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Green rivers and steelhead await anglers

f you’re an avid winter steelhead fishermen, this is your weekend. Just about every coastal river on the North Coast will be some shade of green -- and likely fishable -- come Saturday morning. This phenomenon doesn’t happen often, and I’m having a hard time thinking of any excuse not to be on the water. Every creek and river from the Chetco down to the South Fork of the Eel should be fishable -- and likely full of steelhead as well. The Smith is starting to clear a bit and the main stem Eel and Van Duzen are just starting to turn, but every river in between is in prime shape for some great winter steelhead action.

Weekend Forecast
According to Eureka’s National Weather Service, the North Coast will remain dry through Sunday with the next chance of rain coming late Sunday night or Monday morning. Showers will likely linger into Wednesday, but precipitation levels aren’t forecasted to be much. Both Humboldt and Del Norte could see anywhere from a half to an inch of rain.

Alan Glowacki of Rocklin is a happy man after landing this chrome-bright Smith River steelhead. Photo courtesy of Curt Wilson Guide Service
Alan Glowacki of Rocklin is a happy man after landing this chrome-bright Smith River steelhead on Monday. All of the North Coast rivers should be in great shape this weekend for anglers looking to get in on the steelhead action. Photo courtesy of Curt Wilson Guide Service

Razor Clam beach openers/closures
A reminder for the clam diggers: In 2016, Little River Beach between Mad River and Strawberry Creek will be open to the take of Razor Clams. The beach between Strawberry Creek and Moonstone Beach will re-open in 2017. In Del Norte County, the beach south of Battery Point is open to clamming in 2016. A health advisory is still in place for both Humboldt and Del Norte counties and consumers are advised against eating razor clams due to dangerous levels of domoic acid.

Steelhead report cards due
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding anglers that they are required to return their 2015 Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Cards between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2016. Anglers are requested to review their cards carefully and complete the information as accurately as possible. Information collected from report cards provides CDFW with data necessary to monitor and manage California’s steelhead fisheries.

The Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Card are a fishing report as well as a catch report. Steelhead anglers record where and when they fished, even if no fish were caught on a given trip. Anglers are encouraged to submit steelhead report card data online, but report cards can still be submitted by mail. Information must be submitted regardless of whether or not the angler fished for steelhead. Additional information can be found on CDFW’s Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Card Program webpage.

Anglers who were issued report cards for Abalone, Sturgeon and North Coast Salmon must report their harvest or effort by Jan. 31, 2016 as well. Anglers and divers may report online or mail their report cards to the address printed on the report card. To report online, please visit this webpage.

Mattole River opens to fishing Jan. 1
The Mattole River will open to fishing on Friday, January 1 from 200 yards upstream of its mouth to the confluence with Stansberry Creek. Only artificial lures may be used and barbless hooks are required. The Mattole is also regulated by low flow closures, with a minimum flow of 320 cfs at the Petrolia gauging station. As of Wednesday, it’s flowing at just under 1,000 cfs.

The Rivers:
Chetco River

Alan Borges of Alan’s Guide Service reports the Chetco is in great shape, with about three and a half feet of visibility. He said, “The water is perfect, a real nice shade of green and clearing very slowly due to the snow melt. It bumped up a little overnight on Wednesday, but it didn’t affect the flows much. There’s fish from the top to the bottom, with quite a few hatchery in the system now.”

Smith River
Steelhead fishing is in full swing on the Smith and there’s fish throughout the system reports guide Mike Coopman. He said, “We had a really good day on Wednesday, and I saw most of the other boats catching fish as well. The river is in great shape now, but it’s dropping quickly and starting to clear. The boat pressure has been heavy this week, along with lots of guys plunking.”

Eel River
Main Stem

The water color on the main stem is starting to turn green, but the it’s still pretty pushy reports Fred Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. He said, “It’s getting more fishable each day, and it should fish at the top of main by the weekend.”

South Fork
Running at 2,500 cfs on the Miranda gauge on Wednesday and should be fishable from the top all the way to the forks.

Van Duzen
Flowing at 1,450 cfs on Wednesday, the Van Duzen is still off-color according to Grundman. “The level is perfect, but it’s still pretty dirty. Yager Creek may be muddy, and it’s possible there are slides upriver. It looks like it will be a few days before it starts to turn green.”

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, there’s quite a few steelhead in the Mad right now. He said, “The river cleared a little quicker than we thought, there’s about a foot of visibility above the pump station as of today and its olive green. I heard some boats were getting them pretty good on plugs Wednesday. The flows are still dropping and conditions for the weekend should be about perfect.”

The Trinity is in great shape and should be fishable from the top to the bottom reports Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “It’s been extremely cold in the mornings and we’ve got quite a bit of snow. Most anglers are starting later in the morning due to icy road conditions, so your time on the water is limited. Right now there’s a gap in the fish -- most of the fall fish are in the hatchery or tributaries and there aren’t big numbers of winter fish moving in yet. We’re catching one here and one there, but no big groups of fish in the upper river as of yet,” Huber said.

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to

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