Reel Deal: Storms out, steelhead in

Written by Adam Spencer, The Triplicate January 02, 2013 03:46 pm

Barrett Gray of Redding holds one of the wild steelhead he caught and released Friday while fishing the Chetco River with guide Andy Martin.
Barrett Gray of Redding holds one of the wild steelhead he caught and released Friday while fishing the Chetco River with guide Andy Martin. Courtesy of Andy Martin / Wild Rivers Fishing
You finally got the family out of the house, or escaped the confines of the in-laws’ guest bedroom.  Now it’s time to get back to what North Coast winters should be about: fishing for steelhead.

From the banks and off the boats, fishermen have hit the Smith River in droves over the past few days, finding that all of the recent storms brought in a good number of steelhead.

Although the lower Chetco River has been blown out for drift boats, the upper river has been good for drift boats. Plunkers were doing well on the lower river.

The Trinity River has a few fishable pockets for plunkers, but most of the river remains too high.

While the commercial guys wait for crab season to open, sport crabbing continues to be great when the ocean allows.

Smith River

Dozens of anglers hit the Smith this week after the river dropped into fishable levels, and many were able to hook into some steelheads, either plunking or fishing from drift boats. 

On Friday the river was dropping most of the day, and it was right in the sweet spot around 11 feet on the Jed Smith gauge.

The river forecast showed the Smith dropping slowly through the weekend, although melting snow from the headwaters should keep the river at a perfect level.

Chetco River

With the lower river too high for drift boats, fishing guide Andy Martin headed to the upper Chetco on Friday and his clients landed four steelhead, two on bait and two on plugs.

Many plunkers were having luck in Alfred E. Loeb State Park and at the ‘ice box’ on Friday, Martin said.

The lower river from the ‘ice box’ to ‘redwood’ had about one foot visibility — “a perfect steelhead green,” Martin said.

The Chetco was predicted to drop through the weekend, hitting a flow of 4,000 cubic feet per second by Sunday evening. 

“If the river continues to drop, it should be 
really good, because it’s peak season,” Martin said.

Trinity River

Although much of the Trinity River is too high for drift boats, the color is right for steelhead fishing, and there are a few good spots for plunking between South Fork and Hawkins Bar.

Duggan recommended fishing the shallow part of deep holes if the river is high.  Bait fishing is doing the best, especially night crawlers, Duggan said.

Sport crabbing

Tally Ho Sportfishing has a few sport crabbing trips planned for this weekend as long as the ocean stays calm enough.

Dungeness crabs are looking pretty heavy on meat by now, said Captain Craig Strickhouser, and there are lots of them.

So many that “we gotta fight them off with a stick,” he said. Call Tally Ho to book a trip.

Fishing guide contacts: Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 541-813-1082; Tally Ho Sportfishing at 707-464-1236; E.B. Duggan “D” Fishing Guide at 530-629-3554.

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