Humboldt Steelhead Days Ready For Another Run

Eric Stockwell, of Loleta Eric’s Guide Service, caught and released this wild steelhead in the Eel River last year during Humboldt Steelhead Days. (Photo courtesy of Humboldt Steelhead Days)

The following press release is courtesy of Humboldt Steelhead Days:

Humboldt Steelhead Days is more than just a fishing contest – it’s a winter celebration of all things steelhead. The ever-evolving event is entering its fifth year and will continue to host an array of watershed-related activities throughout Humboldt County. The goal of Humboldt Steelhead Days (HSD) is to inspire community awareness, promote river restoration and the recovery of Humboldt’s iconic wild winter steelhead populations.

Humboldt’s only annual signature wintertime event, HSD looks to build on its popularity with both local and out-of-area anglers. During January and February, there are more steelhead in our North Coast rivers than anywhere else in California.

“I’m looking forward to the fifth annual HSD competition,” said HSD angler and Arcata resident Charlie Holthaus. “Last year’s rainy weather made for tough conditions, with muddy water persisting nearly the entire season. This year the outlook is promising: The Trinity River has been fishing good already and the Mad River hatchery released plenty of young steelhead three years ago. There will be steelhead to catch in both rivers this winter. All we need is clear skys and favorable water conditions.”

Access to Humboldt County was virtually cut off last year when U.S. Highway 101 and Route 299 closed multiple times due to extreme rainstorms between October and March. But high-river flows, mudslides and road construction could not keep 110 registered anglers from fishing in HSD’s fishing contest. While many of the HSD anglers were locals from Humboldt, some braved the weather and came from as far away as Southern California and Michigan.

“Fishing winter Steelhead on the North Coast is exciting and exhilarating no matter what Mother Nature throws at you. Steelhead are beautiful, hard hitting fish. Get out there and hit it,” said HSD fisherman Tim Call.

This year, the Humboldt Steelhead Days will run from Saturday, Jan. 13, to Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Licensed anglers can participate in the contest by registering online on Once registered, anglers will be eligible to win several prize packages. Anglers who catch the three biggest hatchery steelhead on either the Mad and Trinity rivers will be notified prior to the Steelhead Awards Ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Mad River Brewing Co. Tap Room. Prize packages will include a Douglas steelhead spinning rod donated by rod builder and designer Fred Contaoi; guided river trips donated by River’s Edge Fishing; gear from Pacific Outfitters and Sport & Cycle; gift certificates from Lube Central and 3G’s Hay & Feed, and much more.

Anglers can also attend a Steelhead Expo on Jan. 20 with clinics and seminars brought to you in part by the City of Blue Lake, several Pints for Non Profits brewery mixers, and a showing of the documentary film “A River’s Last Chance: A Story of Salmon, Timber, Weed and Wine along California’s Mighty Eel River,” by former Humboldt State University student and the director of storytelling for Pacific Rivers, Shane Anderson slated for Feb. 10 at the Lost Coast Brewing Company and sponsored by Coast Central Credit Union.

HSD will also feature a Wood Creek restoration tour on Saturday, Jan. 28 by the Northcoast Regional Land Trust organization. Humboldt Steelhead Days participants will learn about the coho salmon life history, the significance of estuarine habitat, fish monitoring technology, contextual historical regional land uses and project successes and challenges.  Tour attendees will also have the opportunity to actively participate in the restoration project through a vegetation based stewardship activity.

In addition to showcasing angling opportunities on some of Humboldt’s most pristine steelhead rivers, HSD is also a major fundraising event for the non-profit group Mad River Alliance (MRA) and their programs. MRA is a community-driven group of volunteers working to protect clean water and the ecological integrity of the Mad River watershed for the benefit of its human and natural communities. MRA hosts several river clean ups along the Mad River each year. The group also holds diving education classes, river rafting and kayak safety courses for youth groups, and monitors the river by collecting temperature data.

Michelle Fuller, the outgoing president of MRA’s Board of Directors, said, “Humboldt Steelhead Days has become one of Mad River Alliance’s most fun and well-known events. We are thrilled to see so many people connecting with this important seasonal phenomenon, and coming out to support our watershed!”

MRA director Dave Feral founded HSD four years ago and the event’s original mission was to celebrate the return of the winter steelhead to the Mad River. HSD has evolved over the last four years to also build community awareness and fund continued restoration and recovery activities on North Coast rivers and streams.

“Mad River Alliance’s goals are to promote wintertime steelhead angling in Humboldt County and continue working toward restoring our wild fish populations,” Feral said. “The Mad River watershed supports at least 37 fish species utilizing the river for some part of their life history. For salmon and steelhead, the annual return and spawning is an integral part of Humboldt’s cultural identity and way of life. Each year, wild fish return to their native streams, spawn and continue the cycle of life. Seeing these amazing creatures return from their miles-long journey will appeal to anyone who loves the natural world.”

HSD angler, Sean Jansen said, “Chasing steelhead on the North Coast is an absolute privilege. However it takes equal parts obsession as well as patience. Obsession in studying weather patterns, river flows, water clarity, and tidal patterns. And patience for waiting for all to align. Upon the anticipation of the arrival of these fish, the true reward comes from the immense beauty they swim through.”

This year, HSD organizers decided against including the Eel River as part of the fishing contest in favor of hatchery fish located in the Mad and Trinity rivers.

“We didn’t want to put any added pressure on wild fish for year five,” said Tracy Mac, HSD’s fishing coordinator. “We want to remind anglers to keep their fish in the water until they can determine if an adipose fin is absent.”

HSD angler and guide Eric Stockwell, of Loleta Eric’s Guide Service, pointed out that the release is a true test of an angler’s skills.

“As an angler develops the skills, knowledge, tooling and timing needed to pursue and catch wild steelhead, he or she may not know that the ultimate test of sportsmanship will lie in the moment of handling and release,” Stockwell said. “Focus on this pursuit long enough and you will know it.”

Anglers can fish on the Mad and Trinity rivers from Jan. 13 to Feb. 16 with the requirement that they send in a photo of their hatchery fish catch to event organizers or post them on social media using the hashtags #humboldtsteelheaddays or #HSD.

HSD would like to thank the generous donations and support from Mad River Brewing Company, Green Diamond Resource Company, Pacific Watershed Associates, Alves Roofing, Mill Yard, Stillwater Sciences, Royal Gold, Coast Central Credit Union, City of Blue Lake, 3Gs Hay & Grain, Lube Central, North Fork Studios, Lost Coast Brewery, KHSU, Fishing the North Coast, Mack Graphics, Lost Coast Communications, Pacific Outfitters, Sport & Cycle, RMI Outdoors, Mad River Tackle, Douglas Outdoors, North Fork Studios, North Coast Journal, Mad River Radio, KIEM News Ch. 3, Blue Lake Rancheria, Miller Farms and many more who make HSD possible. 2018 HSD Poster Link: Click Here.

If you would like to sponsor this event or donate a gift certificate or auction prize …
Contact HSD Founder:
Dave Feral at Mad River Alliance
PO Box 1252, Blue Lake, CA 95525
(707) 382-6162