The San Lorenzo River crested at 24 feet just before Christmas and now flows with ease through the valley. The river flows have been high, but the water color is clear and the flow is healthy. And the big rains of December brought large steelhead from Central to Northern California.
Near the Oregon border, the Smith River had a poor salmon return, despite high estimates. Steelhead, also known as rainbow trout, have filled in the gap for anadromous fish. The interest for steelhead on the river is high due to the lack of salmon.
Anglers have been blessed with good numbers of fish on the Smith River, with a mix of hatchery and wild steelhead.
Toward the south, the Upper Trinity and Klamath rivers have had decent returns of steelhead, too. The Upper Klamath, near the town of Hornbook, is producing good numbers of smaller steelhead. The Trinity River has had a decent return of adult steelhead in the upper stretch of river. These areas are high-altitude spots and very cold this time of year.
The Mad River in Northern California has been flowing high and turbid with muddy water. The Mad has had a good return of hatchery steelhead so far this season. Most anglers on the Mad are catching these fish in dark water with long leaders and beads.
When the Mad River is full of fish and water remains brown for days on end, it is questionable whether the fish caught there are biting or being snagged.
The Eel River, which flows from south to north and dumps into the Pacific just south of Eureka, hosts a wild population of steelhead in its scenic waters. The fish are wild and fight hard in the Eel. Fishing has been good on the south fork Eel River, with all catch-and-release fishing in its waters.
The Russian River has had high, muddy flows and has had limited fishable days. The Russian is a tailwater system, which means it is subject to releases from Lake Sonoma. Lake Sonoma is full, and the water in the reservoir is high and muddy. That means the water released from it is also muddy. It may be a while before the Russian flows clear for better steelhead fishing.
Steelhead fishing is nice because of the natural beauty surrounding the rivers. The fish are also quite magnificent and should be handled with pride and care. Remember to get your new license and steelhead report card before your steelhead fishing trip.
- Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 20 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.