EEL, MAD & MATTOLE RIVERS





Captain Dave Jacobs 530 646-9110

January 17, 2017    Headlines
 Eel Steel

After decent to good fishing the past four days the Smith will be back on a hard rise on Wednesday 1-18. Here on Tuesday afternoon the river is still dropping with a current level of 9.5 feet or about 4900 cfs. Overall guides are seeing some decent to good counts of fish per rod action with most running 6 to 12 pounds. Guide Brice Dusi posted on his FB page of a big buck in the high teens that was landed over weekend. The guidance plots calls for the Smith to quickly jump to a high and blown level of 20 feet on Wednesday and then drop towards a plunkable level of 12 to 14 feet Thursday through Saturday. We will post a fresh update once the Smith is back in play.
All other rivers will remain high and out of play for the foreseeable future. The forecast calls for rain Wednesday, Friday and again next Sunday. Many rivers such as the Eel, Mad and Russian will need a week or more of dry weather before they are back in.


All North Coast rivers are at or near flood stage here on Thursday 1-15 morning. 24 hour rainfall totals through 5:AM are running from 6.2" at Gasquet on the Smith, 7.24 at Honeydew on the Mattole, 2.8" at Ft Seward on the Main stem Eel and 4.28" at Venado west of Healdsburg on the middle Russian. The Smith crested at 26 feet, three feet below flood stage or 70,000cfs and the guidance plot calls for it to drop today and through the weekend. The main stem Eel is expected to crest just above flood stage tonight. Redwood Creek is lapping at the sides of HWY 1 and most others (Mad, Van Duzen, SF Eel and Russian) will be high and muddy into next week.
The Smith should drop back into shape by Saturday almost surly by Sunday while all other rivers will need close to a week to come back into prime. Dry weather is forecasted Friday through late Monday and the Smith will be your top bet for early season steel. Fishing pressure is very light over the holidays and prime time of Smith steelhead.
Wally Johnson will begin his trips on the Smith and Chetco rivers on January 1st. The peak run dates of January through February are filling fast. 530 496-3291
Guide Dave Jacobs will also be offering trips on the Smith and Chetco rivers.


Eel River Research Examines Dams’ Effect on Salmon

Snaking along California’s North Coast is the Eel River, the state’s third largest watershed, which along with its tributaries, covers 3,684 square miles and crosses five counties.
Humboldt State Environmental Science & Management professors Alison O’Dowd and William Trush conducting field work on the Eel River last year. Photo courtesy of S. Greacen

Along the upper part of the river sits the Potter Valley Project, a massive power-generating facility that consists of two dams and a tunnel that diverts water to the East Fork of the Russian River.

The project has become controversial in recent decades due to its serious impact on the river’s salmon populations. Advocacy groups and others have called for the dams to be removed.

Now, as the government prepares to consider relicensing the project, Humboldt State Environmental Science & Management professors Alison O’Dowd, William Trush, and James Graham, along with several undergraduate and graduate students are working to get a better understanding of how the dams affect the salmon.

“Salmon are not only charismatic species but they’re indicative of watershed health. So if the salmon aren’t doing well then the amphibians, invertebrates and other aquatic organisms probably aren’t doing well either,” says O’Dowd.

The plummeting population of Eel River salmonids (coho and Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout) over the last several decades paints a grim picture. Before 1900, there were an estimated 500,000 salmonids (70,000 coho, 175,000 Chinook and 255,000 steelhead) in the Eel River watershed, according to the National Marine Fisheries and Service (NMFS).

Today, there are fewer than 15,000 salmonids—a 97 percent drop in population that environmentalists have partially attributed to the Potter Valley Project owned by PG&E;.

Starting in the mid-1800s, hundreds of dams were built along California’s rivers. The Potter Valley Project began in 1908 with the completion of the Cape Horn dam, and it has been diverting water to the Potter Valley in the Russian River watershed ever since. Scott Dam was completed in 1922 and that year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted the project a 50-year license.

Over the next decade, the Commission will review licenses for about 150 dams, including Scott Dam, which is set to expire in 2022.

In the meantime, local environmental advocacy group Friends of the Eel River, which has been fighting for the removal of the dams for the last 20 years, has turned to O’Dowd and Trush to study blockwater releases.

The impetus for this research, conducted through HSU’s River Institute, was the plight of the salmon that lingered between the two dams. Under natural conditions, rising water temperatures and lower flows are Mother Nature’s signals for juvenile salmon to begin migrating out to the ocean.

However, fish rearing in the artificially cool and consistently flowing waters between the dams lingered into the summer months so that by the time they left, they swam into water with lethally high temperatures and lower flow conditions.

To push the fish downstream and help their outmigration, PG&E conducted blockwater dam releases in 2012, 2014 and this past spring. Releases are at the discretion of the NMFS and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, while the timing and volume of each release are based on a NMFS recommendation. However, O’Dowd and Trush hope to pinpoint exactly when, how much, and for how long water should be released to help the fish thrive.

They’ll do this by examining what the Eel River ecosystem looked like before the dams were built, and recommending ways to mimic the natural flow at times when the fish are most vulnerable.

Another aspect of their research will examine how much salmonid habitat exists in the watershed upstream of the impassable Scott Dam. To find the answer, O’Dowd and Graham (with support from California Trout) will use GIS modeling and field data to find spawning areas, rearing pools for juveniles, and any migration barriers. This information will be used to create a habitat map that shows what stream areas area accessible for which fish species.

“In a relicensing process when all the pros and cons are weighed, quantifying the amount of salmonid habitat upstream of Scott Dam can help bolster the argument for the modification or removal of the dams,” says O’Dowd. “On the other hand, our results may find that there isn’t much salmonid habitat in the upper watershed critical for their recovery. That’s why we’re doing the science—to see how we can best help the recovery of these threatened fish species.”

Related Links: Map: Eel River (Eelriver.org) | Map: California Dams (KQED) | The Power of Potter Valley (Ukiah Daily Journal) | History of Hydropower (Dept. of Energy) | West Coast Salmon & Steelhead Listing (NOAA)


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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