After a few weeks of dry weather, local rivers were on the rise once again this week as rains returned to the Wild Rivers Coast. Steelhead fishing is still a little bit on the slow side, but there are some fish in the river and anglers are hopeful that more will take advantage of the increased flows over the next couple days.

The same storms that brought more water to the rivers have also brought some big swells to the ocean, making it difficult to get out very far in search of bottomfish.

Local rivers

Anglers have been more or less hoping for some rain for the last few weeks as both the Smith and Chetco rivers have been running low and clear.

They finally got their wish this week with scattered showers dropping several inches of rain throughout over the last few days.

Anglers caught a few fish on the Chetco River on Wednesday, but the Chetco was blown out on Thursday and Friday.

Flows on the Smith River also came up significantly this week, though it has remained fishable by drift boat due to much of the inland precipitation falling in the form of snow.

“The water came up nicely, and we are dealing with a little bit of cold,” said fishing guide Mike Coopman, of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, who said they got one steelhead on Wednesday and another on Friday. “There just aren’t a lot of fish around right at the moment. I talked to a couple other boats and we were the only ones that caught anything at all. Hopefully, with the settling of the weather coming into the weekend a few more fish will show up.”

A little bit farther north, anglers are reporting that some of the first spring salmon are being caught on the Rogue River, though it is still a little too early in the season to expect strong salmon fishing on the river.

On the ocean

It has been a rough week for anglers hoping to get out on the Oregon ocean in search of bottomfish. Big waves and swells have made getting out in search of rockfish and lingcod tricky, and those conditions look unlikely to improve today.

Waves are predicted to drop from 11 feet at 13 seconds today, to 6 feet at 13 seconds on Sunday, and ocean anglers may be able to get out more comfortably heading into next week.

Meanwhile, not much has changed on the sportcrabbing front. Crabbers are still getting fairly good hauls in each pot, and the lean crab that plagued the coast early in the sport season seems to be a thing of the past. Meanwhile, crabbing out of Brookings is still closed after elevated levels of domoic acid were once again found in crab in Southern Oregon.

Salmon forecast

On Thursday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a release that indicated the Klamath River Chinook salmon runs may be a little bigger than the meager numbers in 2017 that triggered a full ban on salmon fishing, both on the ocean and in the Klamath River this fall.

“While adult returns of (Klamath River and Sacramento River) stocks were well below minimum escapement goals in 2017, and projected abundance for both stocks is modest compared to historic averages, state and federal fishery scientists reported an increase in the number of jacks (two-year-old Chinook) that returned to spawn in 2017,” the CDFW said in a press release. “Higher jack returns, as seen in 2017, can indicate the potential for increased abundance of adult Chinook for 2018 fisheries.”

The CDFW also said that forecasts presented at its annual Salmon Information Meeting suggests that a total of 359,200 adult Klamath River Chinook are in the ocean this year. The 2017 projection for Klamath River Chinook was just 54,200 — the lowest projection on record.

Despite the bump in projected numbers, Klamath River Chinook salmon still aren’t completely out of the woods, according to the CDFW.

“The effects of the recent drought are still impacting California’s salmon populations,” the CDFW says in its press release. “Outbound juvenile Chinook suffered unusually high mortality because of low flows and high water temperatures in both the Sacramento and Klamath watersheds in 2014 and 2015. Unsuitable river conditions, coupled with persistently poor ocean conditions during the same period, resulted in very low numbers of adult Chinook returning to spawn in both the Klamath and Sacramento River basins in 2017.”

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council will be setting ocean sport and commercial fishing season dates, commercial quotas and size and bag limits for the upcoming ocean season over the next couple months. There was no ocean salmon season this year in either Southern Oregon or Northern California.

Fishing contacts: Mike Coopman’s Guide Service at 707-218-4501; Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips at 707-458-4704; Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 206-388-8988; Chetco Outdoor Store at 541-469-9151; Englund Marine Supply Company at 464-32306.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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