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SALMON SEASON OPENS

An estimated 400 to 500 chinook salmon were caught off Brookings on Saturday, the opening day of the second half of the salmon season.

That number was matched on Sunday, and fishing showed no signs of slowing on Monday.

Its been like Disneyland here this weekend, said Port Security volunteer Dan Thies Monday morning.

Unbelievable, said Jock Headlee, a fisheries technician with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Its the best fishing Ive seen for years, said Headlee Monday, Everybody is bringing in their limits.

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Headlee should know. Hes lived in Gold Beach for 37 years, and his job with the commission is collecting data on fishing.

Headlee estimated 400-500 salmon were caught on Saturday. That was backed up by Janet Kronemeyer, one of the new owners of Sporthaven Marina. She estimated 800 to 1,000 salmon caught over the weekend.

It was truly an exciting weekend, she said.

Locals werent the only ones impressed.

I cant believe it, said Joe Litteriello of Grants Pass, I come here every year. This is the best Ive ever seen. I threw one away that I would have kept last year. He said he released the fish to let it grow up.

Accompanying Litteriello on the Fuzz Bucket were Jim Madison, 87, and his wife Bess, 86. The trio set out at 7:30 a.m. Monday and caught four salmon by 9 a.m. All were caught three-and-a-half to four miles out. The four salmon weighed 23, 21, 13 and 12 pounds.

Jim Bithell and Mike Jensen of Brookings, aboard the Bunky, returned by 11 a.m. Monday with two salmon, 16 and 8 pounds.

Bithell was happy. Hed already caught a 30-pounder Saturday. Its been fantastic fishing, he said.

Joe Stahl, 92, of Brookings and his son Richard, of Bullhead City, Ariz., caught three salmon from the Kokomo Joe about three miles out.

He goes fishing every chance he gets, said Richard of his father. He said theyd caught, and released, two small coho salmon Monday.

Kronemeyer told the sad tale of a man who didnt know the difference between a chinook and a protected coho salmon this weekend.

He didnt know he was doing anything illegal, so he cleaned his prize and put it in his ice chest. With no place else to keep the salmon, he took the chest back out with him the next day, and was fined $350 when he returned to port.

He might have gotten away with the whole thing if hed left with the fish on the day he caught it.

Better yet, the fisherman could have looked at the display of chinook and coho salmon near the restrooms at the boat ramp.

The lifelike models were set up by the South Coast Fishermen to help people identify the two types of salmon and avoid stiff fines.

While most of the chinook caught so far have been between 10 and 20 pounds, Headlee said hed seen some in the 40-pound range.

Kronemeyer said the largest ones brought into the Sporthaven Marina over the weekend were the 39.7-pounder caught by Jim Carothers aboard the Fish Finder, and the 36.8-pounder caught by Chet Frazer from the Seabarb.

Sporthaven Marina will give away a rod and reel combo to whoever catches the largest salmon by time the season ends on Sept. 10, Kronemeyer said.

She urged fishermen to bring in their catches and have them weighed at Sporthaven and enter the contest.

Former charter boat operator Lance Badger now runs Poor Daddys Galley restaurant in the marina, but Kronemeyer said she can arrange charters with Tidewinds, Chart House Dave, or Gillys Sport Fishing.

She said the three remaining charter operators at the port are now booked-up a week in advance.

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