Reel Deal: Chetco River stays hot for steelhead fishermen

Written by Adam Spencer, The Triplicate January 10, 2013 10:50 am

Emma Winter, of Independence, Ore., holds a 21-pound hatchery steelhead, the first of her life, she caught Jan. 5 while fishing the Chetco River with her father, Orie.
Emma Winter, of Independence, Ore., holds a 21-pound hatchery steelhead, the first of her life, she caught Jan. 5 while fishing the Chetco River with her father, Orie. Courtesy of Andy Martin / Wild Rivers Fishing
A relatively dry stretch has made some North Coast rivers too low and clear for prime steelhead fishing, but the catches keep coming.

Chetco River

So far, 2013 has been the year of the Chetco for local rivers, as the waterway has maintained perfect levels for driftboating for steelhead since New Year’s Day. 

Referring to the first week of the year, guide Tony Sepulveda of Green Water Fishing Adventures wrote in his fishing report: “The beginning of the week saw some huge scores posted and now it’s settled into good, steady fishing for slab chromers fresh out of the salt. Side-drifting a fish pill with a tiny piece of roe tied to light fluorocarbon leaders has been the key to success.”

Although rain Wednesday and today are predicted to push up the Chetco out of drift boat levels and into plunking territory, the river is predicted to drop back below 3,800 cfs by Friday evening.

Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing said there are steelhead spread out throughout the river, and conditions should be perfect through the weekend with recent rains. Slow days have still bagged two steelies a day; Martin’s best day so far was Tuesday with seven steelhead.

Emma Winter, of Independence, Ore., caught a 21-pound hatchery steelhead — the first of her life — on Jan. 5 on the Chetco with Martin.

Smith River

As the river has dropped, so has fishing pressure, although a few steelhead are being caught here and there.

In the past week, the Smith slowly dropped from around 3,500 cfs to 2,500 cfs on the Jed Smith gauge, before Tuesday and Wednesday rain kicked in more water, color and hopefully steelhead, guides said.  The river was predicted to peak around 8,000 cfs from 11 p.m. Wednesday to 4 a.m. today. 

The river was predicted to turn to a drop around 5 a.m. this morning, meaning that today could be a prime steelhead day.

Fishing guide contacts: Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 541-813-1082; Tony Sepulveda of Green Water Fishing Adventures at 707-845-9588.

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