The Chetco River has always been on my radar because of it being one of the last rivers in the lower 48 where you have a legitimate shot at catching a true trophy king. However, up until last year I’d never made the 3 hour drive over from Medford. Last November I fished the tidewater section, but couldn’t scratch up a single fish. At that point I made the decision to return this year, and start to actually learn the river.
The year passed by fairly quickly, and our fall rains arrived last week just in time for the Chetco to open. We actually ended up receiving enough rain that the ODFW opened the river 3 days early. As soon as I saw the announcement, it was time to get things in motion, and everything lined up perfectly for a Friday and Saturday trip.
Friday morning found my buddy Jeff and I putting the drift boat in for the first time on the Chetco. We had talked to fellow Pautzke Pro Staffer Paul LeFebvre the night before, and he’d set us up with a pretty good game plan for the day. It was a good enough game plan that with in the first 30 minutes we had a take down, but unfortunately it didn’t stick. The rest of the drift went by pretty slowly. We mostly watched other boats hook up as we tried to learn the lay of the land. As we neared the end of the drift, we decided to head back to where we put in, and had our only action for the day.
That single move ended up making not only our day, but our entire year. With in three minutes of fishing, Jeff had our right rod completely buried, and the fight was on. 5 minutes later and I had my hands on the biggest king I’ve ever landed.
Not once did it ever cross my mind to keep it. Releasing the beast, that I couldn’t even lift out of the water for a picture, made much more sense to me. These big kings are a dying bread, and I wanted to make sure the genetics could be passed on. Our best estimates put it in the 42-45lb range which is good enough for me.
We finished off day 1 with one more take down that was on long enough to peel of 50 yards of line before coming unbuttoned.
Day #2 found us in the front of Paul LeFebvre’s boat for a drift down the entire river. It was more of a learning trip for us, than one to get into a lot of fish. The river had also dropped and cleared considerably from the day before, which made things a little slower going. Half way through the drift we still managed to tie into another fine Chetco specimen.
It wasn’t near as big as day one’s beast, but it was still released. The day passed without another hit, but spending a day with such a knowledgeable angler is always priceless.
Both fish we landed came on K15’s with Pautzke Nectar soaked sardine wraps. For more information on the process check out the FireBlog: Pautzke Nectar Infuses Salmon Plugs.
The Chetco has continued to drop and clear over the weekend, and it’s making things tough. It’s pretty much only a bobber show now, and floating the river is difficult with the skinny water. Things should turn right back on after the next decent rain.