SMITH RIVER






January 29, 2015    Headlines
Winter Steelies

Time to Think BIG
All North Coast rivers are dropping and getting "skinny" here on Thursday 1-29. The Smith is down to 7.3 or just 1900cfs. Flows this low are not what any steelhead angler wants. Yes there are fish in the system but approaching them much less hooking one in these ultra low clear flows is tough to impossible. Rain is needed on the Smith before we see the action improve.
The Mad has greened up and is flowing at 6.6 feet or under 500cfs. This means that anglers bouncing roe in the holes or under a bobber are going to out fish the flossers and liners by a wide margin. Fishing here was solid all this past week but will be more challenging each day that we don't see rain.
Now is a good time to think big or at least big water. The South Fork Eel is in to the main stem and has lost most of it's color. Many guides like Tony Sepulveda are now working the main stem and being a bit quiet on what they are finding. I can't blame any guide who is staying mum when there are only so many good floats available. Earlier this week Tony reported 6 fish hooked each day on the south Fork. I would bet he will be on the main stem Eel until the rains return.
Wally Johnson has been scratching out a few fish on the Chetco says he may be breaking out the jet sled to fish the lower Klamath by this weekend. Two weeks ago under similar low flows he was reporting up to 5 adults and a dozen half pounders each day. They were drifting roe from Blue Creek to the Glen. This is a good bet until the rains return.
I have not received a Chetco guide report sine the weekend but private anglers are seeing good action and some big fish working the lower river. The fishing is not wide open but some toads are in the mix.
On the Russian with the lack of rain and ultra low releases off the dams flows are down to 260cfs at Healdsburg. I have received only a handful of mostly dead slow type reports the past two weeks but second captain Jared Davis on the Salty Lady sent in a get video of a bright fish hooked in a "frog water" hole on Tuesday. It appearded to be hooked on a bobber and bait setup.
Pray for rain as if we don't see some soon many rivers could close due to low flows.
The bottom line is that if you are fishing with a top guide they have both the knowledge and skill to put their clients onto the best fishing available. That said there are fewer options as the rivers drop out.


Rivers Dropping, Some Fishing Others Low and Clear
With the lack of rain most North Coast rivers are back to low and clear after a decent rise last week. Here on Tuesday 1-27 Tony Sepulveda reported in from the South Fork Eel. Tony says the river is in great shape and the action is good but not as great as the past few seasons. Over the past two days working the lower river from Myers to the main stem his clients hooked 6 fish both days. He is working both roe and plugs with most coming on bait. The south Fork is at a great flow but Tony said is more clear at the current level than he would usually expect. He will be floating the South Fork and Main stem Eel until the rains return. Lower left is a picture that Tony sent in today of a big native that was released on the Eel.
The Smith is down to 7.6 feet and is low and clear. There are a few fish being hooked but in these low flows are hard to approach much less hook.
On the Chetco it is also low and clear. Wally Johnson reports that guides who know where to find fish in low water are still getting a few each day. Top boats saw up to three fish today but overall Wally says that most are working hard for 2 or three hookups.
The Mad river is dropping into shape with a current level of 6.8 feet or 600cfs. Fishing here last weekend was good with most anglers tossing beads for limits. As the color drops out it's time for the roe and spoon tossers to show how to make a fish eat and bait or well placed spoon or plug.



 North Coast Fish Wrap
There is some great fishing and some tough fishing depending on which river you wish to target. The Smith has dropped back to low and gin clear running at 7.9 feet or 2500cfs here on Sunday evening 1-25. Overall the fishing on the Smith has been slow at 1 to 4 fish for top guides last week and as it drops the fishing will only get tougher.
Many guides have been jumping over the border to the Chetco where we saw good action late last week but lots of boats and bankies working in close quarters and scores dropping from 3 to 6 to 2 to 4 the weekend.
Working South Fork Eel looks like a top bet for those booking with a guide or slinging roe from the bank. Tony Sepulveda was off this weekend but reports that the South Fork Eel is in perfect shape at 8.3 at Miranda this evening. The south fork should be fishing all the way to the main stem by Wednesday. By Friday the Main stem looks to come into play due to the lack of rain. Tony says he is getting reports of 3 to 6 fish released and up to 10 hooked.
The Mad river is dropping with a current level of 7 feet. It's still a tad muddy but by mid week should have enough viz to bounce bait by the Wednesday. Gary Blasi with Mad River Tackle says that all knowledgeable anglers are coming off the river with easy limits. Most are still flossing and beading but that will change to the best scores found by those tossing bait.


Chetco / Smith Drops In
On Thursday 1-22
the best scores have been coming out of the Chetco and Mad rivers. Wally Johnson reported 5 hooked today on the Chetco but just one to the net. The river is in great shape but with the slow action down south on the Smith the boat pressure has picked up. Tony with Green Water Guide service reported a twosome landed out of four hooked and also said that the Smith is in great shape but there are just not a whole lot of fish in the system.
Down on the Mad the river is still muddy but bankies are seeing limits of bright fish. We received a report from regular reader Larry N. who said between two of them they landed 12 fish on Thursday to around 12 pounds. Larry said that the bait bite was not happening due to the mud but a few more days of dry weather should improve the bait bite.
The South Fork Eel is flat lined at 9 feet and is still about a foot high in the Garberville section. By the weekend the middle South Fork will come into play. Tony Sepulveda says that he will be moving south this weekend as the river drops in and expects that by Saturday it will be fishing. 


Rivers Dropping Back In!
Rain late last week and over the weekend brought rivers up on the North Coast with little change in flows to those south of the Mendo / Sonoma county line.
The Smith is quickly dropping and came into shape on Monday 1-19.
It is currently flowing at 9.8 feet or down a foot in the past 24 hours. On Tuesday 1-20. Curt at the Hiouchi B&B said there were lots of boats drifting by this morning but overall the action was spotty with his sources reporting counts of under 3 fish per boat. 
Wally Johnson was on the Chetco on Monday 1-20 and said it was still a tad high and colored. He reported one fish hooked and lost for his twosome. He said that was the story for most guides on the river with a top score of three landed for one other guide but most struggling to get more than an opportunity or three. He has not received any guide reports from Smith which has seen less than stellar action all this season. 
The South Fork Eel at Miranda is at 9.4 feet here on Tuesday 1-20. The river needs to drop another 14 -18" before it comes into play. So far this year the South Fork has been a top producer and one that I would advise anglers to keep an eye on. It looks to be in by the weekend.

Both Tony and Wally have dates open for North Coast steelie trips. 


The BnB Hiouchi Lodge
For readers looking for river front fishing access and lodging a reader turned us on to this little gem. The BNBHiouchi.com is located right on one of the best holes of the main stem, just below the Forks flat and directly across from the "Covered Bridge". 
They have three rooms, a single and two doubles and very reasonable rates that include breakfast or lunch and just a nominal fee for dinner if you wish. You have full access to their private bank access, great meals and clean comfortable rooms. Rates are VERY reasonable and you will never stay in a hotel when fishing here again.  I'm making reservations for February and can't wait to go! 510 967-4615
 


Rules for the Smith River
 New rules have been adopted by the Cal F&G commission for the Smith River. Only barbless hooks will be allowed in all reaches of the Smith River. The  Klamath-Trinity Salmon Report Card has been renamed North Coast Salmon Report card and will now be required on the Smith River also. The annual bag limit for  wild trout or steelhead was reduced to zero and no more than five wild Chinook may be kept per year.


River Levels:

 


 

For river status (low flow closure) updates from Fish and Game please call +1.707.442.4502 for the North coast and +1.707.944.5533 for Central coast streams. Be sure to check out the California Fish and Game regulations before you go. Regulations vary on every river and you need to pay attention to bait and hook restrictions. Due to winter closures on HWYs 5, 101 & 299 we recommend you check Caltrans road conditions as well.
Prime steelhead flows on the Smith river are between 12 and 9 feet. Fish are caught in higher flows by those plucking and even in the low and clear waters below 8.5 feet but prime fishing is always found with a dropping river in the 9 to 12 foot range. No one can predict the best day or conditions but put in a few days in and you will be rewarded. All of our sponsors have room available for the prime January - mid March period. Please call the DFG flow information hotline at 707 822-3164 for additional information.


 
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