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Ideal rain sparks river salmon bite

On Oregon Waters, by Larry Ellis, author badge,

almon fishermen love to see rain, but they don't like to see too much of it at one time. The ideal condition that anglers hope for is enough rain to raise a river to fishable levels, but not a total blowout that floods the area and sends fish packing upriver all at one time.

All I have to say is it's about time!

Last week Mother Nature brought picture-perfect rain conditions to rivers ranging from California's Smith north through Oregon's Winchuck, Chetco, Elk and Sixes Rivers. These are accordion-style pulsations of rain that anglers dream about - a little bit here and a little bit there.

Anglers fishing California's Smith River last week saw plenty of action drifting anywhere from Ruby Van Deventer County Park down to the Outfitters.

Andy Martin from Wild Rivers fishing put clients on fish on both the Smith and Chetco Rivers.

Jim Hall with large kings, . Photo by the author, courtesy of Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing
«Jim Hall from Eugene, Oregon fished the Chetco River on Thursday with Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing when Jim caught these two nice kings while back-trolling wrapped MagLip and Hawgnose Flatfish. Photo by the author, courtesy of Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing

On Thursday under the worst possible river conditions, when the Chetco was on the rise and kicking out muddy water, Martin still managed to connect his clients with five salmon hookups. Two of the kings were lost, one was released and two were kept.

The Chetco River has finally semi-stabilized with three river rises just under 4,000 cfs in three weeks. The ideal flows for the Chetco are between

2,500 and 4,000 cfs. These flows allow drift boat anglers to pull plugs, back-bounce roe, or side-drift Puff Balls and roe, or for bank fishermen to drift-fish Corkies and roe.

Further north on the Elk River, the water level was 4.7 feet on Thursday morning, with perfect pastoral-green water clarity. Numerous Chinook pushed their way upriver to the Elk River Hatchery on Wednesday and Thursday.

"The last report on the Elk was yesterday (Wednesday)," said Ted Whitmore from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach on Thursday. "A guy came in who had four people in the boat, and everybody limited. And they were really nice fish too."

The Elk should be kicking out large Chinook at least through the end of the month and into December. After the Elk drops and clears in a few days, the Sixes River located just a few miles north of the Elk becomes the go-to stream.

Daily gage heights and water conditions for the Elk are available via a recording at 541-332-0405. The ideal height is 4.5 feet and there are only a few places where you can put in. If you're a first timer, it is best to hire a guide for this narrow stream, but the rewards are well worth it.

For a full-day float, drift from the lower end of the hatchery (the Chicken Ramp) down to Ironhead. Ironhead is an ODFW easement located precisely eight-tenths of a mile east of Highway 101 and is the lowest take-out on the Elk. Do not miss the Ironhead take-out because there are no more take-outs downriver.

For a three-quarter-day float, drift from the hatchery down to Elk River RV (charge for launching here).

For a shorter float, and I like this one a lot, put in at the RV Park and take out at Ironhead.

Approximately 35 members of the Oregon South Coast Fishermen (OSCF) held their last meeting of the year on Wednesday, November 18. Guests were STEP biologist John Weber and fisheries biologist Damien Hawley-Jones, both from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's (ODFW) field office in Gold Beach.

Weber spoke about the importance of the club volunteering to collect scales and snouts from spawned out Chinook salmon carcasses, an activity which will take place this coming December.

Before OSCF took part in this scale-sampling procedure, ODFW was only able to secure scales and snouts from a small amount of spawned out salmon, sometimes as few as 10 fish a year.

Now with the help of OSCF, the two agencies can now easily sample over 100, sometimes 200 carcasses a year.

Weber explained that collecting scales from salmon carcasses was essential for reconstructing future Chinook runs on the Chetco River.

The more carcasses that can be sampled, the more accurate the data will be for accurately reconstructing the following year's salmon run.

Tight lines!

Larry Ellis, author, writer, columnist and photographer has had a 50-year passion for fishing in California and Oregon's saltwater and freshwater venues. He is a well-known writer for Oregon, Washington and California Fishing and Hunting News, Northwest Sportsman, California Sportsman and Pacific Coast Sportfishing. He currently writes monthly for Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine, and is the weekly fishing columnist for "On the Water" for the Curry Coastal Pilot Newspaper. He particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise. On the Water by Larry Ellis is posted with permission of the Curry Coastal Pilot of Brookings, Oregon.

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