Oregon Freshwater

After weeks of high water, Chetco anglers now face low, clear conditions

Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Feb 08, 2018

BROOKINGS, Ore. — With no rain in the 10-day forecast, anglers on the Chetco River who had been waiting for a break in the stormy weather for several weeks are now on the verge of going back to a rain dance.

The Chetco was in prime shape last week and over the weekend, but is expected to be low and clear by the end of this week. Flows Sunday were 2,240 cfs, with green water in all the deeper pools and riffles. The Flows hit 18,000 cfs two weeks ago, and were in the prime 4,500 cfs to 3,000 cfs range all of last week.

JOHN RICH OF Corvallis, Ore., hold a hatchery steelhead he caught Feb. 2 while fishing the Chetco River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The fish hit a cluster of roe cured with Pautzke’s BorXOFire combined with an orange Corky.

"The river fished really well last week, with plenty of hatchery fish down low, and wild fish spread throughout the river," said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. Martin said his clients caught four to six steelhead a day on the better days last week, and two fish on the slower days.

"We are getting them side-drifting roe with orange Corkies," Martin said. “The flows have been ideal for using the 3/4-ounce unweighted Mad River Drifters. The conditions have been perfect for side-drifting." John Rich of Corvallis, Ore., caught a 14-pound wild steelhead last week with Martin, as well as a 12-pound hatchery fish. Bill Ogren of Grants Pass, Ore., caught a pair of steelhead in the 10-pound range. Greg Danz of Redwood City and Tony Pribyl of San Francisco landed four steelhead during a drift from the South Fork with Martin last week.

Guide Steve Huber of Steve Huber's Guide Service has been side-drifting roe and also running plugs. On Saturday, he got his customers into a double using Yakima Bait MagLip plugs on the upper Chetco. Guide Rye Phillips of Brookings got Jeff and Laurie Bounsall of Santa Rosa into a pair of nice steelhead last week.

Flows are expected to be around 1,000 cfs by the weekend. While they will be low and clear, guides said they expect fishing to remain solid, as there are fish spread throughout the river, and new schools of steelhead have been coming in daily with the tide.

Last week's good fishing helped the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife collect dozens of steehead for the Chetco's hatchery program. All of the fish used to produce hatchery steelhead smolts on the Chetco come from wild steelhead that are caught by anglers fishing with guides, as well as private anglers, who donate them to the hatchery. Guides carry live wells to transport the fish they donate to collection pens placed on the lower river.

Through last Friday, the hatchery had collected 54 steelhead, with 28 bucks and 26 hens. The hatchery program is now halfway toward its annual goal.

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