Dry spell puts steelhead season on hold

Last year’s drought-busting rainfall is starting to fade from the rearview mirror, while thoughts of the dreaded-drought are slowly creeping back into focus. I catch myself thinking back to three or four years ago, and what a tough time it was for our state, Humboldt County, and our fisheries.

And then I remember, it’s only mid-December, and we’re one good storm away from being right back to normal.

And then I read the weather reports, and they’re telling me the current dry spell will continue for who knows how long. Arghh….

It’s way too early in the game to even begin thinking about a drought, so I won’t. The reality of the current dry spell only means that some of the North Coast Rivers will soon be closed to fishing, effectively putting a hold on the impending winter steelhead season. The Van Duzen and South Fork Eel were the first rivers to fall victim to the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,” and the rest of the rivers are on a slow decent to closure as well. I sure hope everyone is enjoying the prolonged break in the storms, but I for one, am not.

More dry weather ahead
According to Brad Charboneau of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the dry weather will persist for at least another week. “We’re stuck in a high-pressure pattern, and we’re not seeing a change anytime soon. We’re going to be dry through next week, and possibly longer.” Charoneau added.

The Rivers:
Fishing has been slow on the Chetco as we wait for the winter steelhead run to get going reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “There are decent numbers of half-pounders spread throughout the river, but not many adults. Salmon are few and far between, although there are a lot of dark fish in the upper section. Rain will help. The Elk and Sixes are low and clear. They could have a few fresh kings with the next rain but until then it is slim pickings there.”

The river is low and clear, and it’s been pretty quiet reports Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “I don’t think many boats have been out, and I’m not hearing much in the way of steelhead being caught. We’ll need a decent rise to bring in some fish, but it’s still early in the season.”

Main stem Eel
The main stem is low, and starting to get pretty clear. The river is full of half-pounders from the forks down, along with a few adults. Most of the fish are in the deeper holes, anywhere there’s broken water. The flows were just above 1,000 cfs on the Scotia gauge on Wednesday afternoon and predicted to be around 850 cfs on Saturday. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 350 cfs on the Scotia gauge.

The river is holding some decent color, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fish around right now according to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors. “There haven’t been many anglers trying this week, likely due to the lack of fish,” said Kelly. “There’s a few fish trickling in, but for the most part it hasn’t been very good. The river despite being low, is holding some good color, especially in the deeper holes. We probably won’t see a good push of fish come in until the next rise.” As of Wednesday, the Mad was flowing at 450 cfs and dropping very slowly. It should remain open to fishing through the weekend. Minimum flows to keep the river open to fishing are 200 cfs at the gauging station at the Hwy. 299 bridge.

South Fork Eel and Van Duzen
Both rivers closed to fishing as of Tuesday, Dec. 12 due to low flows.

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

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