Winter Steelhead season set to take off!

Grass Valley resident Nelson Money landed this nice hatchery steelhead on a recent drift along the upper Trinity River. The recent rains have given the Trinity a much-needed boost in flows, resulting in some pretty good steelhead action. Photo courtesy of Steve Huber's Guide Service

Grass Valley resident Nelson Money landed this nice hatchery steelhead on a recent drift along the upper Trinity River. The recent rains have given the Trinity a much-needed boost in flows, resulting in some pretty good steelhead action. Photo courtesy of Steve Huber’s Guide Service

Smith, Chetco, Trinity best options for the weekend

North Coast rivers will likely see the last of the late fall-run salmon push in this weekend as big tides and swollen rivers are in the forecast. The majority of these late-season kings have already made their way up rivers like the Chetco, Smith, Mad and Eel, but you can bet a few more spurts of fresh fish will push in between now and the beginning of the year. The season was a good one, and a lot of the success can be attributed to the above normal rainfall that’s fallen since October.

One of the best parts of living in such a fishing mecca like the North Coast — no sooner does one season come to a close, another one’s right behind it. So it’s out with the salmon and in with the widely popular winter steelhead. And as the influx of water hits our coastal rivers this weekend and brings in the salmon stragglers, the first wave of steelhead should begin to make an appearance. Most of the rivers have already seen a few, but I expect they’ll start to show up in bigger numbers in the coming days.

Weekend forecast
After a break on Thursday, more rain is in store for the next few days according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The next rain event will hit late Friday morning and will stick around through Friday night. We could see up to an inch and a half in the Smith basin and an inch here in Humboldt. Saturday afternoon through Sunday should be dry, with the next system moving in on Sunday afternoon. Another inch of rain is predicted for both Del Norte and Humboldt from this storm, which should stick around through Monday,” Kennedy added.

Extreme tides could cause hazardous bar conditions, coastal flooding
Some of the biggest tides of the year arrived this week, bringing with them the potential for flooding in some of the low-lying areas of King Salmon and the Arcata Bottoms. They could also create hazardous bar conditions for crab fishermen heading out of Humboldt Bay during ebb tides as a large volume of water will be running directly into swells predicted to be 5-feet and larger.
According to the Eureka’s National Weather Service, tides have been running well above predictions, peaking between 8.9 and 9.3 feet at the North Spit tide gauge. The largest tides of the week are forecasted for Thursday through Saturday.

Morning high tide predictions – Humboldt Bay

  • Thur., Dec. 4 (8.0-feet high tide at 9:28 a.m. down to a low of -0.3 at 4:21 p.m.
  • Fri., Dec. 5 (8.1-feet high tide at 10:10 a.m. down to a low of -1.0 at 5:04 p.m.
  • Sat., Dec. 6 (8.0-feet high tide at 10:50 a.m. down to a low of -1.1 at 5:46 p.m.

Eel River salmon returns
As of Dec. 1, a total of 492 Chinook salmon have entered the Van Arsdale fish count station according to Scott L Harris, an associate Biologist with the Northern Region. Making up that total is 180 males, 258 Female, and 54 jacks. For more information, visit

State abandons raid on fishing license funds
In a press release issued on Monday by the California Sportfishing League, the Ocean Protection Council has abandoned its plan to raid fishing and hunting licensing funds to manage Marine Protected Areas, created by the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). Fish and Game Code Section 711(a)(1) prohibits taking monies from this special Fish and Game Preservation Fund to support non-game programs. According to the press release, “The reversal shows that California’s fishing community has a voice in influencing the outcome of public policy.
Not only was the proposed raid illegal, but also it was a violation of the public’s trust. Fish license funds are intended to support programs that protect and enhance recreational fishing opportunities, not programs that deny anglers access to California’s coastline.” For more information, visit

The Rivers:
Chetco River
As of Wednesday, the Chetco was running close to 2,600 cfs and was in great shape. It’s predicted to see a slight rise on Thursday and a bigger bump on Friday evening. If the rain falls as predicted, it should remain fishable through the weekend, especially the upper end. Like the Smith, the last of the salmon are making their way in and the winter steelhead should be right behind them.

Smith River
Its transition time on the Smith according to guide Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service. “There were quite a few salmon around over the weekend and early this week, but it’s gotten tougher the last couple of days. The bulk of the salmon have likely gone through, and it’s time to start looking for steelhead. There’s been some half-pounders around, and they typically follow the salmon. Following the next set of storms, we should begin to see steelhead in bigger numbers,” Coopman added.

The Mad was fishable through Wednesday, but predicted to rise beginning in the afternoon. If the forecasts are correct, it may not be green until next week. A pretty good shot of bright salmon came through last week, and the next significant rise should bring in the first waves of steelhead.

The main stem was muddy as of Wednesday. With more rain on the way, it will be blown out for the foreseeable future.

South Fork
With the majority of Wednesday’s rain falling closer to Mendocino, the South Fork Eel drainage saw the highest amount of precipitation and was rising quickly on Wednesday. If the storms forecasted for the rest of the week come up short, the top end of the South Fork could come into play by the weekend.

Van Duzen
Predicted for a significant rise beginning Wednesday afternoon. If the forecast holds, it doesn’t look like it will fish by the weekend.

Upper Trinity
Good rains all week are helping the steelhead move into spawning areas reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “Creeks have started to flow and the steelhead are on the move. We should start to see the second group of winter steelhead start making their way up the Klamath and Trinity. All methods of fishing are working,” Huber said.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s