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Limited Options for Weekend Steelhead Anglers 

For those of you who aren't yet ready to throw in the towel on this year's steelhead season, you'll have limited angling options this weekend. If you're wanting to head north, you'll likely run into low and clear conditions. Both the Smith and Chetco did see a rise in flows the past couple days, but will be back on the drop headed into the weekend. If you wanted to head south to the SF, main Eel and Van Duzen, you'll find rivers that aren't lacking water. All are currently high and off color but will be headed in the right direction soon. Depending on how quickly they drop and the level of snowmelt, the Van Duzen and South Fork Eel could be fishable by Saturday. At least according to the NOAA's River Forecast Center. If you want to fish the Mad, you'll be treated to the same conditions we've had most of the season – big and brown water. The Trinity River in the Willow Creek area is sporting the best conditions around, but getting there might be tricky. If you haven't suffered enough and are dead set on wetting a line this weekend, you may need to look around.

The weather ahead

After a short-term drying trend from Wednesday through Friday, another winter storm is in the forecast for the weekend, according to Jonathan Garner of Eureka's National Weather Service office. He said, "The storm should roll in Saturday afternoon and could stick around until early next week. We'll see snow above 1,000 feet, similar to what we've seen early this week. We could see some precipitation below 1,000 feet which could impact some of the rivers, mainly to our south."

Preliminary 2023 ocean salmon abundance forecast

Prior to Wednesday's Salmon Information Meeting, preliminary 2023 ocean salmon abundance forecasts were announced. For the Klamath, the preseason expectations are for 102,500 adult fall kings to be swimming in the ocean. This forecast is more than 95,000 less than in 2022.

On the Sacramento River, the 2023 ocean abundance forecast is 169,800, which is a whopping 226,700 less than the 2022 forecast.

Based on these numbers, having any kind of ocean or in-river fishery is extremely uncertain. Look for the complete salmon meeting wrap-up in next week's Fishing the North Coast.

The Rivers:


There were a few fish caught prior to the latest rise, but we're now back to high and off-color conditions. As of Wednesday, flows were right around 2,400 cubic feet per second (9.7 feet). It's predicted to drop through Saturday but it's unlikely we'll see green water anytime soon.

Main stem Eel

The main Eel produced some of the better fishing of the season late last week with boats getting a chance at three to four fish per trip. Unfortunately, the river succumbed to snowmelt on Saturday and remains high and off color. Flows as of Wednesday were 21,500 cfs and it's predicted to drop for the next few days. It won't recede to a fishable height before the next storm hits later in the weekend.

South Fork Eel

The South Fork blew out on Sunday and was on the rise through Wednesday morning. Another rise is predicted for early Sunday morning. The chances of dropping into fishable shape by later in the week are iffy at best. Forecast to drop to 1,900 cfs by Saturday morning at Miranda.

Van Duzen

The Van Duzen also blew out on Sunday and is currently high and off color. It's predicted to drop and could be fishable early next week as more snow than rain will fall into the basin. Flows are predicted to be around 570 cfs by Saturday morning.


The Smith was on the rise Tuesday, but as of Wednesday was back on the drop. Flows were down to 2,800 cfs (7.85 feet) at the Jed Smith gauge. The river is still low and clear, but a few fish are being caught. It's predicted to drop through the weekend and will likely be just above 7 feet by Sunday.

Southern Oregon rivers

Steelhead fishing has been slow on the Chetco, Rogue, Elk and Sixes rivers because of low, cold water, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. "A major boost in flows is needed to bring fresh steelhead in," said Martin. "A slight boost in flows is expected this week. Catch rates have been poor the last week."

Brookings ocean report

"Rough ocean conditions have kept Brookings anglers at the dock," said Martin. "While herring have been thick in Crescent City, they have not shown up at the Port of Brookings. More stormy weather is expected this week."

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email [email protected].

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