A Rainy End to the Steelhead Season

Eureka resident Yvette Faust landed a nice winter steelhead earlier this week while fishing the Chetco River.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Alan’s Guide Service

by Kenny Priest

As if we haven’t had enough rain this winter, another potent storm is about to take aim at the North Coast. From the South Fork Eel north to the Smith, we’re looking at anywhere from 2 to 3 inches of rain combined with snowmelt to impact the rivers. All of the rivers will see a substantial rise in flows, turning green water to brown. With the final week of the season right around the corner, and more rain on tap next week, it’s likely the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole and Redwood Creek, won’t recover prior to closing. 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.

While 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.

PFMC to hold public hearing on salmon season alternatives
A public hearing will be held in Santa Rosa, CA  on Monday, March 25. The purpose of this public hearing is to receive comments on the proposed management alternatives in preparation for adopting final salmon management recommendations at the April 2024 Council meeting. A summary of verbal comments heard at the hearings will be provided to the Pacific Council at its April meeting. This public hearing will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriot in the Sonoma Room, 175 Railroad Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401.

Details on how to attend the public hearing and PFMC meeting, as well as instructions to provide public comment, can be found at www.pcouncil.org

Englund Marine saltwater seminar coming March 30
On Saturday March 30, Eureka’s Englund Marine and HASA will host a saltwater seminar from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Englund Marine store located at 590 W. Waterfront Dr. Guest speakers include Charles Loos, who will speak on bar crossing basics. Travis Chambers of Time and Tide Marine will speak on engine maintenance. Tim Klassen will talk about anchor fishing for Pacific halibut in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Del Stephens is back in Humboldt and will explain deepwater lingcod, Albacore and Bluefin tuna techniques. Raffles will be held in between speakers. For more information, visit https://www.englundmarine.com/pages/seminars.html.

The Rivers:
The Mad is still a little 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 high and just starting to turn olive green, running at 12,000 cfs at Scotia Thursday. But that’s about to change as it’s predicted to peak at 33,600 cfs Sunday morning following rain on Friday and Saturday. 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 mid next week. 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 has been fishable since the weekend, and has been in great shape the last couple days. Scores however, haven’t been good. Most boats have reported skunks or maybe hooking into one or two fish per day. But with the rain coming, Thursday looks like it will be the last fishable day of the season. Flows are predicted to jump over 7,000 cfs at Miranda by Sunday morning and additional rain is forecast for mid next week.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen is still a little on the high side, but the color was coming around.  All of that will be a moot point as it will blow out on Friday, likely putting an end to the season as it closes after March 31. Flows are predicted to peak at over 9,000 cfs at Bridgeville Friday night.

The Smith has been in great shape all week, running at just under 9.5 feet at Jed Smith gauge Thursday. The river is clearing, but the rain on the way should help. It’s predicted to peak at over 12.5 feet (13,100) cfs early Sunday morning and should be in prime shape next week. Reports have been hard to come by as most anglers have called it a season or moved to other rivers.

Southern Oregon rivers
“Steelhead fishing has been surprisingly good on the Chetco, with lots of downrunners and a few bright fish,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Local guides are getting four to eight steelhead a day, side-drifting roe and Corkies. Fish are spread throughout the river. The end of last week produced a good spring salmon bite in the Rogue, with most boats getting a hatchery fish on Thursday and Friday. Plunkers also caught springers with Spin-N-Glos. A few later steelhead also are being caught.”

Brookings ocean report
Lingcod and rockfish action has been very good out of Brookings, with limits for charter boats reports Martin. “A nice variety of blue, black and canary rockfish are being caught. Rough weather could side-line anglers this weekend. Surfperch fishing also has been good.”

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.