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Weekend Looks Excellent for Winter Steelhead 

click to enlarge Castro Valley resident Corey Kramer landed a nice winter steelhead on a recent float down the South Fork Eel River.

Photo courtesy of Fishing the North Coast

Castro Valley resident Corey Kramer landed a nice winter steelhead on a recent float down the South Fork Eel River.

If you're looking to hit one of our local rivers in search of winter steelhead, this is your weekend. The lack of recent rainfall, both a blessing and a curse, has allowed the rivers to drop and turn the shade of emerald green steelhead anglers dream about. From the Chetco to the South Fork Eel, all the coastal rivers will be fishable, though some could use a little of the wet stuff. The Smith, always the first to fish and first to clear, is running clear but still producing. Here in Humboldt the Mad should be about perfect by the weekend for bank anglers and boats. The main stem Eel is also finally rounding into shape and has turned green. It's still running high but will be fishable by late this week or the weekend. The South Fork Eel is also in pristine shape and giving up a few bright winter steelhead. If it's steelhead you're after, you'll want to take advantage of the river conditions this weekend.

Weather outlook

According to James White of Eureka's National Weather Service office, we'll remain dry through the rest of the week and through the weekend. "The 8–14-day outlook is no longer showing below normal precipitation," said White. "There's a chance that late next week we could finally see a change in the weather pattern."

Low flow fishing closures extended

As a reminder, low flow regulations that went into effect on Oct. 1 for the Eel River, Mattole, Redwood Creek, Smith, Van Duzen, and Sept. 1 on the Mad, will be extended to April 30 in 2022. The California Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved the extension from Jan. 31 to April 30 back in December due to drought conditions. Low flow regulations will begin Sept.1, 2022 on all rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures.

The Rivers

Mad

The Mad is still a little pushy and flowing at 1,575 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday and turning green. The conditions drew some boats and plenty of bank anglers over the weekend, and the fishing was pretty good. The river will be in great shape the rest of the week and prime by the weekend. If you're looking to catch a steelhead, it's probably your best option.

Main stem Eel

The main stem was running at 5,350 cfs as of Wednesday and is dropping into shape. The water color is good, but the volume of water is still a little high. Should be in good shape by the weekend.

South Fork Eel

The South Fork was in great shape over the weekend and drew quite the crowd. The fishing wasn't red hot. Most boats got the opportunity at a few fish but there were plenty of skunks. It's predicted to under 800 cfs by the weekend.

Van Duzen

The Van Duzen was under 600 cfs as of Wednesday and is very fishable. There were a few bank anglers taking advantage over the weekend but reports were hard to come by. Will be in excellent condition all week.

Smith River

Flows were down to 3,400 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge Wednesday. Conditions are low and clear and the fishing pressure is light as a lot of anglers have moved to the Chetco. There are fish in the river, but you'll need to be stealthy to be successful. There are reportedly quite a few seals and sea lions making the fishing even tougher.

Chetco/Rogue

Steelhead fishing remains good on the Chetco, with most guides getting two to four fish a day reports Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. "Big crowds on Saturday and Sunday cut into the impressive catch rates from a few days earlier, but fishing was still decent," said Martin. "The boat pressure eased on Monday and catch rates improved to limits or near limits again. A mix of wild and hatchery steelhead are spread throughout the river. Plunkers have switched over to drift fishing gear and are getting a few steelhead from shore. The lower Rogue is fishing well for steelhead as the winter run appears to be above average. Anchoring and finding 3.5 MagLips has been the best bet. Shore anglers are using Spin-N-Glos at Lobster Creek and Huntley Park."

Kenny Priest (he/him) 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

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