By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
Rogue Bay gets off
to an early start
Get out your spinnerbaits and fresh anchovies, and shine up your spinners because today the Rogue Bay opens up for the retention of both hatchery and wild Chinook salmon, and man are there some beauties being caught. You just don't catch small fish in the Rogue Bay, unless they're jacks.
There was a strong bite last week that lasted several days in a row. A lot of salmon were caught and many had to be released because they had an intact adipose fin. Had the restriction been lifted last week during that bite, most boats would have limited for sure.
Steve Beyerlin from Fish Oregon (www.fishoregon.com) reported that kings were being boated daily by all the guide boats, and the pressure was light with only about 25 boats fishing a day. The hot bite was between 9 a.m. and noon.
It won't be long until the zoo opens up, though. The Rogue Bay is one of your best shots for catching a trophy, wall-hanging Chinook. Every year fishermen catch 50 pounders and it is not uncommon to see a few 60s in the mix as well.
The reason the Rogue Bay has such a great fishery is because of the creation of Lost Creek Dam. Because river levels are regulated by the dam's outflow, it doesn't take long before river water above the old mill starts heating up. The water temp can get as high as 80 degrees.
When fall Chinook and late springers hit this wall of 80-degree water, it makes them very uncomfortable. It doesn't take very long for a fish that has a 52-degree comfort zone to figure out that it's far healthier to retreat back into the cooler water where they just came from.
This basic scenario continues all summer long, causing the fall fish and some of the late springers to keg up in the lower estuary. In a nutshell that's how the fishery was created.
So if you want to catch more fish, just remember to follow the temperature edge where the warm river water meets the cold ocean water, and that is heavily influenced by the tides.
Fresh kings move into the bay and into lower tidewater holes like Elephant Rock and John's Hole with the influx of cool water coming into the estuary with the incoming tide.
When the tide recedes, warm water pushes the colder water (and the fish) out of the holes. The salmon either stay in the bay or get pushed back out to sea, wherever the water temperature suits them. If the bay is excessively warm, they'll head further out to sea. But rest assured, they'll be back on the next incoming tide.
Beyerlin thinks this season is going to be pretty good.
"One of the things you can go by is that last year we had 155 percent of normal water flow," Beyerlin noted. "This year we've got 80 percent or less."
So years where the Rogue has high water flows, you could still have good numbers of fish, but they only stay in the bay a day or so before they shoot higher up the river. That was the case last year, where guides reported seeing lots of fish on their fish finders, but had trouble getting them to go on the attack.
"This year, as hot as the water is, and as low as the water is, the targets should stay," Beyerlin added.
Brookings ocean salmon
Last week was phenomenal for salmon hunters. Instead of being 10 miles out, the salmon moved in a few miles closer and were about 8 miles out. The predominant species was coho.
When ODFW made their 50,000 coho quota for this year, they knew what they were talking about. Silvers are thrilling anglers with acrobatics and providing good food for the table.
It seemed like an additional boat would find the coho each day, and before long there was an actual fleet going after the white-mouths. If things continue the way they are, hopefully they will be a few miles out in a couple of weeks.
I kid you not, these coho are growing daily. They seem to be averaging between 5 and 7 pounds, with an occasional 12 pounder thrown in for good measure. There definitely are a lot of age classes mixed in with these schools.
As I watched Dee Shurtleff fillet a mess of silvers that his group had caught, he pulled sardines out of some of their bellies that were 9 to 10 inches long. In addition, there appeared to be other baitfish in their stomachs, as well.
Furthermore, upon watching other fishermen clean their coho, there appeared to be other things in their stomachs, like good size shrimp, krill and plankton. There's no doubt about it there's a lot of feed in the ocean this year.
By the end of July, I wouldn't be surprised if the average silver was between 6 and 8 pounds, and come August, look for a possible 10 to 12 pound average, with an occasional 15 in the mixture. By the time September rolls around, there might be some pushing 20 pounds.
The typical heading is 270 out and the average depth is between 35 and 50 feet. There are also some very large Chinook being taken when the coho aren't snatching up everyone's offerings.
lingcod showing up
The rockfishing really picked up last week with limits seeming to prevail. It also looks like the lings are starting to show up more and more, and in larger sizes. One look in the barrels at the fish cleaning station tells the whole story.
Some boats out of the Port of Brookings Harbor were also nailing the tuna last week, although most of the time the albies were out about 50 miles. The upside is that the ocean has been flat enough for a lot of vessels to make the trip. Keep your eyes peeled on your Terrafin Charts for changing conditions.