Fishing has been a little bit slow on the Wild River Coast throughout the week, but anglers are hopeful that rains throughout the week, combined with storms forecast for later in the weekend and early next week will help to usher lots of steelhead into both the Smith and Chetco rivers. Although catching the steelhead will be tricky as the rivers are still rising, once flows begin to drop next week anglers are hopeful for some prime fishing.
Meanwhile ocean fishing has been nearly nonexistent in Northern California and Southern Oregon as large swells and waves have kept sportfishermen on shore.
It is once again that time of year where anglers are waiting out a short window between the end of the salmon runs and the start of steelhead season on both the Chetco and Smith rivers.
There are already some steelhead being caught this week, as a couple rains have brought river levels up some, but both rivers are expected to be back on the rise with some bigger storms in the forecast starting Sunday and continuing into next week.
Martin said that there are still a few salmon, mostly darker fish, being caught on both rivers. He said almost no bright salmon have been caught or even seen this week, indicating that the salmon run is on its last gasp. Most of the catches on the Chetco and Smith have been jacks — juvenile steelhead — with fairly low numbers of adult steelhead being reported through the week.
Martin said most of the jacks being caught this week have been hatchery fish, which is a little bit unusual.
On the ocean
It has been a nasty week of weather out on the ocean, keeping ocean anglers largely on dry land.
There should be plenty of bottomfish out there, as lots of lingcod had reportedly started to move close into shore near Brookings, providing great fishing before the storms hit.
Martin said that with even more powerful swells predicted for the weekend, many of the boats in Brookings Harbor have been taken out of the water. While Crescent City Harbor is a little bit more protected from the swells, there likely won’t be any boats getting out to fish until at least the middle of next week.
In normal years we would be about a month into the sport crabbing season in Northern California, while Oregon sportcrabbers are generally allowed to put out pots in the ocean starting Dec. 1. Elevated levels of domoic acid found mainly in the viscera and guts of crab have caused officials to keep crabbing closed on both sides of the border, however.
Meanwhile, crab quality testing in Northern California is showing that the Dungeness crab are still fairly small with a low ratio of meat, causing a delay in the commercial crabbing season in in Humboldt and Del Norte counties as well.
Domoic acid has also been hard on local clammers. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife closed all clamming out of Del Norte and Humboldt counties two years ago due to elevated levels of domoic acid found in the mussels, and it has never been reopened.
Southern Oregon has been experiencing similar issues, with domoic acid causing a closure to the clam take from the south jetty of the Umpqua River south to the California border.
Recently the CDFW issued a reminder that razor clam is still closed in the area. The CDFW also mentioned that recent testing indicated that clams in Northern California still contain between six and 15 times the level of domoic acid need to trigger a consumption warning.
Fishing contacts: Mike Coopman’s Guide Service at 707-218-4501; Jim Mitchell of Gotcha Hooked Fish Trips at 464-8482; Chetco Outdoor Store at 541-469-9151; Englund Marine Supply Company at 464-3230.