Anglers in drift boats float down the Chetco River in pursuit of Chinook salmon after last week’s badly-needed rainfall raised the river to over 8,000 cubic feet per second.
The long-anticipated storm that anglers have been eagerly awaiting to bring the Chetco and Winchuck rivers up to drift-fishing conditions finally came to fruition last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and salmon were caught on both river systems.
Normally, the first storm of the season raises the Chetco River dramatically, which it did late Monday evening, raising the river from 300 cubic feet per second to 8,940 cfs in a 24-hour period peaking on late Tuesday evening.
The first big rain of the season always soaks into the ground like a sponge because the ground is not yet fully saturated and, by Wednesday, the river was lowering and clearing rapidly below 6,000 cfs, enabling a few anglers at Loeb State Park to plunk a few Spin-N-Glos. At least one angler nabbed a nice chrome-bright 25-pound king at Loeb plunking from the bank.
For the next few days, the ground will be soaking up water like a sponge until it reaches its saturation point and starts maintaining its winter water levels at a minimum of precipitation.
Drift boaters got their first real chance at floating the river on Thursday when the river was at 3,350 cfs, and dropping. The fishing was only fair, but several boaters had one fish in the box and had lost several more by the end of the day.
The river should start dropping toward 2,000 cfs today and slowly maintain between 1,000 and 1,500 cfs through the rest of the week, giving fishermen a chance at catching a late-November Chinook or even a steelhead or two. Several anglers caught steelhead last Thursday, side-drifting from a drift boat or plunking from the bank.
Which brings me to the Thanksgiving holiday. No doubt, most people will be roasting a turkey this coming Thursday, including me. But this is the Pacific Northwest ladies and gentlemen — steelhead country. So if you are lucky enough to catch a steelhead, why not stuff a steelhead for Thanksgiving? The best-eating steelhead are always caught during high-river events because steelhead take on the aroma of that fresh water.
You can stuff an entire steelhead just like a turkey, wrap it in aluminum foil and steam it. I did this last year and it turned out great.
But the best stuffed steelhead comes when ladling your favorite stuffing on top of a single steelhead fillet, then baking it until done.
I Googled “stuffed steelhead” and came up with some awesome recipes. YouTube has some great recipes as well. One of them is called “crab-stuffed steelhead” and, since crabbing is fairly good in Del Norte harbor and in the ocean in California, why not give this one a shot?
Just go to YouTube and type in “D’Smith’s Crab Stuffed Steelhead Trout.” Darrel Smith is a well-known gourmet chef and his stuffed steelhead recipe is easy to follow and is absolutely delicious.
You can substitute cooked Dungeness crab for the crab he uses, and the recipe features a beurre blanc sauce made with Riesling white wine. The alcohol cooks away when you make the sauce. It’s served with sautéed spinach and a parsnips puree instead of mashed potatoes.
The recipe is easy to follow but I only changed one thing. I always remove the pin bones from my salmon and steelhead fillets using Korin fish bone tweezers available for a little more than $4 at http://www.korin.com.
This allows your guests to eat a completely bone-free meal without worrying about having to pick out all the bones. It only takes a little while to learn to use these things effectively, and they make great gifts and stocking stuffers.
The November meeting of the Oregon South Coast Fishermen took place at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, with about 33 members attending.
The drawing for two combination Lamiglas/Abu Garcia reels worth $400 for each setup took place, and were awarded to two lucky contestants who turned in their hatchery salmon snouts. There will also be another drawing later in the season, so make sure to turn in your hatchery salmon snouts at the kiosks at the Port of Brookings Harbor fillet station and at Social Security bar.
OSCF has dramatically improved the road leading to Ice Box on the Chetco River by adding gravel and I can now get down this road using my ancient Mazda 626. Kudos to OSCF for putting in the time so that all of us can fish this awesome put-in and take-out spot.
The price for launching or fishing at Ice Box is $5 per day per vehicle. Yearly passes are also available for $50 per year and all passes are purchased at Riverside Market (541-469-4496). Riverside Market opens at 6 a.m. and also offers an excellent shuttle service for a reasonable rate.
Special thanks also goes to the City of Brookings for repairing the area leading to Social Security Bar. I can now get down to this spot as well.
In addition, access to the bar at Loeb State Park has also been available thanks to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
This week’s ocean prediction calls for calm seas of 2-foot swells with less than 5-knot winds, so the bottom fishing should be fantastic this week. A calm ocean bar also permits more salmon to freely enter the estuary, so the river fishing should improve this week as well.