North Coast river levels have fallen from their December glory after an extremely dry January. And February, at least through the first couple weeks, isn't looking much better. This extended dry period could lead to fishing closures on several North Coast rivers. Back in December, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to extend low-flow closures through April 30 from the previous closure date of Jan. 31. Rivers that are regulated by low flow closures include the Eel, Mad, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen rivers. Of these, the South Fork Eel, Mattole, Redwood Creek, and the Van Duzen could close in the next week or so. With most forecasts now leaning towards a dry end to this wet season, our winter steelhead season, at least on some of the smaller coastal rivers, could come to a sudden end. For more information on low-flow river closures, visit www.rb.gy/ofibr6.
The weather ahead
According to Eureka's National Weather Service office, we're looking at dry conditions at least through Feb. 10. The six- to 10-day precipitation outlook is showing below normal rainfall through that period.
CDFW seeks input on 2022 sport Pacific Halibut season dates
California anglers who are interested in the recreational Pacific halibut fishery are invited to participate in an online survey to help inform the CDFW about angler preferences for open fishing dates during the upcoming 2022 season. Results of the survey, which is open until Feb. 18, will be used to develop recommended season dates that will be provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Pacific halibut fishery takes place off Northern California. The 2022 quota will be 39,000 net pounds, the same as in 2021 and 2020.The online survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/RNDCG2S. For more information on the Pacific halibut fishery in California, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Pacific-Halibut.
The Mad still provides your best opportunity to land a steelhead. Fish are spread throughout the river, as anglers are catching a mixture of hatchery and wild fish. Flows were down to 395 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday but it's still holding some color. Minimum flow is 200 cfs at State Route 299 bridge.
Main stem Eel
The main stem is in good shape, with plenty of green water. As of Wednesday, it was running at 2,800 cfs and starting to clear in the tail outs. The fishing isn't red hot, but most boats are getting a few chances per trip. Minimum flow is 350 cfs at Scotia.
South Fork Eel
The South Fork is running at 425 cfs as of Wednesday. At this flow, the spots that hold fish are few and far between. However, there are still quite a few fish around, including some fresh ones. Minimum flow is 340 cfs at Miranda.
The Van Duzen was down to 250 cfs by Wednesday and is clear. Fishing pressure has been light due to conditions. It could fall under 200 cfs by next week. Minimum flow is 150 cfs at Grizzly Creek.
Flows were less than 1,600 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge Wednesday. Not many anglers are still trying as the river is low, clear and snaggy. There are some fish around but it's tough getting them to bite in the clear water. Minimum flow is 600 cfs at Jed Smith Park.
Steelhead fishing has slowed on the Chetco, as water levels reached their lowest of the season early this week, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. "With flows of around 830 cfs, it's difficult to drift the river, and the fish holding up in the lower river are spooky and reluctant to bite," said Martin. "Most guides have shifted gears to other waters. Expect good action after the next rain, although there is none in the forecast. The Rogue has been slow because of low water. A few adult winter steelhead and half-pounders are being caught near Agness."
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 [email protected]