By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
Both bank fishermen and driftboaters on the Chetco River and upper tidewater enjoyed catching Chinook adults and jacks last week using a variety of methods.
On a trip up Social Security Bar last Saturday, I personally witnessed seven adult Chinook hooked and landed within one hour by bank fishermen. The bite turned on as high tide brought a batch of fish into the system.
The action started out when an angler played a fresh chrome-bright king from the south bank. In fact, there were at least three fish caught on the south side while I was there.
Then Kelly Carter of San Jose, Calif., cashed in his check on the north bank of Social Security with his 26-pound buck. The lure he used looked close enough to be a K-15 Kwikfish, although it could have been a FlatFish or even one of the new Pro-troll Stingfish. The color, however, was indistinguishable: a chrome body with chartreuse hot lips. Carter had just smeared a small amount of anchovy on the lure body for scent.
Then Samuel Boyd of Watsonville, Calif., carefully played a beautiful 15-pound king using 8-pound Sufix monofilament.
I was informed by several bank anglers that many more fish were caught earlier. Fish were all throughout the system that day. Jeff Fischer of Fischer Guide Service caught a fat Chinook back-bouncing roe at the Culvert Hole, then turned around and whacked another salmon bobbering eggs further downriver.
Fish kept rolling in all week. On Monday, the man, the myth and the legend himself, Art Selby of Brookings, weighed in a gorgeous 42-pound Chinook. I saw the fish being weighed in, and I would have gotten a photo of it but I was on my way out on a fishing trip of my own.
The Chetco has dropped to about 560 cubic feet per second (cfs) and there is no real rain to speak of in the immediate forecast. Right now, the river is too low for driftfishing. So most of the fishing will be down in the lower tidewater holes using bobbers 'n sand shrimp or bobbers 'n roe.
Right now we could stand for a little humidity to raise the river and bring some more fish in the system. Mother Nature will bring that about soon enough.
Fishing a river can be frustrating and sometimes confusing. When do you fish it and what do you use when the river becomes fishable again? We already discussed plunking, so now it's time to talk about the most common type of fishing: driftfishing.
Driftfishing is a technique that is usually done from the bank and it doesn't require a lot of tackle. However, you should always have certain items on hand when the time is right. That time is when the river raises between 1,000 and 4,000 cfs, and it's going to happen some time this month guaranteed.
You only need a small tackle box to hold all the items necessary for driftfishing. You can actually carry everything you need in a couple of small Plano boxes the size of your hand that will fit into your fishing vest.
The basic items you'll need are pencil lead, surgical tubing, crane swivels, hooks, Corkies and needlenose pliers to cut the lead with. Pencil lead comes in three sizes: one-quarter, three-sixteenths and one-eighth inches, but I just use the one-quarter inch size to save money and space.
Here's how to rig up. Using 12-pound test for your main line, run your mainline through the eye of a small snap-swivel. The snap part of the snap-swivel will be hanging down naturally and the whole item should slide up and down your main line by its own weight. Now tie a number 7 crane swivel on the end of your mainline.
Now that you've bought plenty of surgical tubing to stuff your pencil lead into (this stuff is really, really cheap), cut the tubing into 1-inch pieces and take out one of the pieces. Open the snap and slide the pointy end of the snap into the center of the tubing as far in as it will go. Now pierce the tubing from the inside toward the outside with the pointy end of the snap and close the snap.
Any of the tackle stores here can show you how that is done. Now cut a 2-inch piece of your quarter-inch lead and stuff one end into the open part of the tubing. Most of the pencil lead will be sticking out of the tubing. Voila! You now have a sliding sinker.
Now, using an egg-loop knot, tie a 20-inch piece of 12-pound leader onto a number 1 Gamakatsu Octopus hook. Slide a red Corky or a bright orange Oakie Drifter down the leader and let it rest on the hook. Tie the other end of your leader to your crane swivel and you're good to go.
OK, so what you have now is a sinker that freely slides up and down your line, allowing you to feel the bite of the salmon easier, and a leader that has one of those doo-hickies floating the hook off the bottom.
The way you use it is very simple. Facing the river, always make your cast upriver, not in the center. After you make your cast, click your bail and take up your slack. You want that pencil lead to bounce along the bottom so it's ticking the bottom at about one or two bumps a second.
If you don't feel the lead bouncing the bottom at all, then you need to use a longer piece of lead. If your lead stops all the time, then it's too heavy. Use a shorter piece of lead.
The next part is very important. You want to look for places like tail-outs, or the bottom ends of a riffle. Salmon love to lay in that kind of water. On the other hand, steelhead will be at the upper end of the riffle.
Just cast upriver and let your rig bounce downriver until it almost stops. Then crank it in and repeat the procedure until you're shouting, "Fish on!"
Some good places for driftfishing are the South Bank Pumphouse, the lower and upper end of Social Security Hole, the North Bank Pumphouse, the Piling Hole and Loeb State Park (a.k.a. Bruce Hole).