“Is this heaven?” a visiting tourist inquired.
“No, it’s Brookings,” replied a local fishing enthusiast.
“Brookings?” the puzzled sightseer contemplated. “I could have sworn it was heaven.”
And at the risk of sounding like a 1989 movie, this dialogue has been running through my head like a broken record since the very moment I first set foot on Brookings soil back in 1981. That’s the day I became a perpetual tourist.
For a fisherman, Brookings is paradise. It’s the ocean of dreams — it’s the other Baja. It’s the river of hope — it’s the alternative Alaska. As heaven was defined in the movie Field of Dreams, “It’s the place dreams come true.”
To fully appreciate the extent of how good the fishing can be in the area from Crescent City to Gold Beach, you really have to come from a different part of the state, or from another state entirely. Most often, it was a place where the fishing has been totally decimated.
Me? I originally came from a city called Somewhere Else, and when I emerged from that mystical cornfield and stepped onto this very real baseball field filled with steelhead streams and sport fishing dreams, I knew from the get-go, my fate was the Chetco.
Where else on the planet can you fish for salmon and steelhead in a river in the morning, catch a lingcod or two in the afternoon and then get a limit of Dungeness crab in the evening?
Granted, all of these fisheries, and then some, may not be coexisting at the same time (although on many days, they do!). But on most days, the if-you-cast-it-they-will-bite cliché really holds water.
Take last week for instance.
The Chetco River had been dropping from a big rise and was flowing at 1,000 cubic feet per second, approaching the minimum flow where anglers can most effectively utilize multiple techniques on the river — techniques such as plug-pulling, side-drifting, back-bouncing and drift-fishing. And there were salmon caught every day, as well as a few cookie cutter-size steelhead ranging from 6 to 8 pounds.
But on many days, the ocean was flat as a sheet of liquid mercury. That’s when Jim Bithell from Charthouse Sportfishing decided to take his boat Charthouse out of mothballs for a few sets of clients and nailed some quick limits of rockfish and lingcod. I got to do a little fun fishing with Jim on one of those days, and we clobbered two limits of lingosaurs plus a nice cabezon in less than an hour. So on those occasions when the ocean is calm, Bithell will still be running charters out of the Port of Brookings Harbor.
A few days later, I was up at Bird Island fishing with another friend and limited out on some dandy black rockfish and lingcod as well.
Bithell clobbers his lings on personally-caught, super-size herring. A 5-ounce banana sinker and a 2-foot mooching leader works well when using these big boys. Use a 2/0 octopus-style hook for the sliding top hook and a 4/0 treble for the back hook.
Leadfish and plastics of all types are also popular lures. On most days it doesn’t matter what color lure you use as long as it’s white.
According to the National Weather Service, rainfall is expected to creep into the area sometime this weekend or into next week, with several cold fronts anticipated to bring rain to the local area. So keep your eyes and ears peeled on the weather forecasts. Now that the ground is saturated, it won’t take much rain to raise local rivers to better fishable conditions.
Also, get out your crab pots. The opening day for the Oregon recreational (sport fishing) ocean Dungeness crab fishery will open this week on Sunday, December 1.
However, due to insufficient meat-recovery rates during pre-season crab-quality testing, the commercial side of the Oregon crab fishery won’t open until at least Dec. 15, giving the sport fishermen a crack at crabbing all by themselves for at least two full weeks, possibly even longer.
Recreational crabbers inside Del Norte Harbor in Crescent City have still been hammering the Dungeness and since the required meat-recovery rate for Dungeness crab has been met in the Crescent City area, commercial crabbers will be allowed to crab south of the border on December 1 as well.
So as you gaze around at all of these diverse fisheries and incredible opportunities, don’t be surprised if you suddenly come to the realization that, maybe, just maybe, you’re living in a place called heaven.