Plenty of green water for steelhead anglers

 If you’re looking to get on the water this weekend and to chase some winter steelhead, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a fishable river. Just about every coastal river will be some shade of green — and likely fishable — come Saturday morning. This many green river options 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, except for the main stem Eel, from the Chetco down to the South Fork of the Eel, should be fishable and likely full of steelhead. The Smith and Chetco are starting to clear a bit and the Van Duzen and Mad are just rounding into shape, leaving anglers with plenty of green water options.


Not much in the way of precipitation for the next week, but the snow levels will be very low according to Ryan Aylward of Eureka’s National Weather Service.

“There’s a 20-percent chance of showers on Friday, but less than a quarter-inch is predicted to fall. Another slight chance of rain on Saturday night, but most of it will fall as snow in the mountains. A really cold system will hit the area on Monday night and stick around into Tuesday, where snow levels could drop to 500 feet. As of now, Wednesday and Thursday are looking fairly dry,” said Aylward.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is offering a free-fishing weekend on Saturday, Dec. 31 and Sunday, Jan. 1. On these two days, you won’t need a license, tag or endorsement to fish anywhere in Oregon.


The Mattole River will open to fishing on Sunday, 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 cubic-feet-per-second at the Petrolia gauging station. As of Wednesday, it’s flowing at just under 1,300 cfs.


Eel River: Main Stem: The color on the main stem is starting to turn green, but there’s still a lot of water reports Paul Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods.

“We’re probably about week away if we don’t get more rain and there isn’t much snow melt,” Grundman said.

South Fork: Running at 2,500 cfs on the Miranda gauge as of Wednesday. The Redway area started fishing on Wednesday and it should fish all the way to the forks by Friday. According to reports, a few fish have been caught in the Garberville/Sylvandale area.

Van Duzen: Flowing at just above 1,000 cfs on Wednesday, the Van Duzen should be plenty fishable above Yager Creek according to Grundman.

“Below Yager was still slightly off color, but the flows are good. It should be in great shape by the weekend,” he said.

Mad River: According to Justin Kelly of RMI Outdoors, steelhead fishing has been somewhat slow this week on the Mad.

“It had about a foot of visibility as of Wednesday, and conditions should be just about perfect this weekend,” Kelly said. “There just hasn’t been a lot of fish in the river so far, but that could change any day.”

Trinity: “A lot of new fish are moving into he Trinity now,” said Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service. “Our steelhead counts went way up this week with the high water, with lots of fish making their way back to the hatchery. Most of the fish we’ll see for the rest of the season will be wild. The fish are going to hold up for a little bit with the water dropping and the creeks slowing down. The temperatures remain cold up here, remember to slow down and fish the holes thoroughly. Flies, roe and plugs will all work well.”

Smith River: “The bite has been pretty tough on the Smith this week,” said guide Mike Coopman. “The water is pretty clear, and it’s really cold. I think there’s more fish in the river than are showing on the end of the rod, but it’s been a tough to get them to bite.”

Chetco River: “The Chetco blew out last Friday, but has since been in prime shape,” said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There are decent numbers of steelhead, but the cold water has slowed the bite. We have been getting two or three fish on most days, but you have to make several passes at them and get the bait right in front of them. The plunkers have had a couple good days. I have been seeing one hatchery fish for every two wild fish.”

Elk/Sixes: There are some old salmon, as well as a very few fresh ones, in the Elk and Sixes according to Martin.

“This week, there have been more salmon caught than steelhead. Salmon fishing closes Dec. 31 on the Sixes, but kings can still be kept in January on the Elk,” he 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

© 2018 Humboldt Steelhead Days is produced by Mad River Alliance • (707) 502-2280 •