On the lips of the anglers, kayakers and mushroom hunters of the North Coast was a word of relief this week: Finally.
Finally, we got some rain.
It hasn’t been the kind of heavy downpours that our drought-stricken region really could use, but it seems to have been enough to make for some red-hot fishing on the Smith.
It wasn’t until 8:30 a.m. Wednesday that the state opened up all fishable reaches of the Smith River, which were subject to a low-flow closure, according to guide Mick Thomas.
But once it opened, the getting was good, said Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips, whose boat landed eight steelhead out of 12 hookups by 1:30 p.m.
“It’s on fire,” Thomas said. “It’s the best conditions you could ask for.”
The Smith was colored a chalky green with a little hint of debris, but not too much since the rain came down light, Thomas said.
Thomas was using primarily side-drifting roe with a puff ball, but said it didn’t really matter what gear you used, because “the river is just loaded with steelhead.”
The Smith was predicted to peak at 9.2 feet at the Jed Smith gauge around 10 p.m. Wednesday, and it should provide great fishing through the weekend.
Call the North Coast low-flow closure hotline for the current open status: 822-3164.
Although the rain also brought new steelhead in from the ocean and into the Chetco River, the fishing was not on fire, according to guide Andy Martin, who said there were two to four steelhead caught per boat Wednesday.
Martin, of Wild Rivers Fishing, said that the steelhead were holding below the confluence of the North Fork Chetco, which was producing a muddy color in the water for everything below.
Plunkers had been catching steelhead at the Social Security Bar on Wednesday and Martin predicted the fishing would get better when the river levels start to fall.
“When it starts dropping is when it really turns on,” Martin said.
State fishing closures
Due to the drought, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife closed fishing in some rivers Wednesday.
For North Coast rivers already subject to low-flow closures, including the Smith, there is no change in regulations, but the CDFW is asking the California Fish and Game Commission to have the low-flow closure regulations extend through April 30. The regulations typically expire Jan. 31.
Fishing contacts: Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips at 707-458-4704 and Lunkerfishtrips.com; Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 541-813-1082 and Wildriversfishing.com