Steelhead season on hold once again due to rain


 Chuck Brinker of San Francisco landed this nice hatchery steelhead while fishing the Smith River on Saturday. Rain is back in the forecast, with all of the coastal rivers expected to see steep rises beginning Friday morning. Courtesy of Kenny Priest/Fishing the North Coast

I know we need the rain, but “C’Mon Man!” It’s getting a little discouraging, especially for steelhead anglers hoping to fish somewhere other than the Smith or Chetco. Since early January, each time the Humboldt rivers started to turn green, another round of storms blew through and turned them all back to brown. Redwood Creek, the Mad, Van Duzen, and South Fork Eel — all were headed towards emerald green this week. But now with rain in the forecast for at least the next week, we’ll be right back to square one. The Smith and Chetco on the other hand, will welcome the rain as both were dropping and clearing. For the foreseeable future, it appears those two rivers will remain the only options for coastal steelhead fishermen.

The weather ahead
“After a nice break from the rain, our weather pattern is changing back to a wet one,” said Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “A series of frontal systems are moving in beginning Wednesday night, bringing rain for the next seven days. On Thursday and Friday, we could see anywhere from one and a half to three and a half inches of rain in the Smith and Eel basins. Light rain is forecasted for Saturday, with heavier rain in store for Sunday, with up to two inches falling. More light rain is forecasted for Monday, with up to an inch predicted to hit the ground. Tuesday and Wednesday are looking wet, with another one to three inches falling over the two-day period.”

Razor Clam fishery remains closed in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties
Due to lingering high levels of domoic acid, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has acted to extend the closure of the recreational razor clam fishery in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. According to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the California Department of Public Health, the fishery will remain closed until the health agencies determine clams to be safe and recommend reopening the fishery.

State health agencies determined last spring that razor clams in Humboldt and Del Norte counties had unhealthy levels of domoic acid and recommended fishery closure in April 2016. The California Fish and Game Commission closed the fishery under emergency rules from April to October 2016 and extended the closure to Jan. 26, 2017. For more info, visit

Halibut Commission announces 2017 catch limits and seasons
The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) completed its Ninety-third annual meeting in Victoria, BC, Canada on January 27, 2017.  More than 200 halibut industry stakeholders attended the meeting, with over 80 more participating in web broadcasts of the public sessions. The Commission is recommending to the governments of Canada and the U.S. catch limits for 2017 totaling 31.40 million pounds. The California sport harvest will be 34,580 pounds, up from 29,640 pounds in 2016. For more info, visit

Fish and Game Commission meeting next week
California Fish and Game Commission meeting will be held Feb 8-9 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Sonoma Wine Country, One DoubleTree Drive, Rohnert Park. The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 8 and 8 a.m. on Feb. 9. To view the meeting agenda, visit Topics include recommendations concerning the Klamath River Basin salmon sport fishing regulations, recreational ocean salmon fishing regulations, and Pacific halibut regulations.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“Fishing was really good at the end of last week on the Chetco before things slowed down over the weekend,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “I think the heavy pressure had something to do with the bite slowing down. It seemed to be hit and miss on Monday and Tuesday. My customers only hooked two on Monday, and then hooked five on Tuesday. The river is getting low, but still has great color on the lower end. The fish have been spread out, so there hasn’t been a need to race down river.”

Smith River
The Smith has dropped and cleared, creating tougher conditions this week for steelhead anglers. The fishing has dropped off from last week, but most boats are still landing a couple fish per trip. If the rain comes as planned, the Smith will see a significant rise beginning Friday morning. Rain is in the forecast for all of next week, so we’ll have to see if the river will drop back down to a driftable level in between storms.

Eel River (main stem)
The Main stem was still off color and big as of Wednesday, and it’s set to get even bigger with more rain on the way. “We were about four to five days away from the river starting to turn,” said Paul Grundman of Grundman’s Sporting Goods in Rio Dell.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork dropped into fishable shape and was running around 1,800 cfs on the Miranda gauge as of Wednesday. It’s predicted to blow out again sometime Thursday with the latest rounds of storms.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen dropped to a fishable level earlier in the week. It was hovering around 850 cfs on Wednesday, but is predicted to rise beginning Thursday morning.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors, fishing has improved, but it’s still not red-hot by any means. “There was about a foot of visibility on Wednesday, and the liners were doing just ok. A few were also being caught on bait above the Blue Lake Bridge. With the rains coming again, we’ll be back to muddy conditions by Friday,” Kelly added.

Humboldt Steelhead Days
The HSD crew will be pouring wine at the Arts Alive! in Old Town Eureka this Saturday night showing off steelhead-inspired paintings, prints, sculptures, wood-working and other media. Local artists from the group known as the Ink People created more than 20 pieces of art to be auctioned off during the ‘Peak of the Run’ Steelhead fundraising dinner on Sat., Feb. 11 in Eureka. You can view all the artwork up for auction at Just My Type Letterpress gallery and storefront on 3rd street this Saturday starting at 6pm.

Next weekend will be the kick off to all the HSD designated watershed and river clean ups being produced by the HSD Crew and the Pacific Outfitters Green Team. Every Saturday from 9am to 10am, a group of volunteers and anglers will spend one hour cleaning up trash near the three watersheds that area designated for the HSD fishing contest. Check out Humboldt Steelhead Days on Facebook and look at all their EVENT pages for more details.

Mad River cleanup
Mad River Clean Up: Saturday, February 11 at 9am.
From Hwy 101 take Hwy 299 East to exit 2 then look for the yellow PacOut Green Team signs. We will meet at 8:45 am, start the cleanup at 9am and we’re done at 10am and off to enjoy the rest of the day!

The PacOut Green Team will meet along the Mad River and a dedicated group of volunteers and river advocates will spend an hour cleaning up trash on the Mad River. Once the clean up is over, everyone will take a group photo that will be posted to the Humboldt Steelhead Days Facebook page. Anyone can participate and volunteer.

ALL HUMBOLDT STEELHEAD DAYS Clean Up Dates: Dates may change due to weather.
• Sat., Feb. 11: Mad River Clean Up, sponsored by Salty’s Supply Co., Bait, Tackle and Surf
• Sat., Feb., 18: Eel River Clean Up, sponsored by Trim Scene
• Sat, Feb., 25: Trinity River Clean Up sponsored by Royal Gold
For more information, contact Tim Haywood at or (707) 296-4375. Or visit

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