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Rivers are expected to go big

ll of the North Coast rivers, other than the Smith, were running high and dirty as of Wednesday. And the Smith will soon follow suit. The approaching storms, which should hit around dinner time on Thursday, could potentially bring another four to eight inches of rain to the area. If the storms come to fruition, it will be a nice little break at the perfect time.

When (and if) the rivers do drop back into fishable shape, my guess is we’ll see the first signs of the impending winter steelhead run. There’s already been a few caught on all the rivers, but with more high water coming, expect the steelies to start showing in numbers. But don’t give up entirely on salmon just yet. The Smith is still seeing fresh fish coming in daily and there should be some smaller spurts of fish coming into the Chetco, Eel and Mad.

Weekend weather and forecast
After a brief break, the next round of storms are forecasted to roll through starting Thursday afternoon according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “Thursday’s system could drop up to a couple inches in the Smith basin and roughly an inch in Humboldt. Friday is going to be the wettest day of the holiday weekend, with up to four inches falling to the north and three and a half inches falling in the Mad/Eel basin. Off and on showers will continue on Saturday, with another 2 inches potentially hitting the ground. We’ll see wide-spread showers on Sunday lasting through Tuesday, with most of the precipitation falling in the mountains. The rain will return on Wednesday and Thursday of next week,” Kennedy added.

«Redding residents Paul Rother, right, along with his son Cody landed a nice pair of Smith River kings on Tuesday. The Smith will likely be the only river in fishable shape this weekend following a series of wet storms forecasted to hit the North Coast starting Thursday afternoon. Photo courtesy of John Klar’s Guide Service.

The holiday weekend is not looking good for offshore crabbing adventures. Friday’s forecast is calling for SW winds 15 to 25 knots, with waves SW 8 feet at 8 seconds and W 15 feet at 15 seconds. Saturday is looking just as bad, with winds out of the NW to 15 to 25 knots with W waves 7 feet at 8 seconds and NW 12 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking slightly improved, with N winds 10 to 20 knots and NW waves 6 feet at 5 seconds and NW 10 feet at 12 seconds.

The forecast will likely change, so before you head out, check the marine forecast at and click on the marine tab. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit:

Commercial Dungeness crab season opens Dec. 1 in Northern California
The northern California commercial Dungeness crab season is slated to open at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line.

Prior to the season opening, commercial fishermen are allowed a 64-hour gear setting period. Crab trap gear can be set no earlier than 8 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 28. Quality tests conducted in northern California in November indicated the crabs are ready for harvest. For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit

Oregon commercial crab season delayed
Northern California commercial crabbers could soon have some company. In a press release issued earlier this week, the state agriculture officials in Oregon announced a delay to the start of the commercial Dungeness crabbing season statewide due to high levels of domoic acid found in some crabs' flesh. Recreational crabbing in coastal waters from Tillamook Head along the northern coast to the California border was also temporarily shut down. For more info, visit

Crabs plentiful for offshore anglers
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing reported some excellent crab scores earlier this week out of Eureka. On an overnight soak, he was getting up to 20 keepers per pot. “We started to see a few more jumbos this week along with plenty of legal sport size crabs. All the crabs are really full of meat,” Klassen added. With extremely rough seas forecasted for the next few days, Klassen pulled most of his gear and is likely done running trips. “The commercial guys could set gear as early as Monday, so we’ll want to give them plenty of room.”

The Rivers:
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.

Chetco River
The Chetco blew out on Sunday and will probably be too high to fish until the middle or even end of next week reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “Before it blew out, salmon fishing had slowed. There were a few bright fish between the North Fork and Social Security, and some fish between Loeb and Ice Box. Above Ice Box, a lot of salmon have already spawned. There should be enough steelhead to make targeting them worthwhile when the river comes back into shape.”

The Sixes has been fishing well when conditions have been good according to Marin. “It has been too high for over a week. The Elk dropped below 5 feet on Tuesday, and a few salmon where caught near the hatchery, and between Iron Head and the RV park. There should still be some bright kings around next week when the Elk drops back into shape.”

Smith River
Salmon fishing on the Smith has been quite a bit tougher since it dropped back into shape on Monday. Scores ranged from zero to two per boat, with lots more zero’s than two’s. We’re likely getting close to the end of the run, but we should know pretty quickly once the river drops back into shape late this weekend. According to the river level predictions, it will be on the high side Monday, but should be driftable. I’d expect a few winter steelhead to be in the mix.

Upper Trinity
According to Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service, fishing the past week on the upper Trinity has been a little tougher. “We’re in a transition stage where the older steelhead have started to move down to make room for the fresh ones coming up. We are seeing two to four fish per trip with flies, plugs, and side-drifting all working about the same. With quite a bit of rain in the forecast, we should start seeing more fish move into the system,” Huber added.

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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