EEL, MAD & MATTOLE RIVERS
March 27, 2014
Coast Rivers Rise
The steelhead season ends on March 31st but Mother Nature and rising flows are
putting the final touch of a frustrating steelhead season to bed a bit early.
Rain on Tuesday 3-25 pushed river levels up on all North coast streams
and most are high and off color. With heavy rain forecasted this weekend and
with most rivers closing to fishing next Monday at sunset this will end our
reports for the 2014 season. In a nutshell it was a long frustrating year
dominated by low flows and little rain all season until mid February. Once the
rains arrived we did see some great fishing when conditions were right with the
Chetco, South Fork Eel and Mad all producing good numbers of fish. Other systems
like the Smith never gained much traction due to the lack of rain while the
upper Klamath was a steady producer of smaller fish all winter. This will be our
last steelhead coastal steelie report of the season but come May we will be
covering Springer fishing on the Rogue and Klamath.
Drop Out, Rain on the Way
The Smith had dropped to 7.5 feet and is crystal clear here on
Sunday 3-23. The fishing has been tough with guides seeing 1 to 3 fish a
mix of blue back and downers. It is getting late in the season and most of
the fresh adults have already made it into our Northern rivers.
A series of smaller systems is expected to impact the North Coast beginning
late Monday and lasting into Thursday. These first three systems are
expected to bring showers and light rain. Beginning late Friday and into
Saturday a much stronger system is expected to impact the Oregon border area
with heavy rain and quickly rising main stem rivers. The forecast may change
but as of this writing the weather models are in agreement that this will
bring significant rains to far Northern Cal next weekend.
Chetco is seeing light pressure and those still fishing are seeing
lots of runbacks in the lower river. This next push of water will likely
increase the numbers of post spawn fish but I would suspect that by next
weekend most rivers will return to high and muddy.
The Mad is green and running at 6.4 feet. Bankies are seeing a few
down-runner hatchery fish with a few bright late season natives around to
keep things interesting. Work roe and a Fish Pill in the Deeper holes and
The South Fork
Eel has dropped out as well with the Miranda gauge showing just 7.8 feet
or 520cfs. Guides have dropped down to the main stem but with Tony Sepulveda
on vacation we don't have a current report. I would expect that most are
still seeing 5+ fish per day working plugs and roe from the Forks to
The Eel, Mad, Van Duzen, Redwood Creek and Mattole close to fishing on
March 31st. The Smith is open through April and the Klamath and Trinity are
open year round.
South Fork Eel
Bite Breaks Open
As expected the the South Fork dropped in on Saturday and the bite below
Garberville was fantastic. Hunt Conrad who writes the Healdsburg fishing
report was on the river on Friday and Saturday 3-15. Hunt drifted
Richardson Grove section on Saturday morning and over a 6 mile run he and
his partner were 0 for 1. With just a couple of hours of daylight left they
moved down and fished a short two mile short section down to Miranda and saw
great action with the limited daylight left. They hooked 5 and landed three
with one bright fish and two downers released. Hunt said viz was great at 3
feet and if they had been here earlier it could have been a 10 fish plus
Through the guide grapevine we are hearing of solid 5 to 10 fish landed for
those drifting the Garberville to Forks section. Few are giving up their
actual locations as always when the action is this good. The south Fork will
drop and become gin clear by mid week and I expect most guides to be on the
main stem by mid week. The season closes in just over 2 weeks and this is
your best and last chance at steelhead this season.
Here's Why Your Weed
Habit Is Bad for California's Salmon
Should we be sacrificing wild salmon just to get high?
Jason Best has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense
An increasingly stark problem is facing California, a state in the
middle of a
historic and crippling drought: salmon or weed?
For all its happy, laid-back, live-and-let-live connotations, marijuana
isn’t so benign when it comes to the environment, at least when we’re
talking about its cultivation.
seems, is that more apparent than in the “Emerald Triangle” of Northern
California—the counties of Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt—which
comprise what experts believe is the largest
pot-growing region in
the United States. As
Jefferson Public Radio, the NPR affiliate out of Southern
Oregon University, reports: “As the hills have sprouted thousands of new
grow operations, haphazard cultivation is threatening the recovery of
endangered West Coast salmon and steelhead populations.” Overfishing and
industrial impacts of logging and farming have dramatically reduced
salmon stocks in California waterways such as the Eel River, which runs
through the Emerald Triangle.
Although new conservation efforts have helped populations to
rebound—30,000 salmon and steelhead swam up the Eel to spawn in 2012, up
from 3,500 two years before—the new, booming industry is hurting the
nascent recovery. In part that’s because growing marijuana requires a
lot of water, some three to six gallons per plant. “It’s possible that
in some watersheds, marijuana cultivation is consuming all the water
available for fish,” one salmon recovery expert with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife tells the radio station.
Humboldt County, for example, can ill afford to spare the water right
U.S. Drought Monitor
last week declared the entire county is suffering extreme drought
It’s not just pot growers’ unquenchable thirst that’s causing problems
for salmon recovery, though. There's also the pesticide and fertilizer
run-off, the severe erosion—the kind of industrial-scale impacts you see
with industrial-scale agriculture. In places like Humboldt County, weed
farming increasingly resembles the chemical- and resource-intensive
monocrop approach practiced with corn and soybeans in the Midwest.
In the almost 20 years since California legalized the sale of medicinal
marijuana, thousands of new growers have set up shop. An aerial tour
using Google Earth created in 2011 by Anthony Silvaggio, an
environmental sociologist with Humboldt State University, and posted by
shows some of the devastating impact, with large swaths of forest
mowed down to make room for illicit grow operations.
This goes on pretty much entirely unchecked. “The fact that it’s
unregulated is a real problem,” Silvaggio says in the video. “Talking
with agricultural commissioners of different counties, they report to me
that it’s difficult for them to help growers that want to do the right
thing because they can’t talk about it because it’s federally
prohibited, and they get federal dollars.”
Yes, that’s right: In yet another bizarre consequence of the country’s
schizophrenic position on pot, even as states like California allow
medicinal marijuana to be sold—and quasi-legally grown—the feds don't,
leading to another nonsensical “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation (and we
all know how well that worked with gays in the military).
“There’s just this tremendously complicated legal environment which
makes it really hard for farmers who would like to come into compliance,
who would like to use best practices on their farms, to make progress,”
Hezekiah Allen, an environmental consultant and third-generation
Humboldt County resident, tells Jefferson Public Radio. Allen, however,
has helped to develop a “manual of best practices” for growers, which
details how they can minimize the environmental impact of their
“There’s probably no such thing as a perfect, zero-impact farm,” Allen
tells the radio station. “But if we give people the information and the
knowledge they need, they will make improvements.”
The salmon sure hope so.
For river status (low flow closure) updates from Fish and Game please call +1.707.442.4502 for the North coast and +1.707.944.5533 for Central coast streams. Be sure to check out the California Fish and Game regulations before you go. Regulations vary on every river and you need to pay attention to bait and hook restrictions. Due to winter closures on HWYs 5, 101 & 299 we recommend you check Caltrans road conditions as well.
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