Smith, Chetco rivers drop into prime shape for steelhead

JUST BEAUTIFUL – Mike Martucci of Eureka holds a chrome-bright king salmon he caught Dec. 19 on the Chetco River while fishing with guide Michael McGahan of Wild Rivers Fishing. He was side-drifting roe for steelhead.

SMITH RIVER – The Smith and Chetco rivers dropped into prime shape for steelhead over the weekend, but catch rates remained on the slow side as the peak season is still a week or two away.

Guide Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips drifted the Smith on Friday and found big numbers of half-pounders but didn’t catch any adult steelhead. A few larger steelhead were caught by plunkers on the lower river. Schools of adult steelhead could arrive any time, Thomas said, adding the peak season is from the end of December through early March. January and early February usually produce the best fishing, he said.

The Smith crested at 30,000 cfs, or 17 feet, at the Jed Smith gauge last week. It was 8 feet on Sunday evening, in prime shape for steelhead. The river is a perfect emerald green color, Thomas said, and with periodic rain this week, should remain in great shape for Christmas weekend.

The Chetco also is in prime shape after blowing out the middle of last week. It reached 11,000 cfs but was down to 3,360 cfs on Sunday evening. Anything between 4,000 and 2,000 cfs is prime, said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.


Steelhead fishing also is slow on the Chetco, but some adult fish are being caught by drift boaters and plunkers fishing from shore. A handful of adult steelhead are being caught daily by anglers side-drifting roe from Ice Box to Social Security Bar. Many of the fish are on the lower river. A few late king salmon also are being caught.

Salmon fishing was fair on the Elk and Sixes rivers over the weekend.