Reel Deal: Rain finally brings out some fish

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate January 13, 2014 03:58 pm

Chuck Odell, left, and Tom Olson, right, hold three of the steelhead they landed Thursday while fishing the Chetco River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.
Chuck Odell, left, and Tom Olson, right, hold three of the steelhead they landed Thursday while fishing the Chetco River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. Courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing
The first significant rainfall since early October should please steelhead anglers eager to wet lines on the Smith River, which had dropped to near summer flows in January with the winter drought.

Not just steelhead but salmon were also caught in the wake of this week’s rains, surprising some anglers who suspected that the chance to land Smith River chinook had ended for this season.

Smith River

It has been months since the entire Smith River system had enough water to be fully open for fishing for any significant amount of time, but some overdue rain this week finally answered anglers’ prayers.

Friday night and Saturday rains are predicted to make the Smith peak at 9.8 feet, with a 5,300 cfs flow sometime before 7 a.m. Sunday on the Jed Smith river gauge.

The entire river has been open to fishing since early Thursday, when it climbed above the 700 cfs low-flow-closure threshold.

“There have been lots of fish in the river, but with it being closed you can’t go chase after them,” said guide Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips. “Now that it’s open, everyone is going to have a good time.”

Thomas said his boat caught five salmon and four steelhead on Friday fishing below the Highway 101 Dr. Fine Bridge, and that tailouts, flats and any other area with fast, moving water had fish present.

The equal mix of salmon and steelhead in the catch was a bit of a surprise, with salmon in good shape, supporting the idea of a late run this season, Thomas said.

“There’s a good possibility that we’ll catch a combination of salmon and steelhead for a while,” Thomas said.

There might be too much debris in the river for great fishing  Sunday, Thomas predicted, but “by Monday this river should be just totally on fire.”

Chetco River

The Chetco River was the first regional river to get some steelhead action from this week’s rains, and Thursday provided a great day of fishing for everyone out, according to guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.

“Everyone had a real good day Thursday side drifting bait,” Martin said.

Martin’s boat landed 12 steelhead Thursday, but Friday’s fishing was “a lot tougher.” Once Martin switched from side-drifting bait to running plugs, however, his boat had a double hookup of steelhead and two more hookups soon after.

There seem to be more wild steelhead than hatchery fish in the Chetco right now, as only two of the 12 steelhead caught Thursday were hatchery fish and only one of the five caught Friday was a hatchery fish, Martin said.

Expecting the Chetco to blow out, Martin cancelled trips this weekend, but he thinks “all of next week is going to be prime.”

Surfperch fishing

While steelhead fishing had been quiet recently, local angler Dwight Jones went for surfperch and reported the bite being very good on South Beach last Sunday. He was using Berkley Gulp! Saltwater Sandworms on a No. 6 circle hook.

Steelhead report cards due

California Department of Fish and Wildlife is reminding anglers that they are required to return their 2013 Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Cards by Jan. 31.

The card is a fishing report as well as a catch report. Steelhead anglers record where and when they fished, even if no fish were caught on a given trip. Anglers are encouraged to submit steelhead report card data online at, but report cards can still be submitted by mail. Information must be submitted regardless of whether or not the angler fished for steelhead.

Additional information and a list of frequently asked questions about the program can be found on CDFW’s Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Card Program webpage,

Fishing contacts: Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips at 707-458-4704 and; Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 541-813-1082 and

Reach Adam Spencer at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it