The season's first sizeable storms are bearing down on the North Coast. And that means hard-charging, fresh-from-the-salt king salmon — big and bright — will be making their way up all of our coastal rivers starting this weekend. So, if you see a steady stream of drift boats heading north on U.S. Highway 101, you'll know why. The Smith and Chetco rivers should be fishable on Saturday, but both will be on a pretty decent rise. Both rivers should have fresh kings moving through, and expect plenty of debris and leaves, as well.
As of Wednesday, the Smith is predicted to peak at just over 1,100 cubic feet per second on the Jed Smith gauge on Saturday evening. With the rain tapering off over the weekend, the river will drop slightly on Sunday. The next big weather system arriving Monday will put the river on an even steeper rise the first half of next week. The Chetco flows should mirror the Smith. Following a decent rise on Saturday, it will drop on Sunday. As the rain ramps up on Monday, expect a steady rise all week and reaching roughly 5,500 cfs on Friday.
According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka's National Weather Service, the North Coast will see pulses of rain Thursday through Sunday. "The bulk of the rain will fall on Thursday and Friday, with lighter rain in the forecast for the weekend," said Zontos. "The first half of next week is looking wet as well before letting up late next week. For the seven-day period ending next Tuesday morning, the Smith basin could see 5 inches of rain. Here in Humboldt, 3 to 5 inches are likely and the lower Eel basin could see 3 to 4 inches.
The Mad, Eel and Van Duzen rivers are all expected to rise slightly this weekend, but it doesn't look like it'll be enough to open them to fishing. With more rain coming early next week, they should open to fishing next week, but don't expect green water. Call the low-flow hotline (822-3164) before you head out to determine if your favorite river is open or closed to fishing.
Weekend Marine Forecast
After a few decent days, the ocean is forecast is predicted rough seas by Friday. Winds will turn southerly Thursday, and will continue to pick up Friday. Hazardous sea conditions will also develop later Friday and Saturday with the arrival of a larger northwest swell. Saturday’s forecast is calling for south winds 5 to 10 knots with northwestern waves 13 feet at 13 seconds. Sunday is looking better, with winds out of the south 10 to 15 knots and northwestern waves 9 feet at 13 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 Dungeness crab update
Conditions made for some tough crabbing over the weekend. Boats weren't able to head offshore until Monday to set their gear due to extremely rough seas. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing was pulling pots on Tuesday morning for clients and reported a solid 10-keeper-per-pot average. Inside Humboldt Bay and some of the local estuaries reported some decent fishing with a few keepers per trap along with plenty of small ones. The keeper crabs are full and clean.
The Rivers: Smith
Fishing at the mouth and the Sand Hole was dead over the weekend, according to Britt Carson of Crescent City's Englund Marine. "Up river, every hole is full of salmon but they are mostly dark," said Carson. "Once the rain hits this weekend, those fish will be moving quickly to the spawning grounds. The hope is that there's lots of new ones in the ocean that will come in with the increased flows."
"The Chetco is full of salmon, with fish spread throughout the river, and should fish well if it opens this weekend," said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing in Brookings. "It could blow out by Sunday if the forecast is correct. Anything above 4,000 cfs this time of year will be muddy. Chetco kings will still bite in high flows on the softer edges of the long flats, like the Willow Run below Loeb Park and Moffett Rock. ODFW will make a decision to open based on the arrival of the storm, probably on Thursday or Friday."
New Zealand Mud Snails found in the Mad River
In mid-October, a large density of New Zealand Mud Snails were discovered near the Annie Mary Bridge by the Blue Lake Tribes Environmental Dept. The tiny aquatic snails can reach, on average, up to 4-6 mm long in the western United States. Upon reaching maturity at 3 mm, females can produce 230 new females per year; estimates indicate that one snail and its offspring can result in more than 2.7 billion snails within 4 years according to CDFW. They may consume up to half of the food resources in a stream or river and have been linked to reduced populations of aquatic insects, including mayflies, caddisflies, chironomids and other insects important to trout and salmon.
They are found on a wide variety of substrates and vegetation in fresh and brackish lakes, rivers, streams, and estuaries. Dense populations become the dominant macroinvertebrate through displacing and outcompeting native species; some North American streams have reached densities over 750,000 individuals/m2.
Once in the river, getting rid of them is impossible, but there are way to minimize the spread. This is extremely important as we approach winter steelhead season with anglers moving from river to river. Many AIS (aquatic invasive species) are difficult, if not impossible, to see in the environment and can be unknowingly transported to new locations on equipment. Therefore, decontamination is necessary to prevent the spread of AIS between different waterbody locations. To achieve this, equipment should be decontaminated following the protocols outlined in this document. All equipment that comes into contact with water during field activities and watercraft should be decontaminated using one or more of the protocols listed below.
General procedures to prevent the spread of AIS:
• If decontamination is not done on site, transport contaminated equipment in sealed plastic bags and keep separate from clean gear.
• Gear may be dedicated for a specific field site but should be left on site and be cleaned when moved off site.
• Sets of field gear may be rotated in and out of field per cleaning cycle.
• When practical, begin work upstream and work downstream. This avoids transporting AIS to non-infested upstream areas.
Equipment Decontamination/Disinfection Methods
Option 1: Standard Decontamination Freeze + Saltwater Immersion + Dry
This option consists of three parts, as freezing alone may not kill some organisms
• Scrub gear before leaving field with a stiff-bristled brush to remove all debris. Thoroughly brush small crevices such as boot laces, seams, net corners, etc.
• Bag gear for transport from field to office.
• Place gear and bag in a freezer below 32°F for a minimum of eight hours.
• Thaw gear and bag.
• Immerse gear and bag in 5-10 percent saltwater solution for 10 minutes.
• Rinse gear.
• Hang gear to dry.
For more information, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/Species/NZmudsnail.
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.