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Wayne Barker of Brookings holds two huge vermilion rockfish caught last week. (Photo by Larry Ellis).
Wayne Barker of Brookings holds two huge vermilion rockfish caught last week. (Photo by Larry Ellis).

By Larry Ellis

Staff writer

Banner year for surfperch from Brookings/Harbor beaches

Who needs a boat when some of the most exciting fishing action can be done right from the bank? Fishing for surfperch is still continuing to dominate shore-based angling from the Oregon/California border to Gold Beach.

Impressive numbers of redtails and striped perch, with occasional walleye and pile perch are still being harvested from Brookings/Harbor beaches, and limits were being filleted daily at the cleaning station.

Monday was an especially impressive day for the flat-siders. Flat-calm seas made fishing from the jetties, inter-tidal rocks and beaches a walk in the park, and a 12:30 p.m. high tide further enhanced ideal conditions.

The most impressive harvest was made by two anglers from Selma, who brought an ice chest into the fish cleaning facility filled to the brim with 2 to 3 pound-plus pinkfin. Charthouse Dave commented that it was one of the most magnificent hauls of large redtails he had ever seen.

All surfperch give birth to live young. The miniature offspring look almost identical to the parents. The striped perch are spitting out lots of baby perch right now, which means that their season is starting to wind down. Nevertheless, you'll still be able to catch them into summer.

The babies inside the redtails are far from being developed, which means that red-hot action should still be continuing for several more months.

Popular places to fish for surfperch are on the beaches south of the Winchuck, one-half mile up the beach from the north side of the Winchuck, the beach south of McVay Park, Sporthaven Beach and both sides of the Chetco River north and south jetties.

Traveling further north, other hot spots are the newly refurbished Chetco Point Park and the beaches and tidepools north and south of Mill Beach.

Superb action can also be found near creek mouths because of the influx of a fresh food supply. Examples of these spots are at Pistol River, Meyers Creek and Kissing Rock near Hunter Creek.

The best way to locate surfperch, however, is to learn how to read the water. Look for any area that suddenly slopes toward the ocean. Also keep your eye out for beaches that tend to have shifting sand. These areas contain sunken depressions and troughs containing high sides.

Make a mental note of these particular areas at low tide and then come back about three hours before high tide, and make your casts to the low spots for the best results.

Any area that consistently holds water at low tide will hold perch. Surfperch travel in schools, so often you have to keep moving before you find a batch.

The most consistent baits have been raw shrimp, brined cooked shrimp and mussels. If you can get 'em, razor clam necks are the all-time premier redtail bait. Surfperch often are attracted to the clam beds off Meyers Creek and Pistol River because they are attracted to the necks sticking out of the surf.

If you have ever dug a razor clam that's missing a neck, the odds are that a surfperch came by and nipped it off. You can also catch up to six fish on one clam neck because they are tough and stay on the hook.

But don't use pieces of squid for bait just because they stay on the hook. They are practically useless for catching surfperch. The limit is 15 surfperch per day.

Brookings Salmon Opener 45 salmon days left

To say that Monday's opening day of salmon season was lackluster would be an understatement. Out of 87 boats that went out, nine Chinook salmon were caught.

Water conditions were exceptional. At times the big pond laid down like a sheet of liquid mercury and the weather was phenomenal.

As always, the main problem with opening week is finding the fish. Because of the great conditions, many boats headed toward the waters off the Thomas Creek Bridge to try and intercept a willing Rogue River springer near the shrimp beds.

The first fish was caught 6.9 miles on a 103 heading back to the whistle buoy. Other boats that landed salmon followed a similar course.

Ideal 52 degree water was easy to find, but locating a well-defined edge with a current rip, bait balls and a temperature change was not. Many anglers commented that the water was on the dirty side.

At about 1:30 p.m. southeast winds forced most boats into port.

Top honors went to the crew aboard Aces II who landed two fish that day. Most fish came about 35 feet deep while fishing in 300 feet of water. Other anglers hooked and landed fish as deep as 110 feet.

On Tuesday, two fish were landed, one by Bill Dunster of Brookings. On Wednesday everyone got a goose egg.

By 10:30 a.m. on Thursday no one had yet gotten a salmon.

"It's hard to catch a salmon if no one is fishing 'em," says Mike Ramsay, owner of Sporthaven Marina. "Only five boat trailers were in the parking lot."

"I think people are waiting to hear the word on the salmon before they come over from the valley," says Kathy Ramsay, also owner of Sporthaven marina. "They call us every day to see if things have changed and we're more than happy to give them fish and weather reports. We have all the bait they need and we will show people how to rig up."

According to Marge Mansur of Four M Tackle, the commercial crabbers have been marking fish about 10-miles off the Thomas Creek Bridge while on their way in to check their pots. Mansur also says the salmon season should be slowly improving in about two weeks.

When anglers finally locate the Sacramento run, hopefully by Memorial Day weekend, the fishing should be a light's-out bite.

For the latest weather forecast call Mike Ramsay at Sporthaven Marina.

Crabbing great

Those who are dropping crab pots are continually being rewarded with limits of huge and very full Dungeness crab. One of the keys to locating them is to head out toward Lone Ranch Beach in about 80 feet of water and search for a sandy or muddy bottom in between the pinnacles.

Using a color fish finder, pinnacles will show a wide yellow margin, while rock piles will show both a wide yellow margin and a secondary echo. When you are over mud and sand, the yellow margin should disappear. Bombs away!

Bill Ignatow has still been getting some nice 3-pound-plus crabs when he can get out.

"We've been getting limits every day," says Dan Akin of Brookings. Dan's been laying his pots between 80 to 110 feet deep to avoid the commercial pots inshore.

However, if Brookings should get a series of flat-calm days, crabs will move in very close to the beach. If that happens you can lay your pots or rings amazingly close to the first swell. If you decide to do so, make sure you exercise caution and never leave your pots in overnight.

Plenty of hanging bait for your pots can be found in the fish cleaning facility at the Port of Brookings Harbor.

Do not use a cabezon for crab bait. Cabbies feed on crabs as a steady diet and the Dungeness have grown to be wary of them. Use black rockfish or salmon carcasses for crab bait.

Sporthaven Marina rents or sells crab rings.

The daily limit on Dungeness crab is 12 per person with a minimum width of 5 3/4 inches measured inside the points.

Rockfishing outstanding

Anglers are still nailing quick limits of rockfish and lings. Those who are using leadfish are getting the biggest blacks. Chuck and Karen Henley from Brookings recently made a nice haul of big black rockfish up to 5 pounds.

In order to get through the blacks to get to the lings, use at least a 6-ounce jig head with a regular size scampi. The hooks are equivalent to about a 9/0 and most blacks will just nip the tails.

Should you get a black on one of the larger jig heads it will be a large black. Sometimes the lings aren't in the mood for large scampi tails and they just think the jig head is part of the scampi.

What many people don't realize is that sanddabs make excellent lingcod bait. The limit is 25 and they don't count against your groundfish bag limit as do kelp greenling (sea trout).

You can catch sanddabs just outside the whistle in about 110 feet of water using snelled hooks and small pieces of strip bait. They are also good table fare.

Through Wednesday, the main action was still between Bird Island and House Rock. Fewer anglers were heading down the line because the conditions have been ideal for venturing uphill. "We've been limiting out by 8 a.m. every day," says Charthouse Dave.

On Thursday the rockfish came right up to the surface between the bell and the whistle, providing anglers with a wide-open bite. Always look for signs of surface activity in May, especially on foggy days when the blacks tend to push the bait up to the surface. Dave also reported seeing a lot more bait balls on Thursday.

Other good news is that the pelicans finally arrived on Thursday. They don't show up until the bait balls are present, so that may be a good sign of things to come.

Dave loads up his clients with black rockfish and lings first before heading out to troll for salmon.

The daily limit is six rockfish per person. The minimum size for kelp greenling is 10 inches and the minimum size for cabezon is 16 inches. Both fish count toward the six-fish bag limit. Two lings over 24 inches may be kept per day.


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