By Larry Ellis
Pilot Staff Writer
Fishing report for March 30 through April 5
Rockfish - lingcod
Once again this week, the fish cleaning station at the Port of Brookings Harbor was filled with the buzzing of electric fillet knives as happy anglers, smiling ear-to-ear, brought limits upon limits of rockfish and lingcod to the fillet tables.
Spring is here, and with light winds and a mild south swell, plenty of fishing opportunities beckoned fishers to pluck plenty of bottom-grabbers from the depths of Davey Jones' Locker, as the big pond laid down like a sheet of liquid mercury.
Just when everyone was starting to think that the major post-spawn lingcod dance was coming to an end, another rush of the fanged lingasaurs began tripping the lures-fantastic.
It didn't really matter what anglers had on the end of their lines. Both male and female lings were snapping at anything and everything that swam their way. It was just a matter of getting your bait or favorite lure du jour down to the bottom. Although limits didn't occur every day, they were the rule most days.
When the ocean is as cooperative as it has been, it's hard not to throttle up to Twin Rocks, House Rock or Mack Arch. It's really a kick when you can open 'er up and make it up to Mack in 15 minutes.
Lingcod weren't the only large critters biting out in the deep briny. There were also some of the biggest vermilion rockfish being filleted that I have ever seen. One fellow had one that conservatively weighed in at 10 1/2 pounds. Max Burton of Brookings had one day at sea where he caught two that weighed between 12 and 14 pounds each.
Vermilion have to be one of the most beautiful rockfish out there. They are one of the only red varieties of rockfish that are allowed to be retained, and they are not showing any signs of being depleted like the two other red-colored rockfish that are illegal to have in possession: canary and yellow eye rockfish.
Other large exotic varieties of rockfish were brought to the fillet tables this week. Taylor Freeland, captain of the Angler, based out of Chetco Marine Supply reported catches of huge black rockfish, quillbacks, coppers and Chinas, as well as large vermilion. To target big fish, Freeland uses big lures.
His secret weapon is a hand-poured metal jig that resembles a cross between a Salas and a Candy Bar. Anyone who's seriously fished for yellowtail knows what kind of damage these two jigs can do, especially the latter.
Freeland's piece of heavy metal is one serious bubba-jig, probably weighing 6 ounces or more. He has his clients drop it to the bottom on the end of 40-pound mono and then tells them to reel up as fast as they can. Before they know it, something huge is on the end of their line, whether a mega-ling or a super-snapper.
Other sport boats have also been bringing in limits of Ophiodon elongatus and the Sebastes varieties as well. Dennis Salanti, captain of Strictly Salmon has been scoring plenty of snaps and lings for his customers, and Tidewinds Sportfishing has also been nabbing plenty of bottom fish and mottled toothmeisters as well.
Surfperch are still putting a bend in a lot of surf rods and plenty of fish tacos on the table.
The incoming high tide has still been the best bite, but last week I decided to try the turn of low and still caught a mess of perch right off the south jetty on the inside channel.
The best place to fish is anywhere there is a steep, sloping beach with shifting sand. Traditional spots are McVay Park, the beach uphill from the mouth of the Winchuck, Sporthaven Beach, both sides of the south jetty, the beach uphill from the north jetty and Chetco Point Park.
Pistol River, Kissing Rock and the Gold Beach south jetty spit are also great places to get redtail surfperch.
Raw shrimp or shrimpmeat is still the best bait.
For a breath of fresh air, you might want to try catching Pacific sanddabs. Sanddabs are a type of flatfish and are very plentiful along the Oregon coast. They resemble a very small halibut and average 10 inches long. As the name implies, they are found in the sand.
They may not be all that large but they are some of the best eating in the ocean. In addition, you are allowed to catch and keep 25.
When you go out sanddabbing, you also have a reasonable chance at catching other varieties of flatfish as well, such as petrale sole and California halibut.
Sanddabs are left-eyed flounders while petrales are right-eyed, which is one way of identifying the two species. Although California halibut are considered left-eyed flounders, about 60 percent are right-eyed.
Sometimes you have to do a little hunting before you find a school, but when you do, you can load up in an hour.
Forget about seeing them on your fish finder. They usually stay buried in the sand or close enough to the bottom to escape detection on even the best electronics.
You are allowed to use three hooks per set-up, which is basically a surf rig with number 4 snelled hooks spaced 18-inches equidistant from each other.
Always remain close to the bottom and use at least a 6-ounce sinker because you're going to start searching for them in 140 feet of water with a sandy bottom. Some people use a second sinker ahead of the top hook in order to keep the three hooks lined up straight with the bottom. Anything works for bait strips of squid, anchovies or herring.
If you don't get a bite in 10 minutes, first start moving parallel up or down the beach. If that tactic doesn't get you bit, then slowly start moving further out into deeper water.
All soles, sanddabs and California halibut are counted in the 25 flatfish limit. Pacific halibut are not.
Don't forget to support your local tackle stores at Four M Tackle, Sporthaven and Lorings.