Rivers Dropping, Green Water Headed Our Way

Sac area resident Casey Eklund landed a monster hatchery steelhead Monday while fishing the Smith River.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Redwood Coast Fishing with Mike Stratman

by Kenny Priest
1-14-2022
Website

Following last week’s deluge, all the coastal rivers other than the Smith are now on the verge of turning green. After reaching nearly 39,000 cubic feet per second on the Jed Smith gauge Jan. 4, the quick-clearing Smith rebounded quickly and was driftable Sunday. Plunkers were out in force Monday on the Chetco and boats were drifting by Tuesday. Locally, all of the rivers are on the cusp of green water. The South Fork Eel will be fishable later this week with Redwood Creek, the Van Duzen and the Mad right behind it. The main stem Eel should come around sometime next week. With the North Coast gripped by an extended dry pattern that could last a couple more weeks, steelhead anglers will have no problem finding fishable water. And from the reports I’m hearing, there are plenty of steelhead to be had.

Weather ahead
For at least the next seven days, it’s looking like we’ll remain dry with no significant rainfall. According to James White of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we could see light rainfall Wednesday evening, but it won’t affect river levels. “We’re looking at less than a tenth of an inch,” White said. “After that, we’re looking dry through the weekend and into early next week.”

The Rivers:
Mad
The Mad is still high and brown, but there are plenty of fish in the river. Most of the fish are holding right below the hatchery and people are getting quite a few hookups a day. It was right around 10 feet Tuesday and is predicted to be down to 9 feet by Saturday morning. It will likely start to turn green early next week.

Main stem Eel
The Eel is dropping slowly but dipped under 10,000 cfs Wednesday and has started to turn greenish. It’s predicted to be around 6,500 cfs by the end of the weekend and should start to fish sometime next week.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork is dropping into shape and should be fishable by the end of the week down to the confluence. Above Benbow and around Garberville is green and fishing. Flows are predicted right around 1,600 cfs on the Miranda gauge Friday morning.

Van Duzen
The Duzen is still on the big side, flowing at 1,075 cfs as of Wednesday, but is starting to turn green. Will be fishable by the weekend as its forecast to be under 800 cfs by Saturday morning.

Smith
During Saturday’s highwater, plunkers did well, with some getting multiple hookups. The river dropped into driftable shape Sunday and the handful of boats drifting the Forks to Ruby did well, averaging two to three fresh steelhead. Monday the bite slowed slightly, with boats getting anywhere from zero to four opportunities. The river is clearing and dropping quickly, but should be in good shape the rest of the week.

Chetco
“Plunkers did very well over the weekend and on Monday on the Chetco, which dropped back into shape after hitting 20,000 cfs a week ago,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Big numbers of hatchery fish were caught at Loeb Park. Flows were below 4,000 cfs Tuesday morning, the stage where side-drifting starts to improve. Boaters fishing plugs in the slower water did well on Monday, and success for those drifting bait or beads is expected to dramatically improve this week with lower flows. Steelhead fishing has been better than the last several years so for this season.”

Rogue/Elk/Sixes
The lower Rogue fished well for steelhead before last week’s blowout and should fish even better as it drops into shape the next few days, reports Martin. “Flows at Agness peaked at 30,000 cfs last week and were down to 7,700 on Tuesday. Around 5,000 cfs is ideal for running MagLip plugs on anchor. The Elk River also is in good shape and the Sixes will fish before the weekend.”

Brookings ocean update
Boaters at the Port of Brookings had the first calm day of the year Sunday according to Martin. “Limits of rockfish were quick near Bird Island and Twin Rocks. Lingcod fishing was slow to fair, with a few nice keepers in 40 to 60 feet of water. Lots of water coming out of the Chetco made crabbing slow close to the harbor, but a few keepers are showing up in pots in 80 to 95 feet of water. Fishing for red tail surf perch has been good near the south jetty and at Chrissy Field.”

Find "Fishing the North Coast" on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.