"We need that rain!" said fishing guide Albert Kutzkey, echoing the sentiment for most North Coast anglers who have been dealing with tough steelhead fishing conditions after weeks of mostly dry weather.
Since Jan. 1, the Brookings area has only received 6.63 inches of rain - way below the 18.21 inches normal for that time period.
"We need rain pretty bad. It's still low, low, low," Kutzkey said.
Rain on Monday and Tuesday brought less than half-inch of water to the Chetco River area, but even that little bit helped, Kutzkey said, as chrome-bright steelhead covered in sea lice (signs of being fresh from the ocean) were caught after the rain.
It's still possible to catch two to three steelhead holding in deeper holes, but if the fishing pressure is high, the fish are scarce, Kutzkey said.
Kutkzey is still side-drifting roe, but with smaller presentations in the clearer water, as steelhead get pickier in low, clear conditions. Some anglers have switched to plugs, Kutzkey said.
"We're just waiting for rain. I think we'll finish the season OK if we just get a little more rain," Kutzkey said.
Fishing guide Jim Mitchell spotted several pods of steelhead, with five to 20 fish each, throughout the Smith River on Sunday, but the catching was slow going.
After spotting one pod, Mitchellrowed above it, teamed up with another boat and ran plugs through the hole. The technique netted an 11-pound hatchery female steelhead.
Mitchell said steelhead fishing was also slow Wednesday.
Rain predicted for today through Sunday should bring fresh steelhead into the system. The Smith's flow and level is expected to spike late Friday, peaking sometime Saturday afternoon around 9 feet on the Jed Smith gauge.
Herring are currently running in Crescent City Harbor, and they probably will for at least another week.
Leonard Carter, of Englund Marine Supply Co. in the harbor, said that herring are now being caught in the inner boat basin as well as near the recreational boat launch, where they've been hauled out for at least the past week.
'Tis the season for the 31st annual Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery steelhead derbies.
The first of the hatchery's two annual derbies, the Chopper Derby, will be held today through Saturday.
The Hank "Raider" Derby will be held March 8andndash;10.
"As the only major fundraising effort of Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery, these derbies are crucial, not only to the well-being of the hatchery, but also the influx in the economy to local business and fishing guides," said a derby press release.
For more information or to inquire about entering either derby, go to www.rowdycreek.com/derby or call 707-954-2260.
Fishing Guide contacts: Jim Mitchell of Gotcha Hooked Fish Trips at 707-464-8482; Albert Kutzkey of Kutzkey Guide Service at 530-941-3474.
Reach Adam Spencer at email@example.com .