Fishing provides refuge amid virus outbreak

Eureka resident Hannah Haraldson, left is all smiles upon landing her first-ever steelhead. Haraldson was fishing on the Smith River last Thursday with guide Mike Coopman, right. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

Our lives are changing at a dizzying pace due to the pandemic created by the Coronavirus. Shelter in place orders are now in effect in several Bay Area counties, keeping people hunkered down indoors except for their essential needs. Here behind the Redwood Curtain, we’re still free to come and go – for now. Social distancing has become the new normal, and what better way to stay out of harm’s way than wetting your line at one of our local watersheds or beaches. Our isolated waterways are perfect for folks looking to take refuge from the crisis that’s taken the world by storm.

While self-quarantining has become the safest way to prevent the spreading of the virus, there certainly isn’t any harm in taking the kids out to the local fishing hole. Just remember if you’re fishing next to someone outside your household, try to maintain a six-foot space.   

Ocean salmon, rockfish and halibut seasons have yet to open, but there’s plenty of angling options on the North Coast. Winter steelhead is still your best bet despite the low water conditions. There’s still quite a few bright fish coming in from the ocean, and we’re now starting to see the spawned-out adults making their way down all of the rivers. Rockfish is open year-round to shore-based anglers. The jetties – when the seas are calm – are the perfect place to try and catch dinner. Springtime, when the surf starts to come down, is when the redtail perch can be easily caught from the beach. Some of the best spots to fish are Centerville, Table Bluff, and any of the lagoon beaches. In addition, Big and Stone Lagoons are excellent options to catch cutthroat trout. Both should have steelhead waiting for the next breach to head back to the ocean. Ruth Lake, a scenic two-hour drive from Eureka, offers excellent Rainbow trout and bass fishing year-round. In the spring, large crappie, bluegill, catfish and Kokanee are most abundant. As the North Coast inches closer towards lockdown, many who love fishing and the outdoors are looking for an escape. If you’re feeling cooped up at home, or need to burn some of your kids pent up energy, they are some angling options if you know where to look.

The weather ahead
“The weather looks to be dry through Saturday, but we could see some changes beginning on Sunday,” said Matthew Kidwell of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “A few showers are possible on Sunday, but it won’t be enough to affect any of the river levels. A moderate system is forecasted for Monday and Tuesday where we’ll see some rain each day. This will be a colder storm, so the hills will see some snow. As for precipitation, we could see a half inch in Humboldt, with an inch possible in some of the higher elevations. The Smith basin will see about the same.” said Kidwell.

PFMC public hearings/meetings will be held via webinar
In a press release issued last Friday by the PFMC citing COVID-19 public health concerns, the public hearing scheduled for March 24 in Eureka regarding the 2020 ocean salmon management alternatives will go forward as a webinar only. Visit for information on how to attend the webinar and ways to provide public comment. The PFMC also determined that the April 4 through 10 meetings originally planned to be held in Vancouver, WA will be conducted by webinar as well. At this meeting, the council will tentatively adopt final proposed alternatives for 2020 ocean salmon fishery regulations. The Council staff is preparing information for participation in these webinars, and instructions will be posted at

Perch’n on the Peninsula event canceled
The Samoa Peninsula Fire District has canceled their 10th Annual Perch’n on the Peninsula Surfperch Fishing Tournament and Fish Fry Fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, April 6. The Facebook post from the Samoa Peninsula Fire District states, “With the current state of the Coronavirus pandemic, the health and safety of our attendees, supporters, and community is our number one priority. In response to this it has become clear that holding our fundraiser this April is not currently possible. We look forward to seeing all of you next year.”  For more info, visit

Brookings ocean report
Lingcod and rockfish action is very good out of Brookings according to Andy Martin with Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Charters are getting limits of lingcod and a good grade of black, blue and canary rockfish from Bird Island to House Rock. The season is open year-round in Oregon. Crabbing is slow. Surfperch are biting at most Brookings-area beach. Small swells are expected this week.”

The Rivers:
Southern Oregon rivers
Another batch of fresh steelhead moved into the Chetco over the weekend after flows got a slight bump from last week’s rain reports Martin. “Catch rates are still good on the lower river, mainly because few anglers are fishing. Local guides continue to find plenty of bright steelhead, including hatchery fish. More rain is coming next week. Steelhead and spring salmon fishing are slow on the Rogue. Flows are down to 2,300 cfs at Agness. Next week’s rain will likely bring the first schools of springers in as long as flows come up. Steelhead fishing remains slow on the Elk and Sixes,” added Martin.

Smith River
The same old story from the Smith River, low and clear conditions, but there are fish around. The bite was a little slow over the weekend due to the cold water temps, but some fish were caught. Boat pressure remains light.

Eel River (main stem)
The main Eel was flowing at 1,600 cfs as of Wednesday afternoon, up from last Saturday’s 900 cfs. There are reports of bright fish still making their way upriver, and the downers have started to show in bigger numbers. Boat pressure this week has been light.

Eel River (South Fork)
After a bump in flows pushed the South Fork from 230 cfs to 430 over the weekend, the river is dropping back into clear water conditions. Even though it’s low, there’s still plenty of water for the fish to move up and down. Conditions are good for tossing spoons or bobber fishing from the bank.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen bumped up to 240 cfs from 80 cfs following the weekend storm. The much-needed rain added some color and flows were enough to get fishing moving both directions. Conditions are perfect for bank anglers fishing bobbers, spoons, or plugs.

Mad River
The water color is perfect on the Mad, and fresh steelhead are still being caught. Flows were right around 290 cfs (7 feet) on Wednesday afternoon. With a new layer of snow in the hills, it should stay green until it closes at the end of the month. The slight rise put the downers on the move, but plenty of fresh ones are still coming in. Bobbers, spinners and plugs fished with side planers are all working.

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