The Chetco River
The Chetco River
The mere mention of Southern Oregon's Chetco River will spark a glow in the eyes of serious fisherman. Just 20 miles North of California's Smith River, the Chetco is a world class fishery for both king salmon and steelhead. A short coastal system, she gathers her waters from the Kalmiopsis Wilderness before emptying into the ocean at the town of Brookings. With a relatively quick clearing time after a big rain, the Chetco is just a couple days behind the Smith and is generally fishable within three or four days.
King salmon flood the Chetco River with the first fall rains offering shots at fish into the 60 pound class. October and November are generally the peak of the run with good action stretching into December. Most of the fishing effort is focused on the lower 5 miles of the system so the majority of the fish are just hours out of the salt. Sardine wrapped kwickfish and roe back-bounced or fished behind a diver account for most of the salmon on this river.
By mid December thoughts start turning to the huge steelhead run that ascends the Chetco each winter. A fantastic hatchery program ensures thousands of fin clipped, 6 to 10 pound fish that pile up throughout the the lower river. During the peak of the run in January and February, it's not uncommon to run across huge pods of these chrome missiles making for potential double digit days. The hatchery run is joined by a healthy wild population that pass through the lower river in January, February and March on their way to their spawning grounds in the headwaters. Side-drifting roe and a fish pill on light line is the best way to tempt a Chetco River steelhead making for great battles on light spinning gear.