Much needed rain headed to the North Coast

Kyle De Juilio of Weaverville landed this beautiful native steelhead on the Mad River last Sunday using a fly rod. Photo courtesy of Aaron Martin

Kyle De Juilio of Weaverville landed this beautiful native steelhead on the Mad River last Sunday using a fly rod. Photo courtesy of Aaron Martin

Rising rivers should bring in fresh steelhead

After nearly three weeks of dry weather, rain is finally predicted to return to the North Coast. And just in the nick of time. Some of the smaller rivers like the Van Duzen, Mad and Redwood Creek were getting close their respective low flow closure thresholds. As it stands now, all the North Coast rivers are running low and clear, including larger drainages like the Eel and Klamath. Needless to say, a good shot of rain is just what the doctor ordered. As is typically the case when the rivers are rejuvenated with fresh flows, you can bet we’ll see a real good push of steelhead bolting in from the saltwater. Enjoy it while you can, that nasty ridge of high pressure is slated to return on Monday, keeping us dry all next week and possibly through the end of the month.

Weather outlook
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, we should see some decent rainfall totals beginning Thursday evening and sticking around through Sunday. “The heaviest rainfall total will be to our north, with the Smith basin seeing anywhere from three to five inches. The Lower Klamath area could see up to two inches and Redwood Creek is forecasted for two and a half. Closer to Humboldt, the Mad and Eel River basins could see up to two inches,” Kennedy added.

HASA meeting coming in February
HASA will be holding their general membership meeting on Thursday, February 5 at 7 p.m. Meeting will be held at the Grace Baptist Church, 220 Buhne Street, Eureka.

Humboldt Steelhead Days starts on Jan. 23 and runs through Feb. 7
This event is sponsored by Mad River Alliance and California Trout. It’s a celebration of Steelhead spawned in the cold, clean waters of Northern California with more than $3,500 in cash and prizes given away during the two-week event. Purchase a ticket and you’ll receive entry into the awards dinner, entry into the prize pool and two free memberships to Mad River Alliance and California Trout. Register and get tickets at or at RMI Outdoors in Eureka, Mad River Bait & Tackle in Arcata, Pacific Outfitters in Eureka and Grundmans Sporting Goods in Rio Dell or online at

Other activities and presentations include:

  • Kick-off party at Mad River Brewing Co., on Jan. 23 at 6 p.m.
  • Mad River Free Family Fun Day at the Blue Lake Business Park on Jan. 24 at 1 p.m. Classes on how to rig for steelhead by Seth Naman and ethical catch and release methods by Shane Anderson as well as discussions on the state of wild steelhead on the West Coast. Plus, lots of fun activities for the kids, so bring the whole family.
  • The International Fly Fishing Film Festival at the Arcata Theater Lounge on Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.
  • Presentation on salmon and steelhead in the Eel River at the Redwoods State Park Interpretive Center on Ave of Giants near Weott on Jan. 31 at 12 p.m.
  • Also on Jan. 31, a presentation on salmon and steelhead in the Eel River, fish tacos, and a raffle at the Monday Club in Fortuna at 5 p.m.
  • Friends of the Arcata Marsh sponsored talk “Arcata Marsh – The History of a Salmonid Fish Hatchery” at the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center on Feb. 6 at 6 p.m.

Humboldt Steelhead Days ends with an awards dinner and steelhead slideshow on Feb. 7 at the Wharfinger Building (free with your HSD ticket). Tri-tip dinner catered by Blackberry Bramble, microbrews from Mad River Brewing Co, Sonoma wine from Steelhead Vineyards, and the keynote speaker will be Mikey Wier. Wier is a Patagonia fly fishing ambassador. More than $3,500 worth of outdoor equipment and fishing prizes will be given away to the fishermen who have verified the biggest Mad River steelhead, the best photographed Eel River steelhead and other photo contest categories.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
Flowing at just over 720 cfs as of Wednesday, the river is extremely low and clear according to guide Val Early of Early Fishing Guide Service. She said, “There have been a few little batches of fish continuing to run the gauntlet of seals, bankies and boats. Hopefully the rain comes as predicted. And if it does, expect a crowd.”

Smith River
The Smith is low and clear, but it looks like we’re finally going to get some rain reports Crescent City guide Mike Coopman. “The river is predicted to rise on Friday afternoon and we’ll have to wait and see if it will fish on the weekend. If the predictions are right, Monday should be good. I’d expect to see quite a few new fish enter the system on the rise, but once it settles down it should be good fishing,” Coopman added.

Mad River
The river is super low and clear reports Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors. “The past few days, fishing has been best between the railroad trestle and the 101 bridge. The pump station has also been giving up a few fish using bobbers and jigs.” Kelly said. With the rain coming, the Mad is predicted to peak at 8.7 feet late Sunday night.

Eel River
Main Stem
The main stem is still holding some good color, but the low flows are reducing the spots with current. It has been the best option for steelhead the past couple weeks as boats were landing between two and eight adults per trip. Predicted to rise Saturday evening and will probably blow out on Sunday or Monday. Depending on how much rain falls, it may drop back in quickly.

South Fork
According to Darren Brown of Brown’s Sporting Goods in Garberville, the Sylvandale area has about six to seven feet of visibility as of Wednesday. “There’s a few boats still drifting, and a few fish are being caught. It’s too clear for the fish to be out in the open, you’re best bet is finding them where they have cover,” Brown said. Forecasted to rise late Sunday afternoon, but it’s possible it will remain fishable, at least above the East Branch.

Van Duzen
Low and clear, and running just above 220 cfs as of Wednesday. Predicted to rise beginning Saturday morning and peaking early Monday morning at around 1,500 cfs. If the predictions hold, it could be fishable late next week above Yager Creek.

The water coming out of the lake continues to be dirty, creating some tough steelhead conditions on the upper Trinity reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “There’s very few people fishing the upper river due to the conditions, most of the boats and bank anglers are working the Junction City area where the water is in better shape. Scores are ranging from two to 4 adults per trip,” Huber said.

Lower Trinity
Reports from the lower Trinity haven’t changed in the past few weeks. River conditions are good, but it’s been tough to land more than a couple adults per trip. The good news is the river is loaded with half-pounders.

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

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