Fishing Reports

Stormy weather, high water limits ocean, river fishing opportunities

BROOKINGS, Ore. (Jan. 21, 2024) – Stormy weather, with big swells, strong winds and rough bar conditions have kept the Southern Oregon ocean charter fleets at the docks, while steelhead fishing also has been hampered by near-flood conditions.

Lingcod and rockfish action is usually good during the winter months, when boats can get out, but ocean conditions have been rough and unfishable for most of January. More stormy weather is expected this week.

An angler holds a steelhead on the Smith River, caught last week with Capt. Andy.

Steelhead fishing on the Smith and Chetco rivers, meanwhile, also has been impacted by the stormy weather. January and February are peak season, but high, muddy water has limited the number of days fishing guides have been on the water. The Brookings Fishing Charters team of charter boat captains also are river guides, taking customers down the Smith and Chetco in drift boats. Light tackle is used to catch these prized, hard-fighting fish.

When conditions have been good, with dropping flows, and green water, steelhead fishing has been good. There have only been a few good days on the river so far this year. Better conditions are forecasted for next week. Catch rates generally improve quickly after high flows, as the rivers drop.

Capt. Rye navigates his drift boat through a fishy looking spot on the Smith River.

The Chetco reached 40,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) last week, the highest flows in four years. Minor flooding occurred on the Chetco and Smith, but flows were still well below the flood event of 2012, when flows hit 65,000 cfs. The Smith was near 100,000 cfs, or 30 feet, at the Highway 101 bridge. It rose 20 feet in 24 hours.

Water reaches the parking lot of Loeb State Park on the Chetco River in January when flows crested at 40,000 cfs.
The Chetco River at flood stage.
A flooded Chetco River, as seen from Second Bridge, or Ice Box, in mid January 2024.

Flows dropped to 5,000 cfs on Saturday on the Chetco before spiking again at 10,000 cfs on Sunday. Ideal conditions are below 4,000 cfs.

Steelhead fishing continues through March on the Chetco and April on the Smith.

Anglers admire a steelhead on the Smith River in January.

The Brookings Fishing Charters crew will run steelhead trips through the end of the season, but will be focusing on ocean charters for lingcod and rockfish more beginning in February. Lingcod move into shallow water during the winter months, fueling good fishing in shallow water on calmer days. The commercial crab fleet reported big numbers of smaller lingcod showing up in their crab pots, a sign the males are migrating in from deep water to prepare to spawn. March often produces some of the best lingcod fishing of the year, and we will be running trips daily, as the weather allows.

Learn more about steelhead fishing at For ocean charters, book online at, or call (541) 813-1082.

Capt. Mick on the Smith River in January 2024.

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