Coastal rivers full, Smith best bet for salmon

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SMITH RIVER BEST BET ON THE NORTH COAST - Mark Yamishoff of Grants Pass, Ore. and Vince McKinley of Brookings, Ore. hold a pair of king salmon caught on MagLip plugs on the Smith River while fishing with Rye Phillips of Wild Rivers Fishing and Brookings Fishing Charters.
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BY KENNY PRIEST

ORICK — Trying to decipher last week’s rain and river level predictions was not for the faint of heart. But when it was all said and done, all of the North coast rivers got the flushing they desperately needed. Some rivers, especially to the south, went far beyond what was forecast and eventually hit flood stage. Coastal rivers from the Smith to the South Fork Eel mostly fell short of predictions, but are plum-full of water, nonetheless. Considering it’s still October, the future is looking bright.

As for fishing, the Smith was the only green river on the coast. The river opened to fishing Thursday but was on a steep rise for most of the day and night. Boats were on the water Friday, but conditions weren’t great. By Saturday, the river had dropped and the fishing was much improved, with just about all the boats landing fish.

Looking towards this week, the Smith will get a much-needed rise Monday. It’s predicted to be on a slow drop through the week and should have some fresh kings moving through. The Chetco drew a crowd this weekend as the flows settled into the range of 3,000 cubic feet per second.

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In the Klamath River, the angling effort has dwindled, and so has the fall run of salmon. The few anglers left are catching the occasional steelhead. The daily bag limit is still two jack Chinook 23 inches or less and two hatchery steelhead. River flows on Sunday were 6,600 CFS at the mouth of the Klamath, 3,290 CFS at Orleans, and 1,535 CFS further upstream in the Seiad Valley. Further upstream, the Trinity blew out Monday below the South Fork, but has dropped back down to a fishable level. For the week ending Oct. 21, a total of 224 adult kings were counted at the Willow Creek weir. The jack count for the week was 46. For the season to date, 3,367 (adults and jacks) have been counted, including both hatchery and wild. The adult Chinook harvest closed on the upper Trinity as of Monday Oct. 25. The Lower Trinity will close to adult retention as of Nov. 1. Downstream of the Highway 299 Bridge at Cedar Flat to the Denny Road Bridge in Hawkins Bar is closed to fishing Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. As of Sunday, flows were nearing 2,000 CFS on the Hoopa gauge and rising.

As of Sunday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Smith, Eel, South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen are open to angling. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline at 822-3164 to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. NOTE: The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River will be closed until Jan. 1, 2022.

The Mad River in Arcata will be back on the rise Monday, but could drop into fishable by late next week if the rain holds off. Reminder: it’s illegal to target salmon on the Mad. Further south, the Van Duzen, a tributary of the Eel, dropped into fishable shape on Friday, but it will likely blowout again mid-week as flows are predicted to surpass 2000 CFS. The main stem of the Eel was still slightly off-color over the weekend. Most of the anglers opted for the South Fork, and another round of rain is forecast to blow it out mid-week. There should be fresh kings moving through. The South Fork of the Eel near Garberville turned green on Thursday. It should be fishable through the weekend, but will be low and clear. The next rise is forecast for Tuesday morning, but it could remain fishable.

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