By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
Anglers start your engines. This is one week where you should be prepared to throw the whole tackle box at the fish. If you get lucky, you just might hit a Chinook on the head with it!
The weather's been so kooky it's made the salmon very spooky. Seriously, you're going to need all your fishing skills at your disposal and that means carrying plenty of bobbers, drift-fishing gear and possibly even your plunking box.
Last week, the salmon fishing in the Chetco was tough, even for the best fishermen. The river flow was 450 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Nov. 2, and with no rain all week, the levels kept dropping until it hit 308 cfs on Nov. 8. That created gin-clear water conditions. Until we get some rain, that means it's going to be a bobber-type situation.
Some fishermen who hit Social Security Hole at first legal light were catching a few fish using Kastmasters with glow tape, but as soon as a molecule of light hit the atmosphere, the salmon became scared of their own shadows.
"It's lake-like conditions with window pane-like clarity with very frightened fish that are quite attuned to low water," said Jack Hanson of jacksguideservice.com. "It's really amazing. They've become conditioned to it. They're a lot smarter than you think."
Hanson is probably the best bobber fisherman extant. Several years ago he wrote the quintessential multi-segment primer on bobber fishing for the magazine Salmon Trout Steelheader entitled "Bobberology 101." I've had the good fortune to bobber fish the Smith River with Jack and he really knows the nuances of fishing the floats.
Hanson suggests using size 1 hooks with 5-foot leaders using 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon and very small nickel-size baits.
However, that situation may change soon. It looks like we may be in for a series of low-pressure fronts. So if you don't own raingear, you better buy some before the stores run out.
Saturday's forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of rain during the day and an 80 percent chance at night. Both Veterans Day and night calls for a 50 percent chance of precipitation. Rain on Monday is 60-percent likely and from Tuesday through Thursday there is a chance of rain.
The ground around the Chetco should be pretty much saturated by now. It wasn't more than three weeks ago that the river rose to 33,500 cfs, so if we get a gully washer or two, there is a good chance that the river will rise to the occasion for drift-fishing and possibly even plunking.
Remember that a good rule of thumb is that the Chetco is the last river to rise and the last to clear. What that means is, after a good healthy freshet, the Chetco takes at least one to two days before it even begins to rise.
Cut this portion of the
newspaper out for a
Everyone should be the masters of their own fishing destiny, so please, start visiting rivervilla.com. When you get there, click on "Recreational River Flows." That will bring you to all the rivers of any importance around these parts. The Chetco's site keeps outstanding records of river height and flows.
From here you can make your own decisions on what to use and when, based on the cfs discharge of the Chetco. As I've often said, it's a bobber show below 700 cfs. Between 1,000 and 2,000 cfs you can begin drift-fishing from the bank or back-bouncing roe from a drift-boat.
When the river approaches 3,000 to 4,000 cfs, then it's drift-fishing from the bank, or pulling sardine-wrapped Kwikfish and FlatFish from a drift-boat.
Driftboats have a hard time navigating the Chetco in anything above 4,000 cfs. Between 4,000 and 8,000 cfs, depending on water clarity, the plunkers own the river.
A flat ocean means
rockfish and lingcod
In November and December, you're always going to get a few days where the ocean lays down like a sheet of liquid mercury, which is exactly what happened last week. When that scenario occurs, it's time to whack some rockfish and lingcod.
Fishing guide Andy Martin of wildriversfishing.com invited me out on three separate occasions last week for a little fun fishin' for the Sebastes genus (rockfish) and good ol' Ophiodon elongatus (a.k.a. lingcod and lingasaur).
Folks, if you get a flat day, November is the best month to catch these white-meated denizens of the deep that are often used in fish and chips. It's a great month to fill your freezer full of tasty fillets, and by golly, that's exactly what we did.
Why November? Well, for starters these fish are in a mid, prespawning stage, where they're eating anything and everything as fast as they can to put on extra weight for the winter and for the nourishment they need for spawning later in January.
And boy, are they ever filled out! Martin caught one specimen of Sebastes melanops (a.k.a. black rockfish, rock cod, sea bass) that I swear was every bit of 8 pounds. These fish are so thick-meated they look more like footballs. They're flat-out girthy Gerties and they fight better this time of year than any other.
Martin takes you to Chetco Cove, which is merely minutes away from leaving the jetty jaws. There are so many rocks and pinnacles out there that you could literally name one after every resident here in Brookings.
I couldn't believe we were the only people on the water for two days. Martin likes to run these intimate charters for between two to four people because if the weather should turn nasty, you're only minutes away from getting back to port.
On every trip we limited out on rockfish, which included blacks, blues and vermilion, and caught our share of lings to boot. We also lost triple our share of lingasaurs.
For a reel fun trip on the water, by all means, book a trip with Martin. Nobody knows these reefs better than Andy. Just check out his Web site at wildriversfishing.com.