February 09, 2014   Headlines

Seiad Winter Steelies

Upper Klamath Kicking Out Big Numbers
After drought conditions and now rising flows there has been ONE fishery that has been steady all season, the upper Klamath.
Wally Johnson had a two boat group of five anglers on Friday 2-7 where they hooked over 40 fish and landed over 25 in the 14" to 7 pound class. They were drifting roe on the soft side of the tail-outs, holes, and riffles where fish hold when water temps are cold and fish are biding time mid winter.
The upper Klamath is not the place to be if
you are looking for that 20 pound coastal California trophy but if you like BIG numbers of 15" -24" fish and lots of action it is the place.
Wally is booking trips through March on both the coast and the upper Klamath. So far this season the upper Klamath has been a great fishery with the lack of rain. Now that the rains have return Wally is headed back to the Smith and Chetco (where he has one of the few upper river permits) and has dates open though March. With 25 years of guiding the North Coast he is one of most experienced guides and one of the most enjoyable to fish with. 

North Coast Forecast Calls for Rain & Higher Flows this Week

We are seeing steady rain and rising rivers across the North Coast for the first time in weeks. This is setting the stage for great conditions in the coming week as rivers rise to their highest levels since early October. As of Saturday 2-8 at 6:AM rainfall totals and river heights are as follows.

The Smith looks to crest around 13' later today. The river has risen from 7 feet to 12.6 at this hour. In CFS the river has gone from a low of 2000cfs to over 12,000 in the past 24 hours. As it drops back in later today into Sunday we expect some big counts to be posted by local guides. Wally Johnson, Kevin Brock, Tony Sepulveda and Dave Jacobs all have room for the coming week. The outlook calls for unsettled weather through the week. I suggest that readers use the Smith river guidance plot to plan their trips. The Smith is my top bet for the coming week! Left is this morning's Smith river plot.

The Mad river has seen just .55" over the past 24 hours but has risen from 5' to 7.3' or from 200cfs to 900cfs. There are a ton of hatchery steelhead that have been holding in the lower river and this rise will have the fish quickly pushing up towards the hatchery. The river will be muddy and I don't want to get into politics but liners will rule the banks. Conventional anglers will find it too muddy to bounce roe so head to the Smith and don't whine to me about tactics.
If you are not famaliar with the Mad spot by or contact Mad river Tackle at 707 826-7201 for additional information.

The Eel has seen just under an 1" at Miranda with the river up from 6 to 7.6 feet or from 60cfs to 450cfs. The river will rise throughout today and is expected to crest at 8000cfs around midnight. With dam releases completely cut back the Eel will clear after these next systems a bit quicker than normal. This will be in my top bets next week once flows at Miranda drop. The optimal level is something that readers have to figure out for themselves.
Pictured right a "double"  of late season Eel steelhead from March of 2013 that client's of Tony Sepulveda are about to release.

On the Russian rainfall totals west of Healdsburg at Venado are 2.35 but the river has risen from 40cfs to just 80. The ground is so dry that all this rain is just soaking in and with releases from Lake Mendo at just 30cfs it will take time for runoff to bring flows up. The river is expected to crest at 4400cfs on Sunday and drop back to 800 by Tuesday. The F& G Commission has closed the Russian but it will take until the February 23rd for the legal eagles in Sac to adopt into law. I would ask anglers to avoid the Russian so they don't intercept endangered coho. If the unethical put too much pressure on these fish we could see a much more restricted fishery in the future. We are in this together.

The upper Trinity and Klamath rivers are still low as the bulk of the rainfall has been along the coast. Both are seeing small rises and should continue a slow and steady climb in the coming days. Both are likely adding some color and should offer good fishing all this week. Wally Johnson reports they are seeing 3 to 7 mostly smaller adults to 7 pounds on the upper Klamath is week. The Trinity has been low and clear and giving up 1 to 3 fish to 8 pounds this past month. If the coast rivers blow out these two would be a great bet later this week as more fish push up with this rise.

Karuk Tribe and Klamath Riverkeeper settle Shasta River ESA lawsuit

by Dan Bacher

On December 23, the Klamath Riverkeeper and Karuk Tribe announced the reaching of a settlement with the Montague Water Conservation District (MWCD) that will dismiss litigation the groups filed in August 2012 over the operation of the district's Shasta River dams and diversions. |
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento, alleged that the operation of the MWCD's dams and diversions, including Dwinnell Dam and Lake Shastina, led to the illegal killing of endangered coho salmon populations in the Shasta River. The Shasta, a major Klamath River tributary, is one of the most significant coho salmon spawning and rearing habitats in the Klamath watershed.
According to the complaint, the MWCD is violating the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) by killing of ESA-listed coho without a take permit. |
"The Agreement focuses on a new management strategy for Dwinnell Reservoir as opposed to cutting flows to irrigators so MWCD should not see a big difference in the volumes of water it diverts," according to a joint news release from the Karuk Tribe and Klamath Riverkeeper. The Tribe and Riverkeeper said the settlement benefits both fish and farmers.
“We worked hard to find a solution that would start the fisheries restoration process but keep our neighbors in agriculture whole,” said Karuk Chairman Buster Attebery.
The settlement calls for the reimbursement of attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the litigation. It requires MWCD to pay $550,000 to Klamath Riverkeeper and the Karuk Tribe over the course of six years, beginning with an initial payment of $150,000 within 10 days of the signing of the agreement, according to Craig Tucker, Klamath Coordinator for the Karuk Tribe.

In exchange, the Karuk Tribe and Riverkeeper agree to not pursue any further litigation against the district requiring:

• the construction of fish ladders at Dwinnell Dam
• paying for fish passage measures beyond Lake Shastina
• the removal of Dwinnell Dam.

The court claim requirement will be in effect for 30 years, according to the settlement.
Historically, MWCD has diverted approximately 22,000 acre-feet of water a year on average, according to the news release. The Agreement allows MWCD to divert 20,500 acre feet of water for irrigation although in dry years they may get less and in wet years they will get more, according to Tucker.
Water models predict that average diversion over time will be nearly the same as historic average diversions.
“Since Dwinnell Dam was built in 1926, nearly the entire river has been diverted, leaving salmon high and dry,” explained Karuk DNR Director Leaf Hillman. “This has been a key factor in the decline of ESA listed coho salmon.”
The settlement will result in 2,250 to 11,000 acre feet of water being released from Dwinnell Dam for fisheries benefits each year, with the exact volume for any given year dependent on how wet the preceding winter was.
Currently, fish only receive a few hundred-acre feet of water a year in the Shasta River from Dwinnell, if any at all.
“This is a big increase in flows for fish and we expect the fisheries benefits will be seen immediately,” said Toz Soto, Karuk Senior Fisheries Biologist.
The flow plan stemming from the agreement is temporary. Under terms of the settlement, MWCD will have to develop a long-term flow plan and habitat restoration measures that will be subject to a formal Endangered Species Act permitting process that will include public input. That process will begin late in 2014.
"Litigation was a necessary but difficult route," said Konrad Fisher, Executive Director of the Klamath Riverkeeper. "We hope for a more collaborative approach to end the unlawful dewatering of other Klamath River tributaries."
The MWCD issued a press release praising the settlement, but disagreed with Fisher’s statement that the litigation was necessary.
“MWCD is pleased that the terms of the settlement agreement are consistent with the long established conservation objectives that the district has long been promoting and implementing,” according to the MWCD release. "In 2006 MWCD and other proactive agricultural operators in the Scott and Shasta Rivers attempted to acquire ESA coverage for incidental take of Coho salmon through standard agricultural operational activities in exchange for collectively protecting, expanding and enhancing Coho salmon habitat.”
“This was a community and agency supported effort intended to protect fishery resources while also preventing legal challenges against proactive family farms,” the district stated.
“However, this effort was thwarted by environmental groups, including Klamath Riverkeeper and the Karuk Tribe, that successfully sued in 2011 to prevent the implementation of the fully developed program. MWCD found it extremely disheartening to then be sued by the very entities that eliminated a locally developed program for not having the take coverage that program would have provided,” according to the release.
“While MWCD is financially strained as a result of the legal challenge, it will steadfastly meet the objectives of the agreement, meet the needs of its users, and provide water for the city of Montague. Montague Water Conservation District will not fail,” the release concluded.
Responding to the MWCD press release, Tucker said litigation was an “unfortunate but necessary means to achieve restoration.”
“Coho were listed in 1997 and nothing had been done to get take permits,” emphasized Tucker. “With this agreement we’ll now get in-river flows for fish that haven’t been seen since 1926. We’re going from 2,250 acre feet to 11,000 acre feet of water being released from Dwinnell Dam for fish. This isn't enough water to restore the fishery, but is a big step in that direction."
He noted that the best solution to fish passage above the dam, rather than a fish ladder, would be a fish bypass connecting Parks Creek to the upper Shasta River above the reservoir.
The Shasta River is considered by many state, federal and tribal fisheries biologists to be one of the most important coho spawning and rearing habitats in the entire Klamath River Basin. The actions resulting from the agreement are also expected to benefit Chinook salmon and steelhead on the river. A recent report detailing the effects of MWCD’s Dwinnell Dam on Shasta River fisheries can be found at: http://www.karuk.us/karuk2/images/docs/press/2012/Effects_of_Dwinnell_Dam_FINAL_Lestelle

Kamp Klamath
Our favorite campground Kamp Klamath "on the quite side of the river". They offer discounts for those anglers looking to park their RV for a month or more and enjoy a few weeks of this incredible fishery. They have full hookups and the entire campground has free Wi-Fi. Don't miss the Saturday night salmon and chicken B-Q with live music!
Kamp Klamath is a secure, quiet, forested campground surrounded by Redwood National Park and where we have set up our fish camp for over 25 years. Great people and a great place to stay. 707 482-0227
Motor Home Magazine has a feature article about Kamp Klamath and FunBus Tours.


Panther Creek vacation rental
For those of you booking a trip with one of our guides and not interested in camping and looking for something more than a hotel room check out this river front house. This vacation rental is located on the lower river at Panther Creek and sleeps up to 10. It's perfect for a family weekend getaway or larger groups. We know that a few of our readers have booked the home and have enjoyed its prime location.

Accommodations & Shops:
"Little Ray's Tackle" in Klamath Glen. For all your tackle needs stop by Little Rays. This is a must stop for anglers new to the river. The crew behind the counter will be more than happy to answer all your questions and point you in the right direction. Located just past the Steelhead Lodge. 707 482-7725

In Seiad Valley sits the Klamath River Side Park a quiet little RV park right on the banks of the Klamath for anglers looking for a quieter stretch of the river away from the crowds.

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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