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CHETCO STEELHEAD RUN COMES TO A CLOSE

By Larry Ellis

Pilot staff writer

Fishing Report for March 23 through March 29

Today is your last chance to get your final licks on Chetco steelhead because one hour after sunset the river will be closed to the retention of salmonids. That means starting tomorrow, don't even be caught using a hand-line in the Chetco for salmon, trout or steelhead. There's really no other catchable species in the river anyway, although I have spotted some very large pile surfperch swimming underneath the 101 bridge. On the positive side, trout season on the Chetco reopens May 26.

The mainstem of California's Smith River, however, will remain open for the retention of steelhead until April 30. Medium-to low-water conditions should create a much narrower playing field in which to pick off some late-season steelies from the Forks down to Ruby VanDeventer Park, which means that with this season's later runs, you still stand a good chance at hooking up some heavy metalheads.

Most of the fish hooked on the Smith have been runbacks, with occasional chromers mixed in for good measure. Of late, guide John Klar (Johnklar.com) has been reporting some successful days on the Smith. Klar has not reported seeing very many bluebacks, a positive sign that more freshies could still be on the way.

For anglers wishing to fish Oregon waters, the south Coquille offers your best bet at hooking up with a late season silt-head with some serious shoulders. The south Coke's run also continues through April 30.

Surfperch still

on-the-bite

Anglers have been scoring limits or near-limits of striped surfperch with redtails, calicos and walleye surfperch mixed in the batch.

Normally, the incoming high tide is the best time to fish for the flat-siders, but during this past week, fishers have been reporting some of their best luck near low tide. However, the accent is still on the tide change with special emphasis on the first few hours of the flood.

Some great surfperch fishing spots have been near the mouth of the Winchuck, 1/2 mile uphill from the Winchuck north bank, McVay Park and Sporthaven Beach in front of the Beachfront Best Western Motel. The redtail surfperch fishing will pick up as we get into May.

The perch run seems to be extra large this year and the bait of choice has been pieces of raw shrimp. You can still catch perch on cooked shrimp, but your odds are a lot better if you buy a $4 bag of the smaller raw shrimp from Fred Meyer, or buy shrimp-meat sold at the local tackle stores.

Todd Liles from Medford picked up some really huge striped perch while fishing in front of the motel at Sporthaven Beach. Liles said at least a dozen more of the heavy hitters broke him off.

One of the best artificials being used, and I can personally attest to this one, is cutting up 3-inch pieces of the Berkley Gulp! Sandworm in the color Camo. I was fishing at the Winchuck at high tide a few days ago with a 3-hook setup when the bottom rig suddenly got hammered.

Whatever it was took my sinker in the rocks, so having two other rigs free, I just waited for a few more bites hoping that the other fish might pull the sinker free.

Eventually both upper rigs got nailed. After breaking off the sinker and losing the first fish, I brought back two hooks. One hook was stripped while the other had a perch with a 3-inch piece of Gulp! Sandworm sucked all the way down its gullet. This perch really devoured the Sandworm.

Local fishing icon Buzz Ramsey has been sending me samples of the Gulp! Sand Fleas and Sand Worms to try out, and I have to say that there's really something to these artificials. They are acclaimed to put out more than 500 times more scent dispersal through the water than any other bait.

I don't get paid for endorsing their products so I'm totally impartial. I have to say that Berkley's really on to something here. There is a real practical application for using Gulp! baits around these parts, which especially has to do with fun family outings, where there is only a one- to two-hour opportunity at catching the perch.

How many times have you spent time baiting up your kid's hooks while the bite was hot and heavy, only to miss out on your fish? What a lot of adult fishermen are doing is baiting their kids' rigs up with the tougher Gulp! baits, since they are impossible to throw off the hook, while the adults are left at peace to nail some perch on their favorite bait of choice. Any way you look at it, it is a win-win situation!

Lingcod fishing the best it's been in years!

Most of the time getting down through the thick schools of large rockfish to get to the lingcod was the norm. However, the tide has changed this year. Now, anglers are reporting that they have had more trouble getting through the thick schools of lingcod just to get to the black or vermilion rockfish. Here's how the local landings stack up on the bottom-grabbers.

"It's awesome fishing with big fish and lots of 'em," said Andrea from Tidewinds Sportfishing. Limits of large rockfish are the rule with very good fishing on the lingasaurs.

"The lingcod fishing's been awesome," says Lisa Pruett from Chetco Marine Supply which charters the 50-foot Angler, skippered by Taylor Freeland. "The Angler will go out if only six people show up," Pruett says. "And that's for either fishing or for whale-watching."

Doug Morris and Mike Josephson of Brookings picked up some nice lings and some huge rockfish just fishing a little south from the red can off Akin Point. Mike had a couple vermilion that looked about 9 pounds apiece. Nice pair of goldfish there, Mike!

Make sure to get your hanging bait for crabbing before the port empties the cans.

Tight lines!

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