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Rick Moheb of Crescent City hoists a 35-pound king, the last salmon to be caught in the ocean on Thursday, the last day of the Brookings Terminal Ocean Season. (The Pilot/Larry Ellis).
Rick Moheb of Crescent City hoists a 35-pound king, the last salmon to be caught in the ocean on Thursday, the last day of the Brookings Terminal Ocean Season. (The Pilot/Larry Ellis).

By Larry Ellis

Pilot staff writer

Hawg Derby ends with a bang

The Fifth Annual Hawg Derby sponsored by Sporthaven Marina was a real hit this year. Since Mike and Kathy Ramsay bought the establishment two seasons ago, the couple have worked hard at making Sporthaven the happening place, where you can sit down and jaw-jack over a cup of coffee and spin a few yarns with some of the most experienced fishermen in Brookings.

This year, the size of the derby nearly doubled from last year with a total of 193 entrants shooting for a fish weighing more than 45 pounds.

Last week, I predicted that Sam McKeen's 38-pound 3-ounce king would probably get aced out on Saturday. As it turned out, last Saturday was the day for 40-pound Chinook. The leader board was soon filled with two additional 40-plus-pound kings.

There were loads of 30 pounders brought into the scales. Fishermen were actually throwing back 20 pounders in the hopes of landing one in the 40s.

At 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 12, the derby came to an end, and these were the final results:

Moose Lasley took first place with his 45-pound 4-ounce trophy, and took home a check for $2,895.

At second place was Kurt Waldman, only 7 ounces behind the Moose with his 44-pound 13-ounce wallhanger, taking home $1,737 for his efforts.

A not too shabby $1,158 prize for third place went to Rudy Jaquez with his 44-pound beauty. All the fishermen around here know Rudy. He's got the boat Yardsale and he hails from the city of Lost Wages, oops, Las Vegas, Nevada.

All in all, it was a great tournament and a terrific 12 days of ocean salmon fishing. Every day was fishable. As everyone knows, we don't always get that lucky every October.

In addition to salmon, there have also been reports of other critters out there, some with some serious braces.

Smith River John had something just take his herring and head straight for Davey Jones's Locker. Within moments, his Kevlar line was bitten in half.

Fishermen have definitely spotted sharks, both makos and threshers. It's very life-ish out there. On one recent bottomfishing trip, I personally saw a harbor seal floating on the surface wearing a shark-tooth necklace. So, if I were you, I wouldn't be water skiing out there right about now, even though it's been flat enough to do it.

One of the week's best memories was when Dan Ambrose and his crew came in with a 35-pound Chinook, bright as a freshly minted silver dollar. Rick Moheb of Croissant City nailed that one.

Dan said they were making that "one last pass" when the 'nook doubled down one of the rods while Dan was baiting up another.

Mark Brown, also part of the crew, said that at first a harbor seal spotted the king and then later, a sea lion joined the party. The fish was a real live wire after being chased by the two. At one time, the sea lion had a firm grip on the salmon's head but the fishermen successfully yanked it out of his jaws.

Then as the fish sounded, Dan started making wide circles around the fish while constantly revving his engine to spook the seal and sea lion. His plan eventually worked and they landed the fish. That ruined the salmon's chance at spawning, but it wouldn't have been in the mood that day since it no doubt had a splitting haddock.

The landing of this 35- pounder marked the official end to the Chetco Terminal Ocean Fishery. It was the last fish to be landed on the final day of the season, but it was an ending that no one will ever forget.

The Derby BBQ

Everyone who signed up for the derby, and their spouses, was entitled to a free BBQ. Not everyone showed up, but there were safely over 120 people dining on BBQ'd kielbasas, and Mike supplied everyone with an ample supply of his famous smoked pork.

There were plenty of great side dishes including award-winning chili, an elk casserole and lots of desserts.

After careful consideration, Mike decided that he would have to put a ceiling on the number of entrants next year to 200 participants.

All of the contestants' money went to the prize fund. Every year, Mike and Kathy foot the entire bill for the BBQ for the goodwill of the community.

Lingcod tops bottomfishing catches

Anglers are still bringing in limits of rockfish to the fillet station but the emphasis is now shifting toward some pretty hefty lingcod.

Lingcod fishermen are once again scoring limits of some nice chunky toothmeisters.


'Tiz the season for catching Pacific sanddabs. You want to be in about 140 feet of water, in the sand and between the Whistle Buoy and Bird Island. Use a crappie rig with two snelled leaders and a 4-ounce sinker on the bottom.

Get your first one on a piece of anchovy or squid, then start strip-baiting a sanddab for some real hot action. They're starting to run a little bigger now and you're allowed 25. Once you've tried them, you'll be hooked for life. They're some of the finest chow the sea has to offer.

Salmon in the estuary and lower river

Lots of jacks have been caught by bobber fishermen from the usual lower tidewater spots such as Tide Rock and Social Security. The best time to fish for them is early. Early means exactly that. You should have your gear tied up the night before and ready to throw at first legal light. The action should last two to three hours.

Some regular runs of really bright jacks are making their way upriver, which means that the bigger jills will be next. Everything is weather-dependent. As soon as we get enough rain to raise the river, hold on! Usually the rains start by the middle of October. Pray for rain!


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