As we wait patiently for our "Miracle March," there is at least some rain in the immediate forecast. While it's not much, anything at this point is beneficial. Currently we have way more rivers closed to fishing than open. As for the upcoming rain, the Humboldt area could see up to a half inch, which could open back up the Mad and Van Duzen rivers temporarily. Further north, where most of the rain has and will fall, the Chetco saw a pretty good rise Monday but has since turned green. By Thursday, it could be the most popular river on the coast. The Smith rose slightly Monday and gained about 230 cubic feet per second. Additional rain is predicted for the next few days, which will surely help the fishing. The Eel River system, unfortunately, was not in this storm's path, and remains low and clear. With a month left in the winter steelhead season, the outlook for a wet finish isn't looking good. I hope I'm wrong.
The weather ahead
Rain is in the forecast starting Wednesday evening and lingering into Friday, according to Zahaira Velez of Eureka's National Weather Service office. "From Wednesday through Friday, the Smith basin could see up to 1.5 inches," Velez said. "Here in Humboldt, we may see up to a half inch. There could be some sprinkles on Saturday, then we're looking dry until at least Tuesday."
As of Wednesday, the South Fork Eel, Middle Fork Eel, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Van Duzen and Mad are currently closed to fishing due to low flows. The South Fork Eel is closed from its mouth to Rattlesnake Creek. The Middle Fork Eel is closed from its mouth to Bar Creek. The Mattole is closed to fishing from the mouth to Honeydew Creek. Redwood Creek is closed from its mouth to the confluence with Bond Creek. The Van Duzen is closed from its junction with the Eel River to the end of Golden Gate Drive near Bridgeville (approximately 4,000 feet upstream of Little Golden Gate Bridge. The Mad is closed from the Hammond Trial Railroad Trestle to Cowan Creek. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any stream will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is 822-3164.
Closed to fishing as of Tuesday morning. It's predicted to rise early Friday morning and should be open to fishing prior to the weekend if the rain comes as planned. Minimum flow is 200 cfs at the State Route 299 bridge.
Eel River (main stem)
As of Tuesday, flows were right around 1,320 cfs at Scotia. The water is low and clear and the fishing remains up and down. The boats still fishing are getting a chance at a few fish per trip. Most of the fish being caught are still bright.
The east-to-west running Van Duzen is projected to see enough rain the next couple of days to warrant opening back up to fishing. Flows are projected to hit 670 cfs by Friday morning. Depending on when the rain hits, it could open Friday. Minimum flow is 150 cfs at Grizzly Creek.
The Smith rose slightly the past couple days and was running at 1,140 cfs on Wednesday and rising. The river will likely remain clear, but the extra flows should bring in some fresh fish as well as put the downers on the move. Even with low and clear conditions, there are fish being caught by the few boats still drifting.
Southern Oregon rivers
The Chetco reached its highest flows since Jan. 15 on Monday, after the biggest rain since the first week of January, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. "Although only 2,100 cfs, the river is brown and muddy," said Martin. "With more rain expected through the middle of the week, the river may not be in shape for drift boaters until Friday. Typically, steelhead fishing is good after a prolonged dry spell. Fishing has been slow the past week because of low flows and the difficult time anglers had getting boats down the river. The rain also is expected to boost fishing on the Elk, Sixes and lower Rogue rivers. Early March generally is good on all three systems if there are good flows. Expect a few early spring salmon to show up in the catch on the Rogue this week."
Brookings ocean report
"Lingcod and rockfish action continues to be good out of Brookings on calm weather days," said Martin. "Limits of both are being caught. With the higher flows on the Chetco, anglers will have to fish a little further to the north to avoid freshwater. Crabbing has been slow. Surfperch are biting at Crissy Field and from both jetties. Smelt remain thick inside the Brookings boat basin."
Read the complete fishing roundup at www.northcoastjournal.com.
Kenny Priest (he/him) operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.