Storms slow solid steelhead action on Smith, Chetco


Jeff Griffith of Ferndale landed this nice steelhead last Sunday on the Chetco River while fishing with friend Nick Angeli. Steelhead fishing was excellent over the weekend, but both the Smith and Chetco Rivers are blown out due to the storms that are hitting the area. Both should be back in fishable shape early next week. Photo courtesy of Nick Ange

North Coast steelhead anglers breathed a collective sigh of relief this week as the first real push of winter steelhead entered the Smith and Chetco rivers. The unusually slow start had anglers a little nervous. Were we finally seeing the effects of the drought? Were the steelhead waiting out the huge river flows? Could be a little of both, but for now, it was sure nice to see rivers full of bright steelhead again. Hopefully once the rivers begin to recede down to fishable levels, the fishing will pick up where it left off. While the spotlight is shining on the only two coastal rivers that are green, there’s good news on the horizon for the rest of our rivers. An extended dry period is in the forecast beginning next Tuesday, and it’s possible we’ll see up to two weeks with no rain. This should be more than enough time for all of the coastal rivers to turn green and maybe even enough time for the main stem Eel to come into play for the first time this winter.

The weather ahead
The North Coast can expect more of the wet stuff to stick around through next Monday according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The wettest system will have moved through on Wednesday. The next system will hit us Thursday night and stick around through the day on Friday. This will be followed by another one hitting land on Saturday night and lasting through Sunday. In between the two systems, we’ll see some showery weather along with some lulls. Rainfall totals for the next five days will be between two and a half and five inches for both Del Norte and Humboldt Counties. On Tuesday, we’ll see a dry pattern settling in which will last at least through next weekend, and possibly longer,” Kennedy said.

Humboldt Steelhead Days weekend happenings
As part of Humboldt Steelhead Days, the Mad River Brewing Co. Tap Room will be hosting the Mad River Kickoff Party on Friday, January 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There will be live music from Cadillac Ranch, games, prizes and auction. This is also a pints for non-profit event, so $1 from every pint sold will go toward future river restoration.

Weekend festivities will include Little River and Mad River Basin Tours on Saturday, January 21 starting at 9 a.m. at Wildberries Marketplace. This special tour by Mad River Alliance will allow participants a front row seat on the spawning and rearing grounds that are the vital to the success of our wild salmonid populations.

Also on Saturday, the Steelhead Expo will be held from 11 a.m. to 3:30.p.m. at the Mad River Brewing Company Tap Room and Mad River Business Park with presentations, casting workshop and seminars on getting rigged for steelhead. Games and activities will be provided for the kids. For more information, visit

Fishing Report Cards Due Soon
CDFW wants to remind anglers and divers that the due date for turning in steelhead, sturgeon, abalone and North Coast salmon report card data is Jan. 31, 2017.
Anglers and divers must report even if the report card was lost, they did not fish or they did not catch any fish. Cards should be reviewed carefully for accuracy prior to submitting. Harvest reporting can be submitted online at or by mailing the cards to the address listed on the report card. For more information and a complete list of mail addresses, visit

The Rivers
“The Chetco fished the best it has so far this season over the weekend and early this week, although it is expected to blow out again for several days,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The plunkers did very well on Thursday and Friday, and the drift boaters did well last weekend. There are fish spread throughout the river, including a lot of hatchery fish. The best bite has been after 10 a.m. on the lower river, while the upper section has fished well right off the bat. Most guides reported two to three fish a day the last several days.
According to Martin, the Elk and Sixes were both in good shape early this week, with the Sixes fishing better than the Elk. “There are still some old salmon in each, but they are dark. With the new storms, the Elk will be one of the first options in Southern Oregon. The Rogue stayed high, hitting 90,000 cfs last week and dropping to 12,000 cfs on Tuesday just as it started raining again.”

 Smith River
“The fishing was really good all week,” said guide Mike Coopman. “The river was in absolutely perfect shape, and there were lots of fish around. We had a couple days of double-digit hookups. The river was on its way out on Wednesday morning, so we’ll have to see what happens when it comes back down. If the rain falls as forecasted, it looks like we may be plunking this weekend with the river coming back down enough on Monday to side-drift,” Coopman added.

Eel and Van Duzen rivers
The main stem Eel was a long way from fishable, but at least it was headed in the right direction. That all changed with Wednesday’s storm as its back on the rise and predicted to hit monitor stage early Thursday morning. The South Fork was a few days away from fishing, but it too is on a steep rise. The Van Duzen dipped below 1,000 cfs on Wednesday, but was reportedly still muddy below Yager Creek. It’s predicted to surpass monitor stage early Thursday morning, but should recede quickly.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, fishing remains slow on the Mad. “Fishing in dirty conditions, the liners didn’t fair very well this past week. It doesn’t seem like there’s many fish in the river right now, and there isn’t a ton of effort either. Hopefully once the water drops back down, we’ll see a good push of fish come in.” Kelly added.

Conditions on the upper Trinity have improved dramatically over the past couple days reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. He said, “We fished the Junction City area this week, and the water was about perfect. There’s still a little color to it, making it perfect for pulling plugs. The winter steelhead have definitely made it into the system, with most of the fish being wild. With more rain on the way this week, the action will be above Indian Creek.”

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