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Anglers slay steelhead on Chetco/Rogue

On Oregon Waters, Larry Ellis,

ith a dropping river and textbook aqua-marine coloration, combined with a few schools of fish, anglers were able to slay the fatted steelhead on the Chetco River last week. This is the most action I have seen on this river in several years. I think it’s safe to say that the drought is over.

Most anglers fished from the bank last week plunking number 4 or 6 Flame Chartreuse-colored Spin-N-Glos, with the majority of boaters side-drifting Puff Balls and roe.

“It was pretty high for drifting on Saturday,” said guide Val Early of Early Fishing. “The plunkers did really, really good on Saturday and Sunday when the water was more in their favor, then the river kind of turned more in favor of boats.”

On Saturday, the Chetco River flows averaged from 5,000 cfs to 4,500 cfs, and on Sunday the river dropped to approximately 3,500 cfs with perfect color and visibility.

On Monday, the river was maintained at 3,500 cfs and there were plunkers at Social Security Bar who had limited out on steelhead ranging from 8 to 14 pounds. There were a lot of hatchery fish caught.

Wyatt Lewis from Smith River, California caught a steelhead that was half as big as he . Photo by Larry Ellis
Wyatt Lewis from Smith River, California caught a steelhead that was half as big as he is while side-drifting Puff Balls and roe on the Chetco River with his family on Monday.

“The fishing has been OK, especially for the beginning of the run,” Early noted on Wednesday. “And there are fish spread throughout the whole system. It seems like we’re seeing a good number of hatchery fish right now. Everybody thinks that we’re just getting small ones, but they’re not all small. In fact, I got a 19-1/2 pound hatchery fish yesterday.”

Another local guide has been hammering the steelhead.

“We’re getting something like 4 fish a day on average,” said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “It’s off to a real good start for December. Conditions are perfect right now. Day by day a little bit of snow melts and keeps the river looking perfect green.”

And the lower Rogue has turned for winter steelhead last week as well, and I anticipate that the fishing will just keep on getting better as January progresses.

“The Rogue has been very good fishing for winter steelhead,” said Jim Carey, owner of the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach on Wednesday. “We’re not having great success on hatchery fish. I would say that one out of seven fish have been hatchery fish and all of the bank fishermen have been having very good success.”

Fishermen have been fishing depths averaging 3 feet and the plunkers are using Spin-N-Glos in the colors Flame Chartreuse and Pearl Pink.

“Fishermen have been having a good amount of success at all the gravel bars,” added Carey. “There have been multiple guys with 7 fish a day. There are some gravel bars with 20 fishermen on them picking up plenty of fish to see some action.”

Carey mentioned that most of the Rogue River anglers are running a two-lure system, with a Spin-N-Glo on the bottom rigged up through a slider.

“Multiple guys are running down secondary lures that have a beak on them that will dive their way down to where they put the bobber stopper, or a rubber band and bead so they will have another presentation.”

For your upper diving lure, anglers will tie on a cop car-colored Hot Shot using about a 27-inch leader leading to a snap swivel. Make your normal cast with the Spin-N-Glo then set your rod in your rod holder. Open the snap and close it over the line so the line runs through the snap and then lift your rod high in the air and wiggle it side-to-side until the lure makes contact with the water. It’s a lot of fun to see your rod tip wiggling to the rhythm of the diving lure.

January is the month where anglers are allowed to keep one wild steelhead a day over 24-inches long, with a maximum of 5 fish a year.

Another popular Rogue River tactic is to launch your sled and anchor up on an inside bend near a clump of willows, in approximately 3 to 4 feet of water, and put out plugs like Brads Wigglers and Wee Wigglers in the colors gold with a red back and gold with a black back. Set your rod in its holder and wait for a savage take-down.

So don’t forget to buy your fishing license and your Adult Combined Angling Tag for 2016. It looks like the steelhead fishing is kicking in with style.

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. Posted with permission of the Curry Coastal Pilot of Brookings, Oregon

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