By Larry Ellis
Salmon bite slow to fair, best day on Saturday
The best day for sheer numbers of Chinook salmon out of the Port of Brookings Harbor occurred on Saturday, June 3, when ODFW fish samplers checked in 47 kings, following the wide-open bite that occurred in Crescent City on Friday, June 2.
The rest of the week, however, remained slow to fair with only a handful of salmon being checked in a day. Northwest winds kicked up on Wednesday, preventing the fleet from getting to the salmon grounds.
On Tuesday one nice king was caught by Charthouse Dave Lehton, who works out of Sporthaven Marina. Because of the large amount of bait balls found inshore, last week Lehton said he wouldn't be surprised to see salmon being caught around the bell or the whistle buoys. As usual, his prediction was spot on. His salmon was hooked while trolling by the red can.
Lehton's first mate Bunky also reported seeing lots of sardine balls close to shore and also nailed another big Chinook. His most successful lure has been a Christmas tree Hootchie. Bunky says that, because the large sardines move through the water faster than anchovies, you might want to try kicking your trolling speed up a notch if you find yourself around the dinos.
The Banana Belt's southerly has warmed the water as high as 60 degrees, far above a salmon's comfort zone of 52 degrees. Although this week's northwest winds have hampered the salmon action, it may be a blessing in disguise.
"We know that these north winds are stopping the fishing," says Mike Ramsay of Sporthaven Marina, "but sometimes they're beneficial. They do bring in the cooler water for salmon fishing, which is what we need right now. Even though it hurts us now it will benefit us next week when they stop."
Lehton says that the high winds will probably scatter the bait but they should regroup after it stops.
With only 24 days left on the first leg of the salmon season, it would greatly behoove everyone to maximize his or her potential on the water. A great Web site to visit is www.salmonuniversity.com, where lots of articles and tools are at your disposal that could help you put more salmon in your boat.
When the salmon fishing picks up you will hear about it first in this column; however, call Mike Ramsay at Sporthaven Marina to get updated reports.
Best perch fishing in years
It's difficult to determine whether the outstanding perch fishing is because there are more numbers of fish available this year or because there has been increased angler effort. However, the fact remains that perch carcasses continue filling the barrels at the fillet station every day. And it doesn't look like it's going to stop.
The most common variety being caught is the striped surfperch, but many redtails and walleye surfperch are also being brought to the cleaning station.
Walleye resemble redtails because their fins are both tinged with red; however the walleye has a thicker back, larger eyes and lacks the distinct vertical golden bars of the redtail.
Jim Olson of Grants Pass has been fishing the Brookings area for 40 years and on Sunday hammered all three varieties. By the looks of the internal perch sacks, about three-fourths of the striped perch are on the verge of giving birth at any time. Jim has been employing a method of squeezing the perch's abdomen immediately after capture, allowing some of the babies to swim away.
This week I have personally witnessed live spawn of several fresh striped perch actually wiggling on the fillet tables, their gills undulating and mouths opening and closing; therefore, this is probably your best timeframe if you want to try saving a few perch for future generations to enjoy.
The young of the walleye and redtails are still immature, which means that this surfperch season could well extend into the summer months. The reason is possibly due to all the high water experienced this year, postponing the spawn three to four weeks. These perch are behaving a lot like the ones found further north, which normally don't start becoming active until late May or June. For instance Winchester Bay redtails can be caught well into early fall.
Rockfishing and lingcod going strong
On Monday the barrels at the fillet stations were filled to the brim with black rockfish, large blues, vermilion, cabezon, lingcod, china cod, quillback, kelp greenling, surfperch and salmon. They were being emptied several times a day.
Anglers were able to travel uphill to House Rock or downhill to Camel. Tuesday remained the same.
On Wednesday, northwest winds started kicking up to 15 knots so most boaters were fishing toward Camel Rock. Nevertheless, the bite remained strong with early birds limiting out before 10 a.m.
Thursday the winds kicked up to 20 knots, but that didn't stop a half-dozen diehards from getting their limits of the bottom grabbers. When the weather predicts high winds, the best thing you can do is to hit the bar at first light and head slightly downhill, no further than Akin Point but check the conditions first at Sporthaven Beach.
If you stay inside of the red can buoy and head back by 10 a.m. you should have no difficulty limiting out on bottom fish and getting a few nice lings to boot, plus you will avoid bucking the northwest winds on the way back.
With Thursday's high winds, the only thing boaters had going for them was a very small swell. Outside the can and uphill you could see large whitecaps but everyone stayed inside and were safely in port by 11:30 a.m.
Andrea from Tidewind Sportfishing reported Thursday that the Superstar limited out all her passengers with rockfish early, plus they also got a handful of lings.
Cy Hebert from Roseburg and Eric Rudesill from Fort Dick got their limits of black rockfish hanging in close and were in by 11 a.m.
Lynnette Clark from Brookings was fishing with her dad aboard the Puma and got two limits of very large black rockfish, again inside the red can and only venturing slightly downhill, proving you don't need to travel far to get into some fantastic rockfishing.
The pair were using whole herring for bait and picked up a dandy lingcod, lost a nice one at the boat and threw back several others.
Other anglers got a mixed bag of lings, rockfish and cabbies following the same techniques and using Scampis and leadfish.
This week calls for 15 to 20 knot northwest winds. The key is getting out at first light, staying halfway between shore and the red can and only heading a little way downhill.
The rockfish and lings are now inside the reefs just southeast of the bell. If you go past the can, the winds will pick you up and then you could get into trouble.
On Sunday the Coast Guard closed the bar at 6:30 a.m. to prevent boaters from coming back at a minus tide, when the bar was at its worst.
It is always best if you plan your trips around the tides. Try to plan your trips so you are returning as the tide is coming in and at high slack. Avoid extreme tides if possible. The worst time to cross any bar is on a screaming outgoing tide.
The crab are starting to thin out a little bit but are still in good shape. One of the local crabbing sharpies says you can limit out on Dungeness crab in two to three hours if you're using three pots and follow a couple of tips.
Use as much bait in your pots as possible and hang your bait as far away from the door as you can. Be sure to check underneath the crab to identify whether they are male or female. All females must be discarded.
On any given day you can get all the hanging bait you want from the fillet station. Do not use a cabezon for hanging bait because a cabbie is a crab's natural enemy.
Lay three pots in sandy bottom in 40, 30 and 20 feet of water. Move the other two pots where you're getting the most crab.
If seals are bothering your pots, use turkey legs rather than chicken.
The limit is 12 crab per person daily, measuring 5 3/4 inches across the inside of the points.