The rain anglers have been waiting for since the first few steelhead started to make their way up the Smith and Chetco rivers finally arrived this week.
Anglers are expecting perhaps the best fishing conditions so far this season on both the Smith and the Chetco as both rivers should stay in good shape throughout the weekend.
Meanwhile, on the ocean, Oregon anglers only had a brief window on Sunday to get out of the port in search of bottomfish, but there are lots of fish available with lingcod reportedly biting exceptionally well.
Bottom fishing is now closed in Northern California but the recreational crabbing season is still open and anglers still have at least a couple days to nab some Dungeness crab before the commercial fleet gets in on the action.
The Smith River was the first to round back into good fishing shape late this week with several steelhead being caught and released on the river on Friday. Although the rain blew out the Chetco River during the middle of the week, the river started to round back into shape on Friday afternoon, and should also fish well all weekend long.
“The Smith is in great shape,” said fishing guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “It was a little high on Friday but the color was just perfect, and it should be perfect all weekend. The Chetco was starting to turn green on (Friday) afternoon too, so it is going to be in good shape this weekend. It will probably be crowded on both rivers though, because the out-of-town guides are definitely here and a lot of private boaters will be coming over, too. It is the first time all season really where we have had ideal conditions on the Smith and Chetco rivers.”
Before the rise in river level this week, anglers saw some decent steelhead fishing, especially in Southern Oregon.
“Early in the week we were actually limiting out on the Chetco,” Martin said. “We were getting some hatchery fish and wild fish and there were enough to catch limits.”
It slowed down a little bit but it was still solid fishing with three to six hookups per day. Then it blew out, so everybody was on the Smith River today. The Smith was slower. We only got one adult that we let go and we had two half-pounders that we let go as well.”
Martin said big swells have largely kept ocean anglers on shore throughout the week, but some decent weather on Sunday showed that bottom fishing will likely still be strong when the ocean lays back down.
Martin said his boat was able to haul in easy limits of lingcod, which have been biting well since the season opened on Jan. 1. Martin’s boat also grabbed its limits of rockfish on Sunday, though he said they definitely had to work harder to get them to bite.
Bottom fishing in Northern California officially closed at the end of 2017.
The recreational crabbing season has continued to yield lots of Dungeness crab on the Northern California coast. Crabbers have been reporting fairly easy limits of crab since the season first began. Although the crab were a bit light on meat when the season opened, they have been filling out fairly well over the last few months and are finally ready for the commercial season.
Recreational crabbers still have the rest of the weekend to haul in pots without competition from the commercial crabbing fleet, which is scheduled to open on Monday.
Although recreational crabbing generally slows once the commercial crabbers kick off, sport crabbing will remain open in California until July.
Crabbing is still closed out of Brookings due to elevated levels of domoic acid found in the crab. There is still no date for when recreational crabbing will open out of Brookings.
With the bottom fishing season in Northern California extended through the end of the calendar year in 2017, anglers had a couple extra months to haul in a prize lingcod to enter into Englund Marine Supply Company’s annual biggest lingcod competition. But nobody could top the 38-pound monster landed by longtime local fishermen Randy Otremba of Crescent City on Oct. 5.
Otremba wouldn’t say exactly where he caught it other than at the Point St. George Reef near the great break.
“I was very fortunate to get it,” Otremba said. “It took me about 10 minutes to get it to the boat. It made a couple runs with me on 50-pound monofilament line and it came up parallel, not head first. It really looked cool as I brought it up slow and steady. I was surprised how big it was.”
Although Otremba’s 38-pounder was the biggest fish weighed in this year at Englund Marine Supply Company, it wasn’t the biggest lingcod he has ever caught.
“When I commercial fished here 35 years ago we caught a lot of big lingcod that we didn’t weight or anything,” Otremba said. “We were doing line fishing with a two-man crew and I did that for five years. The biggest one that I ever weighed was 43 pounds. Last year I took my sister out and she caught a 41 pounder, but she didn’t weigh it in for the contest.”
Otremba was awarded a new rod and reel by Englund Marine Supply Company for winning this year’s competition.
Fishing contacts: Chetco Outdoor Store at 541-469-9151; Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 206-388-8988; Englund Marine Supply Company at 464-32306.
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org .