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Bring lings in slow and steady

Jerry Smith of Medford hoists two of the many lingcod he and his crew caught recently while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Jerry Smith of Medford hoists two of the many lingcod he and his crew caught recently while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Fishing report for October 12-18

October means large lingcod – Chinook and coho in Rogue and Chetco bays

Don’t put your rockfishing gear in mothballs yet. Lingcod are putting on the winter feedbag in preparation for upcoming spawning months. They’re hungry, aggressive and eager to pounce on the bait or lure of your choice.

October typically only offers a few choice days to fish in the ocean. Pick your outings wisely because this is the time you can catch some of the largest lings of the year.

My favorite method for slaying lingzillas is to catch a live kelp greenling (minimum size 10 inches) near the kelp beds in shallow water, and then take it to deeper water to use as live bait inside the pinnacles.

Make sure to keep plenty of jig heads on hand between 6 and 12 ounces; the size being dictated by the strength of the current.

My favorite way of hooking up the sea trout is to pierce the large hook of the jig head from the bottom of the greenling’s jaw so that the tip of the hook comes out through the top of its head directly in front of its eyes.

Let your rig hit the bottom then reel up about 10 feet. Put your rod in a rod holder and wait. When your rod tip starts bouncing, carefully slide your rod out of its holder.

Most of the time, the lingcod will be hitching a ride on the greenling. These hitchhikers will grab the fish with its inwardly-curved, razor-sharp teeth, and as long as you maintain constant pressure on the lingcod, it cannot, by its design, let go of the fish.

The trick in performing this technique is to reel in your lingcod agonizingly slowly. When doing so, it will not perceive that it has been hooked at all, so it will not have reason to head back into the pinnacles. Instead, it will actually think that it is following the sea trout up to the surface.

Be ready with a gaff or a net when the ling surfaces, and don’t let up on the rod’s tension, because this is the time when lings will most often let go of the fish. If it does let go of the greenling, immediately lower your jig back toward the bottom. Nine times out of 10 the ling will grab the greenling again.

Be careful, though, when the ling hits the deck, because it will be hot!

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Rogue Bay action has been very good for both Chinook and coho, with some monster coho approaching 26 pounds!  Now that coho are approaching Chinook sizes, make sure that you know how to tell the difference between them, because only adipose fin-clipped coho may be retained (refer to the Sept. 1 issue for coho identification).

“We’ve had a real good couple of weeks here on both Chinook and coho in the bay,” said Larry Cody from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach on Thursday. “People are concentrating anywhere from the mouth up to and above Riverview.”

Cody advises using Rogue Bait Rigs (spinner/bait rigs) for both Chinook and coho, with the coho preferring bright pink or red spinner blades.

Remember that Grant Martinsen’s IGFA world record for a Chinook caught on a fly was taken in Rogue tidewater this time of year on Oct. 21. Martinsen was actually fly-fishing for coho when the 71-pound, 8-ounce king gobbled his fly.

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Chetco Bay Chinook kept guides and sport fishermen hopping last week until the river got blown out. But on Thursday, Chinook were beginning to smack anchovies once again.

STEP biologist John Weber says that ODFW and Oregon South Coast Fishermen will begin seining for the Chetco Broodstock Program at Social Security Bar on Thursday Oct. 25, at 11 a.m. Anyone interested in participating is welcome to attend.

Also, remember that the Chetco River above river mile 2.2 is slated to open on Nov. 3.

Tight lines and bent rods!

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