Steelhead make early showing on Smith, Chetco

MICHAEL McGAHAN, a guide with Wild Rivers Fishing and Brookings Fishing Charters, holds his first steelhead of the season from the Chetco River. He caught the hatchery fish Dec. 6 drifting roe.

SMITH RIVER – Although a few late salmon are still being caught, many anglers on the Smith and Chetco rivers have switched gears to steelhead and have been pleased with some early season catches.

Good numbers of steelhead have already been caught on the Chetco, while Smith River anglers also are encountering early steelhead. A big storm in the forecast this weekend could draw in bigger numbers of steelhead.

Guide Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips was on the Smith last week, and with few other boats on the water, he got into decent numbers of kings on the lower river. There also were lots of half-pounder steelhead caught and a few adult steelhead, Thomas said. There are riffles between Outhouse and Outfitters where anglers can hook into half-pounders on nearly every cast, Thomas said.

The Smith closed above Rowdy Creek on Saturday as flows dropped to 600 cfs, but reopened Sunday morning as flows at Jed Smith passed 900 cfs. Another closure is possible this week as flows drop. A big storm is expected by the weekend, however. Call the CDFW low-flow hotline at (707) 822-3164 for the latest conditions and closures on North Coast rivers.


Shore anglers got into good numbers of steelhead on the Chetco over the weekend. Half a dozen adult steelhead, many of them hatchery fish, were caught at Social Security Bar on Sunday. Drift boaters upriver have been catching half-pounders, sea-run cutthroat trout, a few later salmon and some early adult steelhead. Steelhead fishing also was decent last week, with numerous adult fish caught on the lower river.

The Chetco dropped to 600 cfs on Saturday but jumped to 1,000 cfs on Sunday. Early forecasts showed the river may reach 2,200 cfs early next week. “If the river gets above 2,000 cfs, steelhead fishing should be really good,” said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “There already are plenty of fish in the river, and with good flows catch rates will go up for both shore anglers and drift boaters.”