It’s a little late in the season, but the Wild Rivers Coast has finally gotten its first big rain of the year. Storms kicked off Wednesday and continued to drop rain through Friday, which has raised the river levels of both the Smith and Chetco rivers just in time for Thanksgiving.

The Chetco River came up a little bit too high for anglers, blowing out on Friday, but it is expected to round back into fishing shape by the end of the weekend or early next week.

Meanwhile, the Smith River continued to rise through the day on Friday but is expected to be back on the drop, providing great fishing conditions for salmon anglers.

River fishing

The Smith River is expected to be in the best shape, flow-wise, of the salmon run so far. The rain lifted the low flow closure on the Smith on Thursday, and it is expected to remain open at least through the weekend.

Mike Coopman, of Mike Coopman’s Fishing Guide Service, said fishing was pretty good on Thursday for anglers willing to fight through the rain, but the bite slowed down on Friday.

“It kind of remains to be seen what happens here after the rise in the river (on Friday),” Coopman said. “It is late in the year, and a lot of those fish could have gotten through already, so it remains to be seen.”

Although anglers will need to wait to see how many salmon are still in the Smith River, there is little doubt that anglers will encounter lots of debris in the water after the season’s first big storm.

“If the river is in that 12-foot range (at the Jedediah Smith gauge) I would say that that probably is going to show a lot of debris as our first washout of the year, but it should bring a lot of fish,” Coopman said. “It is going to be tough fishing conditions, just for the fact that there is going to be a lot of debris in the water, but ultimately it should be our best fishing conditions so far this season. Just expect to be picking leaves, because that is what you are going to do.”

Anglers up on the Chetco River also had some luck landing salmon on Thursday but the river rose too high for drift boats on Friday, and it is likely to remain blown out through the weekend.

Although the Chetco River will likely remain too high to fish this weekend it should round into good shape early next week just a day or two behind the Smith.

Meanwhile, Martin said the Elk and Sixes rivers didn’t get quite as much water as was expected and are still running a little bit on the low side. Although flows are less than ideal, anglers are still catching salmon on the rivers to the north as the rain was enough to usher in a big run of fish.

Martin said both rivers had been closed off by a river bar which has now been opened — sending lots of fish upriver.

On the ocean

The storms that hit the coast midway through the week have made bottomfishing nearly impossible on both sides of the California- Oregon border, but both rockfish and lingcod were biting well out of Brookings prior to the rain.

Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing said although the lingcod haven’t started to spawn just yet, they are starting to move in close to shore. Martin said sportfishermen were able to haul in fairly easy limits of lingcod last weekend and early this week, while also filling out their daily bag limit with a good portion of their limits of rockfish.


Prospective crabbers got some more bad news this week as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a memo delaying the commercial Dungeness crab season in Northern California from Mendocino to Del Norte County. The delay was due to poor crab meat quality, tested at less than 18 percent of the total weight in early November.

The recreational crab season is still closed on both sides of the California-Oregon border as well, due to high levels of domoic acid in the meat and viscera of the crab. Domoic acid has been a problem for crabbers on the West Coast for the past few years.

Free fishing in Oregon

Today is the second of two free fishing days up in Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

All fishing, crabbing and clamming will be open to residents and non-residents in the state. Although no licenses or tags are required all other fishing regulations and bag limits are still in effect.

Fishing contacts: Mike Coopman’s Guide Service at 707-218-4501; Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 206-388-8988; Dave Castellanos of Brookings River & Ocean Fishing at 541-698-7029; Chetco Outdoor Store at 541-469-9151; Englund Marine Supply Company at 464-32306.

Reach Michael Zogg at .