October was kind in dispersing early rains to the Northern California coast. The town of Brookings, Ore., and Smith River received as much as 6 inches in a one-day period. This influx brought the Smith and Chetco Rivers up to high levels. The surge of fresh water is all it took to get king salmon to start their way up river. Anglers had a great time as the river levels dropped back to fishable conditions.
Jim Davis from Mad River Manufacturing in Arcata reported, “We caught 13 salmon and hooked a few others.”
Jim and his friends drifted the Smith River. They started at the forks of the Smith and floated to Ruby Park on the lower river. They reported six fish during the early hours before they saw any other boats.
The three-man team finished the day with two nice fish they kept, a 22-pounder and a 30-pounder. The good thing this time of year is these salmon are fresh from the ocean.
The Chetco River in southern Oregon has started to produce good salmon fishing, also. Prior to the rains, large salmon were caught in the ocean just outside the breakwater, and a few tipped the scales at 50 pounds. The Chetco takes a couple days longer to clear and lower than the Smith does after a large amount of rain. Fishermen did well here, with an average of four to six fish per boat.
The Eel River also had a flush of new water, and a few early kings are making their way into the main stream of the river.
The Sacramento River has had a poor return, but the rains did help this system see a few more late-season Chinook. Fall salmon fishing on these rivers is very fun, and the autumn colors can make the trip even more scenic on the coastal watersheds.
But the window of fishable time on these rivers is short, as the rivers drop back to a low, clear state during the fall. Another difficulty of autumn salmon fishing is the amount of leaves that flush down river. The leaves load up on bait and lures.
The best techniques for salmon fishing in the river are to pull quick fish plugs and “back-bouncing” roe. Both techniques have their advantages; plugs cause a ravenous strike and are very exciting to use.
Back-bouncing roe (salmon eggs) is a great way to get fish in low, clear water or when the sun is out.
The natural approach of roe is a stealthy technique.
- Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 15 years.