Chetco opened early – Winchuck opens today

By Larry Ellis, fishing columnist November 02, 2012 10:01 pm


Fishing report for October 26-November 1

Five rivers – five opportunities. Somewhere within a span of 60 miles, anglers can look optimistic at hooking up with a strapping fall Chinook this weekend and into the beginning of next week. Last week, rains raised five rivers high enough to send fresh kings into California’s Smith River as well as Oregon’s Winchuck, Chetco, Elk and Sixes rivers.

Anglers were clocking Chinook on the Smith last week anywhere from the lower Sarina float holes up to Ruby Van Deventer Park. But a passing storm on Wednesday put a temporary kibosh on the kings when it raised the river to over 10 feet on Thursday, as read at the Jedediah Smith Park gauge.


Not that 10 feet is a bad height for plug-pulling on the Smith, since the ideal height ranges between 8.5 and 11 feet. But remember that this was the Smith’s first blowout of the year, which meant only one thing.

“Leafy-leafy-leafy,” said Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips in Hiouchi as he described the conditions on the Smith on Thursday. “It was tough fishing for us today, but we still managed to get a few nice kings.”

Thomas was looking forward to pulling plugs on Friday (yesterday), when the river was predicted to abate toward 9.5 feet. With a small front expected to hit the Smith this weekend, it’s anybody’s guess as to what the river height might be today. 

Since the Smith rises rapidly, a small amount of rainfall could keep the stretch of river from Ruby down to the Pump House at an even keel near 8 feet.

Some people prefer to look at river flows rather than river height. Almost always, 8.5 feet on the Smith equates to 3,220 cfs, while 11 feet could range anywhere between 7,000 and 8,000 cfs.

There is a slight chance, however, that anglers could be back to float fishing in the holes from Rowdy Creek down to the Cattle Crossing if the flows drop down toward 800 cfs.


The Chetco River opened earlier than expected last week, on Oct. 31. With low flows, the action was fair overall, with some anglers really puttin’ the hurtin’ on Chetco Chinook.

Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing and Travis Sallander amassed over 30 hookups, landing 20 salmon and keeping around eight. Half of the fish were jacks and most of the jacks were ocean-fresh chromers.

Today, the Chetco is expected to drop from 3,500 to 2,500 cfs. That should load all of the drifts with fresh 20- to 35-pound Chinook and create some really spectacular fishing.

Good flows for plug-pullers, back-bouncers and drift fishermen are between 1,700 and 4,000 cfs.

The most popular float is from Loeb State Park down to Social Security Bar.


The Winchuck River is slated to open its doors today. Most of the river is on private property; however there are two places with public access: below the 101 bridge at the mouth, and at the Forest Service campground 8 miles upriver.

The next run of Chinook should be coming through on the first big rain this month.


Don’t forget that the Elk and Sixes rivers near Port Orford should also be getting some nice runs of Chinook as well.

“We should see fish in the Elk for the next week-and-a-half to two weeks,” says Jim Carey from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach.

On Thursday, the Elk was at 4.5 feet and rising. The water was leaf-stained and the water temp was 53 degrees, which is perfect visibility and water temperature. Ideal flows for back-trolling plugs and back-bouncing roe are from 3.8 to 5.6 feet. The most popular drift is from the hatchery down to Ironhead.


When the Elk lowers and clears, switch to the Sixes, just a few miles north of the Elk. Here, most boaters drift from Edson Creek down to the Grange.

Tight lines!