Jim Bithell of Charthouse Sportfishing holds 2 of the 3 Chinook he and Bob Rose of Brookings caught while fishing near Brookings Wednesday. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
for May 25-31
Last week the Port of Brookings Harbor’s fish-cleaning station saw more ocean Chinook than it had seen all year.
Although the bite is far from being wide-open, anglers are feeling more optimistic every day that California and Oregon’s ocean projections are starting to materialize.
Captain James Bithell of Charthouse Sportfishing kicked the week off on Tuesday when he brought in two ocean Chinook to the fillet station. That was enough evidence for a dozen boats to hit the ocean on Wednesday to troll an anchovy in depths ranging from 30 to 120 feet. I must have counted 11 Chinook that day, so it makes a person wonder how many more kings met the sharpened end of a lazar-sharp hook that day?
“We had 10 solid hookups,” said Bithell about Wednesday’s fishing. “We brought three keepers to the net and lost two nice kings. In addition we released a coho. The other four Chinook were too small to keep, but one of them was a little iffy so we released it.”
The minimum size Chinook in the ocean from Humbug Mountain south to the Oregon/California border is 24 inches.
Most of the Chinook, which trickled in all day Wednesday, were representative of the 3-year-old kings that were projected to be swimming in the ocean this year, averaging between 10 and 12 pounds.
There were other Chinook that were in the 14- to 16-pound range that probably represented the 4-year-old age class.
Most of the salmon were caught on a 70-degree heading back to the Whistle Buoy. Bithell’s salmon were caught between 4 and 5 miles from shore, and all of them around 30 feet deep. Other anglers caught salmon closer to shore, with several anglers stating that they were only three and one-half miles out to sea.
All of the salmon were plugged with small anchovies between 2- and 3-inches long, and their stomachs were also bulging with freshly-eaten krill. These salmon are going to be putting on some serious poundage this month.
Most of the anglers reported catching their salmon in water temperatures of 48 degrees, which is usually too cold to put a Chinook on-the-bite, which demonstrates that there are a ton of salmon waiting to be caught. When the water temperature eventually reaches between 50 and 52 degrees, it’s going to be a hawg fest.
In the meantime, to put yourself in the salmon zone, you should be looking for several signs. One of them is birds.Wherever birds are found dunking their beaks, there is likelihood that baitfish are in the area, and with baitfish will be found Chinook.
Once you’ve found avian predations, look at the screen on your depth finder to verify the presence of baitfish, which will look like balls of blacked out or colored out sections suspended on the screen. Salmon will look like long diagonal lines surrounding the fringes of baitfish.
Another salmon sign to search the horizon for are slicks, areas of long glassy-looking water adjacent to long areas of choppy-looking water containing broken pieces of debris. The debris is often a mixture of small pieces of kelp mixed with foam. These are the trash lines that salmon are known to inhabit.
Find a trash line next to feeding birds, verified by clusters of bait on your fish finder, and it’s time to set out your trolling rods.
Sometimes salmon will seem to be on the dirtier side of the trash line while other times they will tend to favor the slick. So when you find trash lines, if you’re not getting bit on one side, try the other.
In addition to Chinook, there were several Pacific halibut filleted at the cleaning station last week as well.
On Wednesday, “Yellowtail” Bill Frisch brought a nice flattie to the cleaning station that measured 40 inches in length. It weighed 31 pounds, 8 ounces on my Berkley digital scale, a device that is accurate within 2 ounces.
“We were in exactly 262 feet of water,” recalled Frisch. “And this one was hot. When we got it up to the surface, it took off straight back to the bottom.”
But the biggest surprise of the week came on Thursday, when an angler caught a 45-pound halibut while trolling for salmon at a depth of 120 feet.
In addition to salmon, anglers also caught plenty of rockfish and lingcod as well, with all age classes being well-represented.
In addition to the blacks, there were blue rockfish, copper rockfish, China rockfish and quillback rockfish mixed in anglers’ bags as well. The lings ranged from 5 to 20 pounds. Anglers can expect the rockfish and lingcod fishing to continue being good in weeks to come.
Redtail surfperch have finally gone ballistic for surf-fishing addicts. While visiting the Gold Beach fillet station last week, I saw several anglers filleting limits of some very large redtails. Most of the fish were caught on raw shrimp.
Surfperch give birth to live young, and you can see the youth’s development when you fillet the fish. The smaller the baby surfperch are, the longer you can expect the season to last. In this case, the young were barely developed, indicating that we will have at least another month of great surf fishing.
Friday marked the day when anglers can finally keep wild salmon in the lower Rogue. Although the action was a little on the slow side last week, there were several boaters who had two or more Chinook in their vessels.
With abating river flows, Klamath River springer action is starting to pick up as well. Most fishermen are launching at the Roy Rook boat launch above the Highway 101 Bridge in Klamath Glenn and motoring upriver to anchor up in their favorite springer slot.
For people choosing to launch below the Highway 101 bridge, the Townsite boat ramp has finally been repaired and completed.
Salmon fishermen, don’t forget to pinch your barbs shut in the ocean and in the Klamath River.