GARBERVILLE — We're in the heart of winter steelhead season here on the North Coast, and after a wet December we've had relatively dry conditions for the last few weeks, which lined us up for some fantastic steelhead action on many of the North Coast rivers.
I've spent most of the last 3 weeks down on the Eel River and the bite has really been fantastic. The South Fork gave up some great action and the bite just kept getting better as the river dropped and we were able to get onto the Main Stem. At the peak of the action we were hooking 10 to 15 steelhead a day with double hookups not uncommon. Rain on Wednesday brought the river up a bit and gave it some color, but with the dry weather in the extended forecast it looks as though it won't be out for long. The South Fork Eel is already back in and won't be long before the Main follows.
THE SMITH RIVER is well known for very big steelhead like this one caught by Ryan Gray of Windsor. It was his first steelhead, and what a fish! It weighed 14 pounds and was a wild buck, caught just below Hiochi on Jan. 12 from a driftboat. Guide Jon Watson was fishing nearby and snapped the photo for WON.
For the last few days I've ventured back up north where rain was needed to breathe some life back into the rivers. The Smith rose to 12 feet on the upper gauge and a fresh blast of fish came in with it. The action wasn't red hot for boats drifting up at the forks, but plunkers did well on the lower river and the sonar counts showed a big push of fish on the way.
The Chetco was running dirty on Thursday but had dropped into shape by Friday. Solid scores were logged from the lower river with boats finding most of the action from the North Fork down. As of Saturday morning, the river was dirty again, but didn't rise much and will be right back in shape by Sunday. It was fishing from top to bottom on Sunday.
The long term forecast is for dry weather, which will kick the Eel River bite back into gear within the week. In the meantime, the Chetco will be a great bet.
Tony Sepulveda is a river guide and owns and runs Green Water Fishing Adventures.