Larry Freeman (left) from Central Point and Jack Brawner from Eagle Point hauled in limits of lingcod while fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor on Thursday.
May 10 is the big day. That’s when ocean salmon anglers in the Oregon and California Klamath Management Zone, otherwise known as the KMZ, will be able to start fishing for Chinook salmon in the ocean.
This year, the very liberal, 121-day Chinook season will last from May 10 through September 7. That’s plenty of time to put new line on your reels before the Azalea Festival occurs on Memorial Day weekend; and plenty of time to get your trout gear in order before trout season opens on the Chetco River May 24.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a great season,” says Richard Heap, Oregon Sportfishing Representative on the PFMC Salmon Advisory Sub-panel. “There’s plenty of fish out there for us to fish on.”
Weather and salmon-permitting of course. There’s rumor of a possible El Nino event that may occur this year.
If a full-blown El Nino does indeed hit the area of the KMZ, it’s going to bring the tuna (and warmer 62-degree tuna water) in closer to shore and push the salmon into deeper, cooler water into their 52-degree comfort zone, but that’s still reading the tea leaves.
Whether or not the El Nino event does in fact occur, anglers will still be fishing for Chinook or albacore in July.
“As far as Chinook goes, it’s hard to say where the fish are going to go,” says Heap. “If we have the right ocean conditions in front of Brookings with plenty of cool water and bait, we’ll be in business. If not, we’ll just go tuna fishing.”
Either way, it’s a win-win situation for veterans of the salt.
Anglers were hoping for option one of the salmon opener, which would have started on May 1, but according to Gary Blasi of Full Throttle Sportfishing in Eureka, California, a very early salmon season opener was not a deal breaker for his charter boat business.
“The beginning of May usually produces higher winds and rougher seas for us here in Eureka,” said Blasi. “I’m really hoping for option 2 anyway.”
Which is exactly what both sections of the KMZ got.
Technically, the season that lasts from May 10 through September 7 is not a “Chinook” fishery, but an “all-species-except coho” fishery, which means that if a sockeye (red salmon), a chum (dog salmon) or a humpback (pink salmon) should happened to swallow your hooks, you may still keep it as part of your 2-fish daily limit.
But that’s not likely to happen in the KMZ, although every year, the commercials report catching at least one humpback salmon a year. Anglers predominately catch Chinook (king salmon) in the KMZ.
Except for all those pesky coho that seem to get in the way between an angler’s anchovy and the hook trolling it.
Which should not be so pesky this season.
This year, there will also be a very liberal 51-day mark-selective coho (hatchery coho) season occurring from June 21 through August 10, or until an extremely liberal quota of 80,000 coho is attained-which is not very likely. 80,000 coho is a lot of fish.
So this year, if anglers are having an off day catching Chinook, going after coho is not a bad alternative at all, especially considering that most of the nearly-one-million hatchery coho bound for the Columbia River will be available to anglers in the ocean this season.
And especially considering that a very high percentage of the coho swimming in the ocean should be missing an adipose fin.
It should also be considered that coho anglers fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor should also be seeing an inordinate amount of hatchery coho as well.
In July, anglers fishing out of the Port of Brookings Harbor should see 37-percent of the coho they catch missing an adipose fin. And in June, the percentage of hatchery coho out of the port of Brookings Harbor is predicted to be as high as 51-percent!
How do you like them apples?
“Mid-July through mid-August we usually have much bigger fish (coho) than in June, because they’re growing fast in the summer,” says Heap.
It’s not uncommon at all to see coho over 12 pounds being caught during the beginning of August. Coho put on the feedbag and grow faster than any other salmon.
So whether your quarry is Chinook, coho or tuna, there should be some kind of thumb-burning, line-peeling finned phenomenon available for everyone to catch this season.
Not to mention all the fantastic rockfishing and lingcod fishing that will also be available the entire year, which was absolutely gangbusters last week.