Green rivers on their way to the North Coast

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SMITH STRIKES AGAIN - Guide Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips holds a 37-inch, 20-pound steelhead caught and released Feb. 3 on the Smith River by Lloyd Christensen of Sanger, California.
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BY KENNY PRIEST

SMITH RIVER – After a solid week of rainy weather that turned all the coastal rivers big and brown, it looks like we’re headed toward a green water convergence. Some rain occurred during the middle of the week, but after this we should begin to see some sunshine and dropping water levels. The Smith will be the first to clear and should be in great shape to drift by the weekend, and the Chetco will be right behind it and should fish by the weekend too. The South Fork Eel will also come into play over the weekend, especially in the higher reaches. The main stem will probably need another week to clear, as will the Van Duzen. The Mad is predicted to be high and off color through the weekend, but should start to green up by midweek. By this time next week, all the rivers should be some shade of green and hopefully loaded with steelhead.

Following an impressive week of rain, it looks like we’re moving toward a drier weather pattern. “After some rain mid-week, it looks dry,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The models are showing dry conditions through mid-February. There is a chance for rain on the 9th and 10th, but it’s really uncertain at this time. The Climate Center is predicting below normal rainfall through Feb. 15.”

The Smith has been blown out the past few days but should be plunkable by Wednesday, according to guide Mike Coopman. “It’s still going to be on the high side the next few days but we should be back to side-drifting on by the weekend,” said Coopman. “Prior to the lat est rise, fishing hadn’t been that great. The top guides were getting a handful of hookups per trip. The fish we’ve been catching, however, are all nice ones. They’re averaging a solid 10 to 12 pounds.”

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Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing said, “The Chetco was blown out for a week, but it fished very well for plunkers Thursday and Friday and was fair for drift boaters over the weekend. The flows hit 20,000 cfs from rain and melting snow at the beginning of last week, but they dropped to 3,700 by Sunday evening. Big numbers of steelhead shot upriver as the flows dropped. Plunkers using large Spin-N-Glos from the gravel bars at Ice Box, Loeb Park and Social Security Bar caught several dozen fish late in the week. Drift boaters encountered dirty water over the weekend, but got into a few steelhead side-drifting.

Scores were better for boaters that anchored and ran 3.5 MagLips. Prime conditions are expected this week, with another rise by the weekend.” The Lower Rogue has been a bright spot for the whole Oregon Coast and is the only system producing consistent limits or near limits, according to Martin. “Even during Sunday’s sharp rise, steelhead were being caught,” said Martin. “It will be fishable before the end of the week. The Elk reached 7 feet on Monday and is high and muddy. The Sixes is over the bank.” In the Eel and it’s tributary, the Van Duzen, It looks like the break in the weather will finally get these systems down to fishable levels. The top of the South Fork should be fishable by the weekend. Flows are predicted to be roughly 1,400 cubic feet per second by Saturday. The main is still dirty and big, but it’s dropping quickly. The top of the main should fish sometime next week. The Van Duzen peaked this week, and it is on the drop, but flows are predicted to remain above 1,000 cfs, which will keep it off color. The Mad River below McKinleyville peaked at 6,700 cfs this week, and it is also on the drop. According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, it’s predicted for a small bump in flows before the weekend, but “It should be on a slow descent through the weekend, but will likely remain high and off color,” said Kelly. “It should be bait-fishable by mid next week.” The hatchery saw a big return of fish over the last few days, which is good news.”

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