By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
For what I am about to say, I should be flogged, thrashed, trounced and tortured, or at the very least, beaten senseless with a wet noodle. It's so irresponsible, so irreverent to the trophy king stalkers of yore who have paid their dues and have since gone to their happy salmon-fishing river in the sky.
But what the heck. It's Saturday and I've got a ton of pre-recorded Roland Martin bass fishing shows to watch, not to mention some choice episodes of Fishing the West. Life is good and I've decided to throw caution to the wind. So what's the big deal all about? Two words that could make the difference in helping you land that wall-hanger you've been yearning for all these years: cable-hook.
Now I know what you're thinking. "This has to be a joke. "Cable-hook" sounds a little too much like "sky hook'" or its prankster's equivalent, the "left-handed screwdriver." In truth, the only thing funny about cable-hooks is that if you're using them, you'll be the one getting the last laugh.
So what exactly are cable-hooks? Well, they are made of flexible metal cable about 5 inches long and are about the diameter of 80-pound test monofilament. They have a hook crimped on one end and a short pointed piece of slender metal with two holes crimped at the other end.
They happen to be what commercial salmon fishermen have used to hold their herring, anchovies and sardines with for years. And since commercial fishermen make their living by using these things, hey, they must be pretty good contraptions.
They also happen to be what a lot of these monster salmon in the ocean have been caught on. Mike at Sporthaven Marina's been selling the pants off of 'em.
The fact is, cable-hooks have been around for years and I'm certainly not giving away any trade secrets. A good friend of mine, Val Perry (fishingwithval.com) has been cable-hooking baits for quite some time now.
Val, a former Brookings resident, who has been featured on two Fishing the West episodes, is also a regularly-featured guest in my Guide Tips column in Oregon Fishing & Hunting News.
"I was taught by commercial herring fishermen who fish for Chinook out in the ocean," notes Perry. "That's where these things were developed. I've always been very impressed with: 1) How they'll get strikes when nothing else is getting strikes, and: 2) Very rarely do the hooks come out."
Perry starts by taking the sharp end of the cable (the end with the two holes) and inserts it near the bait's vent so that it straddles the backbone.
"I use it to fillet both sides of the bone on the last quarter of the herring," Perry explains. "I then reach in with that sharp end of the cable hook, break the backbone and take out the last quarter of the backbone and tail."
At this stage the herring will have a pointed tail but with a flap of skin and flesh on each side. Perry then slides the sharp end of the cable underneath the backbone so that the sharp end of the cable-hook fits just inside the bait's head.
Sometimes you have to first measure the cable on the outside of the herring to determine the exact spot you start filleting the bait toward the rear, so that the cable will fit the bait perfectly.
Perry uses a specially made snap called a Sonny Maahs Snap, available at Englunds Marine. The snap pierces the top of the bait's head, slides through the end hole of the cable hook and comes out through the lower jaw. When you hook the snap together it closes the bait's mouth.
Tie your monofilament directly to the snap and you're in business. There are a few reasons why cable baits rigged this way are candy to a king.
"You've got a huge amount of scent coming out of that fish," notes Perry. "The tail's been cut and you've got those two pieces back there flapping back and forth. The bend of the hook is an inch or so away from the flaps. When the fish takes the bait, he's going to have a big 6/0 hook in his mouth. It's really effective."
The other way of closing up the fish's mouth is to insert a pin through the bait's head, going through the rear hole of the cable. You then wrap the bait's head with a piece of wire supplied with the cable-hook. In this case you would leave the end hole sticking out of the bait's mouth to attach a regular commercial snap. But why go through that extra step when you can do it all with one Sonny Maahs Snap?
This bait is designed to go through the water fairly straight, while a mooching leader spins the bait and puts twist on the line, requiring the addition of a swivel or a bead chain. The mooching leader is also much weaker because the top-sliding hook puts unneeded friction on the mono. That may be OK for 20-and 30-pound Chinook, but not for 40-, 50- and 60-pound kings.
When you get a strike using a cable-hook setup, it is still very important to let the fish peck-peck-peck at your bait, just as it does with a mooching leader.
"You want to let him eat it let him eat it, and then when he's really got it good, you hit him," adds Perry. "But when you hit him with this thing, he's there."
So how have anglers done in the ocean and the estuary last week? Some of the best days were when it was coming down in buckets.
Alex Zavala nailed a 26-pound Chinook while fishing with Wayne Barker, who landed a 38-pound king last Sunday in the midst of a torrential downpour. Both Brookings residents were fishing in the estuary when they nailed their 'nooks using whole herring.
There have also been plenty of 40 pounders weighed in at Sporthaven's fishing derby. There is still one full week left to fish for salmon in the ocean.