The Lost Coast

In California, Steelhead Files by steelheaders

The Lost Coast

The name alone is enough to get any steelheader’s pulse racing.

Shrouded in myth and the coastal fog which often blankets this region, the Lost Coast of California is one of the cradles of modern steelhead angling.

Legendary wild steelhead rivers such as the Eel, Trinity, Mattole, and Van Duzen flow from and through its rugged, scenic landscapes. Legendary steelhead anglers such as Russell Chatham and Bill Schaadt made their reputations here.


Fortunately for anglers, much of the Lost Coast is public land—mostly a mix of lands managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Some of these public lands and waters are permanently protected for their habitat and scenic values and provide critical refuge for wild steelhead and salmon.

But large chunks remain open for various kinds of development, including large-scale mining and road-building.

There is no fishing for wild steelhead without good wild steelhead habitat. Despite recent drought, climate change, and increasing water diversions, the Lost Coast still has some of the best steelhead habitat and wild steelhead runs in the Lower 48 states.

Enter the Lost Coast Wild Steelhead Initiative, led by Wild Steelheaders United.

A coalition of conservation groups, sportsmen, and community leaders has come together in the northwest corner of California around a simple goal: to protect some of the last, best public lands and waters along the fabled Lost Coast.

Wild Steelheaders United and Trout Unlimited are part of this coalition, and are focused on improving protections for vital steelhead habitat, and sustaining this region’s iconic angling opportunities and angling-based economy.

As you’ll see in this new video, many working guides in this corner of California, such as Leslie Ajari, are strong supporters of this campaign.

The coalition is developing a Lost Coast conservation proposal, with three primary elements:

Lost Coast Outreach Map

Existing and proposed Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers in Northwest California

  • Protect intact habitat, especially in key headwaters that support wild steelhead and salmon
  • Protect habitat and the wild character of streams that qualify for Wild & Scenic River designation
  • Restore and reconnect degraded habitat on public lands throughout the region

There is a strong correlation between lands and waters which still have “wild” character and good spawning and rearing habitat for steelhead and salmon. As population and development pressures increase, public lands with wild qualities are becoming increasingly rare. To keep our sporting heritage alive, we must protect these few remaining areas of prime habitat.

The Lost Coast remains one of these areas. Yet even here, since the 1950s thousands of stream-miles of steelhead and salmon habitat have been lost due to dams and other development.


IMG_2652In this time of more frequent drought, a warming climate, and growing human demand for water and other natural resources, it is more important than ever to protect places like the Lost Coast—and the world-class steelhead angling it provides.


To support the conservation proposal for the Lost Coast, click here .