Rain and Muddy Water Hinders Steelhead Anglers

Eureka resident Mark Faust landed a nice winter steelhead last week while fishing the Smith River.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

by Kenny Priest

Other than the Smith and Chetco, all of the coastal rivers are currently running high and off-color due to an extremely wet few weeks. And with the potential for more rain and plenty of snow left in the hills still to melt, it’s likely most of the rivers won’t clear in time prior to closing for the season.

These extremely wet winters may not bring much joy to steelhead anglers, but they’re a blessing for the fish. The extra water will go a long way in helping the steelhead reach their spawning grounds and also provide a helping hand for the juvenile salmonids as they begin their journey down to the saltwater.

So, with the final week of the season right around the corner, it’s quite possible the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad and Redwood Creek, won’t recover prior to closing after March 31. The Smith will remain open through April, and the main stem Eel is open year-round. It would be nice to get a few more days on the river, but I’m not holding my breath.

Weather ahead
According to Doug Boushey of Eureka’s National Weather Service office, we’re not forecasting any substantial rain events for the week and weekend. “We’ll see some showers on Wednesday, but it won’t add up to much,” said Boushey. “We could see a tenth here locally and up to a quarter inch in the hills. A colder system is forecast for Thursday and Friday, but it won’t produce much precipitation. The snow levels could drop to 1,500 to 2,000 feet, however. There may be a few light showers over the weekend, but nothing significant. A wetter system is forecast for Monday and Tuesday of next week, but timing and rainfall amounts are uncertain.”

The Rivers:
The Mad is still high and off-color, which won’t change anytime soon. With the steelhead season closing after March 31, it’s unlikely it will be anything close to green, especially with Ruth Lake spilling dirty water.

Main stem Eel
The main Eel is still very high and dirty. It’s predicted to be down to 13,000 cubic feet per second at Scotia following the weekend. If we see an extended dry period lasting around 10 days, it could come around into fishable shape. But that doesn’t appear to be the case as rain is back in the forecast for Monday. The river is predicted to rise beginning Monday evening. The main stem Eel, from its mouth to the South Fork, is open to fishing all year. From April 1 through Sept. 30, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used.

South Fork Eel
The South Fork is forecast to be near 2,000 cfs at Miranda by Sunday and that may be the only fishable window we get. It’s forecast to rise starting Monday morning and may not drop into fishable shape before it closes after March 31.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen remains high and off-color, but is dropping quickly. It’s expected to be under 1,000 cfs by Sunday, but another rise is forecast for Monday evening. This will likely blow it out for the season as it closes after March 31.

The fast-clearing Smith dropped into fishing shape late last week and some fish were caught by the handful of boats drifting from the forks to Ruby. Boat pressure was light, and it will probably stay that way until the season is over. It’s predicted to be right around 9-feet on the Jed Smith gauge by Saturday morning. The main stem of the Smith will remain open through April.

Southern Oregon rivers
Spring salmon fishing is kicking into gear on the lower Rogue River, while the Chetco is dropping into shape for the last few days of steelhead season reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, “A handful of hatchery springers were caught just above the head of tide on the Lower Rogue by guides fishing anchovies and spinner blades. Conditions are prime. The Chetco is down to 5,000 cfs. There is a mix of bright steelhead and downrunners around. The Elk, Sixes and Chetco are open for steelhead through March 31.”

Brookings ocean report
According to Martin, lingcod fishing has been wide open out of Brookings, with limits for charter and private boats near Bird Island and Twin rocks. “Although swells will be big, the ocean may fish this weekend. Lingcod and rockfish are open year-round out of Brookings.”

Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.