The 36th annual Rowdy Creek Steelhead Derby kicked off Friday, but it was difficult to find fish on either the Smith and Chetco rivers all day, as both have been running low and clear for most of the week.

Some of the best steelhead fishing in the area this week has been on the Klamath River, where anglers have been getting a few more bites per trip.

On the ocean, Oregon bottom fishermen have had a good week, with some nice-sized rockfish caught throughout the week, despite windy conditions making ocean fishing more difficult. Sport crabbers here got some bad news over the weekend, however, as tests for domoic acid forced another closure for sportcrabbing from Cape Blanco south to the California-Oregon border.

Meanwhile, the commercial fleet is back seeking crab out of Crescent City after a short strike, and sportcrabbers have still been able to fill their pots closer to shore where there is less competition from the commercial fleet.

River fishing

Despite difficult fishing on the Smith and Chetco rivers, anglers can expect to see lots of boats on both rivers today as the Rowdy Creek Steelhead Derby wraps up.

“It was slow; there was only a handful of fish caught on the Smith, and the Chetco was pretty slow today as well,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “The best I heard was there was one guide that hooked five and landed four, and I’m sure they are going to be in first place heading into the second day (of the derby). In all, there was probably a fish for every four boats on the Chetco, and a fish for every six or seven boats on the Smith.”

Fishermen not participating in the derby might want to head a little farther south to the Klamath River, which has been producing nice steelhead numbers throughout the week and is generally less adverse to low-water conditions.

Martin said that is likely to flip early next week, however, with rain in the forecast likely to send all three rivers back on the rise.

“With this new weather coming in (Friday night), it looks like we are going to get enough rain that the Chetco could blow out early next week,” he said. “But that will be good because when it does come back down, there should be quite a few more fish. Yet, while that might make for good conditions on the Smith and Cheto, the Klamath will then be too high again.”

Crabbing

The commercial fleet has headed back out to sea after settling its dispute over the price of crab in California. Chris Hegnes of Englund Marine Supply Company said the sport crabbers have still hauled in some crab recreationally.

Meanwhile the sport crabbers in Oregon got some bad news as testing for domoic acid, which originally delayed the opening of the crab season in Southern Oregon, returned with high enough levels to close the area to crabbing once again.

“Crabbing was really good prior to the closure, so hopefully once they do the next test it is clean and they can open it back up,” Hegnes said.

Ocean fishing

With recreational crabbing closed in Oregon, sportfishermen headed out in search of bottomfish, despite some persistent winds throughout the week. Martin said rockfish was especially good this week, with lots of good-sized bottom dwellers for this time of year.

“A lot of the time during the winter we get rockfish, but it is hard to get quality-sized rockfish,” he said. “In the two trips we ran this week the size of the rockfish was up quite a bit once you got to Bird Island north. We were also averaging about a lingcod per person, so we weren’t limiting out.”

With high winds and large swells back in the forecast this weekend and early next week, it might be a few days before sportfishermen are able to comfortably get out to target bottomfish again.

In Northern California, the bottom fishing season is now closed, but surf perch fishing has been productive, especially off Kellogg and Endert’s beaches. Red tail surf perch have also been biting well just north of the California-Oregon border.

Fishing contacts: Chetco Outdoor Store at 541-469-9151; Englund Marine Supply Company at 464-32306; Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing at 206-388-8988.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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