When Curry Coastal Pilot Sports Editor Jef Hatch asked me last week to think about giving the fishing column a new title, he told me to take some time and give it some thought. It took me less than 24 hours.
Rich Heap from Oregon South Coast Fishermen takes scale samples from one of many spent Chinook carcass that he, Ken Range and Larry Ellis searched for in the upper Chetco last Friday. Scale sampling and other data provide invaluable data to ODFW about age class, gender and origin that could result in an additional 50,000 summer Chinook smolts that may eventually be released in the Chetco. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
I was looking for a catchy phrase that would encapsulate all things water-ish, a heading that would cover fishing opportunities in freshwater lakes and rivers, as well as the numerous saltwater fishing challenges that deep-sea buffs have available to them.
I also wanted the new caption to embrace all of the incredibly diverse saltwater experiences that Southern Oregon and Northern California have to offer our local-area residents.
The habitat in this area is so rich and abundant, it is not only home for an abundance of crustaceans such as crab and shrimp, but is also the dwelling place for a plethora of mollusks such as clams, mussels, squid, octopus and other incredible edibles.
“On The Water” was the logical choice, and extremely befitting to last week’s flooding, which raised the Chetco to almost 60,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).
Last week’s column mentioned that the Chetco could become fishable for plunkers either on Thanksgiving Day or on the holiday weekend. On Thanksgiving Day, with the Chetco over 10,000 cfs, it still had the appearance of a cup of coffee diluted with a teaspoon of cream - not great water color for fishing. But Friday, the river lowered to 8,000 cfs and began clearing to a slate-gray hue.
Today and tomorrow should be ideal days for plunking, with river flows predicted to be between 4,500 and 5,300 cfs, and consisting of perfect aqua-marine visibility.
On Monday, the Chetco should be on-the-drop for perfect side-drifting, plug-pulling, back-bouncing and drift-fishing.
There is also good reason to expect that there may be an early run of steelhead in the Chetco this season, besides the fact that there have already been reports of steelhead – up to 15 pounds – being caught. Last week’s high water probably blew away a few salmon redds, and that is usually the cue for steelhead to enter the river.
These first-of-the-season steelhead usually enter the river after they get that first whiff of salmon eggs floating down the river, a time when they typically gobble up single eggs one at a time, as fast as they can.
For this reason, your best bet for Monday and Tuesday will probably be side-drifting or drift-fishing a single bead, Lil’ Corky, or a Puff Ball. If you decide to use roe on the back of the hook, only use clusters that contain between 1 and 3 salmon eggs. And don’t be surprised if you hook into a late-November Chinook.
It’s time to start counting backward again. One week from today, December 1 is the opening day for recreational (sport) crabbing in Oregon.
The limit is 12 Dungeness crab measuring five and three-quarter inches and only males may be retained.
Crescent City Harbor in California is now open for crabbing and the action has been excellent at times.
Before the Chetco blew out, I saw limits that contained Dungeness measuring between 7 and 8 inches. There were lots of crab taken from the B Street pier, a facility that does not require possession of a fishing or crabbing license.
The limit in California is 10 Dungeness crab; minimum length five and three-quarter inches. Male and female Dungeness may be retained.
Last week, I had the pleasure of accompanying Oregon South Coast Fishermen (OSCF) club members Richard Heap and Ken Range on the upper Chetco in search of salmon carcasses for the purpose of taking scale samples for ODFW. We were able to sample 6 adult females and 2 males.
This is now OSCF’s fifth year of collecting scale samples. Their volunteer work provides ODFW with invaluable data that could not have been previously attained. This data is likely to lead to an increase in fall Chinook smolt releases in upcoming seasons.