North Coast Rivers Getting Some Much-Needed Rain

Ken Bergen of Sunny Brae landed a nice king salmon on Monday while drifting the Smith River. With more rain in the forecast, the Smith should be in fishable shape through the weekend.

by Kenny Priest
11-19-2020
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Trying to follow along with last week’s rain predictions was similar to buying stocks on the day of the crash. What a rollercoaster ride! But when it was all said and done, the rain finally fell and filled the rivers to our north with some much-needed rain. The Humboldt rivers, including the Mad, Eel and Van Duzen, are all getting a good soaking this week as well.

Both the Smith and Chetco saw sizable rises Friday evening, and the Smith was opened to fishing first thing Saturday morning. The boats that took a chance did very well, with anglers landing lots of both bright and dark fish. A much bigger storm arrived on Saturday evening, putting the Smith on a vertical rise for most of Sunday. The river was high Monday morning but quickly dropped into fishable shape. Over on the Chetco, the storms pushed flows to over 8,000 cubic feet per second on Sunday afternoon. This is what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was hoping for as it waited on high, consistent flows prior to opening the river to fishing. With more rain in the forecast this week, ODFW finally lifted the low-flow closures beginning Tuesday morning.

Looking toward the weekend, the Smith is predicted to peak on Wednesday afternoon at 11 feet on the Jed Smith gauge. It will be on the drop Thursday and through the weekend, but should remain open to fishing. The Chetco will likely draw a crowd this week and into the weekend as the flows settle into the 2,000 cfs range. For current Smith River conditions, visit www.cdec.water.ca.gov/river/smithStages.html. For the Chetco, visit www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/river/station/flowplot/flowplot.cgi?lid=CHTO3.

Weather ahead
According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, we can expect to see more storms headed our way. “Following a pretty good system on Wednesday; we will dry out for a few days,” said Zontos. “Right now, Thursday through Sunday afternoon look dry but more rain could move in on Sunday night. More persistent rainfall is on tap next Monday through Wednesday. We may see some lighter rain on Thanksgiving, before additional storms begin on Friday and into the weekend. For the seven-day period ending next Tuesday, it’s possible the Smith basin could see 3 to 5 inches. On the lower Eel and Humboldt, we could see up to 3 inches while further up the Eel could see an inch or less. Above normal precipitation is possible from the 22nd through the end of the month.”

Weekend Marine Forecast
Northerly winds will return this weekend, but the ocean looks to be fishable for the sport crabbers. Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 5 to 10 knots with north waves 5 feet at 5 seconds and northwestern 4 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking better, with winds out of the north up to 5 knots and northwestern waves 5 feet at 15 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Sport crab fishing update
Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing reports the crabbing is decent out of Eureka. “Due to the weather, we haven’t put a whole lot of time in yet,” said Klassen. “We fished a few days last week, and we averaged around 10 keepers per trap out near 100 feet of water. The crabs are in great shape, with nice hard shells. We’re not seeing very many jumbos, maybe one or two per trap. From what I’m hearing, both sides outside of the entrance are fishing about the same. The weather looks fishable Thursday through the weekend,” Klassen added. Crabbing inside Humboldt Bay has been spotty according to Klassen. “The quality has been good, but guys are only getting a couple per trip.”

The Rivers:
Other than the Smith, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen, were closed as of Tuesday. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline, 822-3164, to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. CDFW will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Rivers will not automatically open to fishing once minimum flows are reached.

Mad River
Predicted to peak at 490 cfs early Thursday morning before dropping through the weekend. Minimum flows are 200 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

Main Eel
Forecasted to reach 685 cfs early Thursday evening. Minimum flows are 350 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

Van Duzen
Predicted to peak at 420 cfs on Thursday morning. Minimum flows are 150 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

South Fork Eel
Flows are predicted to peak at 490 cfs early Thursday morning Minimum flows for 340 cfs to lift angling restrictions.

Smith River
The Smith peaked at over 11,500 cfs Sunday afternoon on the Jed Smith gauge, but was fishable by Monday. Quite a few boats were on the water, spread out from the forks to the outfitters. Fishing was reportedly decent, with most boats getting a chance at least one adult. Quite a few jacks, along with some darker fish, were supposedly caught. Flows hit nearly 12,000 cfs on Wednesday afternoon, but will then be on the drop through Sunday.

Chetco River
The Chetco opened on Tuesday, but stormy, windy weather and high flows resulted in poor fishing reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “The river was blown out by 10 a.m. on the opener. Before it opened, the Chetco was full of salmon. ODFW easily met its goal for broodstock collection for the hatchery. Better conditions are expected this weekend.”

Elk/Sixes
According to Martin, the Elk and Sixes have been high but mostly fishable. “Lots of salmon have returned to Elk River Hatchery. After Wednesday’s rain, both rivers should be in prime shape just before the weekend,” added Martin.

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