Chetco River Will Close in 7 Days

Chetco River - Brookings, OR (Curry County)

David Castellanos had no problem limiting out his clients on Sunday on big black rockfish and lingcod when the ocean was as flat as a piece of glass out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. Photo by Larry Ellis

by Larry Ellis

The Chetco River has had its slow to moderately mediocre days this year, but no matter how good or bad the fishing may be, the Chetco's last fishing day will be in exactly one week, when the river will close its doors to fishing of any kind one hour after sunset on March 31.

It will not open back up until May 22, a time when folks focus primarily on sea-run cutthroat trout in the Chetco River.  May 22 is not a time when anglers will be targeting winter steelhead in the Chetco or Chinook, because the winter steelhead run will be over and this is not a time when salmon enter this particular river.

It is however, a time when anglers might be able to try their luck at fishing for Chinook in the ocean, depending if Alternative 1 gets the nod from the PFMC, which has a season from May 19 through August 26.

In the meantime, anglers, mostly plunkers, will still get one last shot at tossing Spin-N-Glos from the bank at various times this week because the National Weather Service has predicted that the Chetco will rise over 18,000 cfs this weekend, and the Chetco plunks well over 4,000 cfs.  So anglers should be able to get a few last licks in on the winter steelhead run as the river is on-the-drop after the weekend and into the first part of the week.

Meanwhile anglers have been getting an occasional spring Chinook in the lower Rogue River, although the run is not yet at its peak.

"There were four springers caught from Agness to the mouth yesterday," says John Anderson from Memory Makers Rogue River Guide Service in Gold Beach on Thursday.  "And I believe that three of them were hatchery fish."

In the meantime, Anderson will be fun fishing for the springers until he sees that the run is strong enough to take out his clients, which should be gaining momentum in 2 to 3 weeks.

"When I start catching fish, then I start calling people," notes Anderson. "I'm not in it for the money; I'm in it for fish.

Rockfish and Lingcod Totally Off the Hook
Fishing for the bottom-grabbers out of the Port of Brookings Harbor has been very good at times, even when there has been a slight wind chop.

But there have been a few days in a row a week where the ocean laid down like a sheet of liquid mercury, with less than 6 knot winds that have enticed anglers to throw their favorite bait, plastic concoction or leadfish.

This is the time of year when Oregon anglers can fish with no depth restrictions.  But after March 31, the ocean will be closed to bottomfish and lingcod outside the 30 fathom (180 feet) curve, but will remain open inside of 180 feet.  Since most anglers catch their bottomfish in depths less than 120 feet - no big whoop.

That being said, anglers have had no problem at limiting out on their 5-fish marine bag limit, which in the most part consists of various types of rockfish.  As part of this 5-fish marine bag limit, an angler may also keep kelp greenling (sea trout) if they decide to do so.

In addition to the 5-fish marine bag limit, anglers may also keep 2 lingcod (minimum size limit of 22 inches).  Folks have had no trouble catching their limits of lingcod as well.

For rockfish, anglers have been using either whole baitfish (such as anchovies) used on a mooching-type rig.  They have also been doing quite well fishing with various soft plastics such as the twin-tail Scampi-type rig or the Kalin Mogambo-type single tail plastics.  Most anglers have had their most luck using between 2- to 3-ounce jig heads.

In addition, and this is my favorite rig by the way, the D.O.A. C.A.L. 5.5-inch soft plastic jerk baits work excellently as well.  I only need to carry two colors in order to be deadly effective for rockfish and lingcod. Those colors are Nite Glow and Melon Back.  The Melon Back color just slays both rockfish and lingcod, and the Nite Glow is a great backup color.

You can order these killer soft plastics directly from the company at  When you get to the website, navigate directly to 'Saltwater' and then click on 'C.A.L. Jerkbaits'.  From here, click on 4" and 5.5" Jerk Bait Colors.

The 4-inch models have a forked split tail and they work OK, but the 5.5-inch models have what's called a 'diamond tail' with an enclosed tail inside the diamond shape.  It is in this diamond tail where the action just begins.  You'll have fun playing with all the other different colors, and they work excellently, but trust me on this one, the two aforementioned colors are all you need to bring home the bacon on any given day.

I like to use these things on 2-ounce long-shanked jig heads, and I will make sure that the plastics don't slide off the jig head be applying ONLY 3 DROPS at the most of the gel-type Super Glue.

I often wondered what a larger version of this killer plastic combo would do for Pacific halbut (when the season rolls around) if you dropped down a Nite Glow colored plastic on a heavier jig head.

Work these things so that they purposefully get bit on-the-drop and hold on!

Don't forget that ever boat fishing for bottomfish and lingcod must now carry a workable and ready-to-use descending device on board.

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 author of two books, "Plug Fishing for Salmon" and "Buoy 10, the World's Largest Salmon Run."  Both books can be bought from Amato Publications (, Amazon and eBay. Ellis particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise.

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