There were a few steelhead caught on the Smith and Chetco rivers last week following a rise in flows after Christmas, but the bite has slowed considerably — especially late in the week — as water levels have slowed. The best steelhead fishing on the Wild Rivers Coast has come to the far north on the Rogue River, where the limit of two steelhead per day expanded to include one wild fish starting Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the bottomfishing season in Northern California came to a close on Monday, but the fishery remains open year round out of Oregon. Sportfishermen out of Brookings had a nice window Monday through Wednesday to get out in search of rockfish and lingcod before big swells pushed boats back into the port late in the week.
There were some steelhead being caught on the Smith and Chetco rivers after holiday rains brought up flows last week, and even a few Chinook salmon hauled out of the Chetco, but it has been fairly rough fishing on both rivers this week as a dry spell has both streams running low and clear.
With showers predicted in the region today and Sunday, along with an 80 percent chance of rain on Monday, river levels are expected to be back up next week, and local fishing guides say they expect the steelhead fishing to be productive on both the Chetco and the Smith.
Martin guessed that the Chetco River may blow out for a day or two early in the week, but he said the Smith River could remain fishable through the storms.
While the steelhead fishing has been a little slow on both sides of the border, anglers up on the Rogue River have had a decent week of fishing. The daily bag limit of two steelhead per day expanded to allow for one wild fish, and one hatchery fish at the beginning of the year. With most of the steelhead on the river currently wild fish, anglers have been able to keep more of their catches throughout the week. Martin said most anglers have been catching fish either plunking from shore or fishing from jet boats on the Rogue.
On the ocean
After a few weeks of rough weather, sportfishermen in Oregon were treated to some prime conditions early in the week, especially on Tuesday and Wednesday. Most boats were able to catch limits of rockfish both days, with some nice sized rockfish hauled in out of about 90 to 110 feet of water, according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. Martin said most boats were also able to bring in a few lingcod, which should remain in close to shore for a few more weeks during the spawning season.
It may be a while before sportfishermen are able to get back out to target bottomfish, however, with more rough weather and high winds predicted for the coming week.
In Northern California, anglers’ last opportunity to go bottomfishing came on Monday before the season ended on Jan. 1. The bottomfishing closure leaves California sportfishermen without anything to target until the sportcrabbing season opens.
With the end of the bottomfishing season in California comes the end of Englund Marine’s annual biggest lingcod competition. This year’s winner was local fisherman Mel Williams, who hauled in a massive 39.75 pound lingcod in early November, which was the biggest one weighted in at the store in 2018.
Both the commercial crabbing and sport crabbing seasons in Northern California and Southern Oregon are closed due to elevated levels of domoic acid, pending further testing.
The last test in Oregon, on Wednesday, showed all six crab were below the 30 parts per million needed to trigger a closure. If the next test also comes back clean Oregon crabbers could be dropping pots as early as next week.
Domoic acid levels in Crescent City also seem to be on the decline. After reaching a peak average of 75.7 parts per million on Nov. 4, each successive test has yielded a lower average than the previous test. The latest test available, conducted on Dec. 22, show the average at 35.5 parts per million. Results from the test on Dec. 29 are still pending, while another test out of Crescent City is scheduled for today.
Fishing contacts: Mike Coopman’s Guide Service at 707-218-4501; Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 206-388-8988; Englund Marine Supply Company at 464-32306; Chetco Outdoor Store at 541-469-9151.
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com .