Fish report for the week of Sept. 21 through Sept. 28
Get out your plug-cuts, Apexes and hootchies, and prepare to do battle to the finish with some of the biggest hawgs of the season. The 2007 Chetco River Ocean Terminal Area Fall Chinook Salmon Fishery, also known as the Chetco Hawg Season, opens up Monday, Oct. 1, and runs for 14 straight days through one hour after sunset on October 14.
Usually we get 10 days with this season, but this year we're getting the full two weeks, and because of the extended season, I fully expect some giant kings to be brought to the scales. This is the final ocean salmon fishery of the year.
Every year, fishers from all over the state of Oregon and out-of-staters ply the waters in this neck of the woods in search of trophy Chinook to mount on their walls and fill their freezers full of fillets, and by golly, they do.
Unlike all of the other ocean fisheries, this one is fully state run and has a totally different set of regulations than the federally-run program.
The borders of the fishery are very specific. The boundaries run from Twin Rocks at latitude 42 05' 36" to the California border at 42 00' 00", and extends outward 3 nautical miles from shore.
Most of the Chinook should (emphasis on "should") be starting to stage outside the river mouth. But because of the goofy warm-water trend we've had this season, who knows where they will be?
If history is true to itself, the fish should be right outside of the jetty jaws, with many fish caught around the red can buoy, by Salmon Rock and out in front of the Best Western Motel on Sporthaven Beach.
It all depends if they are heading back 8 to 10 miles in between the tides. Anything and everything is possible this season.
What most anglers do is troll whole anchovies or herring, or even plug-cut herring, and the bigger the bait, the better. These fish are not wary in the least of attacking a gigantic plug-cut herring.
You will find that the larger the plug-cut is, the slower the roll you will generally get on your bait. The smaller the bait is, the faster and tighter the spin will be on your baitfish.
A lot of people will brine their whole herring the night before to toughen up the bait, and then plug-cut the baits as they are needed. There are about a million brines out there. Here is one that Larry Moore, former owner of the popular fish-works.com Web site finally divulged to the world after keeping it secret most of his life.
You will need one-half gallon of water (non-chlorinated), 3 cups of non-iodized salt, 3 ounces of Mrs. Stewarts Bluing, 3 ounces of Anise Oil, 1 cup of dry milk and 3 ounces of imitation vanilla. The bluing gives the bait a nice shiny appearance. I like to add a bottle of Pautzke Liquid Krill as well.
Mix all the ingredients until all the salt has dissolved. Larry likes to plug-cut all his herring before putting them in the brine, that way the herring is cured inside and out. But you can also cure your herring whole and plug-cut them as needed on the boat using your new and improved Gilly's plug cutter. Let the herring soak overnight and make sure your water is ice cold.
After one full day in the brine, take out what you need and lay them on some paper towels to get out most of the moisture. What you don't use, put back in the brine.
You can leave the herring in the brine for a couple days and then put 8 to 10 of the plug-cuts or whole herring in zip lock sandwich bags. Keep them in the freezer so you can grab a bag or two when needed. They are flexible and ready to use right out of the freezer. The ones that don't get used can be returned to the freezer.
You are allowed one Chinook per day, no more than four ocean fish per season, so if it's a hawg you're after, you may have to release the dinks. Single shank, single point barbless hooks are required. The minimum size for ocean Chinook is 24 inches.
You can use the same brined herring in the estuary, but different rules apply in the bay. In the bay and river you can use hooks with barbs and you can use treble hooks.
The daily bag limit in the estuary is two Chinook, so you can catch one in the ocean and an additional king in the bay if you so desire. But you cannot catch more than two kings per day in combination with the ocean, river and bay.
The past week has provided some semi-steady action in the bay. Not everyone has caught fish, but the more skilled fishermen are getting a few fish per boat.
My advice is to try all depths. Watch your fishfinder for suspended fish. Many people think you absolutely have to be on the bottom in order to get bit, and to a certain extent, that's true. However, a certain amount of these fish will be suspended.
So if you have two people fishing in the boat, put out one rod on the bottom, and another one set to the shallowest setting of your diver and bait. You just don't want your bait flip-flopping on the surface.
One-ounce chrome Krocodiles and three-quarter-ounce chrome Kastmasters tossed from the bank can also get you bit. I like to fish my chrome on-the-drop and near the bottom.
The bottomfishing has been absolutely stellar for anglers venturing out to nearby reefs. There are some large blacks being caught at this time, and some very large lingcod as well.
Crabbers are also getting an occasional Dungeness by throwing rings, butterfly traps and snare traps from the public pier. Make sure you are tied off to the dock before you throw your ring, and have at least 125 feet of rope.