Mad River Steelhead Reward Program

Mad River - Arcata, CA

Mad River Steelhead Reward Program

by Kenny Priest

For the Mad River steelhead fishery in the upcoming 2023-24 season, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) plans to attach reward tags to a small subset of hatchery-origin (i.e., adipose-clipped) adult steelhead upon their return to freshwater. This is in effort to estimate the steelhead harvest on the Mad River. According to John Deibner-Hanson, a Northern Region Environmental Scientist for CDFW, a number of fish will be captured in the lower river using tangle nets and affixed with spaghetti tags worth $20, $50 or $100 rewards. Once the tags are applied on their backs behind the dorsal fin, the fish will be released. Upon capturing a reward tag, anglers should follow one of the methods outlined below to answer a series of questions about how the tag was acquired (e.g., caught on fish, found on dead fish, found on bank). Anglers will have until April 15th, 2024 to report tags and claim rewards, after which reward tags from this season will expire. To attain accurate harvest estimates, we must assume 100 percent tag return rates on harvested steelhead, so getting the word out for our tagging program will be vital to its success.

There are three ways an angler may report their tag for reward:

  1. Scan the QR code posted on message boards and signage around the river or carried by CDFW creelers.
  2. Visit:
  3. Return the tag to CDFW at: 50 Ericson Ct., Arcata, CA.

Using options 1 and 2 above, anglers will not submit the physical tag, only needing to provide the unique tag number and answering the accompanying questions online. For this reason, anglers are strongly urged to retain the tag after submittal until all rewards have been claimed, as only one reward will be paid for each uniquely numbered tag.

For questions, please email

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