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Get ready for plunking

Don Waler of Eugene was fishing the Chetco on Wednesday with Joe Whaley of Joe Whaley’s Guide Service when he caught this 44-pound, 4-ounce Chinook. The Pilot/Larry Ellis

Fishing report for November 9-15

November has typically been a classic month for catching the last of the fresh incoming Chinook on the Chetco – always has, and always will be. But this month has got a lot of people scratching their heads.

Last week’s fishing was considered to be a little on the slow side, but knowing that the second and third weeks of November can often offer lights-out fishing, I still remain optimistic for a late run of kings. My reasoning has to do with this week’s weather forecast. But for now, let’s step back and take a look at last week’s action.

 

The Chetco rose to over 3,000 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, giving anglers hope to see more fish entering the system. The river was still looking chocolate brown in upper tidewater, especially at the Social Security take-out, but further upriver, there were areas with picture-perfect plug-pulling and drift-fishing conditions.

That led me to take a walk down to the North Fork pump house to check out the action. So far, that spot’s never let me down.

The water was emerald green, the perfect color for salmon fishing. I saw one salmon on the bank that an angler had just caught by drift-fishing a pink-pearl Corky-and-yarn setup. I had a feeling that with a dropping river, Wednesday was going to be the day for some Chetco Chinook magic.

As the Chetco continued dropping to 2,400 cfs on Wednesday, it turned out to be a great day for Eugene resident, Don Waler, who caught a 44-pound, 4-ounce Chinook while back-bouncing roe with Joe Whaley of Joe Whaley’s Guide Service.

Normally, with this week being the third week in November, an angler could ordinarily expect to battle a king or two. But this week is looking a little iffy for fishing the Chetco because a series of storms are expected to hit the coastline and raise the river – big time!

The National Weather Service has predicted that the river will be on-the-rise today, with flows expected to exceed 8,500 cfs. This week’s column is based on their predictions, so to find out if the NWS is anywhere in the ballpark, visit rivervilla.com, click on “recreational river flows,” then click on “Chetco River” and see for yourself.

If the forecast remains true, the river will be too muddy to fish for a few day, will level off on Sunday and then take another steep rise to 31,000 cfs by noon on Tuesday, after which time the river is expect to start dropping.

During that drop, anglers could conceivably think about plunking on Thanksgiving Day or the day after, when the river could have perfect plunking conditions between 7,000 and 8000 cfs.

Now here is why I am still remaining optimistic that there could be a late run of salmon, and even possibly an early run of steelhead for Thanksgiving weekend.

Salmon, as well as steelhead, do not like to enter a river when it is muddy, which will probably be the case from today through Wednesday.

In order to survive, both species need their gills for breathing, and any silt or mud makes it difficult for their gills to function properly, therefore they avoid silt and mud like the plague. Most likely, the fish will probably hold back from coming upriver until water conditions improve, which most likely would be Thanksgiving weekend.

If the river does indeed drop to plunking levels (4,500 to 8,000 cfs) and contains a rich pea-green or slate-gray hue later this week, anglers plunking from the bank might get a chance of catching either a salmon or a steelhead.

If the conditions are favorable for plunking, try a No. 4 Spin-N-Glo in the color sherbet with black wings (aka, Tequila Sunrise), or a No. 4 winged bobber with white wings in the color flame chartreuse (aka, stop-and-go).

Tight lines and, hopefully, bent rods!

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