Chetco, Smith, Rogue, Umpqua, Elk, Sixes, Coos and Coquille Rivers at their Best! phone_iphone541.813.1082  /  206.388.8988

Big steelhead showing up on Chetco, Smith

The peak of the winter steelhead season has arrived on the Chetco and Smith Rivers, and although fishing is only fair at best, some of the fish being caught are in the mid-teens or bigger. The Smith already has produced a handful of 20-plus-pound steelhead, and the Chetco has yielded several fish in the upper teens.

High water in early January has brought in decent numbers of steelhead. Catch rates, however, are still somewhat low, with one to two fish a day on average. There is a nice mix of hatchery and wild steelhead on the Chetco, while the Smith has a few hatchery steelhead, and plenty of bigger wild fish.

A large hatchery steelhead caught on a 3.5 MagLip in January 2021 on the Chetco River.

As the rivers dropped back into shape after the New Year’s rain storm, the Wild Rivers Fishing crew spent the first few days the Chetco was fishable by running plugs close to shore. A 19-pound and an 18-pound steelhead were caught on 3.5 MagLips. After the river continued to drop, side-drifting was effective.

A 19-pound steelhead caught on the Chetco River in January 2021.

The Wild Rivers Fishing guides have donated a handful of wild steelhead to the ODFW hatchery broodstock program on the Chetco. The steelhead are caught with hook and line, and after being held in live wells on the drift boats, are dropped off in holding pens on the lower river. ODFW then takes the steelhead to the hatchery on the Elk River (there isn’t a hatchery on the Chetco), where they are live spawned. The adult steelhead are released back into the Chetco, and several months later, the juvenile steelhead are brought back to the Chetco.

A beautiful Chetco River wild steelhead that was donated in January to the ODFW broodstock hatchery program.

The last few years, February has been the peak season on the Chetco and Smith rivers. Steelhead season runs through March 31 on the Chetco and the end of April on the Smith.

A hefty Chetco River hatchery steelhead from January 2021.
One of the wild steelhead donated to the broodstock program.
A chrome-bright Chetco steelhead.

Ocean bottom fishing charters also will begin soon out of the Port of Brookings. The Wild Rivers Fishing crew also captains charter boats in Brookings, targeting lingcod, halibut, salmon, rockfish and albacore tuna.

To book a guided drift boat river trip, or an ocean charter, call (541) 813-1082 or visit

Our Signature Trips

•   Chetco River   •

The Chetco is one of Oregon’s premier salmon and steelhead rivers, and our most popular fishery. It produces more kings over 50 pounds.

•   Smith River   •

The Smith River is known for its large run of giant king salmon, as well as numerous steelhead of over 20 pounds.

•   Rogue River   •

The Rogue River is one of the few rivers in the world that has salmon and steelhead fishing twelve months a year!

•   Coquille Bay   •

The Coquille and Coos Bays have most prolific early fall salmon fishing on Oregon Coast!

•   Elk and Sixes   •

For sheer numbers of king salmon, the Elk River is hard to beat. The Elk and Sixes both have late fall runs, peaking in December.

•   Brookings Ocean Charters   •

Capt. Andy Martin spent 10 years guiding in Alaska but now guides and runs charter boats year round in Brookings, Oregon.

Call Captain Andy Martin   •   541.813.1082 / 206.388.8988 Wild Rivers Fishing, P.O. Box 1646, Brookings, OR 97415