Upper Chetco River Fishing Trips
Salmon and steelhead fishing world class in Wild and Scenic section of Chetco River
The Chetco River has long been known as one of Oregon’s best salmon and steelhead streams, but most people who visit the legendary river only get to experience the lower 10 miles. Above Second Bridge, also known as Ice Box, is the beginning of the Wild and Scenic section of the Chetco. Here, within the Siskiyou National Forest boundary, is the Upper Chetco, an area rich with spectacular scenery, dozens of classic steelhead riffles, lots of deep salmon holes, and yes, lots and lots of giant fall king salmon and winter steelhead.
Despite being the most scenic area of the river, and a section with great fishing, the Upper Chetco has just a fraction of the boats and fishing pressure of the lower river. That’s because of its Wild and Scenic designation, which limits the number of river guides allowed to take customers there. Guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing is one of a very few Brookings guides with a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service to fish the Upper Chetco. The limited-entry permit allows him to take customers through the breathtaking stretch of river, where some of the biggest fish of the year are caught.
The Upper Chetco was designated Wild and Scenic by Congress in 1988. The area is protected from development and boat traffic is limited. As one of the guides with a special Upper Chetco permit, Andy’s customers experience world-class salmon and steelhead fishing without the crowded conditions that sometimes occur on the lower Chetco. Restrictions banning the use of motors in the Forest Service section of the Chetco add to the peaceful fishing experience there. And with fewer boats targeting the fish in the Upper River, catch rates can be spectacular, sometimes topping a dozen or more fish landed during a trip.
The Upper Chetco has prime salmon and steelhead halibut. Fish also tend to hold up in the upper river, compared to the lower river, where salmon and steelhead can sometimes quickly pass through to reach the upper river’s spawning grounds. The Upper Chetco also clears much quicker than the lower river after a major storm. There are times when fishing conditions are prime between the South Fork and Miller Bar on the upper river, while the lower river is still blown out following heavy rain.
Fishing is productive the entire salmon season in the upper river, well after the lower river’s salmon run has wound down. Steelhead also quickly swim into the upper river during high water, and can be found in large numbers in the flats between Low Water Bridge and Nook Bar. Salmon season on the upper river runs all of November and December. Steelhead season is best from late November through March.