, from the top all the way to the bottom. Boats and bank anglers have both done well the last few days. There seems to be quite a few hatchery fish around as well.”

Smith River
The Smith is in great shape and fishing really well according to guide Mike Coopman. Boats have been averaging four to five fish per day, which is really good for the Smith. We’ll likely see a little bump in the flows on Thursday, but it should only help the fishing. The water still has real good color, and there’s plenty of fish throughout the system,” Coopman added.

Eel and Van Duzen rivers
It looks like the break in the weather will finally get these systems down to fishable levels reports Fred Grundman of Grundman’s Sporting Goods in Rio Dell. “The top of the South Fork around Leggett should be getting close to fishable, and it could fish down to the forks by early next week or possibly this weekend. The main is still dirty and big, but it’s dropping quickly. The top of the main should fish by early next week. The flows on the Van Duzen were looking good, but it was still way off color on Wednesday,” Grundman added.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors, the river is still high and dirty, but dropping quick. “It’s forecasted to drop down to around 2,500 cfs by Sunday, which is usually when it starts to turn green. It should be in great shape for bait fishermen by early next week. The reports from the guys who’ve been fishing this week is there seems to be quite a few fish around, both fresh and ones that have been in the river for awhile,” Kelly added.

The river is still in good shape above the North Fork, but it’s still a little on the big side. Snow fell a good part of the day on Tuesday, which should keep the flows at a good level. Rain was in the forecast for Wednesday, which could muddy up some of the creeks. There’s hasn’t been much boat pressure and catch reports have been hard to come by.

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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