March 27, 2014    Headlines
 Eel Steel

North 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.

 Rivers 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.
The 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 slots.
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 Stafford.
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 day.
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 Council.
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.
Nowhere, it 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 now: The U.S. Drought Monitor last week declared the entire county is suffering extreme drought conditions.
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 Mother Jones, 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 operations.
“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.

River Levels:

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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