By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
Coho opener starts out with a bang
At a time when salmon anglers were struggling to get one lone Chinook to cooperate, you couldn't have custom-ordered a more classic curtain-raiser than what occurred on Saturday. It was a synchronous dance between Mother Nature and cohos du jour. The weather was phenomenal and the fishing was nothing short of superior.
Mike Ramsay of Sporthaven Marina reported anglers averaging five to six fish per boat and the fish checkers were inundated with surges of silvers to the point of being overwhelmed. They literally couldn't keep up with them all.
The chunkers averaged between 5 and 6 pounds with occasional larger fish receiving an honorable mention. Many of the coho were wild and had to be released while others were keeper hatchery fish. If this action continued every day at the same pace, there would be no problem achieving the 20,000 allotted quota.
Opening day's flurry slowed considerably on Sunday but again picked up on Monday. John Quinn, one of the more successful anglers who had boated a 30-pound Chinook the previous week, proved his fish-finding prowess by landing two fat silvers on Monday.
With only 11 days left for this leg of the salmon season, it could greatly benefit anglers to purchase the special coho tags that are available. This way they could better put to use their combined salmon/steelhead tag for the larger fish expected to show up on the next leg of the ocean salmon opener, from Sept. 1 through 6, for the state trophy fishery in October and for the larger fish that come into the rivers in the fall.
A hatchery coho tag is $12 and allows for the retention of 10 adipose fin-clipped (hatchery) coho. "They're free fish," says Jock Headlee. "You can buy as many hatchery tags as you want."
And it's a put-and-take fishery, which means they're bonkers. ODFW intends for all hatchery coho to be caught and eaten by anglers. After the season closes July 4, and if the quota has not yet been met, an angler could use these hatchery tags in waters north of Humbug Mountain through July 31 if they so desire.
Then came the dirty northwest
The only adverse conditions that are impairing anglers from fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor for Chinook and coho are high winds, which started kicking up on Tuesday. It's been what the ol' timers call "a dirty northwest" with 25- to 30-knot winds preventing anglers from getting to the salmon grounds.
At this time the general forecast is calling for gale-force winds continuing throughout the week, but as seasoned veterans from Brookings have often said, "If you don't like the weather, stick around another day, it could change."
Although the winds might blow for two weeks, they could also subside, and then the rest of the season might yield a bountiful harvest of coho and possibly even a late Chinook run. It's happened before.
As many Fourth of July weekends have proven, rarely has Brookings experienced extended winds lasting longer than a week or so at this time of year. If anything, the Banana Belt experiences a typical "four days on/four days off" scenario, alternating between a series of foggy calm seas, versus high winds, a phenomenon known by locals as The Chetco Effect. You can almost set your clock by it.
Rockfishing good, but get out early
Anglers are still getting limits of rockfish and some large lingcod even when the wind is blowing, but only if they are ready to fish at first light and are back at port before the sign of the first whitecap. Generally, if you stay inside the red can buoy and fish the nearby reefs, quick limits can be attained if you're not too picky about the size.
A lot of blacks have been running between 2 to 4 pounds. Two passes over rocky structure with a set of shrimp flies should get you limited within an hour.
"Jim's out fishing today and he caught quite a few lingcod," said Jan Pearce from Tidewind Sportfishing on Thursday morning. "We're getting out early, gettin' it done and comin' back. The bay's protected. We don't necessarily have all the options we normally have, but we've done OK," Pearce says.
Lots of options with high winds
Option 1: Surfperch
In the middle of the week anglers were starting to load up the fish-cleaning station with surfperch. The usual spots are still producing striped perch, redtails, calicos, walleye surfperch and pile perch. Here are the most popular places to try your luck:
One half mile up the beach from the Winchuck River has been very consistent for both striped perch and redtails. McVay Park off Oceanview Drive is another hot spot.
Both north and south jetties on the Chetco are still producing the flat-siders, but with the recent visitation of the dredge, Yaquina, a lot of debris has been stirred up in the water. Consequently you might want to wait for its departure next week when the channel becomes a little deeper and the water is less turbid.
The cove uphill from the north jetty is another good spot for the bait-stealers. Meyers Creek, Pistol River, the south Gold Beach jetty spit and Bailey Beach just north of Gold Beach's North Jetty is another good spot because of all the clam necks drawing the redtails inside the breakers.
Look for any nearby creeks entering the surf. For your best luck, fish only the incoming tide starting about two hours before high slack and fishing one hour after the tide goes out. Look for places that hold water even at the lowest tide. Also watch for steep beaches and indentations at low tide, take a mental picture and then come back during the incoming to clean up on the flatties.
Option 2: Crabbing on the public pier
If the high winds are preventing you from setting your crab pots outside the bar, try crabbing on the public fishing piers on the Chetco River south jetty near the U.S. Coast Guard Station. Every time Kurt Liewergen of Brookings hits this location he always ends up with at least one keeper Dungeness crab.
Last week Liewergen picked up some fresh hanging bait from the fillet station and headed out for the pier just before high tide. Using a butterfly trap, he caught a keeper crab on his first cast.
"The best hanging bait is a green lingcod," says Liewergen.
Liewergen likes to fish the incoming high tide just before high slack because during that time the estuary contains the largest amount of saltwater influence. He leaves a few hours after the tide recedes.
Another overlooked spot is the Chetco south jetty, but fished on the ocean side. Many crabbers have limited in this area.
Butterfly traps cost about $20 and can be purchased at Four M Tackle and at Sporthaven Marina.
Option 3: Libby Pond Trout
You might be in for a surprise at 10-acre Libby Pond if you hit it this weekend, where a few wakes were spotted recently. You just might stand a chance at catching five different stocks of salmonids or a really big bow.
The final batch of 1,500 excess steelhead smolts reared from Cole Rivers Hatchery were stocked yesterday.
"These were excess steelhead smolts that we held on to," said David Pease, assistant manager of Cole Rivers Hatchery.
In addition, ODFW planted 667 trout and Desert Springs Trout Farm unloaded 1,100 of their triploid rainbows on June 5. Triploid fish are infertile and are engineered so that all their energy goes into growing rather than into reproduction.
"Around the 8th or 9th of June we put in about 500 of the Shasta stock, and 50 of the whopper rainbows between 4 and 9 pounds," said Robin Crisler, manager of Elk River Hatchery.
The whoppers were put in for the free fishing weekend of June 10 and 11 and the Shasta rainbows were about two to the pound and about a foot long.
The limit is five trout, only one of which may be over 20 inches.
Libby is located 7 miles east of Gold Beach off Hwy. 101.
Option 4: Razor Clamming
Starting tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. and through the end of the month, minus tides will be favoring razor clamming at Bailey Beach north of the Gold Beach north jetty. Diggers have been reporting limits.
In past seasons, high levels of domoic acid accumulated in clams in certain areas, necessitating specific beach closures. Since razors are filter feeders, they don't have much choice but to live off the water where they reside. As of June 22 the first time in nearly four years the entire Oregon coast will be open for the taking of razor clams.
The daily sport limit for razor clams is the first 15 taken regardless of size or condition small and broken clams must be retained and counted as part of the limit, not reburied or discarded. Razors can be dug in the surf with clam shovels (sold at most sporting goods stores) or they can be dug dry using cylindrical metal tubes. Often when a surf spot is emptied, dry digging them is the best way. The shellfish harvest hotline is (503) 986-4728.