Northern California Winter Fishing Season
Smith River, Chetco River, Eel River System, Trinity River, Klamath River, Sixes River, Elk River
Winter marks the return of my favorite fish, the winter steelhead. Elusive and mysterious, steelhead have been know to possess anglers and turn them into raving lunatics. I happen to be one of those fortunate individuals. These chrome bright fish begin to arrive in December, at this time overlapping with the king salmon run.
This can be an interesting time of year, as the opportunity exists to catch both large coastal kings and steelhead in a single day. Crowds are also light at this time of year. As the month of January gets underway, the winter steelhead season is in its prime. The fish are chrome bright and put on and unbelievable show on the end of a line.
Once mid-February comes around, we start to see a mix of fresh and downrunning fish (fish that have completed spawning). While not quite as robust as a bright fish, the downrunners can be very willing biters and are a lot of fun on light tackle. The mix of bright and downstream migrating fish continues through March, with the ratio of downrunners increasing as the month progresses.
March is actually one of my favorite times of the year, as the crowds have thinned and the smell of spring is wafting in the air. The fishing can be outstanding as well, although for some reason March is vastly underrated. Throughout the winter, the Trinity, Eel, Smith, and Chetco rivers plus other small, lesser known drainages will be fishing options. All are unique, productive, and exciting winter steelhead fisheries.
Our destination will be dictated by conditions.