By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
Fishing for steelhead on the Chetco was fair to middlin' this week. You couldn't have asked for more perfect looking water.
The river was fishable on Friday, started spiking over 10,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Saturday, and on Sunday it began dropping. Basically the plunkers had it all to themselves for the first few days, then as the river dropped, a few drift-boats started showing up.
That's the kind of river an angler looks forward to: textbook plunking water for the first few days and then plummeting water levels for the rest of the week, allowing everyone a decent chance to fish fishable water.
The melting snow pack in the surrounding hills give the Chetco a pastoral green hue, with perfection visibility for most of the week. Air temperatures dropped a few degrees, making fishing much more tolerable than the week before.
With the dropping river, fresh recruits of metalheads made their way through the jetty jaws and into the lower river. There must have been quite a few ironheads in the river because a few harbor seals were busy working the soft water at Social Security.
Fish were all throughout the system, with new batches of fish showing up every day due to the last river rise. Many of the fish were fresh, bright hatchery steelhead, a very good sign for the first week of February.
If you asked every plunker at Social Security how the fishing was, you would have gotten a different answer. On Monday I saw five fish beached while four broke off.
On Tuesday, Herb Looney landed a nice metalhead from the bank. There were other anglers who had several fish on, but only landed one. Any time you can see a half dozen fish landed at an overpopulated hole, the fishing's pretty good.
The boaters started drifting the river on Tuesday, and averaged between one and three fish side-drifting orange Puff Balls and roe.
I got a phone call from Andy Martin from wildriversfishing.com on Wednesday, who was fishing with a friend. They had put in at Miller Bar and drifted down to Loeb Park, and for their efforts, they had boated two beautiful chrome-bright steelhead. They had missed two good bites, as well.
Shining like two freshly re-chromed bumpers, these fish couldn't have been in the river more than 36 hours. However, the fish did have a few battle wounds.
Both of Andy's fish exhibited signs of seal bites. One of the fish's gills had been nibbled on pretty hard, but all in all, both fish were in excellent shape.
Andy's fish were caught on one of Pautzke's newest products, a natural bait cure called Bor-X-O' Fire. As implied in its name, it is a Borax cure as opposed to a sulfite cure, and boy, do these eggs look sweet! Every egg glimmered like an individual jewel, while still adhering to its surrounding cluster.
One of the biggest problems on the Chetco is the crowds. Boat after boat floats down the river throwing the same rigs, and the steelhead never get a break. They spook very easily, and often it takes them several hours to regroup.
So making a stealthy presentation is critical. Being stealthy with the oars is equally important. Smooth, easy rowing and judicious use of motors is absolutely crucial to keep the fish from scattering. It's everyone's obligation to give the next person an equal opportunity at catching a fish.
The Smith River
A new shot of fish also came up the Smith River and anglers were busy plunking and side-drifting from The Forks all the way down to the take-out at the county boat ramp at Fred Haight Drive. Fish are all throughout the system.
Plunkers had the river to themselves on Sunday while the river was rapidly on-the-drop, and by Monday and Tuesday the drift-boats started hitting the river. Lots of precious metal were boated with several steelhead over 20 pounds weighed in at the Hamlet.
The Rogue River
The lower Rogue's back in shape and plunkers have been scoring on steelhead ranging from 8 to 12 pounds.
"Actually, the last few days hasn't been too bad for plunkers and for boaters," said Patrick Hollinger from The Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach on Thursday. "Yesterday it was good in the morning and the afternoon was even better."
The plunkers have been hammering their fish on Spin-N-Glos in the colors pearl red with white wings and flame chartreuse, working the usual spots, such as Huntley Park, Orchard Bar and Dunkleberger.
In addition, the famous double-outfit was scoring precious metal this week as well, with the silver and chartreuse Hot Shots working the best for the upper rig.
Boaters are also doing well by anchoring up around inside bends and putting out plugs. If you have three people in your boat, stagger your plugs so one hits the soft water on the inside, another works the medium current in the middle while the outside rod covers the heavier flow.
Whichever rod gets slammed, make sure to always chock off so that rod always maintains the same angle, because that rod will probably get hit again. When one of the rods in the boat gets hammered, have the patience to wait for your rod tip to hit the water with line coming off the reel before taking it out of the holder.
"A few guides were using Hot Shots yesterday and they just hammered 'em," noted Hollinger. "They were using all varieties of Hot Shots."
A few lone drift-boaters were still nailing the metalheads by side-drifting from Foster Bar down to Agness with Puff Balls and roe.
Sooner or later the first springer of the year is going to be caught, and if history repeats itself, it will be caught by a plunker. Whoever catches the Rogue's first springer of the year has bragging rights for the rest of 2008 if it is weighed in at Jot's Resort in Gold Beach.