Last weekend, ocean conditions were great. In California lots of anglers took advantage of the conditions to bring in limits of rockfish and lingcod out of Crescent City. Lots of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday changed the fishing landscape a little, however. As waves and swells picked up at sea, local rivers were sent on the rise, which ushered in one of the first strong steelhead runs of the season on both the Smith and Chetco rivers.

River fishing

After a few slow weeks on local rivers following the end of the biggest salmon runs of the season, anglers on the Smith and Chetco rivers have started to see steelhead stream into the river with some rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, which sent both rivers on the rise.

Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing, said even before the rain he heard of a few drift boats catching steelhead on the lower Chetco River. Since the rain has come they have been hauled in throughout the system.

“There are a lot of salmon still spawning,” Martin said. “I haven’t heard of any bright salmon being caught, but there are still a lot of dark salmon in the river. Then the steelhead are nice, running about 8 to 12 pounds, and they are spread throughout the river. So it should be decent steelhead fishing from this point on through the end of February

— we are in steelhead season now.”

Martin said the Chetco River blew out for about a day following the big rains, but plunkers fishing from shore started hauling in steelhead Wednesday afternoon and into Thursday. Martin said the first drift boats started getting out on the Chetco on Thursday. Martin said the Chetco River still has a nice green color to it, but it is starting to get a little on the low side again.

The Smith River never really blew out this week, but the rain did bring the river up several feet, which allowed drift boats to get out in search of some early steelhead. Though fishing is still a little slow on the Smith River, steelhead have been spotted and caught all throughout the system this week.

Bottom fishing

Most years, bottom fishing in December has been entirely in Oregon along the Wild Rivers Coast, but 2017 was different.

In California, the bottom fishing season was extended by several months this year. That allowed anglers to target rockfish and lingcod through the end of the year after years of the recreational fishery closing at the end of October.

Bottom fishing in Northern California is generally productive for fishermen when conditions cooperate, and last weekend was no exception. With calm seas, anglers out of Crescent City were reportedly hauling in lots of rockfish and lingcod through Monday.

Sportfishermen still have a little over a week to get out in search of bottomfish on the California Coast before the season closes on Dec. 31.

Meanwhile in Oregon, the bottom fishing season is open year round with no scheduled closures. In 2017, however, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shut down the bottom fishing season four months ago due to the quotas being met much earlier than expected.

Last week the ODFW announced it will reopen bottom fishing on the first day of the new year with an adjusted bag limit. In 2018, anglers in Oregon will be allowed to retain five rockfish and two lingcod.

“There are a lot of people down here talking about going out on the first and second if the ocean is calm enough,” Martin said. “For me, if it is calm weather, that means there is no rain, so we will probably be bottom fishing. If it is rainy then the ocean will probably be rough and we will be on the river steelhead fishing.”

Sport crabbing

The opening of the commercial crabbing season has been delayed once again, now set to open on Jan. 15, because the crab have been slow to fill out with meat this season. Recreational crabbers are still hauling in lots of crustaceans, however.

Ever since the sport crabbing season began, anglers have been hauling in lots of crab with nearly every pot. Although crabbers are reporting many crab are a little bit low on meat, the sheer number of crab still allows for a good meal’s worth.

A few crabbers indicated that their hauls were a little bit lighter on Friday, with fewer crab in their pots, though that may be more of an aberration than a continuing trend moving forward.

Fishing contacts: Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 206-388-8988; Chetco Outdoor Store at 541-469-9151; Englund Marine Supply Company at 464-3230; Jim Mitchell of Gotcha Hooked Fish Trips at 464-8482. Rogue River Guide Service 541-698-7480. Five Star Charters 541-247-0217

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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