Steelhead anglers are hoping this week’s rain will be enough to get the Smith and Chetco rivers back into decent shape, while ocean fishermen are being sidelined by rough weather and a big swell.
Rain began falling Thursday morning and is expected to have the Chetco near 2,500 cfs by the weekend and the Smith up to 4,300 cfs, or 9.1 feet at the Jed Smith gauge. Both rivers were low most of the week, with clear conditions on the Smith and some color in the deeper riffles of the Chetco.
“It’s pretty slim,” Leonard Carter of Englund Marine said of the steelhead fishing prior to the rain. Fishing has been slow on both rivers, although a few steelhead were being caught on the lower Chetco.
The rain expected just before the weekend should draw fresh steelhead into the Smith and Chetco. More rain in the forecast next week should give flows another boost. According to early forecasts from the National Weather Service, the Chetco could top 3,000 cfs on Jan. 10, its highest flow s since Dec. 1.
Crescent City crabbing
Sport crabbing has improved out of the Crescent City Harbor, with fuller crab reported just before this week’s storm.
“Most of the sport-legal crab are a little fuller. That’s what I’ve noticed,” Carter said. “With the bigger commercial-size crab, some are light ones, and some are in real good shape.”
Commercial crabbing remains closed out of Crescent City and Brookings, although the commercial fleet may begin dropping pots on the California side of the border on Jan. 12. Crabbers are still waiting for a green light from the state to drop their pots.
Lingcod and rockfish season is now closed for boaters in California.
There have been no reported of herring yet in the Crescent City Harbor. Last year, some herring arrived in January.
“It is usually the latter part of February,” Carter said. “For a couple of days last January they came in and then they were gone. They came back in late February and were here for a few days and then never came back.”
The herring are popular with lingcod anglers, who use them for bait. Many fishermen from Brookings travel to Crescent City when the herring arrive to stock up on bait.
Brookings ocean opener
The lingcod and rockfish opener out of the Port of Brookings Harbor was extremely good, with calm weather and a wide-open lingcod bite. Many anglers reported releasing numerous lingcod while catching keepers from 5 to 15 pounds.
Charter boats from Tidewind Sportfishing and Brookings Fishing Charters reported quick limits of lingcod during the Jan. 1 opener, and again Jan. 2. Fishing for rockfish was only fair, as a quick drift and thick schools of smaller rockfish made limits of bigger black and canary rockfish a little tougher to come by.
The swell picked up on Wednesday and conditions were rough on Thursday and expected to remain dangerous to small boats into next week, although there may be a window to get out of Brookings over the weekend. Swells to 11 feet are expected early next week.