Late-Season Steelhead Anglers Have Plenty of Weekend Options

John Fendick of Redding landed this bright steelhead while drifting the Smith River last weekend. For most of the coastal rivers, steelhead will close March 31st. The Smith, however, will stay open through the end of April.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Tyler Gillespie Guide Service

by Kenny Priest
3-25-2021
Website

If you’re looking to get that one last steelhead trip in, this could be the weekend to do it. All the rivers are green and have plenty of water. The main stem Eel and Chetco have good color and ample water, and that’s probably where you’ll find the majority of the boats. The Smith is low and clear, but still producing for the few anglers still trying. The Mad is turning green and is another good option for the weekend. Reports from all rivers are the same: Fishing isn’t great. If you get a chance at a couple fish, consider that a good day. But now with hungry downers on their way back to the salt, the opportunities to hook a few should improve. With sunshine predicted through the weekend, this is a golden opportunity to get in on some late-season steelhead action.

Upcoming steelhead river closures
After next Wednesday, March 31, the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mattole, Mad, Redwood Creek and Chetco will all be closed to fishing. A few others however, will remain open. The main stem Eel, from its mouth to the South Fork is open to fishing all year. From the mouth to Fulmor Road, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used from April 1 through the Friday, May 21. Only barbless hooks may be used from May 22 through Mar. 31, 2022. From Fulmor Road to the South Fork, it’s open all year. From April 1 through Sept. 30, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. Only barbless hooks may be used from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31, 2022.

The main stem of the Smith will remain open through the end of April from its mouth to the confluence with the Middle and South Forks. The Middle Fork will also remain open through April from its mouth to Patrick’s Creek. The South Fork is open through April as well, from its mouth upstream approximately 1,000 feet to the County Road (George Tryon) bridge and Craig’s Creek to Jones Creek. Only barbless hooks may be used from Sept. 1 through Apr. 30. The bag limit remains the same at two hatchery steelhead per day.

Sections of the Klamath and Trinity rivers are open to fishing, but are subject to in-season changes. For more information, visit www.nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=190456&inline.

The weather ahead
Sunny and breezy conditions are expected through the weekend. There is a slight chance of rain Wednesday night but not enough to impact river levels. Wind gusts could be as high 23 miles per hour through Thursday.

Recreational Red Abalone fishery to remain closed until 2026
In a press release issued March 19, the CDFW announced the extended closure of the recreational red abalone fishery until April 1, 2026. Red abalone stocks continue to be impacted by large scale die offs in northern California due to the collapse of the bull kelp forest, which is their primary food. The Commission closed the fishery in 2017 because of the mortality of red abalone populations due to environmental stressors. Recovery of bull kelp forests and the diverse ecosystem they support will take time. Thus, the extension of the abalone fishery closure is needed to allow for recovery and protection of surviving abalone. When reopening of the fishery is considered, it will be guided by the Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan, which is currently under development. To learn more about the plan, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Red-Abalone-FMP. For more information on the closure, visit www.cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2021/03/19/the-recreational-red-abalone-fishery-to-remain-closed-until-2026/

Brookings ocean update
“Lingcod and rockfish action out of Brookings has been very good whenever ocean conditions cooperate,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Lingcod fishing was wide open Sunday and Monday, despite windy conditions. Lings remain in shallow water spawning. Marine conditions look good for Saturday and Sunday, but strong winds are expecting prior to the weekend.”

The Rivers:
Smith River
The Smith is low and clear, running just under 8 feet on the Jed Smith gauge as of Thursday. A few boats are still trying but fishing remains very tough. The few that are being caught are fresh. Light leaders and a stealthy presentation are required.

Chetco/Lower Rogue
Steelhead season ends March 31 on the Chetco. “Just a few guides are still fishing but catch rates are still decent with two to four steelhead per boat,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “A few bright steelhead are still being caught but the majority of the fish are downrunners. Conditions are prime for the final week of the season. Spring salmon fishing remains slow in the Rogue. Just a couple of hatchery springers have been caught so far. Steelhead fishing is still fair to good, with fresh hatchery fish still arriving.”

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem is green but still a little wide. It dipped below 4,500 cubic feet per second as of Thursday. Will be in great shape by the weekend.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork is clearing, running under 800 cfs on the Miranda gauge as of Thursday. A few boats were out over the weekend and had some success on downers. The lower end should have better fishing this weekend as the upper reaches are getting low and clear.

Van Duzen
Flowing at 550 cfs Thursday, the Van Duzen is dropping into shape. Conditions for the weekend should be prime for bank anglers.

Mad River
The Mad is green, but still running a little high as of Thursday. Flows are predicted to be right around 1,100 cfs by Saturday, which is about perfect. According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, the fishing has slowed. He said, “The number of fish has tapered off significantly but there are some downers around as well as a few fresh ones. Conditions should be excellent for the weekend.”


Find "Fishing the North Coast" on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.


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