Fishing the North Coast: Green rivers await coastal steelhead anglers

Humboldt Steelhead Days kicks off Saturday
By Kenny Priest

Eureka resident Jody Knowlton boated a nice Smith River steelhead while drifting with guide Tony Sepulveda of Green Water Fishing Adventures on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Tony Sepulveda/Green Water Fishing Adventures

Eureka resident Jody Knowlton boated a nice Smith River steelhead while drifting with guide Tony Sepulveda of Green Water Fishing Adventures on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Tony Sepulveda/Green Water Fishing Adventures

The rain fell hard last weekend, temporarily turning the coastal steelhead rivers from green to brown. The blowout was short-lived however, as the rivers have receded quickly. The Smith was the first to clear, and drew quite a crowd on Monday morning. The Chetco came in on Tuesday, alleviating some of the pressure from the Smith. This weekend, the rest of the rivers should drop back into fishable shape, giving the rivers to the North some much-needed space. And the fishing should be exceptional too. The reports I’ve been hearing are all of the rivers having plenty of fresh steelhead in them.

Humboldt Steelhead Days fishing contest starts Saturday
Sponsored by Mad River Alliance and California Trout, this Saturday begins the two-week celebration of all things Steelhead along the North Coast. Humboldt Steelhead Days is 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 For a complete set of rules and guidelines as well as river maps, visit Kick off party at Mad River Brewing Co on Friday at 6pm. #HumboldtSteelheadDays

Weather update
The North Coast can expect more sunny days, at least through next Tuesday according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “A weak system is expected next Wednesday, which may drop three quarters of an inch in Del Norte County and possibly a half-inch in Humboldt. After that, it’s looking dry through the end of the month,” Kennedy said.

CDFW to hold public meeting on Pacific Halibut
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife invites the public to attend a meeting to discuss the 2015 recreational Pacific halibut fishing season dates under consideration for California according to a press release issued on Wednesday.

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015 at the City of Eureka Wharfinger Building in the Bay Room, located at 1 Marina Way, Eureka from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The meeting will provide information on Pacific halibut management and include a discussion on 2015 season options for the recreational fishery. The public is encouraged to provide input to managers and representatives that will aid in the development of future Pacific halibut management for 2015 and beyond. For more information regarding Pacific halibut management, visit

Mad River Fish Hatchery using anglers to help collect steelhead
In a press release issued last week, the CDFW trained 21 anglers at Mad River Fish Hatchery last week to aid in the collection of wild-origin steelhead from the Mad River. These anglers, called Mad River Steelhead Stewards, have volunteered their time to help the hatchery meet its annual production goals. The Stewards will begin collecting fish this week and the program is expected to run until at least the end of February.

CDFW’s Hatchery and Genetic Management Plan (HGMP) for the Mad River Fish Hatchery requires more wild steelhead be used during spawning operations so that the genetic makeup of hatchery steelhead is closer to that of the Mad River wild steelhead. The hatchery’s genetic management goal is to utilize 50-67 percent wild-origin steelhead in breeding program. Last year, the number of wild-origin fish available was insufficient and resulted in the rearing of only 40,000 steelhead smolts. Historically, the hatchery has released approximately 150,000 steelhead smolts annually.

“We are looking for new and innovative ways to increase the wild-origin segment of our hatchery steelhead spawning population,” said Philip Bairrington, a senior environmental scientist with CDFW’s Anadromous Fisheries Resource Assessment and Monitoring Program, and the author of the Mad River Fish Hatchery’s HGMP. “Last year we tried seining, but that effort didn’t produce enough wild-origin steelhead broodstock for the hatchery’s needs. Our hope is that the participation of trained volunteer anglers — many of whom have been fishing this river for years, and are extremely successful — will greatly increase our chances of meeting our goals.”

For more information, visit

The Rivers:

Chetco River
The Chetco was in great shape and fished well on Wednesday reports Alan Borges of Alan’s Guide Service. He said, “There was a couple feet of visibility at the top, and got a slightly off color as you went downriver. But it didn’t seem to hurt the bite, as there seemed to be quite a few fish around. Most everyone was catching fish, and there were some big fish caught today too. The fish were scattered from the top to the bottom, which was nice. The conditions will only get better leading into the weekend.”

FNC 1_22 photo 1

Steve Bynum of Modesto landed this nice Smith River steelhead on Tuesday while fishing with guide Curt Wilson.

Smith River
The fishing has been pretty good the past few days reports Crescent City guide Mike Coopman. “There seems to be quite a few fish around. It’s not red-hot, but most of the boats are catching fish. The water is really cold, which could be slowing down the bite. At the moment, there are fish from the Forks down to Ruby and everywhere in between,” Coopman added.

Eel River
Main Stem
The water color on the main stem is starting to turn, and should be fishable by the weekend according to Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. He said, “It will be a little high and murky, but you should be able to catch fish. This kings tides that we’ve had typically bring in a good bunch of fish.”

South Fork
The South Fork was fishable in the Benbow area on Tuesday, and is starting to turn green below the East Branch. The Sylvandale area had a few inches of visibility on Tuesday, and was clearing quickly. It should be in fishable shape down to the forks by Saturday or Sunday.

Van Duzen
Still a little off color as of Wednesday according to Grundman, but should be plenty fishable by the weekend. Above Yager Creek will be your best bet for green water.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, the Mad has been full of fish this week. He said, “As of Wednesday, there was about a foot of visibility and it’s getting greener by the day. It should be in prime shape this weekend. Guys fishing bait on Wednesday did really well. There doesn’t seem to be any one spot holding more fish, they’re spread throughout the system right now. While there are still lots of fresh fish, a few darker ones started to show up this week.”

The Trinity received some much-needed rain last weekend and there’s definitely winter steelhead in the system reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “The water color is still dirty coming out of Lewiston, but it’s clearing up from Douglas City to the South Fork. The lower you go in the river, the better the water conditions become. Saturday before the rain, the fishing was good with a lot if half-pounders and a few nice winter adults. The best action came while side-drifting roe and a few were caught on plugs,” Huber added.

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

#ChetcoRiver #SmithRiver #VanDuzen #MattoleRiver #EelRiver #Steelhead #Salmon #TrinityRiver #NorCalFishing #NorthCoastFishing #FishingTheNorthCoast #PacificHalibut #RazorClams #MadRiver #HumboldtSteelheadDays

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