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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.brookingsfishing.com.