The biggest storm of the season sent rivers quickly on the rise early in the week with both the Smith and Chetco Rivers reaching over 20,000 cubic feet per second during the week.

The Chetco River saw its highest flows since the Chetco Bar Fire two years ago, which pulled lots of logs and branches into the water. The Smith River also blew out early in the week, but has been a little bit quicker to drop back into shape. Drift boats have been plunking near the Mouth of the Smith River and have been hauling in some nice adult steelhead throughout the week.

There hasn’t been much ocean fishing to speak of, however, as storms and large waves and swells have kept boats off the Pacific on both sides of the California-Oregon Border for most of the week.

River fishing

Although the Wild Rivers Coast is expecting more rain starting on Sunday and extending into next week, the storm was downgraded late in the week and is not expected to drop as much precipitation as originally predicted.

River levels are expected to be back on the drop next week, which will hopefully provide anglers with prime conditions for steelhead between Christmas and New Year’s.

After the big rise in water level, the Smith River rounded back into shape, and driftboats were able to get out on the river on Thursday and Friday. Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing said anglers on the Smith have been catching more adult steelhead since the storms. Prior to the rise in the river anglers were mostly catching juvenile steelhead — half pounders.

The Chetco River not only blew out, but it reached its highest level in two years on Tuesday, which pulled a lot of debris into the stream.

“The highest it had been so far this winter was 18,000 (cfs), so that is why there were so many logs coming down,” Martin said.

Although there have been fewer fishermen on the Chetco River since the rise, Martin said anglers have been having some luck plunking from the banks this week.

“The plunkers are getting a few, but nobody has been out on drift boats because it has been too high,” he said.

That could change as early as today. Martin said the Chetco River was starting to drop down to good levels on Friday, but was still a little bit on the cloudy side.

The Chetco could be fishable by drift boat Saturday and Sunday before the next round of storms start up on Sunday. Although the new rains may blow out both rivers briefly next week, they are expected to be fishable.

Both the Elk and Sixes rivers also blew out this week. The Elk River was back into fishing shape on Friday.

Rowdy Creek Hatchery

Steelhead have started showing up at the hatchery on the Smith River this week with four males and six females reported on the hatchery’s fish count. At this time last year only one steelhead — a female — had returned.

The salmon return to Rowdy Creek Hatchery was similar to last year, though with more males and fewer females than in 2017. A total of 59 adult males returned to spawn this year (31 in 2017), while 29 females made it back to the spawning grounds (51 last year).

The hatchery did see its biggest return of jacks — juvenile salmon — in seven years this year with 192 making it to the hatchery.

Fishing contacts: Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 206-388-8988; Mike Coopman’s Guide Service at 707-218-4501; 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 mzogg@triplicate.com .

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