Catch and release fishing for salmon and steelhead is allowed in the South Fork and Main Stem Eel River. Visitors can also fish for lamprey and Sacramento pikeminnow, formerly known as Sacramento squawfish, year-round. There is no fishing in other waterways. Fishing is primarily a fall and winter activity after the rain begins and the river rises from the long, dry summer. The end of September and into October are good times to fish for salmon, while January, February and March are Steelhead season.

Visitors must follow the California Fish and Wildlife Sportfishing Regulations; ask for a free regulation book. Anglers 16 or older must carry a valid California fishing license. The Eel River rises and falls considerably depending on storm activity. Large amounts of rainfall will carry silt down the river and muddy the water for several days. During low rainfall times, even in the winter months, the river is subject to low flow closures -- and fishing is prohibited -- when flows drop below minimum levels. Call the Northcoast California Department of Fish and Game Low Flow Hotline for updated recorded information (707) 822-3164. River conditions are unpredictable, so it's best to call before planning a trip.