Fish report for September 19-25
The Chetco ocean bubble fishery opens Wednesday
The season that everybody has been waiting for in this neck of the woods has finally arrived.OK, it may not be much of a season, but you have to think about this one in much grander terms like Christmas or your birthday.
Those days only come once a year, but from October 1 - 4 you have four days in which to celebrate the possibility of catching the trophy of a lifetime, and that's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
The fish are out there, too. I know of two people who last week accidentally tied into some pretty hefty hawgs which had to go back in the drink.
This is what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife calls the The 2008 Chetco River Ocean Terminal Area Fall Chinook Fishery, otherwise known as the Chetco ocean hawg season, or the Chetco Bubble Fishery.
Whatever flavor you call it, it's a person's best chance at hooking up with a Chinook with some serious shoulders. In this fishery, a 30-, 40-, 50- or even a 60-pound king could dominate anyone's reality.
The bubble fishery specifically targets Chetco River Chinook ready to return to their homeland. They stack up like cordwood near the river mouth, ready to head up the Chetco at the first sign of a rising river, which historically occurs sometime around Oct. 15 when major rains start hammering the southern Oregon Coast.
Usually the beginning of October, right around the time of the Terminal Fishery, moderate rains start sparking fish to move up into upper tidewater on the high tide, and slither back to the ocean as the tide recedes.This procedure takes place for about two weeks, and it's the perfect time to start knocking the socks off the Chetco hawgs.
The Chetco Bubble Fishery falls under the state's jurisdiction, therefore an angler may only fish in state waters, from 0 to 3 miles from shore.The boundaries are from Twin Rocks to the California border.
So why should people expect a good harvest this year? First of all, the commercial boys haven't been fishing on these puppies all year, and we have first crack at them. So make hay while the sun shines buoys and gulls. You could be walking away with the Chinook of your dreams.
If history is true to itself, most fish will be caught a lot closer to port, where they are nosing around waiting for a freshet to send them upriver.
Traditionally, a lot of fish are caught at Salmon Rock right around the thick of the kelp.That's that first rock you see on the right as you head out of the jaws.
Many are caught near the red can buoy. Another effective troll is between the red can and Akin Point, which is downhill from the red can.
Just outside the breakers in front of Beachfront Inn can often be productive as well.
"In October those fish will be just laying there on the sand," says Captain James Bithell, skipper of the Chart House."That's why their bellies are red.Early in the day they'll be up high but once the sun comes up they'll be on the bottom."
A lot of anglers will often troll just outside the entrance to the jaws near Salmon Rock right around the kelp stringers.
"What I like to do is head out the jaws right for Salmon Rock and make a big loop," says Dave Pitts from the Chetco Outdoor Store in Brookings."Then I come back straight in front of the jaws and cut across the south jetty going toward the Best Western on an outgoing tide. That outgoing tide pulls all the baitfish out and they get trapped in that far corner on the south jetty."
"Those big kings are just sitting in there.The only thing is, that guys have got to watch out for the rollers," warns Pitts. "Every fish I've caught over 50 pounds has been in the first 24 feet of the water column.They're fat and they're lazy, and all they're trying to do is go from point A to point B.They're not going to be deep."
You're going to need a good plug cutting jig like the Gilly Killer Kutter. A lot of anglers will be using either plug cut or whole herring, or even trolling Apexes.
The bag limit is one Chinook per day with no more than four within the entire season.That includes both fin clipped and non-fin clipped Chinook. Remember that there will be a lot of 3-year-olds out there and a majority will be missing a ventral or an adipose fin. So mark those clipped ones on your Hatchery Harvest Tags.
The minimum length for Chinook is 24 inches and only single point, barbless hooks may be used.
Rockfish bite turns on lingcod getting bigger
I'm down at the fish cleaning stations fairly regularly several times a week and many times a day, so I actually see the types and grades of fish coming in.
This week, there were anglers limiting out on mostly black rockfish.Most were an excellent grade.Others could only muster up a few average size blacks and blues.
Lingcod were not uncommon.While some anglers limited on the lingasaurs, the average was about one ling per three persons.There were some excellent catches made nonetheless.
"We had some lings going over 20 pounds," said Jan Pearce of Tidewinds Sportfishing, who limited its passengers on the rockfish most days.
If you want to score on the larger blacks, head south young man, head south. Like to Akin Point or as far down as Camel.Look for high spots that some up from deeper water and fish the edges.
The mouth of the Smith
I enjoyed watching a few bank fishermen tie into some dandy Chinook in the Mouth of the Smith River on the outgoing tide and during the slack.When the tide started coming in, here came the sleds and the driftboats, which anchored up, setting out spinners or Rogue Bait Rigs using an anchovy.The river is low, so there is not much effort higher than Bailey Hole.
There was one Pacific halibut caught that I know of that went about 10 pounds that was caught by an angler who was bottomfishing.
There are also rumors of some California butts being hooked just outside the breakers in front of Sporthaven Beach.I would troll double jointed plugs or any long-lipped diving anchovy or sardine looking plug that digs into the sand.
Rogue Bay turns on half-pounders caught upriver
According to Jim Carey, proprietor of the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach, there were several good days in the Rogue estuary last week, some experiencing 50 fish harvests.
There has been about 10-percent coho mixed in the bags.The silvers don't really start making their appearance in good numbers until the first of October, then hold on.
According to Steve Beyerlin from fishoregon.com, he's had some good days on the water as well.Steve's noted that the ospreys have started flying south for winter. These guys take off earlier than ducks and geese because they spend a lot of time in South America.
With ospreys starting to leave, that means you can concentrate for half-pounders in the tail-outs, a half-pounder's favorite place of residency.The action has shifted more upriver toward Agness and further up into the Canyon.