BY Larry Ellis
Fish report for Sept. 26-Oct. 2
The Chetco River Ocean Terminal Area Fishery, also known locally as the Chetco Ocean Hawg Season, opened with a bang on Wednesday, Oct. 1.
Inclement weather predicted by the National Weather Service for Oct. 2, 3 and 4, which was expected to preclude angler effort, prompted ODFW officials to extend the season for one additional day, which will be on Saturday, Oct. 11.
As it turned out, one boat went out on Thursday but was turned around by the Coast Guard; nobody crossed the bar on Friday, and today is iffy.It looks like the next (and last) fishable day will be one week from today, on Oct. 11.
So how was Wednesday's opener?All-in-all, I would say it was incomparably fantastic.
It was like stepping into a time machine.For a brief instant in time, the good old days of the Chetco Hawg Season caught up with 2008.
Now, I don't want to give the impression that the bite was wide-open.Wide-open is a relative term. To one person, it might mean that everyone is catching salmon on salami, which of course, is bologna.
The fact of the matter is, about half of the fleet didn't catch a fish at all.So to those folks, the fishing was probably indeed pretty bad.
The other half would inarguably disagree, although they might still say that the fishing was BAD, meaning, the fishing was still pretty good stellar even.
The truth is, most of the boats that crossed the bar before the crack of dawn and were ready to fish at first legal light were rewarded with at least one 'nook. That's an almost carved-in-stone guarantee, heavy on the "almost", because, hey, this is fishing and even the best fishers suffer 100-percent humility every now and again.
According to Schindler, 190 Chinook were caught on Wednesday, nearly capping out the 250-fish guideline set for recreational vessels.The commercial vessels have a 250-fish quota.So what's the difference between a guideline and a quota?From what I gather four letters and a different pronunciation.
So anyway, what happened on Wednesday is as close to a wide-open bite as we're going to see.This is not the Queen Charlotte Islands, Alaska, or Happy Jack's Trout Farm.
However, I've been here 27 years and it far surpasses anything I have seen here in the last decade.
"It was the best opening day I've ever seen, and I've been here eight years," says Mike Ramsay, owner of Sporthaven Marina.
Similar statements were being echoed around the fillet tables.
As the saying goes, 10-percent of the fishermen catch 90-percent of the fish.In this case, 50-percent of the boats went home with 100-percent of the fish, and those aren't bad odds any way you slice your salami.
But I'll tell you what, there were more smiles at the Brookings cleaning station than Carter's got pills.I was there for most of the day and personally saw the evidence. I took so many photos of large fish I nearly maxed out my camera's memory card.
All of the tables at the port's cleaning station never got a rest.There were so many people cleaning fish you almost had to take a number.
On the average,there were more fish greater than 30 pounds caught than I had seen in a very long time.It got to the point where a 25- to 30-pound Chinook didn't even get an eye-roll from the many lookee-loos gazing into the cleaning station.
To attract a rubber-necker, it required hauling in a salmon in the 35- to 40-pound category, and there were plenty of those babies coming to the fillet tables.
In addition to all the 30 pounders, I saw a lot of fish breaking 40 pounds as well. How many fish over 40 pounds? Easily a dozen. Then there are the ones I never saw.
There was one strapping specimen that nearly gave everyone a severe case of whiplash, a 49-pound Chinook caught by Ope McBroom. And to top it off, this fish was a chrome-bright king.
Most anglers caught their fish between 30 and 40 feet of water or less, with many fish were caught between the red can buoy and the port's jaws.
The approaching storm front that hit the Brookings area on Thursday most likely lit a fire under their tailfins and moved a lot of the fish closer to the entrance of the Chetco in anticipation of fall rains.
A large portion of the fish had lost their original silver-bright appearance and were already starting to become slightly discolored, proof positive that they had already been in the river.Upon first landing these fish, many looked like they were chromers.
But evidence that they were already starting to acclimate comes about an hour after the fish is bonked. That's when they will start turning a little darkish.
Undoubtedly, more fish were probably available to the fishermen in the ocean for three reasons.
First, Chinook retention inside the river and estuary is prohibited until November. Second, for the last three years commercial fishing in the ocean has been severely restricted, and third, fishing for Chinook by the recreational fleet was also restricted in the ocean this season.
Anglers caught salmon on a variety of bait including plug-cut herring as well as whole herring, anchovies and sardines.Rotary Salmon Killers were used by a lot of anglers to put a wicked spin on their bait.But the ticket seemed to be using straight bait.
Sporthaven's Annual Hawg Derby will not be over until the last day of the season which will be next Saturday, Oct. 11.Because of the extended season, the awards dinner will be held on Sunday, Oct. 12 instead of Saturday.
There were still a few seats left, so your best bet in being eligible for the derby is to complete your entry form the day BEFORE the derby.
So far, first place is being held by Ope McBroom with his 49-pound monster king. HarlanMartin is clutching onto second with his 44-pound 8-ounce whopper Chinook and Wayne Barker is holding tight to third with his 38-pound 4-ouncer.That could change next Saturday.