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Huge kings caught, steelhead show early in Chetco

Western Outdoor News
Published: Nov 22, 2017
BROOKINGS, Ore . — Most anglers were focusing on salmon over the weekend on the Chetco River, especially after 48- and 44-pound kings were landed, but a handful of early steelhead are also creating excitement for the winter season.

Big kings also are still showing up, and after the 48-pound king was caught at the beginning of last week, a 44-pounder was caught over the weekend. The 48-pound, 47-inch king was caught Nov. 12 by Shannon Lemieux of Junction City, Ore., who was back-trolling a HawgNose FlatFish while fishing with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing.


48-POUND KING — Shannon Lemieux of Junction City, Ore., holds a 48-pound king caught Nov. 12 on the Chetco River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. The salmon hit a HawgNose FlatFish. The Chetco, as well as the Smith River in California, is known for big king salmon.

Ryan Swanson of Seattle, fishing with guide Rye Phillips, caught a 44-pound king on Saturday, Nov. 18, on a MagLip plug. Several salmon topping 30 pounds also were caught last week.

While big kings are something the Chetco and nearby Smith River are famous for, early steelhead also have grabbed the spotlight.

Steelhead usually begin to arrive around Thanksgiving, and this year the run is off to a good, and early start on the Chetco. Mike Van Camp, who works at the Chetco Outdoor Store in Brookings, was running plugs for salmon below Social Security Bar last Saturday when a 15-pound hatchery steelhead slammed his 5.0 MagLip. Three smaller steelhead also were confirmed on Saturday and another three were caught on Sunday. Last Friday, a plunker at Social Security Bar caught the first confirmed adult steelhead of the season on the Chetco.

“The steelhead are here early this year, and early fish typically indicate a big run,” Martin said. “I would expect quite a few steelhead to be in the river when the water drops after this week’s big storm.”

The Chetco was down to 4,000 cfs over the weekend, after hitting 8,500 cfs earlier in the week. The river was blown out much of last week, and is expected to blow out again early this week as another storm hits the coast. The National Weather Service predicted the Chetco would top 7,000 cfs before Thanksgiving.

"The salmon fishing was fair on Saturday and Sundat," Martin said. "Most of the guides caught a fish or two early in the day and then there were a few more fish caught as the driftboats moved downriver." Some of the salmon have already started spawning, and more likely will be on the spawning beds after this week's storm.

"We have been getting a lot of rain, so the Chetco has remained high," Martin said. "I would say less than half of the days of November have been fishable. We have had to cancel a lot of trips. The high water has allowed a big part of the run to make it upriver beyond where we can fish for them."

After Thanksgiving, Martin said he will spend half of his time side-drifting for steelhead and the rest of his time back-bouncing roe or running plugs for salmon. By mid-December he said steelhead will be the main focus.

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