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Chetco fishing rules to tighten

Chetco River anglers will have their bobbers-only fishing for fall chinook salmon extended indefinitely because of low-water conditions, but there are no plans to close the fishery until rains materialize, state fish managers say.

In order to prevent snagging, Chetco anglers are required to use bobbers and leaders no longer than 36 inches when fishing for chinook with bait or lures. The restrictions were scheduled to end Nov. 4, giving way to the regular complement of fishing options.

But the restrictions will remain in place indefinitely until river conditions allow the normal dispersal of chinook, which largely remain stuck in tidewater holes waiting for the river to rise.

“We want to see sustained flows so those chinook disperse,” said Steve Mazur, the Gold Beach District fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The change, which will go through Dec. 31 if conditions don’t change, applies on the Chetco from the top of tidewater at River Mile 2.2 to the mouth of Nook Creek. The rules also apply to the nearby Winchuck River from the mouth to Wheeler Creek, Mazur said.

They don’t apply to the Elk and Sixes rivers, two other popular Curry County chinook streams.

The Chetco is expected to have an average year, with an estimated 2,492 wild chinook expected to escape anglers and spawn, Mazur said. The lowest minimum target, called the “conservation criteria,” for the Chetco is 1,440 wild adult chinook spawners.

The Chetco is also home to a robust hatchery program with 200,000 chinook smolts released annually.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Andy Martin, left, and Carl Johnson of Brookings display a 58-pound chinook salmon caught Sept. 30 in Chetco Bay.