Coastal rivers full of steelhead — just need water

With or without rain, “Steelhead Days” a go on the Mad
Last week’s rain, which filled the Smith and Chetco rivers, proved a couple points — the run of steelhead appears to be large, and the number of anglers looking to get in on the action is even larger. Both rivers turned emerald green on Monday and boats and bankies were out in force. With their opportunities limited by river closures and low flows, steelhead fishermen are without question chomping at the bit. Unfortunately, it looks like the rain and subsequent rise was just a big tease as the Smith and Chetco are both dropping and clearing quickly. The Humboldt rivers saw a slight bump in flows, but not enough to pass the cfs threshold that would warrant opening. With no rain in the immediate forecast, we’re back to square one for the coastal streams. Best bets until the next storm will be the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Weather update
Not much to reiterate here — another week of dry weather. According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, there’s a slight chance of rain for Del Norte and into Southern Oregon on the Jan. 22, but it doesn’t look to be anything significant. After that, our next chance is Jan. 29 and 31.

HASA meeting next Tuesday
HASA will be holding their general membership meeting on Tuesday, January 21. The agenda will cover voting on the five new board member positions as well as discussing a range of fishery related issues and the fundraiser. Meeting will be held at the Grace Baptist Church, 220 Buhne Street, Eureka.

Low-flow river closure extensions possible
No official word or decision has been made, but CDFW is looking at all options regarding the low flows, with one being the extension of the low flow closures for North Coast Rivers according to Michelle M. Gilroy, District Fisheries Biologist with CDFW. According to the 2014 regulations, low flow closures are to be lifted on Jan 31. “We don’t have an official position as of yet, but if the proposals go forward they will be discussed at the Fish and Game Commission meeting on Feb. 5. More information will be forthcoming in next weeks “Fishing the North Coast” column.

Mad River Steelhead Days
According to event organizer and Director of Mad River Alliance Dave Feral, the first annual “Steelhead Days” will go on as planned despite the lack of rain. “If the low flows are still in effect when the event kicks off on Jan. 25, we’ll follow the fish and game regulations whereas fishing will be allowed from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to the mouth,” Feral said.  The event, which is hosted by the Mad River Alliance and the Blue Lake Casino & Hotel, celebrates the winter steelhead run on the Mad River. The two-week event opens with a family oriented Kick-off day at the Blue Lake Business Park featuring workshops, fishing experts, and a family-friendly variety show in the evening featuring all things fishy hosted by Dell’ Arte International.
The family-fun fishing event concludes February 8 with a kid’s day and an awards ceremony and dinner.
The $35 entry fee includes membership into the Mad River Alliance, $10 in Blue Bucks, entrance to all shows and workshops, chance to win daily prizes, and one award dinner ticket.
Contest categories include; first fish of the day (each day), best fish photo, last fish in, and many more. Prizes include; guided fishing trips, fishing gear, rods, reels, gear racks, and much more. The awards celebration dinner will be held February 8th from 6-10pm in the Blue Lake Casino’s Sapphire Palace.
Tickets are available at Blue Lake Casino & Hotel’s Player Club and the BLC website, Mad River Tackle, and Redwood Marine. For more information, visit To purchase tickets online, visit All proceeds will benefit programs of Mad River Alliance.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
The rain over the weekend brought in some fish as well as a crowd reports Guide Val Early of Early Fishing Guide Service. “We had some rain over the weekend, the river turned muddy for a day and then cleared and started dropping. The fish moved fast and the boats as well as the bank anglers piled up. There were fish caught, but we are now back to low, clear and little flow — a vicious circle. Some of the crowd have moved to other rivers that are clearing.”

The Smith, Eel, Mad, Van Duzen, and Mattole Rivers are regulated by low flow closures. Call the DFG’s low flow closure hotline at (707) 822-3164 to determine the condition of the rivers.

Smith River
The water is low and clear, but there are some fish around reports Crescent City guide Mike Coopman. “The rivers dropping quick, in a few days it’s going to be tough to drift. The upside is the fish are here, but it’s super clear and real snaggy,” Coopman added.

The lower Klamath peaked at just over 5,500 cfs on Monday and is on a slow drop. Conditions are excellent and the winter steelhead are making their way through the system.

A few winter steelhead have made their way to the Junction City area reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “We found some nice fish on Wednesday, they were mostly wild and in the 4 to 5 pound range. The fish are not here in big numbers yet, but they are here. Boat pressure has been light and side-drifting roe seems to be the ticket,” Huber said.

Lower Trinity
Despite the lower-than-normal flows, the river is in great shape. Should be some winter fish around along with some half-pounders.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to

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