There are plenty of fish to be had in the Smith and Chetco rivers, and even some biting if you’re lucky.
Bruce Barber of Gasquet landed this estimated 19-pound steelhead on the Chetco River on Febuary 10. Courtesy of Jerry Hogan/Smith River Guide Service
Although some guides said low and clear water on the Smith have made it much more difficult to trigger steelhead bites, others continued catching.
“We caught hatchery fish every day,” said fishing guide Kevin Brock of his outings from last Thursday through Monday. “The fish were all the way from the forks to Ruby.”
Only hatchery steelhead can be kept on the Smith.
Wild steelhead can be kept on the Chetco, but Bruce Barber of Gasquet still released a giant steelhead, estimated at 19 pounds, after taking plenty of photos. The trophy was caught Friday with guide Jerry Hogan on the side drifting with roe and a pink fish pill.
The Chetco’s landslide upriver continues to be a blessing, allowing the river to keep some color despite low flows, said guide Gary Hix.
“Depending on rain, Chetco should continue to fish good,” Hix said.
The National Weather Service’s river forecast predicted the Chetco would start rising Friday night and continue through the weekend.
Similar weather forecasts in Del Norte show the Smith should climb as well.
“It’ll bring some new fish in and put some color in the river,” fishing guide Mike Coopman said.
Speaking of new fish, 1,076 adult fish swam upstream from Feb. 6 to Monday, according to the DIDSON sonar fish counter at Fred Haight boat launch, bringing the season total for upstream adult fish to 30,191.
The DIDSON crew compared this week’s numbers with the same week last year and found there was an average of 20 more fish per day swimming upstream this year.
“Every season has highs and lows, but this is the best by far in a few years,” Coopman said.
Brock recommended the same gear as usual for catching steelhead: shrimp-pink yarn, a pink puff ball, a 10 pound carbon leader, a number four hook and a small piece of roe.
“I’m looking forward to a great week of fishing,” Brock said.
Show off your catch
Tip of the week
“Keep moving! Many bank fishermen fish one spot for long periods of time. If you don’t catch fish, move, then come back in a few hours to try that spot again,” Brock said. “The fish are always moving and so should you.”
Fishing guide contacts: Fish Kevin Brock, 800-995-5543; Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, 707-465-1367; Gary Hix Guide Service, 707-954-1004; Jerry Hogan of Smith River Guide Service.