By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
The salmon you mark down on your tag today will directly affect the way you fish tomorrow. For four days, Oct. 1 - 4, the finest ocean trophy Chinook fishery on the Oregon coast will be taking place, what is referred to as take a deep breath The 2008 Chetco River Ocean Terminal Area Fall Chinook Recreational Fishery.
A couple points need to be clarified regarding this fishery, which ODFW asked me to remind the readers about. The daily limit during this terminal fishery is one Chinook; no more than four for the entire terminal season. Read the next sentence over until you have it memorized.
During the terminal fishery it's one-and-yur-done, whether the fish is fin-clipped or non fin-clipped; period, exclamation mark, end of story.
All 3-year-old kings belonging to the Chetco will originally have had a clipped ventral or adipose fin.If you should happen to retain one of these hatchery fish in the ocean during this terminal fishery, remember that it will still count against that daily and seasonal limit.
The other point has to do with calculating your yearly bag limit of five wild Chinook under the coast-wide one-and-five rule (1-wild king per day; 5 wild kings per year).
"Also, if you catch your five wild fish on the Rogue, or anywhere else, you will only be able to keep hatchery fish in the Chetco Terminal Fishery," says John Weber, STEP biologist for ODFW.
So in this case, all wild fish must be released, but you can keep hatchery Chinook under the one per day, four per season regulation for the terminal fishery.If you should be so lucky to fall into this sub-bracket, and you catch a fin-clipped Chinook, congratulations, you've beaten the system.
When releasing your wild fish please adhere to the following guidelines.
Do not net the fish. Doing so will either knock scales off the fish, its protective armor plating, or remove some of the slime, another built-in safeguard against disease. Instead, reach down with a pair of forceps and either unbutton the fish or cut the line.
Also, land your fish as quickly as possible.This will prevent the buildup of lactic acid, the end product of carbohydrate metabolism.Humans get it and so do animals. The older an animal is, the more susceptible it is to the consequences of lactic acid buildup.
When you see a marathon runner collapse in exhaustion at the end of a race, that's lactic acid buildup. These salmon are running the ultimate marathon: their spawning mission, aka the Chetco River Marathon. Bringing your fish in rapidly will significantly decrease their mortality rate.
Ocean rockfish and lingcod fishing is still very good
You hear two different stories regarding the viability of the rockfish and lingcod fishery. Either a person makes a radical score, or the angler works all day for a few fish. I've witnessed both sides at the fish cleaning station and I'm there often enough to know what I'm talking about.
Generally speaking, when I talk with people at the fillet tables or with charter boat skippers, I usually hear or see anglers limiting out on rockfish, with partial limits of the lingasaurs. This leads one to ask the question, "Why are some folks doing better than others?"
Here is what the charter vessels are doing to bring home rockfish limits for their passengers.
"Live bait's in the harbor so take advantage of it when it's there," says Jan Pearce, from tidewindsportfishing.com, who has been using live bait to bring home their limits of rockfish."Sometimes you have to pull the cat out of the bag to make it happen.If you have a knack for throwing the net, go for it."
Pearce's fleet has live bait tanks which keep the chovies doing the 100 meter butterfly for days on end.This allows a person to single-fish for the rockfish using live anchovies. Lingcod have also been coming around for the live-baitfish as well.
Chumming with live bait inside the 3 mile limit is illegal, however, when you have 10 or more passengers single-fishing or fly-lining an anchovy it does help bring the blacks and lings toward the surface.
"We've been using live bait," says Taylor Freeland, owner of anglerfishingcharters.com."When I get out we change the gear over and put rubber cores on and fish in really tight, like in 25 feet of water.We've been even catching some lingcod fly-lining anchovies."
The bottom line is, when the fish are pigging out on live bait, for goodness sakes, match the hatch.These fish have been puking up a lot of baitfish, so it stands to reason to use live baitfish.
Not all recreational vessels have live bait tanks, so you might try the second best thing.Use a crescent sinker on a mooching leader, and hook your anchovy or herring so it looks like it is swimming naturally. You might be surprised how many more fish you'll bring in.
In Freeland's case, he's using rubber core sinkers ahead of a single hook.This is a method commonly used in southern California and it is very effective.You might have to order rubber cores online if nobody carries them up here, but hopefully more tackle stores will start carrying them.
Rubber core sinkers are elongated pieces of lead with a slot running the length of the sinker which holds a piece of "twist-on, twist-off" rubber at each end of the sinker, which runs in-line with the mainline.
Mark Lottis at goldbeachadventures.com has also reported getting limits of rockfish and three-quarter limits of lingcod at the Rogue Reef when the bar permits him to pass.That reef is so productive and gets hit so infrequently that it practically never fails.
Work the tide changes to put biting fish in your favor
For recreational boaters, it cannot be stressed enough to work the changes of tide. I know experienced fishermen who will not go fishing unless they are fishing an incoming tide just a few hours before high slack, and one hour after low.
This is when most fish intrinsically know that it's time to start eating.This is why you hear a lot of fishermen getting their limit within an hour, while others have to work all day for a few fish.
During long daylight hours like we have in the summer, fish are more selective when they go on a wide-open bite.I notice with regularity that most of the boats limiting out more rapidly on the bottom-grabbers always come to the fillet tables about an hour after high slack.
I realize that our extended valley family have to spend a lot of money in gas to get over here, and many spend several days in motels.Many are not happy if they don't limit out, and I can't say that I blame them.
The bottom line is, fish to have fun on the water, be with nature and all of her marvelous wonders and escape the dreadful heat of Medford and Grants Pass.I hope some of these tips will help put more fillets in your freezer.
Redtail surfperch on the bite
Last week a group of anglers came to the fillet tables with a load of redtail surfperch that made my eyes bug out.
These anglers also took advantage of fishing the incoming tide cycle and the best bait was sand crabs.
Most people who have never used these things for bait would never think they would catch a cold, but they are a surfperch's favorite meal.
Again, fishing the incoming tide through high slack is crucial.Look for sloping beaches and beaches that have shifting sand.Two of the best spots are up the beach from the Winchuck Wayside and McVay Beach. The next two best places are at the Gold Beach south jetty spit and at the Nesika Beach Wayside.
Half pounders on the Rogue the best in years
Half-pounders, a smaller steelhead known for their aggressive bites and hard-fighting abilities are in the Rogue and on-the-move, and with last week's rain they should really be making tracks. If I had to pick the most exciting fishery on the coast, this would be it.It's simply phenomenal.
"You can go out there and just whack them right now," noted Weber."
ODFW seines at Huntley Park every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and they've been still getting copious quantities of the three-quarter to one and a half-pound steelhead in their nets.
"We're catching a lot," adds Weber, who said 124,832 of the half-pounders have already passed Huntley Park.
"I don't know if it's going to be a record high but it's going to be a good year for half-pounders.It's definitely above the 10-year average."
You don't have to go all the way up to Agness to catch them, but Hotel Riffle just below the Illinois River is an excellent spot where the hot metal seem to like to hold up for a spell.
Lower in the river, try Dunkleberger Bar or Coal Riffle.
Drifting nightcrawlers, casting Panther Martin spinners or fly fishing are all methods producing fish at the moment.