Coastal steelhead rivers continue to drop and clear

Ocean salmon numbers look promising

Six-year old Jackson Stratman of Eureka poses with his Eel River steelhead, which he hooked, fought, and landed all by himself on trip with his dad earlier this week. Photo courtesy of Mike Stratman/Redwood Coast Fishing

Six-year old Jackson Stratman of Eureka poses with his Eel River steelhead, which he hooked, fought, and landed all by himself on trip with his dad earlier this week.
Photo courtesy of Mike Stratman/Redwood Coast Fishing

March can be a great time of the year for coastal steelhead anglers. The weather is great, the crowds have thinned, and there’s typically plenty of steelhead around to make for a fun day. This is certainly the case right now, and you probably won’t hear a lot of complaints. But these spring-like conditions have been with us for a good part of the winter steelhead season. Fishing in t-shirts, lathered in sunscreen in the middle of February just seemed wrong. But we’re right back there again, the dry weather pattern that’s been sitting over the North Coast for the past few weeks has once again created low and clear conditions for most the local rivers. The Smith and Chetco have become wastelands while we wait for the next rainfall. The Mad, Van Duzen, and Redwood Creek are all low and clear too. But there may be a glimmer of hope for some of the wet stuff. A change in the weather pattern is taking place next week, and we may see some heavier rain by the weekend. I for one would be happy to pull the rain gear out of storage and pretend its winter all over again.

Salmon abundant off the North Coast
Despite all the talk of drought and low water conditions, it appears the North Coast will have another solid ocean salmon season in 2015. The PFMC held their annual salmon abundance meeting last Thursday in Santa Rosa, where discussions centered on in-river data from the 2014 season and to project the number of salmon swimming in coastal waters in 2015. What the data revealed — at least for the Sacramento and Klamath — is another bumper crop of adult salmon. The PFMC projected an ocean population of 652,000 Sacramento and another 423,800 Klamath River salmon. The majority of California’s ocean and inland fisheries come from these two runs.

These abundance forecasts, which are higher than last year, will be used over the next few months to set sport and commercial fishing season lengths, sport and commercial quotas, and size and bag limits.

Next up, the PFMC is set to meet March 6-12 in Vancouver, WA to consider its recommendations for the length of this year’s salmon season, with a final decision to come later in the spring. For more information on this meeting, visit

To view the PFMC Preseason Stock Abundance Analysis and
Environmental Assessment Part 1 for 2015 Ocean Salmon Fishery Regulations, visit

Weekend Weather
We won’t see a change in our current weather pattern until next Tuesday according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “We should see light showers beginning Tuesday with possibly a quarter inch accumulation through Thursday. As of now, the forecast is calling for heavier rain to hit Friday night through the weekend, but that can certainly change,” Kennedy added.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
The Chetco is down to 575 cfs as of Wednesday and is pretty much void of anglers. Right now it’s too low and clear to fish effectively. A good shot of rain is needed to bring in some new fish and get the old ones moving down.

Smith River
The Smith is low and clear, but there are a few fish around reports guide Mike Coopman. He said, “There’s very little fishing pressure at the moment, you may see a one or two boats a day. There are some fish being caught, but conditions are tough. When we do get some rain, the fishing should bust wide-open as the downers are all waiting for some water.”

Eel River (main stem)
The water and color are just about perfect on the main stem according to Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. He said, “The river looks great and there are some fish being caught. Even though conditions are good, the boat pressure has really died down.”

Eel River (South Fork)
According to Darren Brown of Brown’s Sporting Goods in Garberville, there aren’t many anglers still fishing the South Fork. “It’s definitely low and clear, but you can still catch fish in the deeper slots. If you’re looking for a place to fly fish, conditions are perfect. Most of the boats have moved down towards the forks and into the main this week,” Brown added.

Van Duzen
According to Grundman, the Van Duzen is low, but still has decent color. “It should be good for bank fishermen, but it would be tough to drift,” Grundman added.

Mad River
Most of the fish are still being caught above the hatchery reports Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors of Eureka. “There’s a few fresh fish being caught, but it’s mostly downers now. The fish are sitting in some of the deeper holes as the river is really low and clear. The fishing pressure has really dwindled as well,” Kelly added.

Upper Trinity
According to Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service, the upper Trinity is clear and the sunny-day conditions are making it tough. “There’s a pretty good hatch going on now, so the fly fishermen are doing well. There aren’t a lot of big winter adults up high, but we are seeing some smaller adults as well as some downers. Most of the boats are in the Junction City area where some of the bigger creeks are still flowing.” Huber added.

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