Steelhead yet to show in the Smith, Chetco

More rain in store for the weekend

Go figure. We’re in the middle of the wettest December we’ve had in three years and the steelhead on the Smith and Chetco Rivers have decided to play a little hide-n-seek. Granted, there hasn’t been a ton of fishing effort, but both rivers haven’t given up any adult steelhead to speak of. It just doesn’t make sense. The past few Decembers saw barely a trickle of water flowing, yet there was plenty of fish to go around. Maybe there’s too much water for them to come in? It’s not cold enough outside? Both possibilities, along with the fact it’s not even Christmas yet.
While the lack of fish has raised a few eyebrows, there’s no need to panic. Typically, the winter steelhead season really gets going after Christmas and is in full swing by the time the New Year rolls around. However, there’s usually enough fish around by now to keep the guides working and the sport anglers satisfied. Not the case so far. After the next round of storms hit this weekend and the rivers begin to recede to fishable levels, I’m willing to bet we’ll see the first wave of winter steelhead make their way into our North Coast rivers. At least that’s the hope.

Weekend Forecast
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, after a break on Thursday during the day, we’ll be back into a wet pattern that will likely stick around through the weekend. “From Thursday evening into Friday morning, we could see up to an inch of rain area-wide. Another system will arrive sometime Saturday morning and will keep us wet through Sunday afternoon. This system could drop as much as an inch and a half in the Smith/Klamath basin and another inch in Humboldt. The following week looks dry, except for a chance of rain on the 23rd in Del Norte County,” Kennedy added.

2015 Fishing license
A reminder that it’s the time of the year to purchase your 2015 license, which is required for residents 16 years of age or older to take fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, amphibians or reptile in inland or ocean waters. The cost of a new resident sport fishing license is $47.01. A North Coast salmon report card, which will run you $6.22, is required for all anglers taking salmon in the Smith River System or Klamath-Trinity River System. If you plan to fish for steelhead, you’ll need to purchase a steelhead report card, which will cost $7.05 this year. Fishing licenses and reports cards are now available to purchase online. For more information, visit

Freshwater Lagoon trout
Located on 101 just south or Orick, Freshwater Lagoon might be a good option if you’re looking to fish this weekend. The lagoon was planted this summer with plenty of catchable size rainbows, and the influx of fresh water has turned the water from brown to green. If you’re fishing from shore, Powerbait rigged with a sliding egg sinker is one of the better baits. Nightcrawlers or a single salmon egg also works well. As for artificials, 1/4 oz Kastmasters or Cleos in nickel/orange color are top producers. A fly and bubble will also entice the rainbows. If you plan to troll from a boat, you’ll want to go easy on the weight. Spoons, small Flatfish, Triple Teasers, or any of your standard trout lures will do the trick.

Mattole River set to open Jan 1
The Mattole River is scheduled to open to fishing on January 1, 2015 from 200 yards upstream of its mouth to the confluence with Stansberry Creek. Barbless hooks are required. The Mattole is also regulated by low flow closures, with a minimum flow of 320 cfs at the Petrolia gauging station.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
The river is in beautiful shape, but it seems to be lacking significant numbers of steelhead right now reports Alan Borges of Alan’s Guide Service. He said, “It’s still early in the season, but we should be seeing more fish in the river. There have been a few adults caught, but not very many. I think they’re running a little late this year. Could be that it hasn’t been cold enough or the flows have been too high. Typically, after Christmas is when the steelhead fishing really takes off.”

Smith River
Much like the Chetco, the Smith was in perfect shape this week, but the steelhead were nowhere to be found. Jut a few adults have been caught, along with some half-pounders. Another couple inches of rain is in the forecast through the weekend, which may keep the flows just above a driftable height. If the rain falls as predicted, it should begin to drop on Sunday and will be back to a fishable level by early in the week.

Eel and Van Duzen rivers
According to Fred Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods, the main stem is still muddy, with more rain forecasted for the weekend. “If next week is dry, maybe we could get a shot at the forks at the end of the week. The South Fork also has the potential to fish next week. The Van Duzen was nearly fishable earlier in the week, but it’s predicted for more rises through the weekend. There’s a decent chance it will fish later next week, especially above Yager Creek. With the ground being dry, all of these rivers are dropping and clearing quickly.” Grundman added.

Mad River
With off and on rain through the weekend, it doesn’t look like the Mad will clear before next week. It’s predicted to peak on Sunday at 10.5 feet, it will likely drop quickly and be bait fishable by late next week. The liners fishing near the hatchery have reportedly caught a few adults.

Upper Trinity
Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service reports there isn’t a lot of steelhead in the upper Trinity at the moment. He said, “I think we’re in between runs on the upper stretch. The old fish are long gone, and a few new winter fish are just starting to show up. The river is in good shape and has the perfect steelhead green color. The whole river is probably fishable, even below the south fork. It may be a little big however, and it looks like it will be on the rise this weekend. I’m sure there’s winter fish moving through the lower end.”

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