Fishing the Mattole River
Historically, the Mattole River has been an important contributor to both sport and commercial fisheries, drawing anglers from throughout California and beyond for sport fishing of salmon and steelhead in the river during the winter months. Clark Gable and other Hollywood stars would travel 2 days north just to get a few days fishing the wild Mattole salmon. The current Presbyterian Camp where they stayed, along with other Mattole Resorts (Mattole River Organic Farms and Country Cabins, Lost Coast Lodge, Petrolia Guest House) were filled with anglers who rose early to be out on the river. Concern about the state of the fishery began in the early 1900s and Mattole residents, especially horticultural pioneer Albert Etter, were active in preserving this natural heritage. Unfortunately, due to declining populations following the ’55 and ’64 floods, Chinook and coho salmon, and steelhead are currently listed as threatened under the federal and California Endangered Species Acts. Consequently, sport fishing of Mattole Basin stocks is restricted to catch and release.
An interesting collection of old fish-related news paper clippings dating as far back as 1858 can be found here.
Harvest of wild salmonids is prohibited in the Mattole River Watershed.
CDFW allows a catch and release fishery in the lower 26 miles of the river from January 1 to March 31, as well as the fourth Saturday in May through August 31 in the majority of the lower 26 miles, dependent on flows. The majority of angling is focused on steelhead, although catch and release is permitted for all three species of Mattole salmonids.