Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

The Smith River now has a partner to share local fishing pressure. The Chetco and Smith rivers will be the wisest choices for steelhead through this weekend, local guides said.

The Chetco dropped to a fishable flow Sunday, providing "fair" fishing for guide Gary Hix's groups, which caught three to five steelhead trout a day Sunday through Tuesday.

"The water is still kind of high," Hix said Tuesday, adding that the Chetco seemed dirtier than normal, maybe from a slide upriver.

About an inch of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday had the Chetco

climbing, but with no rain in the forecast it should start dropping

today and continue to drop through the weekend, providing good fishing

and the "right color," Hix said. Western Outdoor News said the Chetco

will be in "prime shape" through next week.

Local guides Kevin Brock, Mike Coopman, and Jerry Hogan plan on sticking to the Smith this weekend.

"There are fish to be caught and the water conditions are good," Brock said.

Steelhead were starting to calm down a bit earlier this week, after

great fishing this weekend, Coopman said. Heavy fishing pressure and

colder waters could be slowing the steelies down, he said.

"The fish aren't as aggressive in the fight," Coopman said, adding

that the same size fish that was "ripping and roaring" last week was

barely clicking the drag this week.

"They're getting hooked on the tip of the beak, so they're just barely taking the bait," Coopman said.

Still, Coopman's group landed 21 steelhead of 23 hooked from Saturday

through Tuesday, including an estimated 12-pound wild hen steelhead

caught by Dave Finn on Sunday.

Brock's groups landed 21 of the 28 steelhead hooked from Friday to Tuesday.

Brock and Coopman planned to continue side drifting from the boat

from the forks to Ruby Van Deventer County Park, using lighter leaders,

less bright yarn and less roe as the water gets lower and clearer.

As the Smith continues to drop, plunking from the bank will be harder.

"Fish tend to move to the middle of the river as it gets clearer and

that takes the (fish's) travel lane away from the plunker," Coopman

said. He predicted bank fishermen will have luck drifting roe with yarn,

or plunking with "spin 'n' glo's" in a narrow area that "chokes the

fish down like the inside of a turn."

Brock and Hogan said bank fishermen should head upriver, especially

the South Fork, which is coming into shape after being a little high

this past weekend.

Counting the fish

From Jan. 21 to 28, at least 1,991 adult fish swam upstream,

according to the DIDSON sonar fish counter at Fred Haight boat launch,

funded by the Department of Fish and Game's Fisheries Restoration Grants


So far this season, the DIDSON has recorded 28,085 adult fish

migrating upstream - not including hundreds of fish that probably passed

during flows too extreme to use the sonars.

About those crabs

The sport crabbing catch is showing nice, fat crabs, said Bob Ginocchio, captain of the Tally Ho II charter boat.

Ginocchio and a friend were getting five to six crab a pot this week.

Fishing Tip of the Week

"A key thing about drift fishing is always keep a hook file - sharp

hooks catch more fish," Brock said. Hooks quickly get dulled when

bouncing and getting caught on the river bottom.

"Take an extra second and check the tip of that hook," he said.

Fishing guide contacts: Fish Kevin Brock, 888-995-5543; Mike

Coopman's Guide Service, 707-465-1367; Gary Hix Guide Service,

707-954-1004; Jerry Hogan of Smith River Guide Service, 707-464-6052.

Bob Ginocchio, Tally Ho II charter boat, 464-1236.

Reach Adam Spencer at