Larry Ellis, fishing columnist

Last Tuesday, Jim Bithell from Charthouse Sportfishing was plunking a Spin-N-Glo upriver from Social Security Bar when a 16-pound chrome-bright steelhead hammered his winged bobber on its way up the Chetco River. I have no doubt that it weighed every bit of 16 pounds. Here's why.

Jim is not stiff-arming the fish, a deceptive trick where a photographer asks the fish-holder to hold a fish out as far as he can in order to make the fish look larger than it actually is.

The dead giveaway of a stiff-armed pose is when a person's knuckles look larger than his head.

Knowing this little trick, some photographers will then try and sidestep it by getting the person to not only hide their hands from the camera, but also their arms. But still, you can always tell when a stiff-armed procedure has been performed. In this last case, the scales of the fish will look almost as large as the person's eyes.

I'm not saying that I've never asked anyone to perform the aforementioned practice in the past. I just don't do it anymore. As we Americans are famous for saying, "It is what it is".

Now, catching a steelhead weighing between 6 and 8 pounds is nothing of which to be ashamed. Flattering the fish is the most important consideration.

In most cases, the fish should be held broadside, showing as much of the side, belly, back and fins in the same shot as possible. If you hold a fish with the belly or back facing the camera, the photo looks just plain weird. You can't tell whether the person is holding a fish or a ferret.

In Jim's case, there was no need to stiff-arm, hand-hide, arm-bypass or perform that suck-in-the-gut and chest-thrush maneuver in order to make the fish look big. It was what it was.

That day, I rated the water as PFP (perfect for plunking), with a slate-gray hue and 4-inch visibility. The next day, a 14-pound heavy metalhead came to the Brookings fish-cleaning facility that was caught during textbook side-drifting conditions. It was caught on a Puff Ball-and-roe combo during water color that had a pea-green color with 18-inch visibility, with the rating being PFSD (perfect for side-drifting).

Now this season, the river is taking a few days longer than usual to clear up as it begins dropping after a raise. Folks have been noticing that there's a lot more brownage in the upper river as opposed to the lower section. The cause of the turbidity is from two mudslides above the south fork.

"We hiked into the canyon," says Val Early of Early Fishing. "The biggest slide is in the canyon (Chetco Canyon) above the south fork. It's between Steel Bridge and the south fork. There's also a small one above Steel Bridge, so there's a little bit of color there as well, but the biggest one is right there in the canyon."

Val described the massive slide as being akin to a land glacier.

What this means for fishermen is that they'll have to wait three or four days for the Chetco to begin clearing to fishable conditions after a big rain, instead of the usual one to two days.


At the November meeting of Oregon South Coast Fishermen (OSCF) held last Wednesday, Dee Shurtleff of Brookings, one of the original members and longtime president of the 38-year-old club was enshrined as a lifetime member for the work that he has done throughout the years.

Also, in the first drawing for turning in coded-wire salmon snouts on the Chetco, Brian Gagnon won a Shakespeare Rod and Diawa line-counter reel, and George Morrison won a Northwest Special Lamiglas rod.


Don't forget that, as of today, recreational crabbers may start crabbing in the ocean.

Tight lines!