When STEP biologist John Weber told me earlier this year after April’s pre-season fall Chinook forecast that there would be some big fish returning to the Chetco, notably 5-year-olds, I knew that I wouldn’t need to find a coastal river handicapper to tell me that I would be seeing a 60-pound king this season.
Wayne Smith of Yreka, Calif., left, caught this estimated 65-pound Chinook on the Chetco Saturday while fishing with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
On Saturday, Wayne Smith of Yreka, California, was fishing with Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing (wildriversfishing.com) when Martin’s sardine-wrapped Hawg Nose FlatFish got hammered so aggressively that both treble hooks stayed inside the fish’s mouth.
There wasn’t a scale in the vicinity to officially weigh in this monster ’nook, so Martin used a very popular (and accurate) formula to estimate the fish’s weight. There were enough seasoned veteran guides in the area who spent more than a few minutes gawking and admiring this strapping specimen of salmonid.
I think it’s time that we took a look at the most popular formula that is used to determine the weight of a Chinook so that you can do some estimating of your own in case you catch a king that bottoms out your 50-pound scale. There is still a chance that there may be a few of these monster kings left to come in the river.
All you need to estimate the weight of your Chinook is a cloth tape measure, a pocket calculator, and of course, the formula.
You will be measuring the length of the fish as well as its girth. The length is measured from the nose to the center of the tail fin. The girth of a fish is measured around the entire circumference of its body just forward of its dorsal fin.
The accepted standard formula is to measure the girth (squared) times the length and divide the result by 800. Another way of looking at it is to multiply the girth times the girth times the length and then divide the result by 800 (G X G X L/800).
In Wayne’s case, the fish’s length was 47 inches and the girth was 33 inches. So 33 X 33 X 47 equals 51183. 51183 divided by 800 equals 63.97 pounds. I think it’s safe to say you could round off the answer to 64 pounds.
Here’s the most important part about measuring a fish, most especially when it comes to its girth. Take the fish’s measurements as soon as it is netted. A fish will lose weight due to two main factors. First, your fish will lose girth (and pounds) after it has been fully bled out. Secondly, after a fish dies, it also loses muscle tone, that special quality that make fish look alive. Guaranteed, a salmon that has been sitting in your fish box all day long will not have the same measurements it had when it was first landed. So take those measurements immediately, especially if you are considering releasing any fish.
The Hawg Nose FlatFish is also known as a T-55, and it’s a very respectable 5 1/2 inches long. They have the ability, on their own, to dive between 10 and 15 feet deep, sometimes to 20 feet under ideal conditions. Any fish that attacks one of these babies is going to be well worth waiting for. Make sure that you always have a fresh sardine wrap on each plug because salmon are guided by scent till their last dying breath.
There are probably more Hawgzillas left to come, but the end of November is typically when the Chetco receives healthy runs of 30-pound chromers. But even into the first week of December last year, I was on a boat where a gent landed a 50 pounder.
Today shore anglers will be able to do some plunking, but from Sunday through next week your best bet will be to side-drift a Corky with some good roe.
There will be plenty of water in the river this entire week for boaters to pull plugs and back-bounce roe. The entire stretch from Loeb State Park down to Social Security Bar should be holding plenty of salmon, and they should be on-the-bite due to a dropping river.
Steelhead are in the river
Steelhead have been entering the river since it began to rise last week, and on Thanksgiving Day, several anglers who were plunking Spin-N-Glos at Social Security Bar landed some nice steelhead.
Local fishing enthusiast Wayne Sargent landed a 15-pound chrome-bright hatchery male steelhead while plunking with a large flame/chartreuse Spin-N-Glo. Flame/chartreuse is the official color that Yakima Bait designates the winged bobber that folks have nicknamed “half-and-half”, “stop-and-go”, “barber pole” and “the Chetco Special”.
If I was forced to carry only one color SNG on any river, it would definitely be the flame/chartreuse in the sizes 2, 4 and 6. On the Umpqua, this special color is oddly enough called, “the Umpqua Special.”
Shore anglers who are plunking this color today might light into either a salmon or a steelhead. Tomorrow and through next week, drift-fishing Corkies-and-roe and Puff Balls-and-roe will be the predominant techniques that rule bank angling. As the river drops below 4,000 cfs and begins clearing, anglers should also start dropping down in both their size Corkies as well as their pieces of roe. Anglers should also throw yarn balls. To learn how to make yarn balls, visit youtube.com and type in “Make a steelhead yarn ball”.
Side-drifting will be the stalwart Chetco technique this week for boaters. Side-drifters should be drifting Corkies-and-eggs, Puff Balls-and-eggs, yarn balls dipped in Pautzke Nectar, Spin-N-Glow/sand shrimp combos and single beads.
Remember that the crabbing season in the ocean will not open on December 1 this year, but will be delayed at least until December 15.
If the ocean lays down at all, it might be worth your while to do a little bottomfishing for rockfish, greenling and lingcod. December is often an excellent month to tie into some hefty lingasaurs.