Fish Report for October 31-November 6
The Chetco and Winchuck Rivers reopened to the retention of Chinook salmon on Wednesday. Those who fished the Chetco on Wednesday did not go unrewarded.
"Everybody was off the river by noon with limits," says Jim Bansemer of goldriverguides.com.
Normally the Chetco does not fish well on a rising river, but since it was rising very slowly and alternating between rising and dropping levels between 7 and 11 a.m., anglers scored plenty of kings up to 35 pounds.
November is the month of the 30-pound fish. Most of the larger fish that were protected by the low flow closure either made it further upstream or hung out between the Market Hole and Ice Box.
About 50 percent of the estimated 400 fish stacked up at Social Security Bar were hatchery fish; the rest of the fish were able to begin their spawning mission.
The Chetco never peaked past 11,200 cubic feet per second (cfs) at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, which meant that the redds dug by the fish ending up spawning were probably not blown out. Unless the river later totally blows out due to flooding, this is a good sign for future harvest years.
The ground, which had not yet reached its saturation point, soaked up river water like a sponge, causing the Chetco to drop faster than what generally occurs, given the amount of rainfall the area had over the weekend and the beginning of the week.
On Thursday the river rose to 8,370 cfs, and remained at 8,000 cfs till about 5 a.m., driving most boat fishermen off the Chetco and into surrounding rivers like the Elk or California's Smith River. However, Bansemer decided to wait and see if the Chetco continued to drop.
"I was going to go there too, but I got to thinking, For salmon, in the Chetco you can sometimes get these fish when the water's high,'" noted Bansemer. "There were five boats in our group. Everybody went north or south but we stayed."
It's a good thing he did. By 11:30 a.m. the river dropped to 7,000 cfs and was continuing to drop, the perfect time for plunkers to do their thing at various locations along the river. Bansemer waited until noon before deciding to put in at Ice Box, when the river was at 6,690 cfs and still dropping.
"I know you can catch those fish (at high water), you just have to pick and choose your spots," added Bansemer. "When the river dropped down about noon we started getting these grabbers. All the action came in the afternoon and my clients were stoked."
And well they should have been. Bansemer limited them out on Wednesday and was off the river at 2 p.m. on Thursday and in the fish cleaning station by 3 p.m. cleaning his last Chinook. Not too shabby for two hours of fishing.
"We had five on and landed two," said Bansemer.
The lure of both days was a sardine-wrapped K-16 Kwikfish with a 2-inch hootchie running off the back hook. Bansemer wraps a shorter piece of fillet on his Kwikfish than most people. This causes the lure to run truer more consistently without having to tune your lure every single time you put it in the water.
He said all the fish he lost were good-size Chinook, which is typical for November.
When a king grabs a Kwikfish, you can count on a percentage of those fish being lost, generally 60 percent. This is because normally the big males will kill the Kwikfish and, with their pronounced and very tough hook-jaws, unless you hook that fish deep or in the corner of its mouth, the lure usually grabs a piece of skin.
Its toughened jaw is like bone, and is extremely hard to penetrate with any hook, no matter how large. Generally those fish you have on for 20 to 30 minutes, then suddenly lose by spitting the hook? They're usually those humongous males.
You have no idea of knowing how a fish is hooked unless you're lucky enough to land it and get it in the net. A lot of times if the fish was skin-hooked, the lure will simply fall out in the net, due to the fact that the only thing keeping the fish on was constant pressure.
So whatever you do, always maintain pressure on your fish, keep your rods bent at all times and never give it any slack.
"We had a lot of cold-water bites that were on and off, but we had a couple more on that I thought we should have landed," Bansemer said.
A cold-water bite is usually done by a sluggish fish where you just suddenly know it's on. It doesn't normally rip the rod out of its holder or make any vicious take-downs like they often do when the water is warmer.
The fishing is expected to pick up during the weekend.
As many people know, Fishing & Hunting News suddenly went out of business about three months ago, so if you're not getting your subscription, that's the reason.
Toward the end I was writing about 90 percent of the Oregon magazine and a portion of the Washington edition, as well.
But as they say, when one door closes, another one opens. In this case, several doors opened.
Not to toot my own horn, but the former Oregon and Washington editor, Andy Walgamott asked me if I was interested in writing for another publication which was just starting up. It was going to be a full-color glossy magazine featuring five states in the Pacific Northwest, called Northwest Sportsman.
How could I say no?
The October issue was phenomenal but slow to hit the newsstands. The November issue is scheduled to hit the Auto Trader racks sometime this week. When you start out from scratch, it's often difficult to get on the rack.
I am writing both hunting and fishing articles and featuring our beautiful section of the Pacific Northwest as often as I can, which I did in the October, November, December and January issues (in the magazine industry we write far in advance, sometimes as long as a year).
Copies can be bought for a nominal fee at the Chetco Outdoor Store. Nothing else has changed. I will continue writing my column and presenting everyone with a current photograph of the week for the Curry Coastal Pilot.