By Larry Ellis

Pilot staff writer

Fishing report for December 19-25

Plunkers who put their faith in Spin-N-Glos last week were rewarded with heavy metalheads ranging from 8 to 20 pounds.

Both wild and hatchery steelhead are making their way throughout the system now that Mother Nature has given the Chetco several doses of H 2 O cocktails, maintaining the water level between 4,000 and 10,000 cfs (cubic feet per second).

Monday evening when I arrived at one of the local plunking spots, the river was dropping from 10,000 cfs to 6,000 cfs, an ideal situation. I started hammering in my rod-holding spike when the first guy yelled, andquot;Fish on.andquot; Then a second rod went off. Not long afterward a third angler set the hook on a 12-pound steelie.

All-in-all I saw about seven or eight fish caught that late afternoon. Then one of the locals, Dick Cottingham put the screws to a mint-bright steelhead.

I was so busy taking photographs that I didn't have time to rig up properly, but it didn't matter. I was just having a blast watching everyone fight their fish.

You learn a lot of tricks when you've been fishing the Chetco for 28 years, and Dick was applying one of the oldest tricks in the book - walking a fish back.

Walking a fish back simply means landing a fish by tightening your drag and walking backward rather than reeling at the river's edge. This allows you to land the fish in less than half the time it would normally take.

Trust me on this one - it really works. When done properly it's poetry in motion. I've seen it hundreds of times by the experienced locals and I've done it numerous times myself on steelhead up to 20 pounds and salmon up to about 37. It's harder to do with salmon over 40 pounds.

When walking a fish back, you must also be prepared at a moment's notice to either loosen your drag or walk forward in the event that the fish suddenly bursts into another run.

The reason why this technique works so well is because when a fish suddenly sees something out of the ordinary come near it, whether it's a person, a net or a dog, it perceives it as a threat, and when that happens the fish gets another shot of adrenaline and takes off like nobody's business.

Therefore if you are employing this technique, it is absolutely critical that nobody comes near the river bank to watch your fish, which would defeat the whole purpose of walking the fish back in the first place.

I've seen instances more than once where a fish will be practically landed, then out of nowhere comes a dog or a well-meaning individual trying to help scoop up or net the fish. When this happens, almost always the fish will spook and make another run. The end result is often a lost fish.

So if I foresee this last scenario occurring, I will explain to the people what the individual is doing and ask them to maintain their distance from the water line.

When you walk a fish back, after it crosses from water onto dry land, keep a tight line on it and keep walking back. The fish will keep flip-flopping its way further backward to a point where you can now approach it safely without fear of losing it.

So why do salmon and steelhead continue walking further back onto the river bar?After all, you would think that upon seeing the gravel, it would turn-tail and head for the hills.

The reason why they don't book out of the country is because steelhead view rocks as part of their natural environment. They're not threatened by them. They see rocks night and day and rocks are not their natural enemies.

If you decide to walk a fish back, you sort of have to decide beforehand whether you plan on keeping the fish or not.If it's a hatchery fish, that's a no-brainer. Just bonk it and mark it on your tag.

But if the fish is wild and you plan on releasing it, the trauma caused by flopping on the river bank could injure the fish to the point where it would not be able to survive release.

Anyway Dick caught his steelie on a Tequila Sunrise Spin-N-Glo, the actual color being called sherbet if you decide to ask for one at Lorings, Sporthaven or 4-M Tackle.

The following morning I arrived at the river at 6 a.m. But even though I was before first legal light there were three vehicles ahead of me.

I rigged up with my Tequila Sunrise winged bobber, put on a treble hook with a small piece of pink yarn, and sprayed the yarn with Berkley Gulp! Alive Herring before tossing the rig along a current seam.

I was rigged up to use a double rig, but the first rig was fishing. As I unsnapped my snap swivel and put it over my mainline I felt something pull my line out and me with it. I didn't even have a chance to snap the swivel before the chromed missile took out two rods below me.

The end result, after walking the fish back, was a nice 12-pound hatchery hen I handed my camera to Ben Fitzgerald and he snapped a few nice photos of yours truly.

So how's the fishing going to be this weekend? Well, if these two approaching lows don't give us too much water, it might be half-way decent. There should be some driftboats on the river Saturday and some plunkers on the bank as well.

You really only need two color Spin-N-Glos for the Chetco, the Tequila Sunrise (sherbet) and the half-and-half (flame chartreuse).

Anyone out there want a shrimp cocktail to go with your Crab Louie salad before diving into your fish 'n chips (or freshly caught steelhead)? Who doesn't? Then I strongly recommend talking with Clay Mansur at 4-M Tackle because all these varieties of seafood are available right here outside the Port of Brookings Harbor.

Clay's been putting quite a few locals on some coonstripe shrimp by either selling them a shrimp trap or retrofitting their crab pots with mesh and funnels.

Their easy to catch and you're allowed 20 pounds a day.

andquot;From here to House Rock the best shrimping is between 10 and 50 fathoms,andquot; says Mansur. andquot;What you're looking for is where hard rock goes to gravel and then sand.You want to be in that gravel/hard rock before it meets the sand.andquot;

All these types of bottoms give different readings on your graph by the intensity and the amount of echoes it reads. You can find good areas in 90 feet right off the whistle buoy.

One of Mansur's customers deep-fries the whole shrimp, tail, guts and head, eats the whole thing and says they're absolutely delicious.

Tight lines!