Smith best option for weekend steelhead


Eureka resident Scott Gantt landed a beautiful hatchery steelhead on Sunday while fishing the Mad River. The Mad is currently high and muddy and forecasted to rise above monitor stage on Thursday evening. Photo courtesy of Scott Gantt

Following another week of heavy rain and soaring river levels, green water is finally on the horizon for two of the quick-clearing coastal rivers. Sunshine is in the forecast for the weekend, and Monday and Tuesday are looking dry as well. For steelhead anglers, this means both the Smith and Chetco will be on the drop and heading towards greener waters. Boats should be back to side-drifting Sunday on the Smith, and possibly by Monday on the Chetco. For the rest of the coastal rivers, no such luck. They’ll remain high and muddy and won’t clear before the next round of storms roll through starting next Wednesday. As it’s been the case all year, expect a crowd if you plan to fish either of these rivers once they turn green.
The weather ahead
“Precipitation will be with us through Friday, but we’ll finally see a few nice days beginning this weekend,” said Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “We’ll likely see anywhere from three to five inches fall between Wednesday and Thursday, with the heaviest rain falling Thursday morning. Showers are in the forecast for Friday, with possibly an inch falling in Del Norte and a half-inch in Eureka. A high pressure will build, keeping us dry from Saturday through Monday. We may see a slight shower on Tuesday, with rain returning on Wednesday as we head into another wet pattern. Several systems are forecasted to hit the North Coast through the following weekend.”

HSD Peak of the Run dinner this Saturday
The Sequoia Conference Center in Eureka will be hosting the Humboldt Steelhead Days “Peak of the Run” dinner starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 11. Over 250 guests are invited to watch presentations from anglers and river experts concerning Humboldt Steelhead. There will be a silent auction, raffles, prizes, steelhead photo slideshow, fine art show, Mad River beer on tap, plus wine donated by Moonstone Crossing and the Fish Friendly Farming Organization. A tri-tip dinner will be catered by Blackberry Bramble BBQ. Tickets are available at, Wildberries Marketplace, or at the door.

2017 rockfish regulations approved
The state’s 2017 recreational groundfish fishing regulations became effective as of Feb. 7 following the California Fish and Game Commission adoption back in December.
For the first time in more than a decade, anglers will be allowed to retain canary rockfish beginning in 2017. After being declared overfished in 2000, the population has been rebuilt to healthy levels quicker than anticipated based on a combination of conservation efforts and restrictive management.

Additional changes include:
A new sub-bag limit of one canary rockfish within the 10-fish Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenling Complex bag limit; a decrease in the sub-bag limit of black rockfish from five to three within the 10-fish RCG Complex bag limit; elimination of the sub-bag limit of bocaccio within the 10-fish RCG Complex bag limit; a decrease in the lingcod bag limit from three to two fish; allowance of petrale sole and starry flounder to be retained year- round at all depths.

Within the Northern Management Zone, which runs from the Oregon border to Cape Mendocino, the season for boat-based anglers will now run from May 1 through Oct. 31 within 180 feet and Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 with no depth restrictions. For more information about recreational groundfish regulations, please call the hotline at 831-649-2801 or visit

The Rivers:
“The Chetco was fishing fair last week before the big rain started on Friday”, said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Now it looks like it will be blown out until early next week. We should see good numbers of hatchery and wild fish when it comes back into shape, although there were some down runners already being caught before the river blew out. The Elk and Sixes, along with the Rogue, are also blown out and will be for several days. Fishing was good late last week on the Rogue before the rain.”

Smith River
The Smith has been bouncing back and forth between 14 and 19 feet on the Jed Smith gauge since last weekend. It was back on the rise as of early Wednesday, and predicted to reach nearly 25 feet by midday Thursday. With very light rain forecasted for Friday, it will drop quickly and should be under 13 feet and driftable by Sunday. Earlier this week, boats plunking between Ruby and the water tower were picking up a few steelhead while the flows were receding.

Eel and Van Duzen Rivers
The main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, and the Van Duzen were all on the drop as of Wednesday. That’s the good news. Bad news is they are all forecasted for steep rises on Thursday, with the main Eel and Van Duzen both predicted to surpass flood stage. The South Fork Eel is supposed to hit monitor stage Thursday evening. It’s doubtful any of these rivers will fish prior to the next round of storms, especially the main Eel.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors, the liners did pretty well this past weekend. “From what I heard, it was probably the best fishing so far this season. I also heard there’s quite a few fish in the ladder. The next storm coming will likely push the water level past monitor stage on Thursday, but it looks like it will drop quickly. Liners should be able to get back on the water by Sunday,” Kelly 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