Will The Eel & Other Eureka Area Rivers Fish This March?

By Alan Borges | 03/10/2014

March is always an interesting month in the Eureka area. Depending on the weather we can experience excellent steelhead fishing or not get on the water at all. The downfall around here is the rivers blow out fast. Meaning if we get any measurable rain at all, we won’t be doing much fishing.


Keep in mind, these rivers don’t open to fishing until January 1, and most of them (except the Eel, which closes April 31) close at the end of March. This year, low water kept most of these local waters trapped under a low flow closure. Then, when it rained, it came down hard and blew all the rivers out. We’ve had a few days this winter where we’ve been able to fish. Meanwhile, if conditions hold we’ll likely get our first real chance to target steelhead shortly.


If we don’t get another storm for 10 days the South Fork of the Eel River will be the only fishable river right now. And, if we don’t get anymore rain the Mattole, Van Duzen, Mad and others (this blog isn’t covering the Trinity system) should be fishable in mid to late March. However, any rain will dirty those rivers in a hurry and keep us off the water.


The only river that might not come back quite as quick would be the Mad because water is going over the spillway at the dam. This is making it take longer to get that fishable color to it. If it does come into shape, though, there’s plenty of steelhead in it.


I’m banking on the South Fork of the Eel to be fishing late this week. And, when it does, the action should be good. Once the South Fork comes into shape, the first couple of days you’ll want fish up top and then move downriver as the water drops. This is likely to be our most consistent fishery in March.


Right now, steelhead fishing on the Eel River isn’t looking good. The main stem is going to take forever to clear. It may not fish the month of March. It all depends on how much rain we get. To put it in perspective, if we get anymore rain it may go up over 40,000 cfs. We don’t even start fishing it until it gets down to 6,000. And, it fishes better lower than that. Could be into April before we can fish it.


If our rivers do become fishable in March, as I suspect they well, (except maybe the Eel) there should be a lot of steelhead around. There will be downers and a few of those streams have blue backs that start coming in this time of year. There should be some good fishing around for sure. It’s all just weather dependent, as it always is around here. If you went out and hooked five-to-seven steelhead it’d be considered pretty good. Most of them will be downers. I’d say two-of-seven might be fresh fish.


Catching steelhead in March in the greater Eureka area is pretty standard. I’ll be side drifting yarn and a Fish Pill and eggs. For my eggs, I’m just using the Natural BorX O Fire. If I’m in a little dirtier water, I’m putting some Red Nectar in my cure, but most of the time I’m fishing straight natural and it’s working well.


Editor’s Note: Alan Borges operates Alan’s Guide Service. For more information on his Eureka area steelhead trips, including fishing on the South Fork of the Eel River, Mattole, Eel River and others please visit http://www.alansguideservice.com/.