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Most Coastal Rivers Remain Open for Now 

click to enlarge McKinleyville resident Scott McBain holds a nice steelhead he landed over the weekend while fishing the Eel River.

Photo courtesy of Gabe Rossi.

McKinleyville resident Scott McBain holds a nice steelhead he landed over the weekend while fishing the Eel River.

Another week of beautiful rain-free weather on the North Coast, which is exactly what we don't need. Two of our coastal rivers have succumbed to low flows and are now closed to angling. With the forecast calling for more dry weather, a few other rivers will likely close soon. To date, the Mattole and Redwood Creek have both fallen below the low-flow threshold. The South Fork Eel and the Van Duzen are getting closer by the day. And there isn't much good news on the horizon. Rain is nowhere to be found in the immediate forecast. Looking long range, it's a coin toss as to whether we'll see any storms before the first week of March. If you're looking to catch a steelhead, you best act quickly. The number of open rivers will soon be few and far between.

The weather ahead

According to Josh Whisnant of Eureka's National Weather Service office, there's an outside chance of some light precipitation late this weekend or early next week. "The high pressure ridge looks like it's staying put, so chances of any rain don't look good, including next week," said Whisnant. "Through March 4 there's equal chances of below or above normal precipitation."

Mad River Hatchery parking lot to reopen

The parking lot at the Mad River Hatchery will be opened starting Saturday, Feb. 12. The public will have access to one specific route to reach the river/trails. The facility (raceways, spawning building, hatchery building, etc.) will remain closed. It is vitally important that the public follows the directions and signs, and stays out of closed areas of the hatchery. If the public does not comply, the hatchery could be forced to close the gate again. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will not be sending out a press release.

River Closures

Both the Mattole and Redwood Creek were closed to fishing as of Feb. 8. 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 Rivers:


According to Justin Kelly of Eureka's RMI Outdoors, fishing has slowed way down on the Mad. "The river is super low but still has some color," said Kelly. "There are fish spread throughout the river but the majority are up near the hatchery." Flows were down to 330 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday. Minimum flow is 200 cfs at State Route 299 bridge.

Main stem Eel

The main stem still has plenty of green water but it's starting to get really clear. As of Wednesday, it was running at 2,100 cfs. The fishing has been tough for most but boats are getting a few chances per trip. Minimum flow is 350 cfs at Scotia.

South Fork Eel

The South Fork is running at 350 cfs as of Wednesday. There are fish to be had, but places where you'll find them are quickly dwindling. If the river projections hold, it will likely close later in the week. Minimum flow is 340 cfs at Miranda.

Van Duzen

The Van Duzen was down to 190 cfs Wednesday and is clear. Bank fishing effort has been light due to low water. If the river forecast holds, it could remain open to angling all week. Minimum flow is 150 cfs at Grizzly Creek.

Smith River

Flows were less than 1,300 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge Wednesday. Very few boats are still drifting as the river is extremely low. There are some fish around but a stealthy approach is required in the clear water. Minimum flow is 600 cfs at Jed Smith Park.


Low, clear water has slowed steelhead fishing on the Chetco and Rogue, and brought the action to a halt on the Elk and Sixes, reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. "A few boats are still fishing the Chetco, but catch rates are poor," said Martin. "Fishing above Ice Box Bridge requires dragging boats over shallow riffles."

Brookings Ocean update

Ocean fishing has been good out of Brookings on calm weather days, with limit of rockfish and limits or near limits of lingcod according to Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, "The best fishing is around Bird Island. The fish are shallow. Herring are schooled up near the jetties, and several salmon were caught and released over the weekend by anglers bottom fishing. The kings are likely feeder fish headed to the Sacramento and Klamath rivers. Ocean conditions look very good this weekend."

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 For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email [email protected].

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