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Reel Deal: Steelhead were biting

Rick Bailey of Eureka with an estimated 9-pound steelhead trout caught on the Smith River just south of the forks on Monday. Submitted by Mike Coopman’s Guide Service
Rick Bailey of Eureka with an estimated 9-pound steelhead trout caught on the Smith River just south of the forks on Monday. Submitted by Mike Coopman’s Guide Service
When the river isn’t raging like it is right now, steelhead trout are still biting on the Smith, while most other rivers are blown out or closing Friday.

Mike Coopman guided groups on the Smith River that landed eight to 12 steelhead a day from Friday through Monday, including an estimated 9-pound post-spawned steelie caught just south of the forks.

Rick Bailey of Eureka landed the fish using a orange “glo bug” yarn, a small piece of roe and a pink fish pill.

Most of the steelhead Coopman’s boat hauled in were down-runners (post-spawned fish), but he said that anglers spied nothing but fresh fish (pre-spawning) on the upper river.

Weekend fishing looks tenuous since heavy rains have the river forecast predicting the Smith to vault to 28.5 feet at the Jed Smith river gauge by 11 a.m. Friday. Hopefully the rains won’t wash all the steelhead out.

“We’ll just have to see what’s left,” Coopman said.

The strong runs this year should provide steelie fishing through April and cutthroat trout, around 10 to 12 pounds, are starting to bite as well, Coopman said.

“They’re a lot of fun on an ultra-light rod,” he said. “There’s still a reason to get your line wet.”

With a higher portion of post-spawned fish swimming downstream, Coopman recommended changing tactics.

“Remember this time of year you may find large quantities of fish, and if you find a calm area, take a few casts. Those down-runners are pulling off to rest in those soft spots,” Coopman said. “They’re resting in softer spots than you might think.”

The Chetco, Eel, Garcia, Gualala and Mad rivers all close to fishing Friday — most have been too high to fish recently.

Spring cleaning calls for dusting off the flippers and the abalone iron. Abalone season starts on Sunday.

Three red abalone may be taken per day and only three may be in possession at any time. Only red abalone can be taken, and they must be at least 7 inches or greater, measured at the widest shell diameter.

No person can take more than 24 abalone per year, and SCUBA gear may not be used, so grab the wetsuit.

You have to take these shellfish by hand or using an abalone iron that cannot be more than 36 inches in length.

You must have an abalone report card, as well as a state fishing license, to take abalone.

You’ll find abalone in the underwater crevices or in little caves in the rocks, Coopman said, although he finds the exposed coasts of Del Norte a little dicey for diving.

The Smith count

There were 179 adult fish counted swimming upstream from March 17 to 24, and 31 downstream fish, according to the DIDSON sonar fish counter on the Smith. The total upstream count for the season is 32,307 adult fish.

Fishing tip of the week

Even when the river drops enough to fish, it will still be high, and Coopman recommended using bright colors and a lot of scent to attract the fish in the cloudy waters.

Mike Coopman’s Guide Service can be reached at 707-465-1367.

Reach Adam Spencer at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 


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