By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
As everyone knows, one of my continuing goals is to provide a photograph of a fish, crustacean or other type of incredible edible that someone has caught during the past week in our local vicinity. Loyal readers of the Curry Coastal Pilot deserve nothing less.
Old file photos don't cut the mustard with this guy. I want my photographs to demonstrate that we are a true hunter-gatherer culture, and that everyone has a chance to catch some sort of nutritious nugget in any given week, whether it's a trophy metalhead or a gooseneck barnacle.
As far as fishing goes, the Chetco River, which straddles Brookings and Harbor, is the most strategically located river I have ever known. The Rogue River is only 27 miles up Highway 101, and 12 miles in the opposite direction is California's Smith River. That's three world-class fisheries within a 40-mile radius. For steelheaders, this place is Nirvana.
Some folks may be thinking, "Why are you even mentioning the Smith, when it's in California? Being in Oregon, we should just talk about Oregon rivers."
I suppose if the Smith was an hour away, that argument might hold water. But the Smith is not an hour away; it's only about 10 minutes away, and this week provided a textbook demonstration why its attention is not only necessary, it's absolutely critical if your goal is to high-stick a chrome-bright steelie.
Case in point. We got hammered pretty good last week with torrential downpours. It is important to note that the Chetco takes between 36 to 48 hours to rise after a gully-washer.
Because there is more sediment in the Chetco's tributaries than in the Smith's, when it does rise, it muddies up faster, taking on the appearance of chocolate milk, which is what happened early last week. The Chetco also tends to clear and drop slower than the Smith.
The Smith on the other hand, being more of a bedrock-type river, even in its tributaries, tends to rise the fastest after a major rain, within several hours. Having a bedrock bottom gives the Smith its gorgeous emerald-green hue. It also clears and drops the faster of the two rivers.
The Chetco took a sharp rise to 13,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Tuesday and was totally blown out. Some folks did try giving it a go on Wednesday as it dropped to 11,000 cfs, but the fishing was on the slow side. That's when I took a trip to the Smith.
Ten minutes later I was at the county boat ramp off of Fred Haight Drive watching plunkers fish in beautiful 2-foot visibility. I drove up to Ruby VanDeventer Park and also the Forks. The river had beautiful color and a few fish were caught.
On Thursday both rivers took a major rise, again. I couldn't get down to Social Security Bar on the Chetco, so I stayed in the parking lot. But even with a rich tea-brown appearance, one plunker managed to catch a steelhead while the river was on the rise at 11,000 cfs.
Then I took a repeat drive to the Smith. The river was higher than Wednesday at the county boat ramp with about 8 inches of visibility, but it had a pastoral-green texture that had "steelhead" written all over it.
Plunkers on the other side of the river were landing steelhead left and right. A photograph was brewing.
Moments later, here comes John Klar from johnklar.com with a couple clients, drifting down the river. John pulled up to the ramp and started hoisting out steelhead weighing between 12 and 14 pounds.
Now on the Smith, as the saying goes, "One, and yur done," meaning, after you catch and keep one steelhead, you have to quit fishing. John and his crew had released two other steelhead before retaining their one-fish limit.
That didn't surprise me one bit because John's always the first boat on the river, whether it's the Klamath, Smith or Chetco.
I looked in his driftboat and saw some very flashy looking Spin-N-Glos. There was a watermelon with black wings (a killer color on the Smith), and a couple other flashy orange-type winged bobbers. The anglers nailed their fish plunking out of the driftboat.
Many people think that you have to be on a riverbank in order to plunk. But as long as you're anchored up and you have a Spin-N-Glo on the bottom, you're plunkin'. You can put your rod in a holder, but John prefers his clients to hold their rods, and for a very good reason.
"A big part of the excitement of fishing is feeling that bite," Klar said.
So the next time the Chetco takes a major rise and looks like a combination of coffee and crme, think about heading to the Smith where plunking is the name of the game. Ruby and Jed Smith Park provide ample plunking spots. Just make sure you have a California fishing license.
Brookings Chapter of Northwest Steelheaders has guest speaker
On Tuesday, about 75 people who packed the VFW Hall in Brookings were treated to a fascinating lecture given by John Ward, former president of the Southwest Chapter of the Northwest Steelheaders.
It was an education not only in the many projects the Southwest Chapter has accomplished in 30 years, but also in the nuances of dealing with organizations and government.
Ward stressed the importance of interpersonal relationships between the community, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, and other governmental agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Division of State Lands.
Ward, who was helping the Brookings chapter get off the ground, also invited them to attend their meetings in Coos Bay.
The Brookings chapter will be giving a knot-tying seminar after the next meeting, which meets the first Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the VFW Hall in Brookings. Anyone wanting to learn the finer points of how to tie an egg loop knot as well as learning how to tie other knots is welcome to attend.