GARCIA, GUALALA & RUSSIAN RIVERS

January 28, 2016    Headlines
Russian Steelies Push In

Rain on the Way
The river conditions have been ideal on the Smith the past few days. Guides are putting their clients into solid counts of mostly wild and a few hatchery fish each day. All rivers to the south have been high and muddy and we saw a couple of good scores on the Rogue mid week.
Here on Thursday 1-28 evening we are seeing a rapid rise on all rivers in Humboldt and Del Norte county. The Smith has jumped three feet so far today and the guidance plot calls for the river to crest around 18 feet by late Friday/ early Saturday. So far today rainfall totals are running at just .64 at Honeydew on the Mattole river to nearly 2" centered around Flynn Creek north of the Chetco.
Another band of moderate to heavy rain is forecast overnight into Friday and early Saturday and we expect all rivers north of the Russian to be high and muddy. The guidance plot on the Smith calls for the river to drop back towards fishable by Sunday or Monday. Rainfall totals look less impressive in Sonoma county and with releases of just 40cfs off Lake Mendo and just 90cfs at Warm Springs or Lake Sonoma the river has been giving up some decent counts to plunkers.
In a nutshell it looks like the Smith early next week looks to be the first river back in play. 


High and Muddy
The Smith is hovering around flat line of 13 feet here on Saturday 1-23. The forecast calls for showers into Sunday morning so we expect the river to hold near this level through Sunday. The forecast calls for dry weather for the first part of next week. For now it looks like next Monday through Wednesday will be readers best chance to hook some steel. The long range forecast calls for a storm and possibly VERY wet system moving through on Thursday and Friday. The Smith (and possibly the Chetco by Monday) remains a top bet as all other rivers look to be too high and muddy through the balance of the week.

So far this season we have seen some of the best steelie numbers on many rivers compared to the past few years. Unfortunately most rivers have been high and muddy since Christmas. The Eel, Russian, Van Duzen and Mad all look to remain high into February.
We will post updates as reports come in.


Russian River Report by Steve Hemmstra
Kings Tackle, Guerneville
Sunday 12-20

After a 2 and a half month hiatus from being allowed to fish on the Russian River and 4 years of drought, the fish gods were in our favor and on December 11 at 11:30 am the Fish and Game opened our river to fishing since the flow finally exceeded the 300 cfs minimum flow and it was game on!

The Russian River is know to most as a vacationers paradise in the summer for floating around in the water on hot days and relaxing.  For fisherman however, the winter is the time to find the chrome ghosts known as Steelhead in this winding river system that passes through vineyards then finally Redwoods as it makes its way to the ocean.  In the fall the first fish to find their way home are both Chinook and Coho salmon.  Because of the Salmon and their listing as "threatened" and "endangered" by the Fish and Game, there was a decision made to limit fishing to only when the flow exceeds 300 cfs starting October 1 and continuing through the end of April.  For those that know the river that magic number of 300 is not attainable until the winter rains.  For two and a half months all we could do is stare at the river and prey for rain.

Two years ago the Russian River didn't see that rain until February, and being in a 4 year drought it was looking to continue this cycle.  Fortunately this year we saw one of the largest "el ninos" on record and it was looking promising for some early rain.  By mid November fisherman were getting suicidal thoughts knowing there were steelhead to be had in their home water, but the storm doors started to open and the rains began, slowly at first but enough to start filling our dry aquifer. 

After a month of on and off rain it finally happened, a storm dumped 1-2 inches of rain in the Russian Basin and that magical number was finally exceeded.  In this day of technology anybody can get on a computer and see the flow predictions on any number of web sites.  It was almost painful as the river gauges showed the flow slowly increasing and then exceeding the number we were waiting for.  Friday morning I walked into work, checked the river gauge and saw that the flow was almost 400 and rising.  I quickly called the low flow hotline at 707-944-5533, and patiently listened to the recording.  It stated the river was still closed!  I frantically called the main office only to get the run around response that the agency had until as late as 1 pm to decide to open the river or not.  As my phone was ringing off the hook with the one big question "Is the river open?" I gave the answer I got from the agency and said "Feel free to call them up and let them know what you think!"  Well they must have gotten a few phone calls because by around 11:30 the message was changed to "open"!

That Friday and Saturday the fishing was fair with mostly old Chinook waiting to migrate up river, some shiny Coho and a few small Steelhead.  The mouth of the river remained closed due to a huge swell with the most recent storms, but once that wall of water came down and filled up the estuary the mouth finally breached after being closed for several weeks and in came a push of shiny new friends to play with.

The river came up enough that it got off color for a few days at the beginning of the week but that didn't deter the diehards that were starved for some time on the water.  Reports started coming in of people catching adult hatchery and wild Steelhead using a variety of techniques.  Plunking bait with a large spin and glow in the traveling lane, running plugs either back trolling runs or anchored up in narrow slots, and casting little cleos in a variety of colors was producing.

By midweek, the Russian had come down and cleared enough that the drift boaters were getting out and the run from Healdsburg to Wholer or Steelhead Beach seemed to be the best bet.  It didn't take long for the new fish to run up river under high dirty water right after the mouth breached in within 4-5 days they were holding in good numbers throughout the run.  Dave Delmue spent a couple of days drifting with friends and was able to put his buddies into some nice hatchery fish up to 12 lbs.  The water was starting to drop out and floating suspended cured roe from Kings Sport & Tackle under a slip float seemed to be the ticket using his 9 foot TFO drift rods Shimano Sedona 2500 reels spooled with braid.  Other boats found limits bouncing cured roe through runs as well.

The drifters weren't the only ones in the action.  Casting little cleos from shore in the runs and holding pools as well as bouncing cured roe in the walk in spots around Guerneville was also successful.  One customer told me he was working on a job and walked down to the river for some casting on his lunch break and managed 4 steelies.  A split of hatchery and wild, not a bad way to spend lunch time!

 After waiting patiently for the river to open it appears that those that got out were rewarded with some early season success.  As I write the rain is coming down and the spawning streams are flowing.  The more water that goes out to the ocean will in turn bring in more fish.  It appears the Russian has awakened from its almost 7 month slumber and is filling up with brand new Steelhead for the taking.


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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