Chetco Estuary Best Bet for Kings

Eric Woyce, of San Francisco, holds a 25-pound king salmon caught Oct. 7 while fishing the Chetco River estuary with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He was trolling a herring behind a Fish Flash flasher. 
Photo courtesy of Wild Rivers Fishing

By Kenny Priest

Over on the Smith River, the tidewater fishing hasn’t been as good. But that may not be for a lack of fish. The rain that fell on Saturday pushed the flows up to 600 cfs, which is plenty for the fish to move out of the estuary and into the heart of the river. According to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine, there aren’t many fish staging in the estuary right now. “There’s been one or two fish caught per day,” said Carson. “There’s been a few boats trolling sardines and anchovies as well as bank anglers tossing Kastmasters and Cleos. The Sand Hole has some fish in it but the seals were making their life miserable,” added Carson.

If you’re looking for fresh kings with the potential for a big one, the Chetco estuary is the place to be. Salmon have been staging in the tidewater since the latter part of September. And they’ll continue to do so until ample rain allows them to make their way upriver. Following last Saturday’s rain, which bumped the flows from under 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) to nearly 500, some salmon were able to navigate out of the tidewater. But there should be plenty more heading in from the salt to take their place. “The biggest king caught last week was around 45 pounds, with several near 30 and an impressive number of jacks,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “After fishing well for a week, the fishing slowed over the weekend as rain allowed many of the salmon schooling there to shoot upriver.” Catch rates went from two to three fish a rod last week — mostly jacks — to just a handful of fish overall on Sunday and Monday. One adult salmon a day, wild or hatchery, may be kept per day on the Chetco, with an annual limit of two wild fish. Anglers must “rack their rods” once an adult is kept. The river remains closed above mile 2.2 because of low flows.

Upper Klamath/Trinity quota update

According to Dan Troxel, an environmental scientist on the Klamath River Project, the Upper Klamath quota for adult king salmon will be met as of 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18. This triggers the closure of the adult Chinook salmon fishery on the main stem of the Klamath River from 3,500 feet downstream of the Iron Gate Dam to the State Route 96 bridge at Weitchpec. 

The Upper Trinity follows a week later, with no adult retention beginning Oct. 25. No closure date has been provided for the Lower Trinity. The Upper Klamath and Upper Trinity will remain open for harvest of jack (two-year-old) Chinook salmon (less than or equal to 23 inches). All adult Chinook salmon caught must be immediately released and reported on an angler’s North Coast Salmon Report Card. For more information, visit

The Rivers:

Lower Klamath

The salmon action has slowed on the lower Klamath but there are still some bright fish around. The few boats still fishing are finding most of their success above Blue Creek. There isn’t much pressure this time of the year but the fishing can be good as some of the late-run kings start to stage in front of the bigger creeks. The daily bag limit is two jack Chinook 23-inches or smaller and two hatchery steelhead.


According to Junction City Store owner Frank Chapman, the section from Junction City to Del Loma is seeing a good number of kings. “There’s lots of jacks and a few adults around,” said Chapman. “Most of the adults I’ve seen are older but there are a few fresh ones mixed in. There are some steelhead around, too, but not a ton.” Reportedly, salmon are in the lower river as well, but the bulk of the salmon are being stopped behind the CDFW weir at Kimtu.

Kenny Priest (he/him) operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email

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