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​ Smith, Chetco kicking out large kings

hile the majority of the North Coast rivers are back on the rise following the rain earlier in the week, I’m wondering if anyone really cares? The spotlight has — and will continue to be — squarely on the Smith River. And for good reason. When fishable, the Smith has given up trophy-sized kings on a daily basis since the first big rain. After dropping into shape last Friday, the Chetco took some of the boat pressure off the Smith, and pumped out some very big kings as well. It was not uncommon to see multiple 30-pound salmon landed on both rivers every fishable day. With the forecast calling for off and on rain for the next week, expect both of these rivers to remain the epicenter for coastal king fishing.

Weekend Weather
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, we’re still in the middle of a wet pattern, with off and on rain in the forecast for the next week. “In Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, Thursday’s rain could drop up to a half to an inch of rain. Another quarter to a half is likely to fall on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday is predicted to be a little wetter, with a half to one inch possible in both counties. Monday is looking dry at the moment, but periods of light rain are in the forecast for Tuesday. A wetter system will arrive on Wednesday, with potentially two inches falling,” Kennedy added.

Rockfish seasons set to close
The recreational rockfish season for boat-based anglers will come to a close on Monday, Oct. 31. The weekend weather doesn’t look to promising for a last minute run to the Cape, or anywhere for that matter. Friday’s forecast is calling for winds out of the south 5 to 10 knots and 7 foot waves at 15 seconds. The winds will increase up to 15 knots on Saturday, with SW waves 4 feet at 7 seconds and NW 11 feet at 16 seconds.

Sunday isn’t looking much better, with winds out of the south 5 to 10 knots and SW waves 6 feet at 9 seconds and NW 9 feet at 15 seconds.

Dungeness crab sport fishery to open statewide
The Dungeness crab sport fishery is scheduled to open statewide on Saturday, Nov. 5.

According to DFG Senior Marine Biologist Pete Kalvass, who oversees the Invertebrate Management Project, CDFW will begin collecting crab next week for meat yields, weather depending. For more information regarding recreational Dungeness crab fishing regulations and other crab species, please visit the DFG Marine Region website.

The Rivers:
River Notes

All North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Smith, Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, and Van Duzen are currently open to fishing. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. NOTE: CA Fish and Game would like to remind anglers to check the CDFW Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for the Eel River and other catch and release, barbless hook-only north coast streams and rivers. Also, in waters where the bag limit is zero for trout and salmon, the fish must be released unharmed and should not be removed from the water. For more information, visit

Smith River
The river is forecasted to jump up to nearly 14 feet on Thursday afternoon, which will likely put it at a dangerous level to drift reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. He said, “It should be fishable by Friday, but the water will still be on the high side. There’s lots of fish in the river right now, which is great for October. We’ve had these early rains plenty of years, and I don’t think it changes the length of the season at all. From what I’ve seen so far, I think we’re in for a great season. It’s likely we’ll see some lulls here and there, but my feeling is this year could be special.”

King Salmon, 40 lb, Photo courtesy ofAndy Martin/Wild Rivers Fishing
Kyle McGill of Grants Pass, Ore., holds a 40-pound king he caught Oct. 25 on the Smith River with a 5.0 MagLip plug while fishing with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. Also pictured is Bill Ogren and Kenneth Ogren, also of Grants Pass. Photo courtesy ofAndy Martin/Wild Rivers Fishing

Reminder: A North Coast Salmon Report Card is required to fish for salmon on the Smith River. The daily bag and possession limit is 1 Chinook salmon and no more than 5 wild Chinook salmon per year.

According to guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing, the Chetco first came into shape last Thursday afternoon, once it got down to 4,300 cfs. “By Friday the river was below 4,000 cfs and fished great from top to bottom. Most guides got three to eight kings a day.

Fishing pressure was heavy on Saturday, but fishing was still good. There were good numbers of bright kings caught near the North Fork, Moffet Rock and Tamba. Sunday was surprisingly quiet, with only a handful of guides and private boaters. There were lots of fresh fish on the lower river. We did well on Friday and Saturday with 5.0 MagLips with sardine wraps. On Sunday, roe fished below bobbers or with divers worked better.”

According to Martin, the river was high on Tuesday and likely to blow out the rest of the week.

Anglers are reminded that from the power line crossing at RM 2.2 upstream to Nook Creek (RM 14) from Sept. 1 through Nov. 3, angling is restricted to fly angling and bobber angling only, with 1 single point hook. Fly angling gear must include a strike indicator. Bobber angling gear must include a bobber and a leader no longer than 36 inches in length. Any weight (except the bobber or strike indicator) may be no more than 36 inches from the hook when suspended vertically. The leader below the bobber or strike indicator must remain suspended in the water column and not resting on the river bottom. The daily/seasonal bag limit is 2 Chinook daily, only one may be unclipped. 20 seasonal, no more than 5 may be unclipped.

The Sixes fished better than the Elk over the weekend and early this week, but was high on Tuesday according to Martin. “The rains brought the Elk back to prime levels, and it will probably be the best bet for the Southern Oregon coastal rivers this weekend. The Elk fishes best during rainy periods. The Sixes may be blown out the rest of the week.”

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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