Smith is it for green water

Five year-old Hazel Sloan was excited to say the least after landing this nice hatchery steelhead over the weekend on the Mad River. According to her dad Justin, pictured left, the steelhead was close to nine pounds and was 28.5 inches long. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan

Last week I wrote that the Smith River would be the best bet for steelhead-green water. Well, that was only partially correct. The rains that were forecasted didn’t pan out entirely, and left the main Eel and South Fork perfectly green through the weekend. This week though, I really mean it. As I’m writing this weeks report, the Smith is not only your best, it’s also your only option for green, fishable water. The rain finally caught up to the Eel rivers on Monday, and both are now dirty along with the rest of the coastal rivers not named Smith. So if you’re looking for steelhead water, you know where to go.

Weather outlook
Much like last week, we’re expecting multiple systems to hit the North Coast over the next few days, but nothing significant. According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, rain is in the forecast almost every day, but it looks like we’ll get breaks on Friday and Sunday. “For the seven-day period ending next Wednesday, the Smith basin could see 3 to 4 inches, the Mad 2 to 3, and 1 to 2 inches could fall in the Eel basin,” said Zontos. “Through Sunday, we’re forecasting anywhere from 1.5 inches to 3 inches, with heavier rain to the north. Another system is predicted for Monday and Tuesday, and this could potentially be a bigger system, especially in the Eel basin. As of now, it’s looking dry from next Wednesday through the weekend.”

Mad River steelhead being tagged for research
In 2020, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will again be applying spaghetti tags to some hatchery steelhead returning to Mad River Hatchery for research purposes. The purpose of tagging hatchery steelhead is to see how many of the tagged fish return next year (multiple year spawning). The tags look similar to reward tags used for studies with fish in the Trinity River, but there is no reward for returning the Mad River tags. If you catch a hatchery steelhead with the green tag, you may:

  • Keep the hatchery steelhead and return the tag to CDFW, 50 Ericson Court, Arcata. You can also return the tag to the Mad River Hatchery, 1660 Hatchery Rd, Arcata, or call the Mad River Hatchery at 707-822-0592.
  • You can also release the fish with tag still attached. Please do not remove the tag and then release fish.

ODFW Commission meeting on wild steelhead retention
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet on Friday, Jan. 17 in Salem, OR, with one of the agenda items being the retention of wild winter steelhead in the SW Zone. The Commission will consider a petition it received asking them to adopt a temporary rule (in effect for 180 days) that would prohibit the retention of wild winter steelhead in rivers throughout the SW Zone, which includes the Chetco. ODFW staff is recommending Commissioners deny this petition, as they do not have a conservation concern for wild winter steelhead on the south coast at this time. The declines in wild steelhead in other parts of the state have not been observed in the SW Zone and current regulations are already conservative.  Also, staff continues to work on a multi-species conservation plan for the Rogue and South Coast where concerns about wild steelhead are being addressed. Commissioners denied a similar petition in 2018. The meeting agenda can be found online at You can also view the meeting via livestream at

The Rivers:
Chetco River/Elk/Lower Rogue
The Chetco has been high and blown out the past week, with flows of 5,000 to 10,000 cfs reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “It generally fishes best below 4,000 cfs,” said Martin. “Those kind of flows may be a week or more away. The plunkers have caught a few fish in the dirty water, but the river is unfishable for drift boaters.”

According to Martin, the Elk River dropped to 5 feet on Wednesday, the high point of where it is fishable. “It had reached 6.5 feet. It will be in play this week,” he said. “The bright spot has been the lower Rogue River, which is fishing well for plunkers using Spin-N-Glos and jet boaters anchoring and running MagLip plugs. The Rogue has remained fishable for the most part and will be the best bet this weekend.”

Smith River
The Smith has been teetering between fishable levels since the weekend. On Wednesday, it was right around 12 feet on the Jed gauge, and most boats chose to drift while a few fished on the anchor. Quite a few fish were reportedly caught, and the river had plenty of visibility by the afternoon. It was predicted to hit 14 feet on Thursday morning, but it remained in fishable shape due to more snow falling than rain. Conditions look good for Friday and should stay that way through Monday.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem blew out on Tuesday and it looks like it will be some time before it’s fishable again. It will likely need a solid 10 or so days before it’s green. Prior to blowing out, fishing remained tough. Boats fishing the lower end were getting a chance at a couple winter steelhead per day.

Eel River (South Fork)
Like the main stem, the South Fork finally muddied up on Tuesday. It’s predicted to go above 6,000 cfs on the Miranda gauge by Thursday night. Flows are forecasted for fishable levels by the weekend, but the color will be a wait and see. With more rain on the way early next week, it may not fish until late next week or the weekend.

Van Duzen
The Duzen has been off color since last week, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. Flows were hovering around 1,400 cfs as of Wednesday, and predicted to bounce between 3,000 and 1,500 cfs through Monday. This season, conditions have been best right around 400 cfs.

Mad River
The Mad blew out last week, and remains high and muddy. According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors, there are a few fish being caught right at the hatchery and along the willows. He said, “There aren’t many anglers trying, but there’s fish in the river. Quite a few have made their way up the ladder in the last week, so there’s fish coming.” The Mad is predicted to be high through the weekend, hovering around 10-feet on the Arcata gauge. It will need a good week of dry weather before it’s green.

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

2019/2020 low flow information for North Coast rivers

Low Flow River Closures begin Oct. 1
North Coast rivers that are regulated by low flow closures, including the Eel River, Mad River, Mattole River, Redwood Creek, Smith River and Van Duzen River will begin angling restrictions on October 1st, except for the Mad River, which went into effect September 1st. The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public by a telephone recorded message updated, as necessary, no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any stream will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at anytime. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. NOTE: The main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River will be closed until January 1, 2020

Areas subject to low flow closures:

Mad River: The main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to Cowan Creek. Minimum flow: 200 cfs at the gauging station at the Highway 299 bridge.

The main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road with the Eel River to the South Fork Eel River. Minimum flow: 350 cfs at the gauging station near Scotia.

The South Fork of the Eel River downstream from Rattlesnake Creek and the Middle Fork Eel River downstream from the Bar Creek. Minimum flow: 340 cfs at the gauging station at Miranda.

Van Duzen River: The main stem Van Duzen River from its junction with the Eel River to the end of Golden Gate Drive near Bridgeville (approximately 4,000 feet upstream of Little Golden Gate Bridge. Minimum flow: 150 cfs at the gauging station near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.

Mattole River: The main stem of the Mattole River from the mouth to Honeydew Creek. Minimum flow: 320 cfs at the gauging station at Petrolia.

Redwood Creek: The main stem of Redwood Creek from the mouth to its confluence with Bond Creek. Minimum flow: 300 cfs at the gauging station near the Highway 101 bridge.

Smith River: The main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its confluence with Patrick Creek; the South Fork Smith River from the mouth upstream approximately 1000 ft to the County Road (George Tyron) bridge and Craigs Creek to its confluence with Jones Creek; and the North Fork Smith River from the mouth to its confluence with Stony Creek. Minimum flow: 600 cfs at the Jedediah Smith State Park gauging station.

Humboldt Bay kicking out the Halibut

Miles Sotelo of McKinleyville had his hands full landing a nice California halibut on a recent trip in Humboldt Bay. The California halibut bite has been excellent as of late and should be a good weekend option. Photo courtesy of Redwood Coast Fishing with Mike Stratman

Humboldt Bay continues to kick out some quality-sized California halibut, and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage. The fishing has been really good for the entire month of July, but has gotten even better the last week for boats drifting live bait in the north and middle channels. “The California halibut bite really hit its stride through most of the week with easy limits the norm,” said Tony Sepulveda of Shellback Sport Fishing. “The grade was a little better than what we saw the last couple years with quite a few fish running in the 8 to 12-pound range,” added Sepulveda. The California halibut fishery has been a blessing these past few years. We’re pretty fortunate that when fishing offshore isn’t a good option, we have a world-class fishery to fall back on. With breezy offshore conditions and the lack of good salmon fishing, the bay could be the top choice for the weekend. As a reminder, the daily bag limit is three, and the minimum length is 22 inches. Also, according to Sepulveda, if you’re using live perch for bait, you’ll want to know your limits on them. “They’re legal to fish, but there are several different species in our waters and they have varying bag limits. Make sure you’re within the regulations when you load your bait tank,” added Sepulveda.

Weekend Marine Forecast
Strong breezes will persist across the outer waters through at least the weekend. Wind waves will also begin to steepen in response to the winds. Friday’s forecast is calling for 5 to 10 knot winds out of the NW and N waves 5 feet at 7 seconds. Saturday is calling for N winds 10 to 15 knots and waves out of the NW 5 feet at 6 seconds. Sunday’s forecast is a little worse, with winds out of the N 5 to 15 knots and waves N 6 feet at 7 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit or To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Pacific Halibut quota update
The CDFW has projected 12,594 net pounds of Pacific Halibut has been harvested through July 21. In 2019, the Pacific halibut allocation for California is 39,000 pounds. To view the latest catch projection information, visit

Sport Crab season coming to a close
The 2019 sport Dungeness crab season in Humboldt, Mendocino, and Del Norte counties will close on Tuesday July 30. The season will re-open on Nov. 2.

The Oceans:
Salmon fishing out of Eureka has definitely hit a lull. At least we hope it’s just a lull. “Fishing was tough this week,” said Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. “Ocean conditions don’t look bad, the water is the right temperature and color, but there isn’t much bait around. As the bite has slowed, the effort kind of died as well, so not a lot of boats out looking either. There were some fish caught on Monday off of Table Bluff in deeper water, but that dried up as of Tuesday. Weather conditions don’t look good through the weekend, which will keep us close to the beach or in the bay,” added Klassen. The one bit of good news is the rockfish bite at Cape Mendocino. It very rarely disappoints, and it hasn’t this week. “We fished some breezy conditions at the cape this week but the lack of swell made it very doable,” said Sepulveda. “As is so often the case, the ocean was nice out front of Eureka but the wind would build as you went south. The drift was generally fast and we had some uphill current to fight but it ran light enough that lines stayed down reasonably well. Under those conditions, I generally stay clear of high relief structure (like pinnacles) and opt to comb hard bottom flats. In these areas, coppers, quillback, canary and medium size lingcod running eight to 20 pounds make up the bulk of my catch. Everything bit well,” added Sepulveda.

The crew aboard the Seaweasel II with limits of nice kings caught on Monday out of Eureka. Photo courtesy of Gary Blasi/Full Throttle Sport Fishing

According to Tyler Vaughn, who’s running the Wind Rose, there are salmon being caught but there aren’t many boats trying. He said, “Most of the action has been out deep in 250 feet of water off of Cone Rock and the fish are coming at 150 otw. I know one sport boat that put in quick limits two days straight. The fish were right around 10 to 12 pounds. The rockfish bite is still going strong. We’re getting easy limits of blacks and catching a handful of vermilions and canaries as well. And there’s a good number of lingcod around too. We’re catching anywhere from one to six per trip,” Vaughn added.

Shelter Cove
The report out of Shelter Cove hasn’t changed much – the salmon bite remains slow according to Captain Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. “Some guys are running into a flurry every now and again and getting a handful, but nothing has been consistent or lasted more than a few hours. The little bit of salmon action has been right at the whistle. It’s still very windy on the outside so we’re not able to venture to far. The lingcod bite picked up this last week and we got limits of nice ones to go along with limits of rockfish. We’ve been mainly fishing the Old Man,” added Mitchell.

Crescent City
The story this week has been the arrival of the Thresher Sharks. According to Chris Hegnes of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, they showed up in pretty big numbers this week. “I weighed one that was over 160 pounds on Wednesday. They are right on South Beach, and guys are getting them drifting herring. The California halibut are still there as well. The salmon bite continues to be spotty at best for the sport guys. The commercial boats having been doing well near the Klamath and down deep. The rockfish bite is still going strong, and it looks like the lingcod action is heating up,” Hegnes added.

Salmon fishing is good at times out of Brookings, but hasn’t been consistent reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “There was a good bite Tuesday in close near the buoys. A few boats ventured offshore for tuna on Monday, but struck out. Sport boats caught tuna this week further north out of Charleston 30 miles offshore,” said Martin.

Klamath Control Zone closure
The Klamath Control zone will be closed the month of August for ocean sport salmon fishing. The closed zone around the Klamath River mouth is bounded on the north by 41°38’48” N. lat. (approximately 6 nautical miles north of the Klamath River mouth); on the west, by 124°23’00” W. long. (approximately 12 nautical miles off shore); and on the south, by 41°26’48” N. lat. (approximately 6 nautical miles south of the Klamath River mouth).

The Rivers:
Lower Klamath
The salmon action in the estuary slowed over the weekend, but a few limits were landed. Boat traffic on Sunday was heavy, and the bite was decent. Some boats caught a few, but the majority put up zeroes. Like any tidal fishery, the bite can be fickle. You need to be there when the fish are in and want to bite. Trolling anchovies behind a Rogue River spinner bait is still catching the majority of the fish. Spring-run regulations are in effect through August 14, with a daily bag and possession limit of one king salmon of any size.

Lower Rogue
The Rogue Bay fished well through the weekend, but slowed Monday and Tuesday according to Martin. He said, “Heavy moss has made fishing tough. Fish are showing, but baits must be suspended to have any chance and to avoid mossing up. Several fish topping 20 pounds have been caught.” 

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

Solid salmon opener out of Eureka

Seven year-old Carlie Moore, along with her dad Conan, had a great day together salmon fishing out of Eureka on Monday. The sport salmon season opened on Saturday from the CA/OR border to Horse Mtn. and will run through Sept. 2. Photo courtesy of Reel Steel Sport Fishing

“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Had Benjamin Franklin lived on the North Coast, he may have edited his famous quote to include king salmon out of Eureka. The season is only a few days old, but Eureka once again looks like the place to be if you want to consistently catch kings. Saturday’s opener was blown out, but Marc Schmidt of Coastline Charters headed out on Sunday afternoon to test the waters as the ocean was lying down. They quickly put in limits and had a fish on within minutes of putting lines in the water. That obviously got everyone’s blood going for Monday. And the salmon didn’t disappoint. They were chewing up baits from the get go, and it was limit-style fishing for the fleet. Tuesday was even better, with most of the charters limited and headed in by 10 a.m. Fishing was tougher on Wednesday, with the boats having to scatter looking for schools. We’re just at the beginning of a long season, but the stars are in line and hinting that we’re in for a great king salmon season. I can say with utmost certainty that Eureka will be one of the top ports on the West Coast for salmon catching.

Weekend marine forecast
After Thursday, the seas are forecasted to build through the weekend and into next week. North and northwest winds blowing 10 to 20 knots are predicted through at least Monday. On Friday, NW waves will be 8 feet at 8 seconds and NW 2 feet at 14 seconds. Saturday’s forecast is calling for NW swells 9 feet at 9 seconds and W 2 feet at 11 seconds. Sunday’s prediction is NW swells 7 feet at 8 seconds and W 2 feet at 11 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit or To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

California halibut carcasses wanted
California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife is looking for Humboldt Bay anglers to donate their California halibut carcasses to research. You can donate your carcass by giving it directly to CDFW Halibut staff who will be periodically present at Woodley Island and/or public boat launches; you can schedule a drop off at the CDFW field office, 619 2nd St; or pickup by contacting Kathryn Meyer at 707-445-5306. CDFW asks that you remove the fil­lets, but leave the skeleton and guts intact and on ice and record the date and location of capture.

Each donation will receive an entry to win a custom fishing rod at the end of the season, courtesy of Bassman Dan’s Custom Rods.

California Halibut can be found a from Baja, Mexico to Washington State, but are most common south of Point Reyes. In warm years, we tend to see a lot more Halibut in the Humboldt area, which may become more common in the future. Help us learn more about how quickly they grow, when and if they reproduce here, what they are eating, among other questions important for managing the fi­shery.

Pacific Halibut quota update
The CDFW has projected 4,756 net pounds of Pacific Halibut has been harvested through May 19. In 2019, the Pacific halibut allocation for California is 39,000 pounds. To view the latest catch projection information, visit

Canary rockfish, black rockfish and lingcod bag limit increases effective June 1
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced increases to the recreational canary rockfish, black rockfish and lingcod daily limits. Within the statewide Rockfish Cabezon Greenlings Complex daily bag limit of 10 fish, the sub-bag limit for canary rockfish will increase from two to three fish, and the sub-bag limit for black rockfish will increase from three to four fish. The daily bag limit for lingcod will increase from one to two fish for areas south of 40°10’ N. lat (Mendocino Management Area), returning the statewide bag limit for lingcod to two fish. Within the Northern Management Area, which runs from the CA/OR border to Cape Mendocino, the lingcod bag limit will remain at two fish. Changes are effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 1, 2019. For more information regarding groundfish regulations, management and fish identification tools, please visit the

Fish for free this weekend in Oregon
Oregon will be having a Free Fishing Weekend on June 1 and 2. On those two days, no license, tag or endorsement is required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon. This applies only to waters already open to fishing, crabbing or clamming. All other regulations, such as bag limits, still apply. For more information, visit

The Oceans:
Monday and Tuesday were really good for salmon out of Eureka reports Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. “There seems to be quite a few fish around, but they’re spread out,” said Klassen. “The best bite has been between the 47 and 53 out in 38 to 40 fathoms. The fish are really deep, from 180 to 200 feet on the wire. There’s some activity on the inside, but most of the birds and bait have been in deeper water. The salmon are a better grade than last year, with most averaging right around eight to 10 pounds. There’s some shakers around as well as silvers.”

“The salmon aren’t everywhere, but we’re getting a good steady pick of them,” said Curt Wilson of Wind Rose Charters. “We haven’t seen a lot of birds or large masses of bait this week. The fish we’re catching have been in 30 to 40 fathoms and the they’re on the bottom. The rockfish continues to be wide-open, there’s black rockfish just about everywhere. We haven’t seen many lings as of yet though. The sport crabbing is still good, the pots have been stuffed with big males.”

Shelter Cove
The salmon bite has been very slow according to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing. He said, “There was a decent bite on Sunday with at least one boat getting limits and there were two fish caught that were in the mid-twenties. Other than that, most boats have been lucky to see one fish for a day’s effort. There’s been quite a bit of bait right out front and down inside the Old Man, so hopefully they’ll find it soon. Rock fishing has been good around the Hat. We got a 67-pound halibut while rock fishing down there on Monday. It’s looking like it will be windy the rest of the week and possibly longer.”

Crescent City
There were a few salmon caught over the weekend, but not many reports Chris Hegnes of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. He said, “There wasn’t a lot of effort, and the ocean wasn’t that nice. I had heard the water looked good about 10 miles out, but the boats this weekend couldn’t get out that far. Conditions really changed on Wednesday afternoon. One of the commercial boats coming in said there was tons of life – birds, bait, whales, sea lions – about four miles offshore in 26-27 fathoms of water. It looked really fishy. The rockfish bite is red hot right now, boats are really doing well at the Big Reef. Plenty of lingcod around too.”

Although a few salmon are being caught out of Brookings, fishing is still slow, which is usual for late May reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Peak season tends to be two to three weeks after it peaks in Eureka, so the strong start there is encouraging. Some kings are being caught five miles offshore from Brookings in 300 feet of water, fishing 90 feet down. There also are Coho already being caught, but they cannot be kept until June 22.”

Lower Rogue
The Rogue got a fresh batch of springers last week according to Martin. “Beginning June 1, wild salmon can be kept on the Rogue. Still early for good bay fishing on the Rogue,” added Martin.

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

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.”

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

Record rains blow out North Coast rivers


Novato resident Adam Chelini landed this nice steelhead last Sunday on the Smith River right before the rains came and the river blew out. The Smith, and probably the Chetco too, will be in fishable shape this weekend following a few days of heavy rain. Photo courtesy of John Klar/John’s Guide Service

The parade of storms that pounded the North Coast earlier this week pushed some of our coastal rivers above flood stage, and the ones that didn’t flood, were right on the verge. We haven’t seen this much water flowing in our rivers since the floods of 97’, at least that’s what I’ve been hearing. Needless to say, our steelhead season is now in a bit of a holding pattern for all rivers not named Smith. Speaking of the quick-clearing Smith, it should be in plunkable shape by Thursday and in excellent condition for side-drifting by the weekend. If you do plan to be there this weekend, you may see a few of your close friends as it could be the only game in town. The Chetco was still big on Wednesday, but dropping quickly and it could fish by the weekend as well. For all of the Humboldt County rivers, from Redwood Creek to the South Fork Eel, they are likely done for the foreseeable future. The next round of storms is forecasted for next Tuesday, which likely won’t give the rivers enough time to clear. Hey, whatever happened to the term “low flow?”

Weather ahead
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, some dry weather is finally on the horizon. “After some light showers on Thursday, a high pressure system will move in keeping us dry beginning Friday and lasting through Monday. The next rain system will arrive on Tuesday and will stick around through Friday. We could see two to four inches combined for Tuesday and Wednesday and another two to four for Thursday and Friday,” Kennedy added.

Crabs good to go statewide
On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health lifted the last remaining health advisory for Dungeness crab caught along the California coast. CDPH lifted this advisory today due to recent tests showing that traces of domoic acid have declined to low or undetectable levels in Dungeness crabs caught in the area, indicating they are safe to consume.
The final health advisory lifted was for Dungeness crabs caught in state waters in areas north of 39° 33.3′ N lat. (near Ten Mile River) and south of 40° 01′ N lat.(near Shelter Cove). For more information, visit

Major changes ahead for ab divers
Due to concerns about the declining population of California’s popular red abalone sport fishery, some drastic regulation changes are coming in 2017.
The upcoming season will be shortened by two months, starting a month later and closing a month earlier. The traditional opening date of April 1 will now be delayed until May 1. The fishery will also close a month earlier than usual, on Oct. 31.

The annual bag limit is reduced from 18 abalone to 12. No more than nine abalone may be taken south of the boundary between Sonoma and Mendocino counties, which stays in place from years past.

The reason behind the red abalone catch reduction is because surveys conducted by the CDFW found that red abalone populations in deeper waters are on the decline due to unfavorable environmental conditions. Over the past three years, growth of kelp — a major food source for abalone – has declined significantly. Dramatic increases in purple sea urchin populations have further reduced the food available for abalone.

Fishing for abalone will be allowed from 8 a.m. to one half-hour after sunset in waters north of San Francisco Bay. People may travel to fishing locations before 8 a.m. but may not actively search for or take any abalone before that time. The daily bag and possession limit remains at three. Parts of Fort Ross State Historical Park remain closed to the take of abalone

The changes to the abalone regulations were approved by the Fish and Game Commission at their Dec. 7 meeting, under emergency rulemaking provisions that allow fast-tracking of the approval process when there is an urgent need for regulatory change. For more information, visit

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“All of the Southern Oregon rivers blew out this week, and may take several days to drop”, said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers. “We are hopeful we will be able to get back on the Chetco this weekend, otherwise we will fish the Smith. The Chetco was still slow last week, before the big, storm, with only a few fish reported for several boats. The people living between Tide Rock and Morris Hole said they could see pretty good numbers of steelhead holding in the upper tidewater section last week. With water temperatures down to 38 degrees, they probably didn’t want to leave the slightly warmer tidewater. We also saw some pretty good-size schools below the South Fork, near Little Redwood and near Loeb and Moffit Rock, but they were hold in such shallow water you couldn’t get a drift without spooking them.”
According to Martin, the Elk was fishable over the weekend, but hit 6.9 feet on Tuesday. The Rogue, has been fishing the best of any of the rivers for steelhead, is expected to hit minor flood stage this week.

 Smith River
“The Smith was still blown out as of Wednesday, but should be driftable by the weekend,” said guide Mike Coopman. “The river blew out last Sunday, but we did start to see some signs of life. A few guys were plunking on Sunday as the river was rising and they hooked a few. The boats I was fishing around also hooked a few, so I think we’re starting to see some more fish move in. The river should be plunkable by Thursday, and the weekend should be in good shape to side-drift.”

Mad River
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Mad was at 18 feet, which is still three feet above monitor stage. It was dropping fairly quickly, but won’t be bait fishable anytime soon. It typically starts to fish between eight and seven feet

Eel and Van Duzen rivers
As of Wednesday, the main stem Eel at Fernbridge remained above flood stage. It’s going to take weeks of dry weather before the main Eel drops back into fishable shape. The South Fork dipped back under monitor stage early Wednesday, and is forecasted to be less than 4,000 cfs by Monday. It should start to fish at around 2,500 cfs on the Miranda gauge.

The Van Duzen is on a pretty steep drop and was back under 8,500 cfs on Wednesday afternoon after peaking at nearly 22,000 cfs on Tuesday evening. With a dry weekend ahead, it’s forecasted to be back down to 1,200 cfs by Monday morning. Once it gets below 1,000 cfs, it should start to look fishy.

The Upper Trinity might have a chance to fish over the weekend with water levels starting to come down reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. He said, “Looking at the river in the Douglas City area on Tuesday evening, it was starting to get muddy again, probably from the snowmelt. The only real option for the weekend will be above the Indian Creek area, and that’s looking iffy. From all the increased flows, we should see another push of fish from the Klamath making their way up.”

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

Steelhead season off to a slow start


Jared Morris of Shelter Cove landed this “steelhead of a lifetime” while fishing the South Fork Eel River last Friday with guide Grant Wick. The steelhead season has started off slowly, but with large storms on the horizon, hopefully we’ll see the first wave of fish enter all of the coastal rivers soon. Photo courtesy of Grant Wick

As the North Coast is once again on the verge of being pounded by more wet winter storms, there’s a collective questioning happening amongst anglers. Where are the steelhead? Just about every river has dropped into fishable shape at some point within the last couple weeks, but the fish have yet to show in any of the rivers in good numbers. The calendar now reads January, so we’ll cross that off the list of reasons why the fishing has yet to kick into gear. Could this be the year that we finally begin to see the effects of the drought? There’s certainly no shortage of theories floating around. As more days come of the calendar with no big pushes of fish, the concern will dive a little deeper. The good news is we have storms lined up that will trigger some very large river rises, let’s hope the steelhead are riding those waves into our coastal rivers.

The weather ahead
“After a couple of nice days, which should allow the rivers to recede, more rain is on the way beginning Friday evening,” said Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “The next storm is forecasted to arrive late Friday evening or early Saturday morning. The bulk of this rain will fall to the south, where the Eel basin could see up to two and a half inches. A couple inches is likely to fall in the Smith basin as well. Another system will arrive right on top of Saturday’s, which will be much wetter. On Sunday, we can expect from one and a half to three inches in the Smith basin. To the south along the Eel, up to two and a half inches is possible. Showery weather is in the forecast for Monday, bringing another inch to Del Norte as well as Humboldt. After a short break, a big bigger system will roll in Tuesday night and stick around through Thursday. Rainfall totals for the three days could be from three to five inches in Del Norte and Humboldt counties,” Kennedy added.

Steelhead report cards due
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds anglers that they are required to return their 2016 Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Cards between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2017. Anglers are requested to review their cards carefully and complete the information as accurately as possible. Information collected from report cards provides CDFW with data necessary to monitor and manage California’s steelhead fisheries.

Anglers are encouraged to submit steelhead report card data online at, but report cards can still be submitted by mail. Information must be submitted regardless of whether or not the angler fished for steelhead. Additional information can be found on CDFW’s Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Card Program webpage listed above.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“The Chetco has been slow for the past several days,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of fish in the river right now. I fished up high on Saturday, at a private launch above the South Fork, and we only hooked one fish there. On the lower river on Sunday, with light boat pressure, I was able to run plugs at several holes that normally hold fish, and we didn’t encounter many fish. Hopefully the next big storm, expected this weekend, will bring in better numbers of steelhead, while also warming the water up a bit.

According to Martin, the bright spot on the Southern Oregon Coast has been the lower Rogue River. He said, “People anchoring in jet boats and running MagLip 3.5 plugs are catching steelhead between Clay Banks and Lobster Creek. Some boats are hooking four or more a day. Right now conditions are very good on the lower Rogue. That may change with the next storm.”

Smith River
The steelhead bite has been a little tough on the Smith this past week, with scores ranging from zero to a couple fish per trip. The river has been on the clear side, and there’s not a lot of fish around at the moment. Hopefully the next big rise will bring in a good push of fish.

Eel River
Main Stem
The main stem Eel was just dropping down to a fishable level and the color was turning green on Tuesday, but that has all changed now due to the rain. It is expected to reach and exceed monitor stage on Sunday, so we’re back to square one. It will need a couple weeks of dry weather to fish, and that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

South Fork
Like the rest of the southern rivers, the South Fork blew out on Wednesday, jumping from 1,800 to 11,000 cfs. Fishing had been tough, with most boats reporting zero to two fish per trip.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen blew out on Tuesday, and was flowing at 5,000 cfs as of Wednesday. It may drop to a fishable level by Friday, but river color will be an issue. Predicted for a big rise late Friday. The fishing had been slow, with boats finding up to a couple fish per outing.

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, fishing remains slow on the Mad. He said, “The river is blown out now, but prior to that the fishing was still slow, even for the liners. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of fish in the river, just a few small schools here and there. Returns to the hatchery are slow as well. We have some pretty big rises coming in the next week, hopefully that will bring in some fish.”

The Trinity conditions have stayed relatively good with a mixture of rain and snow,” said Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “The wild fish have moved into the system, but a few hatchery fish are still being caught. Water conditions are really cold so you need to slow down your presentation. All methods — flies, eggs and plugs — have been working well. The pressure was a little heavy with the good weather during the New Year’s break. The snow is starting to melt and Weaver Creek has started to push some mud, making the conditions good above Indian Creek. Junction City should start to fish in a couple days.”

*** Don’t forget to register for Humboldt Steelhead Days fishing contest that runs until March 31, 2017. Special Mad River Access Permits courtesy of Green Diamond Resource Co. Visit the SIGN UP page for more info.

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

Plenty of green water for steelhead anglers


Tim Call of Eureka landed a nice early-season steelhead on Tuesday while fishing the South Fork of the Eel River. Most of the coastal rivers should be fishable over the upcoming holiday weekend. Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

If you’re looking to get on the water this weekend and chase some winter steelhead, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a fishable river. Just about every coastal river will be some shade of green and likely fishable come Saturday morning. This many green river options doesn’t happen often, and I’m having a hard time thinking of any excuse not to be on the water. Every creek and river, except for the main stem Eel, from the Chetco down to the South Fork of the Eel should be fishable and likely full of steelhead. The Smith and Chetco are starting to clear a bit and the Van Duzen and Mad are just rounding into shape, leaving anglers with plenty of green water options.

The weather ahead
Not much in the way of precipitation for the next week, but the snow levels will be very low according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “There’s a 20 percent chance of showers on Friday, but less than a quarter inch is predicted to fall. Another slight chance of rain on Saturday night, but most of it will fall as snow in the mountains. A really cold system will hit the area on Monday night and stick around into Tuesday, where snow levels could drop to 500 feet. As of now, Wednesday and Thursday are looking fairly dry,” Aylward added.

Razor Clamming remains closed
A reminder for clam diggers, the recreational take and possession of razor clams is still prohibited on Humboldt and Del Norte county beaches due to dangerous levels of domoic acid. For more information, visit Or you can call the Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at 831-649-2883.

Free fishing this weekend in Oregon
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is offering a free-fishing weekend on Saturday, Dec. 31 and Sunday, Jan. 1. On these two days, you won’t need a license, tag or endorsement to fish anywhere in Oregon.

Mattole River opens to fishing Jan. 1
The Mattole River will open to fishing on Sunday, January 1 from 200 yards upstream of its mouth to the confluence with Stansberry Creek. Only artificial lures may be used and barbless hooks are required. The Mattole is also regulated by low flow closures, with a minimum flow of 320 cfs at the Petrolia gauging station. As of Wednesday, it’s flowing at just under 1,300 cfs.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
“The Chetco blew out last Friday, but has since been in prime shape,” said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There are decent numbers of steelhead, but the cold water has slowed the bite. We have been getting two or three fish on most days, but you have to make several passes at them and get the bait right in front of them. The plunkers have had a couple good days. I have been seeing one hatchery fish for every two wild fish.”

There are some old salmon, as well as a very few fresh ones, in the Elk and Sixes according to Martin. “This week, there have been more salmon caught than steelhead. Salmon fishing closes Dec. 31 on the Sixes, but kings can still be kept in January on the Elk.”

Smith River
The bite has been pretty tough on the Smith this week,” said guide Mike Coopman. “The water is pretty clear, and it’s really cold. I think there’s more fish in the river than are showing on the end of the rod, but it’s been a tough to get them to bite.”

Eel River
Main Stem
The color on the main stem is starting to turn green, but there’s still a lot of water reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. He said, “We’re probably about week away if we don’t get more rain and there isn’t much snow melt.”

South Fork
Running at 2,500 cfs on the Miranda gauge as of Wednesday. The Redway area started fishing on Wednesday, and it should fish all the way to the forks by Friday. According to reports, a few fish have been caught in the Garberville/Sylvandale area.

Van Duzen
Flowing at just above 1,000 cfs on Wednesday, the Van Duzen should be plenty fishable above Yager Creek according to Grundman. “Below Yager was still slightly off color, but the flows are good. It should be in great shape by the weekend.”

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, steelhead fishing has been somewhat slow this week on the Mad. He said, “It had about a foot of visibility as of Wednesday, and conditions should be just about perfect this weekend. There just hasn’t been a lot of fish in the river so far, but that could change any day.”

“A lot of new fish are moving into he Trinity now,” said Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “Our steelhead counts went way up this week with the high water, with lots of fish making their way back to the hatchery. Most of the fish we’ll see for the rest of the season will be wild. The fish are going to hold up for a little bit with the water dropping and the creeks slowing down. The temperatures remain cold up here, remember to slow down and fish the holes thoroughly. Flies, roe and plugs will all work well.”

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

Changes await 2017 saltwater anglers

The California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife is proposing new saltwater regulatory changes to the Northern Management Area, which runs from Cape Mendocino to the Oregon border for 2017. These changes were established to bring state law into conformance with federal law for groundfish and other federally managed species. The changes — some good, some not so good — will allow more time on the water and open up more territory, but two of the main targeted species will see tighter limits.

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. In 2016, the season ran from May 15 through Oct.31, with fishing off limits in water deeper than 120 feet. (20 fathoms)

The toughest pill for saltwater anglers to swallow will be the reduction of the sub limit for black rockfish from five to three per day. The daily limit for lingcod will also be reduced, going from three per day to two. Anglers can still keep up to 10 rockfish per day, which includes a combination of rockfish, bocaccio, three cabezon and greenling. New for 2017, anglers will be allowed one canary rockfish per day, as federal fishery managers have declared canaries “recovered” from depleted levels just a decade ago. Petrale Sole and Starry Flounder will also be allowed year round and at all depths.

“I’m really excited about the changes, the good really outweighs the negative here, especially out of the Eureka” said Tim Klassen, who runs Reel Steel Sport Fishing out of Woodley Island. “Cape Mendocino has such a variety of rockfish, and it will open up a lot of new ground down there that hasn’t been fished in over 10 years. Being able to fish for Petrale all year with no depth restrictions is huge, that opens up a whole new fishery. The one thing we need to be cognizant of is catching more Yelloweye rockfish. With more depth added, there’s a greater chance more will be caught, and the mortality rate could climb. Fish and Game will be keeping a close eye on them.”

More commercial crab openings
On Dec. 26 at 12:01 a.m., the commercial Dungeness crab season will open from the Sonoma/Mendocino County line north near Point Arena and from near Shelter Cove to the north jetty of the Humboldt Bay entrance. The opener in this area will be preceded by a 64-hour pre-soak period starting at 8 a.m. on Dec. 23.

For more information on all the upcoming openers, visit

The weather ahead
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the next storm is forecasted to arrive on Thursday late in the day and will likely stick around through Friday. This will be a colder system, with the snow levels dropping to 3,000 feet. We’ll likely see one to two inches of rain in Del Norte and Humboldt counties and up to three inches in the higher elevations. The showers should taper off by Saturday morning, and we’ll likely be dry through Monday. A weak system is forecasted for Tuesday, but it probably won’t do much to the rivers. The light rain could accumulate to a quarter or a half-inch. Dry weather is back on tap Wednesday and should stick around through Saturday,” Kennedy added.

Humboldt Steelhead Days returns
In it’s fourth year, this annual fishing contest is held on three watersheds during the “Peak of the Run,” from January 1 to March 31. Anglers who register for the contest plus catch and photograph a steelhead on the Mad, Trinity, and Eel Rivers will have a chance to win cash and prizes from several local outdoor stores. This year, HSD will offer special bank access near the Mad River hatchery courtesy of Green Diamond Resource Co. Access is limited and permits are required.

HSD has grown from a two-week event into a three-month-long celebration of all things steelhead with not only fishing, but also many events and angling activities organized throughout Humboldt. These events are designed to create awareness and further promote restoration and recovery of Humboldt’s winter Steelhead populations and their spawning habitat.

Some of the family-friendly events include spawning and restoration tours, steelhead themed expos, rigging and casting classes and the International Fly Film Festival (IF4). This year, organizers are heavily promoting several lodging discounts throughout Humboldt if anglers ask for the Humboldt Steelhead Days rate when booking.

To register for the contest, you can sign up for $10 at these outlets: Pacific Outfitters, RMI Outdoors, Mr. Fish Seafood in Eureka; Mad River Tackle and Wildberries in Arcata and Sport & Cycle in Fortuna. You may also register online at or email them at

Mattole River opens to fishing Jan. 1
The Mattole River will open to fishing on Sunday, January 1 from 200 yards upstream of its mouth to the confluence with Stansberry Creek. Only artificial lures may be used and barbless hooks are required. The Mattole is also regulated by low flow closures, with a minimum flow of 320 cfs at the Petrolia gauging station.

Mad River Hatchery ladder open
The water running down the ladder to the river was turned on Monday and a few fish had already made their way up as of Tuesday. The hatchery hopes to begin spawning on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk River
“The Chetco has been in good shape this week, between 4,000 and 3,000 cfs, but is projected to blow out this weekend,” said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The best fishing seems to be on the far upper end near the South Fork and the last two miles before Social Security Bar. There are some hatchery fish in the lower end. A plunker caught a 17-pounder Tuesday at the top of the Social Security gravel bar. I heard of a guy staying at the RV park next to Morris Hole catching a couple of salmon this week. The Elk has had some late kings and it fished well over the weekend. A few steelhead also were caught just above the Ironhead takeout.”


Michael Brohn from San Jose with a nice Smith River steelhead. Photo courtesy of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service

Smith River
Steelhead season has started slow on the Smith, with a few being landed by bank anglers plunking last Saturday. The drift boats caught a few fish on Sunday, but it’s been slow since. You can expect the steelhead fishing to pick up as January is traditionally a really good month for the Smith. River levels are predicted to rise a couple feet on Friday, but should be fishable by Saturday.

Main Stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Mad
All were headed down towards fishable level, but Friday’s rain will set them back a few days. With very little rain in the forecast after Friday, these rivers could drop back into fishable shape by midweek. The main stem Eel will likely take a few days longer and could fish next weekend. For river level predictions, visit

“The Upper Trinity has come back into shape and some winter steelhead have definitely shown up,” said Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “Most of the fish in the system now are wild winter fish, but there will be a few hatchery fish still around. The mornings have been extremely cold, so you’ll want to take your time as the fish are moving a little lethargically. I like back trolling plugs during this time as it allows the bait to stay in front of their faces to trigger them to bite. Don’t forget some scent on those plugs. The best conditions are from Lewiston down to Cedar Flats.”

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

Latest storms should kick-off steelhead season


Shaun McNaughton of Garberville landed a nice steelhead on Tuesday while drifting the Chetco River. The winter steelhead run should kick in to gear once the rivers begin to recede following the latest round of storms that have pushed many rivers to monitor stage levels. Photo courtesy of Alan Borges/Alan’s Guide Service

Metalheads, hardheads, steelhead — or whatever you want to call them. This beautiful, chrome, sleek, silver bullet sure has a mind of it’s own. All of this bountiful water flowing through our pristine coastal rivers and streams, and yet, you’re nowhere to be found? I guess that’s what makes these sea-run rainbow trout so special. You never know what they’re thinking. Or when they’ll make an appearance. Or maybe we’re all just a little too excited; given the fact we’re coming off one heck of a coastal salmon season? So as we collectively take a deep breath and enjoy the holidays, let’s all remember the winter steelhead season really gets going after Christmas and is in full swing by the time the New Year rolls around. As the rivers begin to recede to fishable levels in the coming days, I’m willing to bet we’ll see the first wave of winter steelhead make their way into our North Coast rivers. At least that’s our plan.

Weekend Forecast
After a couple of extremely wet systems on Wednesday and Thursday, several North Coast rivers are forecasted to reach or exceed monitor stage. The Smith, Klamath, Mad, and Van Duzen rivers are all expected to reach monitor stage on Thursday, while the main stem Eel at Fernbridge is forecasted to rise above flood stage sometime Thursday evening. According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the rivers will all be on drop by Friday morning, with only scattered showers remaining in the Smith basin. “The Eel and Mad basins look dry all the way through the day on Tuesday. The next chance of rain will be Tuesday evening, where we could see a quarter to three-quarters of an inch in both Humboldt and Del Norte. As of now, Wednesday and Thursday both look dry with another weak system moving in on Friday,” Kennedy added.

2017 Fishing license
A reminder that it’s the time of the year to purchase your 2017 license, which is required for residents 16 years of age or older to take fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, amphibians or reptile in inland or ocean waters. The cost of a new resident sport fishing license is $47.01. A North Coast salmon report card, which will run you $6.22, is required for all anglers taking salmon in the Smith River System or Klamath-Trinity River System. If you plan to fish for steelhead, you’ll need to purchase a steelhead report card, which will cost $7.05 again this year. The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife will no longer accept cash for fishing licenses starting Jan. 1.

Reduced-Fee sport fishing licenses now available
Reduced-cost fishing licenses are available in 2017 for $6.95 (instead of $47.01) for those 65 or older on reduced income or disabled military veterans. For more information on all CA fishing licenses, visit

The Rivers:
Chetco/Elk Rivers
The window to fish the Chetco was short this week according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “It dropped below 4,000 cfs on Tuesday, and we did a long drift from the South Fork to Social Security. We hooked and lost an adult steelhead and landed a few half-pounders while side-drifting. We also found a school of salmon and caught a few fish with plugs, but they were dark and we released them all. The river is expected to blow out beginning Wednesday through the weekend because of another big storm. The plunkers got into some steelhead on Monday at Social Security Bar and the Gate Hole near Tide Rock,” added Martin

The Elk started fishing on Monday reports Martin, but was high. He said, “It was in a lot better shape on Tuesday at 4.6 feet. It will probably be blown out for at least a few days. A drift boat went down on Monday near the hatchery, but it’s not known if it was because of the high water, or if the boater was inexperienced. Everyone made it out OK, but it’s another reason to always wear a life jacket.”

Smith River
The Smith fished on Monday and Tuesday, but only a handful of adult steelhead were reportedly caught. It was back on the rise early Wednesday morning and is forecasted to peak just above monitor stage early Thursday morning. If the forecast holds, it should be driftable by Saturday and in prime shape by early next week. Expect to see a few more adult steelhead begin to show up next week.

Main Stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Mad
All were on the rise as of Wednesday, but should begin to drop sometime on Thursday. With very little rain in the forecast for at least the next seven days, these rivers could be back to fishable levels late next week, expect for the main Eel. Very few winter steelhead were caught on any of the rivers, but that should change when they drop back down and turn green. For river level predictions, visit

Upper Trinity
Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service reports the Upper Trinity blew out last Friday due to the heavy rain and snowmelt. “The last few days the river from Lewiston to Junction City has come back into shape and has cleared nicely. We should start to see some new winter fish in the system any time. I’m not sure how long the river will hold up with this next storm, we’ll have to wait and see. If you’re headed this way, keep in mind the rockslide in French Gulch has closed Hwy. 299 in both directions for the rest of the week,” Huber said.

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