It was exactly 32 years ago, but it seems like yesterday. I only mention it because as I sit here writing this article on this dry and windless November 14, I can’t help but think of the unbridled power, brutal arrogance and unpredictability of Mother Nature.
There is no doubt that the southern Oregon and northern California coast is in desperate need of rain. The rivers are beyond low, and the salmon are stacking up like cordwood in the deeper lower-river holes. There are even a few people seriously talking about doing a rain dance. But don’t tread the ground too harshly. In this nook of the Pacific Northwest, you have to be careful what you wish for.
I distinctly remember that Friday the 13th storm of 1981, the year I first moved to Brookings. There was more than an ample supply of rain plus two separate knockout rounds of winds over a two-day period that often averaged 70 miles per hour and gusted over 100 mph.
In the Cape Ferrelo area, electrical power was lost for almost a week and the city of Brookings was without power for well over a week. Food in the frozen food section of Ray’s Sentry Market (now Ray’s Food Place) was thawing so fast that it was all on sale for half price or less.
Millions of board feet of lumber were lost as the super-cyclonic forces mowed down fir, spruce and redwood, not to mention power poles. The violent storm also blew roofs off of houses like they were made of paper.
So yes, the Chetco River is much lower than usual for this time of year, and yes, we need rain to raise the river and to increase river flow. Rain and water flow are essentially the nutrient soup of the river. Here’s why:
River flows between 1,500 cfs and 4,000 cfs are what makes the Chetco River a real salmon and steelhead river. These flows are what is required to create rapids, slots, tail-outs and pools, the individual elements of a river that, when combined, cause salmon to move upriver and strike your sardine-wrapped Kwikfish or FlatFish from a drift boat, or whack a Spin-N-Glo from the bank.
Right now, the Chetco basically consists only of pools.
So far, this has been a sad month for Chetco River Chinook aficionados. Here it is, mid-November, and there has been virtually no rain, and November is, by far, the best month and peak of the salmon run on the Chetco.
The immediate forecast is calling for some rain this weekend and throughout the week, but I’m counting on the unpredictability of Mother Nature to prove the meteorologists wrong and to rescue the rest of November for some excellent salmon fishing.
When that first big rain in November does come, you’ll also want to be casting 1-ounce chrome Krocodiles or 3/4-ounce chrome/blue Kastmasters at the mouth of the Winchuck for some of her humongous Chinook.
November is also typically the month when the first steelhead start entering the Chetco. Usually there are some decent-size fish caught by Thanksgiving Day.
If rains don’t come to fruition, keep your eyes peeled on the ocean for possible flat-calm days for some of the most fantastic lingcod fishing of the season.
Also remember that crabbing in the ocean in Oregon will open on December 1 for recreational crabbers as scheduled. The limit in Oregon is 12 Dungeness crab, as measured at a minimum of 5 3/4 inches inside the points, and only males may be kept.
Englund Marine in Crescent City, California, reports that the crabbing in Del Norte Harbor has been fair, with a few people limiting out; however, crabbers have been doing a little better in the ocean. Crabbing for Dungeness crab in California for sport fishermen opened on November 2.
The California limit for Dungeness crab is 10 crab, as measured at a minimum of 5 3/4 inches inside the points, and either males or females may be taken.
You will need a California fishing license to crab in California, unless you are crabbing from the B Street Pier, where no license is required.