Captain Dave Jacobs 530 646-9110

February 14, 2017    Headlines
 Eel Steel


The Smith river dropped back into shape on Sunday 2-12. The bite is more quality than quantity with guides seeing 1 to 4 fish of mostly big fish in the 10 to high teen pound class. Here on Tuesday 2-14 the river is dropping ever so slowly from 11 feet to 10.5. One could only wish for conditions like this every day of the season. The river will continue to drop and be in great shape on Wednesday but rain is on the way. The forecast calls for rain, heavy at times late Wednesday and into Thursday. The next system expected on Friday looks to push south and could have a very limited impact on Del Norte river flows.
The Chetco is back in play here on Tuesday as well with guides seeing similar action of 2 to 6 fish hooked and 1 to 4 fish landed. This is PRIME TIME and if you are looking to get out and enjoy one the best winter fisheries you have just a few weeks get in on the fun.

All rivers from the Mad to Eel to the Russian remain high and muddy. With rain on the way we don't expect any changes in river conditions through at least February 25th. All Mendo, Humboldt and Sonoma county rivers have been unfishable since the New Year. Hopefully we see an extended dry spell so anglers can enjoy a few days on their favorite or most familiar waters.

North Coast Rain Wrap
The forecast calls for the rains to continue in the coming week frustrating Metalheaders statewide. Here on Super Bowl Sunday the Smith has dropped to 16 feet after cresting around 18' of Saturday. The forecast calls for rain, heavy at times late Sunday into Monday with two more systems sweeping through the follow few days. It appears we may see a return to dry weather by next weekend. If so the Smith will be the first to drop in.
All others from the Mad, Eel to the Russian are high and muddy and need several days to one week of dry weather before they clear. Water releases from fill to capacity reservoirs will delay rivers from coming back in as well. The one bright report this week was on the Trinity where Dave Jacobs posted up a good report.
Hopefully we all can get some river time in soon.

North Coast River Wrap
On Thursday 2-2 the bulk of the rainfall fell south of the Mendo / Humboldt county line.
 While rivers to the south are rising and muddy the Smith and Chetco rivers are still in play. The rains will return to the far North coast on Friday 2-3 and the Smith looks to jump from a current level of low and clear of 7.6 feet to 12.6 by Friday evening. A second smaller rise to 14 feet is expected on Monday. We have included the guidance plot below. Please keep in mind that the guidance plot is only as good as the rain forecast and can rapidly change.
The top action this past week has been on the Chetco where guides are seeing on average 2 to 5 hookups and 2 to 4 fish per boat. The Chetco will likely blow out late Friday as the rains push in with the next system 
The Smith has been skinny and clear but there are been a few mostly bigger fish coming out of this writer's favorite California river this past week. I saw one of 18 pounds caught by a plunkers last weekend and other pictures of other big fish over 20 pounds caught the past few days. The Smith will fish on Friday but looks to be marginal at best this weekend. It will be a top bet as the rains pass by the middle of next week.
The Mad is muddy and will remain so for a week or more. Through last weekend returns to the hatchery have been very below average.
The South Fork Eel is on the rise and with rain on the way through the weekend will be out until at least Saturday 2-10.
The Russian has seen a huge push of fish into the hatchery the past two weeks but has been high and muddy. When it does clear back up the Russian will be a top bet but that will be a week or more away.
For the coming week the Smith will be the first back in play followed by the Chetco, South Fork Eel and then the Russian. We will post updates as we watch the flows and get reports from local guides.

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 ( | 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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