Trolling a Kwikfish in the tidewater stretch of the Smith River two years ago near the Sand Hole, a client of veteran guide David Castellanos hauled in the river's modern day Chinook record, a chrome-bright 61 pounder.
The big salmon was the largest fall king caught in more than a decade on the Smith, where this year's crop of salmon is now beginning to show up.
Castellanos, who operates www.smithriverfishing.com along with his guide business, has been hopping back and forth between the Smith and Klamath this week. Salmon fishing has been good again on the Klamath, while Castellanos has also been catching a few salmon already on the Smith. He's hopeful this week's strong storm will bring enough rain to kick the Smith's salmon fishing into high gear, and draw in some of those monster kings like the one he brought to his boat in 2005.
"I haven't heard of anyone else getting over a 60-pounder in over 15 years,' Castellanos says. "That was a remarkably big fish. We weighed it over at the Salmon Harbor RV Resort on their certified scale."
Targeting early season kings
A variety of methods will work for salmon in early October in the Smith, which remains closed below Rowdy Creek until rains raise the river. Bank anglers will walk in from Mouth of Smith River Road and cast large spoons or spinners, while drift boaters have nearly half a dozen different options.
"There are so many different methods to fish down there from throwing spinners and Kastmasters to bobbers and eggs to Kwikfish to anchovy tails to trolling anchovies with a Rogue Rig," Castellanos says. "I typically bring eight to 12 rods when I'm down there. They're all set up for a different purpose. I hate getting caught without the right tools."
Castellanos has been fishing near the mouth with anchovies, targeting fish on the tide changes. He's also trolling Kwikfish, his favorite the chrome with a chartreuse bill. He was pulling the plug upstream when he caught the 60-plus-pounder.
Sometimes he'll anchor and let the current from the outgoing tide work anchovies, similar to fishing for springers.
Once significant rain falls, most guides will begin drift the river, back-bouncing roe or pulling plugs with sardine wraps. "If we get enough rain to open the river I probably won't fish the Sand Hole and Piling Hole too much," Castellanos says. "There are several good locations. The good common areas are from Ruby down. I've already been scouting the upper river and that's what you should be doing."
Below Jedediah Smith State Park is the mouth of Mill Creek, one of Castellanos' favorite areas to fish. "The Mill Creek tributary is one of the better spawning tributaries on the Smith," Castellanos says.
Salmon fishing came back to life on the lower Klamath late last week. "The river was backed up and flushed out Wednesday morning," Castellanos reports. "Thursday was real good and we hooked over 15 fish. Friday wasn't quite as easy but I still did really well. We quit by 1:30."
On Wednesday, Castellanos also landed an 18-pound steelhead.
There are still a few more days to catch trophy salmon offshore from the mouth of the Chetco River, where I've been running guided trips for the past week and a half. Fishing certainly hasn't been hot, but most of the fish have been big, with several over 40 pounds. This may be the best place outside of Alaska to hook a trophy Chinook. The season closes Sunday. Plug-cut and whole herring have been the top baits.