After what seemed to be an endless drought, long-awaited rain from several low-pressure systems finally raised the Chetco River to 3,590 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Sunday. It was much less of a rise than what was predicted by the National Weather Service, but it was still enough water flow to shift steelhead fishing into high gear.
By Monday, a lowering river with 2-foot perfection visibility, and river flows averaging 2,200 cfs beckoned river guides and bank anglers to seize the moment for some incredible fishing. It was a shot in the arm for many river guides, such as Randy Wells of Oregon Outdoor Adventure and Andy Martin from Wild Rivers Fishing, who limited out their clients before high noon.
The superior fishing continued on Tuesday, with visibility averaging 4 feet and river flows slowly dropping from 1,700 to 1,500 cfs.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the river continued kicking out heavy metalheads, with flows averaging between 1,150 and 1,300 cfs.
With the ground now having reached its saturation point, and with no rain in the immediate forecast, I would expect the river to drop at a much slower rate than last week, with flows probably averaging between 900 and 950 cfs throughout the weekend, and between 750 and 850 cfs through the middle of the week, high enough flows to still create some fantastic fishing.
Steelhead are now all throughout the entire river system, from Social Security Bar up to the South Fork. About half of the fish being caught downriver from Loeb State Park are of hatchery origin, and most of the fish being caught above Loeb are wild. Some spawned out steelhead, often called downers, run-backs and kelts are also being caught.
With the river now approaching gin-clear conditions, anglers should think of down-sizing their line between 6- and 8- pound test, and using pinky fingernail-size clusters of roe with no more than 3 to 5 eggs per cluster.
For drift boat anglers, side-drifting roe will be the technique that will be dominating the river. But if you launch in the afternoon, when most fishermen are done for the day, consider back-trolling plugs such as the Mag Lip 3.5, HotShots, Brad's Wigglers and Wee Wigglers, or Fat Fish. All of these plugs produced fish during last week's flurry of excitement, and they should still continue to evoke strikes this weekend and into next week.
If the thought of savage take-downs with your rod suddenly doubling over with the rod tip pinned to the water gives you goose bumps, then you must give pulling plugs a shot. In this technique, the oarsman slowly inches his way downriver alongside a current seam or a tail-out, slowly backing down the plug. Traditional Chetco River plug colors are gold with a red back, gold with a black back, copper with a black back, and either blue or green pirate.
If you decide to pull plugs, watch for boats that are upriver, and always yield the right of way to folks who are side-drifting.
The Oregon South Coast Fishermen held their first meeting of 2014 on Wednesday at the Brookings Community Public Library with approximately 22 members attending. The guest speaker was Steve Mazur, assistant district fisheries biologist in Gold Beach, who talked about the results of the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 creel surveys of the Chetco River.
The lecture was highly informative and awakened fishermen to the vast amounts of steelhead that are in the river not only in January, but are even in higher numbers in February.
The final raffle for two high-quality Lamiglas rod/Curado 300 combinations was also held for anglers who turned in their hatchery salmon snouts earlier in the year.
If you are new to salmon and steelhead fishing, this is the club for you. Informative fishing seminars from friendly club members and featured guest speakers are only two reasons to join this organization.
The membership fee is only $20 per year, and that entitles a person to a yearly permit to launch at the Ice Box put-in.
Meetings are held on the third Wednesday of every month; 5 p.m. at the Brookings library. For more information about the South Coast Fishermen, call Tony Hobbs at 541-251-3165.
Next week I will be explaining how to reuse and restore your favorite shredded ocean plastic swim baits, twin-tail plastics, Zoom Flukes, and also re-design other plastics to become new again. So don't throw away any of your old plastic lures.