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Chetco/Winchuck rivers open

The Chetco and Winchuck rivers are scheduled to open today (Nov. 2), but there will be protective harvest restrictions in place.

Due to extremely low flows and a forecast of rain that has yet to come to fruition, anglers may only harvest one wild Chinook per day, with a 10 wild fish seasonal limit.

To put it in other words, a person can keep two adult Chinook per day in the Chetco or Winchuck rivers, but only one may be a wild Chinook. If you are lucky enough to catch a hatchery Chinook, you may keep it as part of your two-Chinook daily bag limit.

So an angler could keep one wild Chinook and one hatchery Chinook per day, or two hatchery Chinook per day. There is no annual limit of hatchery Chinook you may keep per year. If your combined angling tag has some slots left, you could mark your hatchery Chinook on that tag.

But you may also buy a hatchery harvest tag, which would allow you to mark down 10 hatchery Chinook or steelhead. When the hatchery harvest tag is filled out, simply buy another one. There is no limit to the amount of hatchery harvest tags a person can buy a year.

Telling the difference between a wild and a hatchery Chinook is easy. A hatchery Chinook will be missing its adipose fin while a wild Chinook will have its original adipose fin fully intact.

New restrictions now do not allow the retention of Chetco River Chinook above Nook Creek, but the Chetco will remain open from Nook Creek all the way down to the mouth of the river, which is an imaginary line drawn between the north and south jetties. So anglers trolling or casting spoons on the lower Chetco may still encounter a willing biter.

But due to these low flows, most of the action will be using slip bobbers (float fishing) in the deeper tidewater holes such as Tide Rock, Morris Hole and Social Security Bar.

Some of the most popular baits to use when float fishing are roe, anchovies and sand shrimp. The idea behind float fishing is to get your bait down to the depth where the salmon are swimming.

If you aren’t familiar with float fishing, just drop into CM Tackle, the Chetco Outdoor Store or Loring’s, and their staff will be more than happy to show you how to rig up. Clay Mansur, the owner of CM Tackle in Harbor recently informed me that he has some killer roe on hand.

For the best action, get to these holes as early as possible because during low and clear flows, salmon generally bite the best from one hour before sunrise until an hour or so after sunrise.

This is also the best time to use glow-in-the-dark painted three-quarter-ounce Kastmasters. These lures come pre-painted with luminescent paint or you can buy glow-in-the-dark tape and apply the tape onto the lure yourself.

To be the most effective, use a regular Duo-Lock snap on the Kastmaster, not a standard snap swivel. Do not tie your line directly to the hole in the Kastmaster because it will break.

Bring one of those little super-bright LED flashlights with you and flash the lure with the light before you cast it. This gives the lure that eerie bright-green appearance that is bright enough to read by. During those early-morning hours, salmon just inhale these lures.

I know that there are hundreds if not more salmon in these holes because, during the second seining of the year for the Chetco Broodstock Program last Tuesday at Social Security Bar, the net probably had at least 200 fish in it on the first pass, with at least 80 fish escaping underneath the seine.

A total of 63 adult Chinook and three jacks were hauled off to Elk River Hatchery. The adults were comprised of 32 males and 31 females.

Tight lines!


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