Don Waler from Eugene (left) and his son Andrew fished with guide Joe Whaley from Whaley’s Guide Service on Tuesday and caught this 39-pound 4-ounce Chinook on the Chetco. Don caught a 40-pound 5-ounce king on Wednesday to earn them second place in Jack Hanson’s Clearwater Classic Salmon Derby. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Fishing report for
Fish warriors – start your engines! It looks like the Southern Oregon Coast is going to get hit by a series of low-pressure fronts this week. Last Thursday, although the Chetco was muddy and on-the-rise, Chinook salmon between 30 and 45 pounds met the sharpened ends of fillet knives at the Port of Brookings Harbor cleaning station.
At 3:30 p.m., the Chetco’s height was 3.92 feet (2,120 cubic feet per second). The river continued to rise and by noon on Friday the river level was 5.16 feet (3,530 cfs) and still rising. It looks like the ground is now saturated enough so that any rain the area receives from this point forward will probably have an effect on causing the river to rise.
According to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, the Chetco should rise to 5.37 feet today (3,800 cfs) and should be fluctuating between 3,000 and 4,000 cfs up until Thanksgiving Day, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the river received much higher flows.
This is the first real positive sign that the Chetco is starting to behave like a real river, and that means that there should be plenty of fresh chrome-bright kings this week. Get ready to stuff a salmon or a steelhead for Thanksgiving.
Here’s a quick synopsis of fishing techniques that rule the Chetco during various river flows. Between 1,000 and 2,000 cfs, bank anglers can drift-fish Corkies-and-roe from the bank, while boaters can back-bounce roe and begin pulling sardine-wrapped plugs such as K-16 Kwikfish or M2 FlatFish.
When the river rises between 3,000 and 4,000 cfs, the river flow becomes a little too forceful for boaters to back-bounce roe. That’s when back-trolling plugs is the name of the game. You can still back-bounce roe if you find some soft water near current edges, especially around drop-offs. Bank fishermen will still want to drift-fish Corkies-and-roe from shore.
When the river rises above 4,000 cfs and is on-the-drop, anglers can do quite well by plunking Spin-N-Glos from the bank at places like Social Security Hole, the Highway Hole, the north fork pumphouse, Willow Bar and Loeb State Park, just to name a few choice spots.
To keep track of current river heights, just type rivervilla.com in the address window in your computer browser. Then click on Recreational River Flows. This will take you to a choice of rivers. Click on “Chetco near Brookings” and you’ll come to the Chetco’s USGS website, where you can have all kinds of fun watching the river rise and fall. To keep apprised of the most current predictions, you have to visit this site at least once a day.
Oregon is a state where men are often the dominant sex when it comes to canning salmon. When most people talk about canning salmon and steelhead, they’re not talking about the cans you find on supermarket shelves. Most of the canning is done in one-half- or 1-pint Mason jars. Quart jars have not yet been determined to be safe for canning salmon.
Canning must be done in a pressure canner, preferably one with a gauge. I’ve been canning salmon since the early ’80s. It’s easy to do once you get the hang of it and you can pressure-can just about any kind of fish. By canning your salmon and steelhead, you will waste less fish and will always have a jar of salmon to open in the off-season.
The USDA regulates the standards to which canners must adhere in order to attain a safe-eating product. The local extension office of the USDA in Gold Beach (541-247-6672) gives classes in canning and also has all kinds of great literature regarding canning. You can, and should, also take your canner into this office at least once a year to have the pressure gauge checked for accuracy. This is a free service.
I’ve seen several changes over the years regarding canning pressures and time durations that need to be addressed.
At the present time, and with pressure canners using dial gauges, a pressure of no less than 11 pounds at 100 minutes is now regarded as the gold standard for canning any fish. That sentence bears repeating.
You will very likely find old cookbooks that advocate canning at less pressure and time durations than the current standards. That’s because the state-of-the-art technology was different in days of yore than it is now.
It never ceases to amaze me that some folks will still insist on canning fish at pressures and durations of time less than what is currently set by the USDA. Doing so could get you a case of botulism.
To be on the safe side, I always can salmon, tuna and steelhead at 12 pounds for 101 minutes. If your pressure gauge should happen to go over 12 pounds, that’s OK too. But if your gauge reads less than 11 pounds at any time, you must bring the pressure back up to at least 11 pounds and then start the 100-minute timing all over again.
Here are a few suggestions I recommend for obtaining the best-tasting product from Chetco Chinook.
Salmon that return to a river always absorb the strong smell of the river water, and that smell is always first absorbed into the fat layer. In order to get rid of that rank taste, I always slice off the fat with a well-sharpened knife. You don’t have to do this with ocean-caught salmon, which have a much cleaner taste in the fat.
But for river-caught salmon, I’ll even go one step further by slicing off a sliver of meat right next to the fat, because that foul odor doesn’t just stop at a precise point.
I’ll also cut my fillets into 4- by 4- by 2-inch thick chunks, which makes slicing off the fatty parts of the fish a lot easier.
I’ll then sprinkle the chunks liberally with Johnny’s Alaskan Salmon Seasoning and then cut the pieces into smaller chunks before finally stuffing them into the jars. Don’t forget to add one-half teaspoon of salt to your pint jars, or one-quarter teaspoon of salt to your one-half pint jars to bring out the flavor of the salmon.
If you’ve never canned before, be sure to visit the Gold Beach extension office first for some important pointers.