Smith, Chetco full of bright steelhead


Beau Jackson of Potter Valley landed a nice steelhead on the Chetco River Wednesday while fishing with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. Following the latest round of storms, drift boats were finally back on the Chetco on Wednesday and quite a few fish were reportedly landed. Photo courtesy of Andy Martin/Wild Rivers Fishing

After what seems like a couple months of solid rain, things are finally looking up for North Coast steelhead anglers. Not only are the Smith and Chetco in pristine condition following the latest round of storms, but the rest of the coastal rivers are dropping quickly as well. The South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and the Mad could all be some shade of green as early as the weekend. If you’re looking to land your first steelhead of the year, you’ll want to take advantage of this break in the weather because it’s looking like it may be short-lived. Rain is back in the forecast for next Wednesday and Thursday, which could potentially put the Humboldt rivers right back at square one.

The weather ahead
“Expect another five or six days of dry weather along the coast,” said Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “It’s looking dry through next Tuesday, with the next rain event moving in on Wednesday and Thursday. We could see anywhere from two to four inches of rain over those two days. As of now, Friday and Saturday are looking dry, with another front moving in next Sunday.”

Humboldt Steelhead Days weekend events
In conjunction with Humboldt Steelhead Days, there will be an all day tour of the Van Duzen watershed, a 420 square mile tributary to the Eel River this Saturday Jan. 28. The tour will view three to four restoration and watershed management sites and have in-the-field presentations from resource experts Scott Downie, and Randy Klein, who will discuss the sediment and fish dynamics of the lowest reaches of the Van Duzen; Keith Lackey with Humboldt Redwood Co. presents a restoration success story on Lawrence Creek; and Eric Stockwell with Loleta Eric Guide Service will lead the group in hunting for spawning evidence or live action. The event begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 5:30 p.m. at the Eel River Brewery. Participants will be shuttled to tour stops in the Pacific Outfitters van. Space is limited and the cost is $55. More info at

HASA membership meeting coming in February
HASA (Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers) will be having their general membership meeting on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 7 p.m. at the Grace Baptist Church, 220 Buhne Street, Eureka. For more information, email or call 707-845-0101.

Humboldt Bay Entrance Safety Zone established
In a press release issued last week, the Coast Guard established a safety zone in the navigable waters of the Humboldt Bay Entrance Channel to promote the navigational safety of all vessels near Humboldt Bay, when extreme environmental conditions are present. The safety zone will run through March 31, 2017. The safety zone prohibits vessels from transiting the Humboldt Bay Entrance Channel as a result of extreme environmental conditions.

During times of extreme environmental conditions the temporary safety zone applies to the navigable waters of the Humboldt Bay Bar Channel and the Humboldt Bay Entrance Channel, of Humboldt Bay. This safety zone is effective from the time of promulgation through March 31, 2017; this safety zone will be enforced when on-scene conditions reach 20 feet breaking seas or as the Captain of the Port determines that the on scene environmental conditions are hazardous and unsafe for vessel transits, as announced via Broadcast Notice to Mariners. During times of enforcement, all vessels are prohibited from transiting through or remaining in the safety zone.

Any vessel requesting permission to transit the safety zone during times of enforcement shall contact Station Humboldt Bay on VHF-FM channel 16 or at 707- 443-2213 between 6:30 a.m. and 10 p.m., or to Sector Humboldt Bay on VHF-FM channel 16 or at 707-839-6113 between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. For more information on boating safety and required and recommended safety equipment, please visit For more information on weather conditions, please visit

The Rivers Chetco/Elk/Sixes
The plunkers got into some steelhead on Monday and Tuesday as there were some pretty good numbers of fish going through Social Security Bar,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Boats were back on the water Wednesday as the river dropped to 4,700 cfs. We launched at the South Fork and even though the water looked great up there, we didn’t land a fish until Ice Box. We went 3 for 4 between Ice Box and Loeb. With the clear forecast, the Chetco should be in prime shape through the weekend. With warmer temperatures, this will be the best conditions so far this season.

Several boats went up to the Elk on Tuesday and did well according to Martin. “Guide Mark Papazian went two for four, and he was behind 10 boats all day. The Elk should fish well until the weekend, when it will start to get clear, but the Sixes should be prime by the weekend. Late January is peak season on both rivers.”

Smith River
The Smith has fished great since Monday, with boats landing four to six chrome-bright steelhead per outing. The river is dropping slowly, and is in great shape and should stay that way through the weekend. The boat pressure eased somewhat now that the Chetco has dropped into shape, but expect a pretty crowded river this weekend.

Main stem Eel
Running at nearly 30,000 cfs on Wednesday, it needed a couple more weeks of dry weather to drop and clear. With rain in the forecast next week, it could be out for a few more weeks.

South Fork Eel
The middle South Fork could be fishable by Monday and possibly even Sunday. Forecasted to be right around 2,200 cfs on the Miranda gauge on Monday morning. The Benbow area could fish by the beginning of the weekend, depending on snowmelt.

Van Duzen
Flowing at just over 1,500 cfs on Wednesday, it’s predicted to drop to 1,000 cfs by Saturday afternoon. There’s quite a bit of snow in the hills, which if it melts, the river will remain off color. Your best bet will be above Yager Creek.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, the Mad is dropping quickly and should start to turn green early next week. “From what I’m hearing, the fishing is pretty slow right now, only a few fish are being caught daily. It should start to pick up as the flows recede. It’s been tough even for the liners, but that should change this weekend. It looks like early next week we’ll see some green water.” Kelly added.

The upper Trinity is dropping back into shape, but it still has a little color reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. He said, “It will definitely fish above Indian Creek by the weekend. There’s a chance the Junction City area could also be in by the weekend, but it will likely by pushy. Prior to the last storm, there was a pretty good batch of new fish in the Junction City area. Most of them were wild and in the five to six pound range. With the water height and color, plugs were the go-to bait.”

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